Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027049, Thu, 9 Jun 2016 13:17:18 +0300

Veen-plus-Flavita anagram
Veen + Flavita/alfavit + vino/voin/ovin + al’binos + Pan = Venevitinov + Fal’bala + pansion

Veen – the name of almost all main characters of Ada

Flavita – Russian scrabble (on Antiterra)

alfavit – alphabet

vino – wine

voin – warrior, soldier

ovin – barn

al’binos – Albino

Pan – ancient Greek god of forests, pastures, etc.; Pan died in Patmos (the island where John wrote the Book of Revelation)

Venevitinov – Dmitri Venevitinov (1805-27), a minor poet; in his EO Commentary (vol. II, p. 236) VN says that "a somewhat Lenskian figure, [Venevitinov] had more talent than Lenski, but the same naive urge to seek spiritual guides and masters;" on his deathbed Venevitinov (who, according to VN, committed suicide) asked his friend Khomyakov to put on his finger a ring from Herculaneum that had been given to him by Princess Zinaida Volkonski; in the attic scene Ada mentions the Stabian flower girl and Van calls Ada “Pompeianella” (1.1)

Fal’bala – in Pushkin’s Graf Nulin (“Count Null,” 1825), a poem that appeared under one cover with Baratynski’s Bal (1828), the French head mistress in blagorodnyi pansion (a boarding school for girls of gentle birth) where Natalia Pavlovna was raised:

Наталья Павловна совсем

Своей хозяйственною частью
Не занималася, затем,
Что не в отеческом законе
Она воспитана была,
А в благородном пансионе
У эмигрантки Фальбала.

Falbala means “gathered flounce, frill, or ruffle.”

pansion – boarding school; boarding-house; board and lodging

In his poem Dayte Tyutchevu strekozu (“Give Tyutchev a dragonfly…” 1932)* Mandelshtam mentions Tyutchev, Venevitinov, Baratynski’s soles, Lermontov (“our tormentor”), Fet’s pencil and Khomyakov’s beard:

Дайте Тютчеву стрекозу, -

Догадайтесь, почему!

Веневитинову - розу,

Ну, а перстень? - Никому!

Баратынского подошвы

Раздражают прах веков.

У него без всякой прошвы

Наволочки облаков.

А ещё над нами волен

Лермонтов, мучитель наш,

И всегда одышкой болен

Фета жирный карандаш.

А ещё богохранима

На гвоздях торчит всегда

У ворот Ерусалима

Хомякова борода.

According to Van, he saw Ada (who comes to Manhattan on a small chartered monoplane) circling above him on libelulla wings:

He had prepared one of those phrases that sound right in dreams but lame in lucid life: 'I saw you circling above me on libelulla wings'; he broke down on '...ulla,' and fell at her feet - at her bare insteps in glossy black Glass slippers - precisely in the same attitude, the same heap of hopeless tenderness, self-immolation, denunciation of demoniac life, in which he would drop in backthought, in the innermost bower of his brain every time he remembered her impossible semi-smile as she adjusted her shoulder blades to the trunk of the final tree. (2.6)

Libelulla is the Latin name of dragon-fly. Marina’s mad twin sister Aqua believed in the existence of Terra (the twin planet of Demonia, aka Antiterra) and trusted that, after her death, she would fly thither on libellula long wings (1.3). Tyutchev is the author of Bliznetsy (“The Twins,” 1852).

In Mandelshtam’s poem Venevitinov should be given a rose. Rose is the sportive Negro maid whom Van shared with Mr Dean:

Cursing and shaking both fists at breast level, he returned into the warmth of his flat and drank a bottle of champagne, and then rang for Rose, the sportive Negro maid whom he shared in more ways than one with the famous, recently decorated cryptogrammatist, Mr Dean, a perfect gentleman, dwelling on the floor below. (ibid.)

