Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027165, Mon, 5 Sep 2016 13:10:10 +0300

silent liner, sunglassers & Beirut in Pale Fire; sunglasses,
biryuch & purest sanglot in Ada
In Canto Four of his poem Shade describes shaving and mentions a silent
liner, sunglassers and Beirut:

And while the safety blade with scrap and screak
Travels across the country of my cheek,
Cars on the highway pass, and up the steep
Incline big trucks around my jawbone creep,
And now a silent liner docks, and now
Sunglassers tour Beirut, and now I plough
Old Zembla's fields where my gray stubble grows,
And slaves make hay between my mouth and nose. (ll. 931-38)

In his poem Zabludivshiysya tramvay (“The Lost Tram,” 1921) Gumilyov
mentions an old man who had died in Beirut a year ago and the executioner
with a face like an udder:

И, промелькнув у оконной рамы,

Бросил нам вслед пытливый взгляд

Нищий старик, - конечно, тот самый,

Что умер в Бейруте год назад.

Где я? Так томно и так тревожно

Сердце моё стучит в ответ:

"Видишь вокзал, на котором можно

В Индию Духа купить билет?"

Вывеска... кровью налитые буквы

Гласят: "Зеленная",- знаю, тут

Вместо капусты и вместо брюквы

Мёртвые головы продают.

В красной рубашке с лицом, как вымя,

Голову срезал палач и мне,

Она лежала вместе с другими

Здесь в ящике скользком, на самом дне.

And slipping by the window frame,

A poor old man threw us an inquisitive glance-

The very same old man, of course,

Who had died in Beirut a year ago.

Where am I? So languid and troubled

The beat of my heart responds:

"Do you see the station where you can buy

A ticket to the India of the spirit?"

A sign...Blood-filled letters

Announce: "Zelennaya,"-I know that here

Instead of cabbages and rutabagas

The heads of the dead are for sale.

In a red shirt, with a face like an udder,

The executioner cut my head off, too,

It lied together with the others

Here, in a slippery box, at the very bottom.

In VN’s novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) the narrator
(Sebastian’s half-brother V.) compares Mr. Goodman’s face to a cow’s

'My name,' she said, 'is Helen Pratt. I have overheard as much of your
conversation as I could stand and there is a little thing I want to ask you.
Clare Bishop is a great friend of mine. There's something she wants to find
out. Could I talk to you one of these days?'
I said yes, most certainly, and we fixed the time.
'I knew Mr Knight quite well,' she added, looking at me with bright round
'Oh, really,' said I, not quite knowing what else to say.
'Yes,' she went on, 'he was an amazing personality, and I don't mind telling
you that I loathed Goodman's book about him.'
'What do you mean?' I asked. 'What book?'
'Oh, the one he has just written. I was going over the proofs with him this
last week. Well, I must be running. Thank you so much.'
She darted away and very slowly I descended the steps. Mr Goodman's large
soft pinkish face was, and is, remarkably like a cow's udder. (Chapter Six)

Beirut is a seaport in and the capital of Lebanon. In VN’s novel Ada (1969)
Van describes the great weeping cedar that grows in Ardis and mentions the
Lebanese blue of the sky:

The three of them formed a pretty Arcadian combination as they dropped on
the turf under the great weeping cedar, whose aberrant limbs extended an
oriental canopy (propped up here and there by crutches made of its own flesh
like this book) above two black and one golden-red head as they had above
you and me on dark warm nights when we were reckless, happy children. Van,
sprawling supine, sick with memories, put his hands behind his nape and slit
his eyes at the Lebanese blue of the sky between the fascicles of the
foliage. (1.32)

In the same chapter Van mentions Ada’s sunglasses picked up by Lucette
(Van’s and Ada’s half-sister):

They caught up with him in the Second Coppice. Lucette, in passing, stopped
to pick up her sister’s cap and sunglasses ― the sunglasses of much-sung
lasses, a shame to throw them away! My tidy little Lucette (I shall never
forget you...) placed both objects on a tree stump near an empty beer
bottle, trotted on, then went back to examine a bunch of pink mushrooms that
clung to the stump, snoring. Double take, double exposure. (ibid.)

