Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022186, Sun, 20 Nov 2011 00:41:15 +0300

devil and his babies in "The Event"
Ревшин. Ну, я вижу, вы развили энергию... Может быть, зря и Барбашин не так уж страшен: видите, даже в рифму.
(Revshin: May be, Barbashin is not so terrible after all. "The Event," Act One)

Cf. Не так страшен чёрт как его малюют ("the devil is not so terrible as he is painted").

The private detective Barboshin ("the guardian angel" hired by Troshcheykin to protect his and his wife's lives from the killer Barbashin) doesn't look terrible at all. Troshcheykin finds that he is "a great expert in his profession, terribly original and cosy" (Act Three). But the painter forgets that devil can assume various disguises and, when he meets devil face to face, fails to recognize him. He doesn't notice that, Barbashin's alter ego, Barboshin is more terrible than all the guests at Antonina Pavlavna's birthday party, including Lyubov''s former midwife, Eleonora Schnapp (страшная женщина, "a terrible woman," according to Lyubov'), whom the Troshcheykins last saw three years ago, when their little son was buried.
According to Schnapp, it was Barbashin's, not Troshcheykin's, child:

Элеонора Шнап (к Вагабундовой). Между нами говоря, я совершенно убеждена теперь, что это был его ребёночек...
Вагабундова. Никакого сомненья!
Но я рада услышать профессиональное мненье. (Act Two)

In "The Luzhin Defense" (chapter X) the father of Luzhin's bride puns: "Не так страшен чёрт как его малютки. Я сказал "малютки", - ты слышишь, душенька?" ("the devil [Luzhin] is not as terrible as are his babies"). Lyubov' can not forget the loss of her little son, nor can she forgive her husband for having forgotten it.

Babies are also mentioned by Barboshin:

Барбошин. Да-да... Дивные планы! О, вы увидите! Жизнь будет прекрасна. Жизнь будет вкусна. Птицы будут петь среди клейких листочков, слепцы услышат, прозреют глухонемые. Молодые женщины будут поднимать к солнцу своих малиновых младенцев. Вчерашние враги будут обмнимать друг друга. И врагов своих врагов. И врагов их детей. И детей врагов. Надо только верить... Теперь ответьте мне прямо и просто: у вас есть оружье? (Act Three)

As has been pointed out before, this monologue followed by a question is a parody of the story and question Ivan Karamazov asks his brother Alyosha in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov." The author of "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor," Ivan Karamazov ends up seeing the devil at court during Dmitri's trial.
On the other hand, враг ("enemy," Barboshin repeats this word five times) used to be an euphemism of Дьявол, Сатана (the Fiend, Devil).
Also, "Враги" ("The Enemies," 1906) is a play by Troshcheykin's namesake, A. M. Peshkov (M. Gorky). It ends with Levshin's words: "you won't suppress us with any fear, no, you won't."

Alexey Sklyarenko

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