According to Mandelshtam, Baratynski’s soles irritate the dust of centuries. In the attic (where they found Marina’s old herbarium) Van and Ada are barefoot (and naked):

'I can add,' said the girl, 'that the petal belongs to the common Butterfly Orchis; that my mother was even crazier than her sister; and that the paper flower so cavalierly dismissed is a perfectly recognizable reproduction of an early-spring sanicle that I saw in profusion on hills in coastal California last February. Dr Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don't you, Smith?), has determined the example I brought back from Sacramento to Ardis, as the Bear-Foot, B,E,A,R, my love, not my foot or yours, or the Stabian flower girl's - an allusion, which your father, who, according to Blanche, is also mine, would understand like this' (American finger-snap). (1.1)

According to Mandelshtam, the pillow-slips of Baratynski’s clouds are seamless. In VN’s novel Dar (“The Gift,” 1937) Fyodor describes to Zina his pencils and mentions tragediya al’binosa (an albino’s tragedy), the beautiful white pencil that remained long.

Lermontov (“our tormentor”) is the author of The Demon (1829-40). Demon is the society nickname of Van’s and Ada’s father. As a boy of ten, Van studies major and minor Russian writers – and puzzles out the exaggerated but, on the whole, complimentary allusions to his father's volitations and loves in another life in Lermontov's diamond-faceted tetrameters. (1.28)

According to Mandelshtam, Fet’s fat pencil always suffers from odyshka (shortness of breath). According to Demon, Jones (one of the servants in “Ardis the Second”) suffers from odyshka:

'Marina,' murmured Demon at the close of the first course. 'Marina,' he repeated louder. 'Far from me' (a locution he favored) 'to criticize Dan's taste in white wines or the manners de vos domestiques. You know me, I'm above all that rot, I'm...' (gesture); 'but, my dear,' he continued, switching to Russian, 'the chelovek who brought me the pirozhki - the new man, the plumpish one with the eyes (s glazami) -'

'Everybody has eyes,' remarked Marina drily.

'Well, his look as if they were about to octopus the food he serves. But that's not the point. He pants, Marina! He suffers from some kind of odïshka (shortness of breath). He should see Dr Krolik. It's depressing. It's a rhythmic pumping pant. It made my soup ripple.'

'Look, Dad,' said Van, 'Dr Krolik can't do much, because, as you know quite well, he's dead, and Marina can't tell her servants not to breathe, because, as you also know, they're alive.'

'The Veen wit, the Veen wit,' murmured Demon. (1.38)

In ‘Ursus’ (the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major) Van, Ada and Lucette listen, among other songs, to the romance on Fet's glorious Siyala noch'… (“A Radiant Night…”). On the next morning, after the debauch à trois in Van’s Manhattan flat, Lucette (to whom Ada had brought the Cranach crayons that Demon got in Strassburg, 2.6) suddenly left Van and Ada, having pinned to the pillow a note scrawled in Arlen Eyelid Green:

Would go mad if remained one more night shall ski at Verma with other poor woolly worms for three weeks or so miserable

Pour Elle (2.8)

In Mandelshtam’s poem Khomyakov’s beard is nailed to the gates of Jerusalem. The allusion is to Khomyakov’s poem Shiroka, neobozrima… (“Broad, boundless…” 1858) in which Jesus Christ’s entry in Jerusalem is described. Greg Erminin’s arrival in Ardis on a pony seems to be a parody of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey:

'I ask myself who can that be,' murmured Mlle Larivière from behind the samovar (which expressed fragments of its surroundings in demented fantasies of a primitive genre) as she slitted her eyes at a part of the drive visible between the pilasters of an open-work gallery. Van, lying prone behind Ada, lifted his eyes from his book (Ada's copy of Atala).

A tall rosy-faced youngster in smart riding breeches dismounted from a black pony.

'It's Greg's beautiful new pony,' said Ada.

Greg, with a well-bred boy's easy apologies, had brought Marina's platinum lighter which his aunt had discovered in her own bag.

'Goodness, I've not even had time to miss it. How is Ruth?'

Greg said that both Aunt Ruth and Grace were laid up with acute indigestion - 'not because of your wonderful sandwiches,' he hastened to add, 'but because of all those burnberries they picked in the bushes.' (1.14)

Seventeen years later, when Van meets Greg Erminin in Paris, Greg tells Van that he grew a regular vollbart (Germ., broad and thick beard) last summer:

On a bleak morning between the spring and summer of 1901, in Paris, as Van, black-hatted, one hand playing with the warm loose change in his topcoat pocket and the other, fawn-gloved, upswinging a furled English umbrella, strode past a particularly unattractive sidewalk café among the many lining the Avenue Guillaume Pitt, a chubby bald man in a rumpled brown suit with a watch-chained waistcoat stood up and hailed him.