“The sunglasses of much-sung lasses” bring to mind Lass, and several other
entries in Kinbote’s Index to Pale Fire, and one of Kinbote’s records in
word golf:

Lass, see Mass. (Mass, Mars, Mare, see Male. Male, see Word Golf. Word golf,
S's predilection for it,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline819> 819; see

My illustrious friend showed a childish predilection for all sorts of word
games and especially for so-called word golf. He would interrupt the flow of
a prismatic conversation to indulge in this particular pastime, and
naturally it would have been boorish of me to refuse playing with him. Some
of my records are: hate-love in three, lass-male in four, and live-dead in
five (with "lend" in the middle). (note to Line 819: “Playing a game of

Describing a late party at Ardis, Van mentions Adorno, the star of Hate, and
says that hay fever and dark glasses did not improve G. A. Vronsky’s

Pedro had not yet returned from California. Hay fever and dark glasses did
not improve G. A. Vronsky’s appearance. Adorno, the star of Hate, brought
his new wife, who turned out to have been one of the old (and most beloved
wives) of another guest, a considerably more important comedian, who after
supper bribed Bouteillan to simulate the arrival of a message necessitating
his immediate departure. Grigoriy Akimovich went with him (having come with
him in the same rented limousine), leaving Marina, Ada, Adorno and his
ironically sniffing Marianne at a card table. They played biryuch, a variety
of whist, till a Ladore taxi could be obtained, which was well after 1:00 a.
m. (1.41)

Biryuch is an old Russian game of cards, a variety of whist on which bridge
is based. In “The Lost Tram” Gumilyov mentions tri mosta (three bridges):

Поздно. Уж мы обогнули стену,

Мы проскочили сквозь рощу пальм,

Через Неву, через Нил и Сену

Мы прогремели по трём мостам.

Too late. We had already turned the corner,

We tore through a grove of palms,

Over the Neva, the Nile, the Seine

We thundered across three bridges.

On the other hand, biryuch is an obsolete Russian word for “herald.” In
his poem Kazn’ (“Execution,” 1915) Bunin mentions biryuchi (heralds):

Туманно утро красное, туманно,

Да всё светлей, белее на восходе,

За тёмными, за синими лесами,

За дымными болотами, лугами...

Вставайте, подымайтесь, псковичи!

Роса дождём легла на пыль,

На крыши изб, на торг пустой,

На золото церковных глав,

На мой помост средь площади...

Точите нож, мочите солью кнут!

Туманно солнце красное, туманно,

Кровавое не светит и не греет

Над мутными, над белыми лесами,

Над росными болотами, лугами...

Орите позвончее, бирючи!

- Давай, мужик, лицо умыть,

Сапог обуть, кафтан надеть.

Веди меня, вали под нож

В единый мах - не то держись:

Зубами всех заем, не оторвут!

Pedro (Marina’s lover who had not yet returned from California) is a
namesake of M’sieur Pierre, the executioner in VN’s novel Priglashenie na
kazn’ (“Invitation to a Beheading,” 1935). In his poem Den’ pamyati
Petra (“Peter’s Memory Day,” 1925) written for the bicentenary of the
death of Peter I Bunin points out that the name Peter means kamen’ (stone):

"Красуйся, град Петров, и стой

Неколебимо, как Россия..."

О, если б узы гробовые

Хоть на единый миг земной

Поэт и Царь расторгли ныне!

Где Град Петра? И чьей рукой

Его краса, его твердыни

И алтари разорены?

Хлябь, хаос - царство Сатаны,

Губящего слепой стихией.

И вот дохнул он над Россией,

Восстал на Божий строй и лад -

И скрыл пучиной окаянной

Великий и священный Град,

Петром и Пушкиным созданный.

И всё ж придёт, придёт пора

И воскресенья и деянья,

Прозрения и покаянья.

Россия! Помни же Петра.

Пётр значит Камень. Сын Господний

На Камени созиждет храм

И скажет: "Лишь Петру я дам

Владычество над преисподней".

Bunin’s poem has the epigraph from Pushkin’s Mednyi vsadnik (“The Bronze
Horseman,” 1833). On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which
Ada is set) Pushkin’s poem is known as The Headless Horseman:

The year 1880 (Aqua was still alive - somehow, somewhere!) was to prove to
be the most retentive and talented one in his long, too long, never too long
life. He was ten. His father had lingered in the West where the many-colored
mountains acted upon Van as they had on all young Russians of genius. He
could solve an Euler-type problem or learn by heart Pushkin's 'Headless
Horseman' poem in less than twenty minutes. (1.28)

Kamen’ (“Stone,” 1915) is Mandelshtam’s first collection of poetry. One
of its most famous poems, Peterburgskie strofy (“The St. Petersburg
Stanzas,” 1913), is dedicated to Gumilyov (the poet who in 1921 was
executed by the Bolsheviks). In the poem’s often quoted lines Mandelshtam
compares Russia to bronenosets v doke (a battleship in a dock):

Н. Гумилёву

Над желтизной правительственных зданий
Кружилась долго мутная метель,
И правовед опять садится в сани,
Широким жестом запахнув шинель.