Van considered for a moment those red round cheeks, that black goatee.

'Ne uznayosh' (You don't recognize me)?'

'Greg! Grigoriy Akimovich!' cried Van tearing off his glove.

'I grew a regular vollbart last summer. You'd never have known me then. Beer? Wonder what you do to look so boyish, Van.' (3.2)

Grigoriy Akimovich is G. A. Vronsky’s name-and-patronymic (Greg Erminin is Grigoriy Arkadievich). After a brief romance with Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother), G. A. Vronsky left her for another long-lashed Khristosik:

Some confusion ensued less than two years later (September, 1871 - her proud brain still retained dozens of dates) when upon escaping from her next refuge and somehow reaching her husband's unforgettable country house (imitate a foreigner: 'Signor Konduktor, ay vant go Lago di Luga, hier geld') she took advantage of his being massaged in the solarium, tiptoed into their former bedroom - and experienced a delicious shock: her talc powder in a half-full glass container marked colorfully Quelques Fleurs still stood on her bedside table; her favorite flame-colored nightgown lay rumpled on the bedrug; to her it meant that only a brief black nightmare had obliterated the radiant fact of her having slept with her husband all along - ever since Shakespeare's birthday on a green rainy day, but for most other people, alas, it meant that Marina (after G.A. Vronsky, the movie man, had left Marina for another long-lashed Khristosik as he called all pretty starlets) had conceived, c'est bien le cas de le dire, the brilliant idea of having Demon divorce mad Aqua and marry Marina who thought (happily and correctly) she was pregnant again. (1.3)

In his autobiographical essay Sem’ya Sinani (The Sinani Family) included in Shum vremeni (Time's Hum, 1925) Mandelshtam says that the word Khristosik (little Christ) was coined by his friend and schoolmate Boris Sinani (like VN, Mandelshtam and Sinani graduated from the Tenishev school). Sinani (like "Rita" - Van's partner in the tango that he dances on his hands - Sinani was a Karaite; his father was a famous psychiatrist - Van's colleague! - who attempted to cure the writer Gleb Uspensky of his mental illness) used to call thus certain members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party:

"Христосики” были русачки с нежными лицами, носители “идеи личности в истории”, – и в самом деле многие из них походили на нестеровских Иисусов.

The Khristosiks were soft-faced young Russians, the bearers of "the idea of an individual’s role in history" - and, indeed, many of them resembled Jesus in Nesterov's paintings.

Isus Khristos + kurva + Lenin = Ursus + Khristosik + Neva/vena/Vena + Nil

Isus Khristos – Jesus Christ (the last words in Blok’s “The Twelve”)

kurva – whore; In a splendid orchard several merry young gardeners wearing for some reason the garb of Georgian tribesmen were popping raspberries into their mouths, while several equally implausible servant girls in sharovars (somebody had goofed - the word 'samovars' may have got garbled in the agent's aerocable) were busy plucking marshmallows and peanuts from the branches of fruit trees. At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or 'ribbon boule' in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.'s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat. (1.2)

Lenin – V. I. Ul’yanov (1870-1924), leader of the Bolsheviks

vena – vein

Vena – Vienna in Russian spelling; dying Rack calls Van “Baron von Wien” (1.42)

Nil – Nile in Russian spelling; describing the Night of the Burning Barn (when he and Ada make love for the first time), Van mentions the Nile:

But our young botanist had not the faintest idea how to handle the thing properly - and Van, now in extremis, driving it roughly against the hem of her nightdress, could not help groaning as he dissolved in a puddle of pleasure.

She looked down in dismay. 'Not what you think,' remarked Van calmly. 'This is not number one. Actually it's as clean as grass sap. Well, now the Nile is settled stop Speke.' (1.19)

*and not in “Verses about Russian Poetry” as I wrote in my previous post (in which I forgot to mention that Byron loved his half-sister Augusta with more than a brother’s love)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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