Зимуют пароходы. На припёке
Зажглось каюты толстое стекло.
Чудовищна, как броненосец в доке, ―
Россия отдыхает тяжело.

А над Невой ― посольства полумира,
Адмиралтейство, солнце, тишина!
И государства жёсткая порфира,
Как власяница грубая, бедна.

Тяжка обуза северного сноба ―
Онегина старинная тоска;
На площади Сената ― вал сугроба,
Дымок костра и холодок штыка...

Черпали воду ялики, и чайки
Морские посещали склад пеньки,
Где, продавая сбитень или сайки,
Лишь оперные бродят мужики.

Летит в туман моторов вереница;
Самолюбивый, скромный пешеход ―
Чудак Евгений ― бедности стыдится,
Бензин вдыхает и судьбу клянёт!

A silent liner that docks while Shade is shaving his cheek brings to mind
silent movies. The poems in Mandelshtam’s Kamen’ include Kinematograf
(“Cinematograph,” 1913). G. A. Vronsky (whose appearance hay fever and
dark glasses did not improve) is “a movie man.”

Russian for “battleship; ironclad,” bronenosets also means “armadillo”
(any of several burrowing, chiefly nocturnal mammals of the family
Dasypodidae). When Van is waiting for Ada, he feels that his skin under the
robe turns to an armadillo’s pelvic plates:

He stood in the chill sun until he felt his skin under the robe turn to an
armadillo’s pelvic plates. 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. With jumbled feelings, with
unpardonable lust, Van watched her pretty behind roll and tighten under its
lacy bow as she made the bed, while her lower lover could be heard through
the radiator pipes humming to himself happily (he had decoded again a Tartar
dorogram telling the Chinese where we planned to land next time!). Rose soon
finished putting the room in order, and flirted off, and the Pandean hum had
hardly time to be replaced (rather artlessly for a person of Dean’s
profession) by a crescendo of international creaks that a child could
decipher, when the hallway bell dingled, and next moment whiter-faced,
redder-mouthed, four-year-older Ada stood before a convulsed, already
sobbing, ever-adolescent Van, her flowing hair blending with dark furs that
were even richer than her sister’s. (2.6)

Dean rhymes with gospodin (mister; gentleman) and brings to mind Bunin’s
story Gospodin iz San-Frantsisko (“The Gentleman from San-Francisco,”
1915). In his sonnet Lyutsifer (“Lucifer,” 1908) Bunin compares Livan
(Lebanon) to Ray (Paradise) and mentions khrebty Antilivana (the mountains
of Anti-Lebanon):

В святой Софии голуби летали,
Гнусил мулла. Эректеон был нем.
И боги гомерических поэм
В пустых музеях стыли и скучали.

Великий Сфинкс, исполненный печали,
Лежал в песках. Израиль, чуждый всем,
Сбирал, рыдая, ржавые скрижали.
Христос покинул жадный Вифлеем.

Вот Рай <http://bunin.velchel.ru/index.php?cnt=8&rhime=sd_77#znotes> ,
Ливан. Рассвет горит багряно.
Снег гор ― как шелк. По скатам из пещер
Текут стада. В лугах ― моря тумана…

Мир Авеля! Дни чистых детских вер!
Из-за нагих хребтов Антиливана
Блистает, угасая, Люцифер.

In Bunin’s sonnet Lucifer is the planet Venus. Describing his nights at
Ardis, Van mentions the weeping cedar, Venus and the lucifers (males of the
firefly, a small luminous beetle, more like a wandering star than a winged

The hammock, a comfortable oblong nest, reticulated his naked body either
under the weeping cedar that sprawled over one corner of a lawn, and granted
a partial shelter in case of a shower, or, on safer nights, between two
tulip trees (where a former summer guest, with an opera cloak over his
clammy nightshirt, had awoken once because a stink bomb had burst among the
instruments in the horsecart, and striking a match, Uncle Van had seen the
bright blood blotching his pillow).

The windows in the black castle went out in rows, files, and knight moves.
The longest occupant of the nursery water closet was Mlle Larivière, who
came there with a rose-oil lampad and her buvard. A breeze ruffled the
hangings of his now infinite chamber. Venus rose in the sky; Venus set in
his flesh. (1.12)

Yet, let it be observed (just while the lucifers fly and throb, and an owl
hoots ― also most rhythmically ― in the nearby park) that Van, who at the
time had still not really tasted the Terror of Terra ― vaguely attributing
it, when analyzing his dear unforgettable Aqua’s torments, to pernicious
fads and popular fantasies ― even then, at fourteen, recognized that the
old myths, which willed into helpful being a whirl of worlds (no matter how
silly and mystical) and situated them within the gray matter of the
star-suffused heavens, contained, perhaps, a glowworm of strange truth.

Describing the picnic on Ada’s sixteenth birthday, Van mentions Percy de
Prey’s smooth cheeks and complains that shaving always caused him trouble:

Count Percy de Prey turned to Ivan Demianovich Veen:

‘I’m told you like abnormal positions?’

The half-question was half-mockingly put. Van looked through his raised
lunel at the honeyed sun.

‘Meaning what?’ he enquired.

‘Well ― that walking-on-your-hands trick. One of your aunt’s servants is
the sister of one of our servants and two pretty gossips form a dangerous
team’ (laughing). ‘The legend has it that you do it all day long, in every
corner, congratulations!’ (bowing).

Van replied: ‘The legend makes too much of my specialty. Actually, I
practice it for a few minutes every other night, don’t I, Ada?’ (looking
around for her). ‘May I give you, Count, some more of the mouse-and-cat ―
a poor pun, but mine.’

‘Vahn dear,’ said Marina, who was listening with delight to the handsome
young men’s vivacious and carefree prattle, ‘tell him about your success
in London. Zhe tampri (please)!’

‘Yes,’ said Van, ‘it all started as a rag, you know, up at Chose, but
then ―’

‘Van!’ called Ada shrilly. ‘I want to say something to you, Van, come

Dorn (flipping through a literary review, to Trigorin): ‘Here, a couple of
months ago, a certain article was printed… a Letter from America, and I
wanted to ask you, incidentally’ (taking Trigorin by the waist and leading
him to the front of the stage), ‘because I’m very much interested in that

Ada stood with her back against the trunk of a tree, like a beautiful spy
who has just rejected the blindfold.

‘I wanted to ask you, incidentally, Van’ (continuing in a whisper, with an
angry flick of the wrist) ― ‘stop playing the perfect idiot host; he came
drunk as a welt, can’t you see?’

The execution was interrupted by the arrival of Uncle Dan. He had a
remarkably reckless way of driving, as happens so often, goodness knows why,
in the case of many dour, dreary men. Weaving rapidly between the pines, he
brought the little red runabout to an abrupt stop in front of Ada and
presented her with the perfect gift, a big box of mints, white, pink and, oh
boy, green! He had also an aerogram for her, he said, winking.

Ada tore it open ― and saw it was not for her from dismal Kalugano, as she
had feared, but for her mother from Los Angeles, a much gayer place.
Marina’s face gradually assumed an expression of quite indecent youthful
beatitude as she scanned the message. Triumphantly, she showed it to Larivi
ère-Monparnasse, who read it twice and tilted her head with a smile of
indulgent disapproval. Positively stamping her feet with joy:

‘Pedro is coming again,’ cried (gurgled, rippled) Marina to calm her

‘And, I suppose, he’ll stay till the end of the summer,’ remarked Ada ―
and sat down with Greg and Lucette, for a game of Snap, on a laprobe spread
over the little ants and dry pine needles.

‘Oh no, da net zhe, only for a fortnight’ (girlishly giggling). ‘After
that we shall go to Houssaie, Gollivud-tozh’ (Marina was really in great
form) ― ‘yes, we shall all go, the author, and the children, and Van ― if
he wishes.’

‘I wish but I can’t,’ said Percy (sample of his humor).

In the meantime, Uncle Dan, very dapper in cherry-striped blazer and
variety-comic straw hat, feeling considerably intrigued by the presence of
the adjacent picnickers, walked over to them with his glass of Hero wine in
one hand and a caviar canapé in the other.

‘The Accursed Children,’ said Marina in answer to something Percy wanted
to know.

Percy, you were to die very soon ― and not from that pellet in your fat
leg, on the turf of a Crimean ravine, but a couple of minutes later when you
opened your eyes and felt relieved and secure in the shelter of the macchie;
you were to die very soon, Percy; but that July day in Ladore County,
lolling under the pines, royally drunk after some earlier festivity, with
lust in your heart and a sticky glass in your strong blond-haired hand,
listening to a literary bore, chatting with an aging actress and ogling her
sullen daughter, you reveled in the spicy situation, old sport, chin-chin,
and no wonder. Burly, handsome, indolent and ferocious, a crack Rugger
player, a cracker of country girls, you combined the charm of the off-duty
athlete with the engaging drawl of a fashionable ass. I think what I hated
most about your handsome moon face was that baby complexion, the
smooth-skinned jaws of the easy shaver. I had begun to bleed every time, and
was going to do so for seven decades. (1.39)

According to Kinbote, in the second line of Shade’s poem The Sacred Tree
there is a cat-and-mouse game:

A hickory. Our poet shared with the English masters the noble knack of
transplanting trees into verse with their sap and shade. Many years ago
Disa, our King's Queen, whose favorite trees were the jacaranda and the
maidenhair, copied out in her album a quatrain from John Shade's collection
of short poems Hebe's Cup, which I cannot refrain from quoting here (from a
letter I received on April 6, 1959, from southern France):


The gingko leaf, in golden hue, when shed,

A muscat grape,
Is an old-fashioned butterfly, ill-spread
In shape.

When the new Episcopal church in New Wye (
<http://innerlea.com/aulit/paleFire/commentary/549.html> see note to line
549) was built, the bulldozers spared an arc of those sacred trees planted
by a landscaper of genius (Repburg) at the end of the so-called Shakespeare
Avenue, on the campus. I do not know if it is relevant or not but there is a
cat-and-mouse game in the second line, and "tree" in Zemblan is grados.
(note to Line 49)

According to Kinbote, Gradus (Shade’s murderer) contended that the real
origin of his name should be sought in the Russian word for grape, vinograd,
to which a Latin suffix had adhered, making it Vinogradus (note to Line 17).
Pushkin’s poem Vinograd (“The Grapes,” 1824) begins: Ne stanu ya zhalet’
o rozakh (I won’t be sorry about the roses). Rose is the name of the
sportive Negro maid whom Van shared in more ways than one with Mr. Dean.

In her poem in the graduation album Ada mentions jacarandas:

‘It’s a gruesome girl!’ she cried after the melodious adieux. ‘Her name
is Vanda Broom, and I learned only recently what I never suspected at school
― she’s a regular tribadka ― poor Grace Erminin tells me Vanda used to
make constant passes at her and at ― at another girl. There’s her picture
here,’ continued Cordula with a quick change of tone, producing a daintily
bound and prettily printed graduation album of Spring, 1887, which Van had
seen at Ardis, but in which he had not noticed the somber beetle-browed
unhappy face of that particular girl, and now it did not matter any more,
and Cordula quickly popped the book back into a drawer; but he remembered
very well that among the various more or less coy contributions it contained
a clever pastiche by Ada Veen mimicking Tolstoy’s paragraph rhythm and
chapter closings; he saw clearly in mind her prim photo under which she had
added one of her characteristic jingles:

In the old manor, I’ve parodied

Every veranda and room,

And jacarandas at Arrowhead

In supernatural bloom. (1.43)

When Van leaves Ardis (Ada’s “old manor”) forever, Maidenhair and gingko
pop up in his stream of consciousness:

‘The express does not stop at Torfyanka, does it, Trofim?’

‘I’ll take you five versts across the bog,’ said Trofim, ‘the nearest is

His vulgar Russian word for Maidenhair; a whistle stop; train probably

Maidenhair. Idiot! Percy boy might have been buried by now! Maidenhair. Thus
named because of the huge spreading Chinese tree at the end of the platform.
Once, vaguely, confused with the Venus’-hair fern. She walked to the end of
the platform in Tolstoy’s novel. First exponent of the inner monologue,
later exploited by the French and the Irish. N’est vert, n’est vert, n’
est vert. L’arbre aux quarante écus d’or, at least in the fall. Never,
never shall I hear again her ‘botanical’ voice fall at biloba, ‘sorry, my
Latin is showing.’ Ginkgo, gingko, ink, inkog. Known also as Salisbury’s
adiantofolia, Ada’s infolio, poor Salisburia: sunk; poor Stream of
Consciousness, marée noire by now. Who wants Ardis Hall!


Shade is killed by Gradus on July 21, 1959. July 21 is Ada’s birthday.
According to Ada, Vanda Broom (whose name is secretly present in Ada’s
poem) was killed by a girlfriend of a girlfriend:

Would she like to stay in this apartment till Spring Term (he thought in
terms of Terms now) and then accompany him to Kingston, or would she prefer
to go abroad for a couple of months - anywhere, Patagonia, Angola, Gululu in
the New Zealand mountains? Stay in this apartment? So, she liked it? Except
some of Cordula's stuff which should be ejected - as, for example, that
conspicuous Brown Hill Alma Mater of Almehs left open on poor Vanda's
portrait. She had been shot dead by the girlfriend of a girlfriend on a
starry night, in Ragusa of all places. It was, Van said, sad. (2.6)

One wonders, if this “girlfriend of a girlfriend” who shot dead poor Vanda
was not Ada? In Bunin’s story Delo korneta Elagina (“The Elagin Affair,”
1925) Vanda Linevich is the cook of Manya Sosnovski (Elagin’s mistress who
was shot dead by her lover).

In the novel’s epilogue Ada (who helps Van to translate Shade’s poem into
Russian) mentions her schoolmate again:

I had a schoolmate called Vanda. And I knew a girl called Adora, little
thing in my last floramor. What makes me see that bit as the purest sanglot
in the book? What is the worst part of dying? (5.6)

Sanglot is French for “sob.” In Canto Two of his poem Shade says that he
sobbed in men’s room when his daughter appeared in a school pantomime as
Mother Time with a slop pail and broom:

But let's be fair: while children of her age
Were cast as elves and fairies on the stage
That she'd helped paint for the school pantomime,
My gentle girl appeared as Mother Time,
A bent charwoman with a slop pail and broom,
And like a fool I sobbed in the men's room. (ll. 309-314)

In his essay Texture of Time Van quotes the lines from Shade’s poem:

‘Space is a swarming in the eyes, and Time a singing in the ears,’ says
John Shade, a modem poet, as quoted by an invented philosopher (‘Martin
Gardiner’) in The Ambidextrous Universe, page 165. (Part Four)

The Ambidextrous Universe is a book by Martin Gardner (the real author who
indeed quotes Shade’s words). I suggest that Nabokov deliberately changes
his name slightly in order to make it closer to “gardener.” In the last
lines of his poem Shade mentions his neighbor’s gardener (who, according to
Kinbote, is his black gardener nicknamed Balthazar, Prince of Loam):

And through the flowing shade and ebbing light
A man, unheedful of the butterfly--
Some neighbor's gardener, I guess--goes by
Trundling an empty barrow up the lane. (ll. 996-999)

Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade’s unfinished poem needs but
one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1): “I was the shadow of the waxwing
slain.” But it seems to me that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem needs a
coda, Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane.”

In his story Ten’ ptitsy (“The Shadow of a Bird,” 1907) set in the Near
East Bunin several times quotes the Persian poet Saadi (1184?-1291?). In the
last stanza of Eugene Onegin (Eight: LI: 3) Pushkin, too, quotes Sadi: Inykh
uzh net, a te daleche (“Some are no more, others are distant”). Pushkin’s
novel in verse ends as follows:

Блажен, кто праздник жизни рано

Оставил, не допив до дна

Бокала полного вина,

Кто не дочел её романа

И вдруг умел расстаться с ним,

Как я с Онегиным моим.

Blest who life's banquet early

left, having not drained to the bottom

the goblet full of wine;

who did not read life's novel to the end

and all at once could part with it

as I with my Onegin. (Eight: LI: 9-14)

At the end of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight the narrator says that,
despite Sebastian’s death, the hero remains:

The bald little prompter shuts his book, as the light fades gently. The end,
the end. They all go back to their everyday life (and Clare goes back to her
grave) ― but the hero remains, for, try as I may, I cannot get out of my
part: Sebastian's mask clings to my face, the likeness will not be washed
off. I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom
neither of us knows. (Chapter 20)

Similarly, Shade, Kinbote and Gradus can be someone whom neither of them
knows. In fact, they seem to represent three different aspects of Botkin’s
personality. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod
Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after his daughter’s
death. Hazel Shade’s “real” name seems to be Nadezhda Botkin. In Bunin’s
story Nadezhda (1902) Nadezhda (Hope) is the name of a sailing vessel.

Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide on Oct. 19,
1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin’s lyceum). There is a hope that after
Kinbote’s suicide Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin’s
epigrams), will be “full” again.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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