Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027200, Sat, 15 Oct 2016 16:30:50 +0300

promnad vespert mid J. S. in Pale Fire
I crept back to my cheerless domicile with a heavy heart and a puzzled mind.
The heart remained heavy but the puzzle was solved a few days later, very
probably on St. Swithin's Day, for I find in my little diary under that date
the anticipatory "promnad vespert mid J.S.," crossed out with a petulance
that broke the lead in midstroke. (Kinbote's note to Lines 47-48)

In his fragment V golubom efira pole: ("In the blue area of ether:" 1824-37)
Pushkin mentions Vesper zolotoy ("the golden Vesper," i. e. the planet

В голубом эфира поле

Ходит Веспер золотой.

Старый Дож плывёт в гондоле

С Догарессой молодой.

Догаресса молодая:

In 1888 Pushkin's fragment was completed by Maykov. In a footnote Maykov,
who entitled his poem Staryi dozh ("The Old Doge"), says that the first four
lines were found in Pushkin's papers as a beginning of something and asks
ten' velikogo poeta (the shade of the great poet) to pardon him for his
attempt to guess what happened next:

Эти четыре строчки найдены в бумагах Пушкина, как начало чего-то. Да простит
мне тень великого поэта попытку угадать: что же было дальше?

In 1924 Pushkin's fragment was completed by Khodasevich who entitled his
version Romans ("Romance"). In his story Zhizn' Vasiliya Travnikova ("The
Life of Vasiliy Travnikov," 1936) Khodasevich invented a poet who lived in
Pushkin's time and whose poetry influenced Pushkin and Baratynski.
Khodasevich's hoax was so convincing that the critic Adamovich (whose sexual
tastes Kinbote shares) believed in the existence of Travnikov. Khodasevich
attributed to Travnikov a poem by his friend Muni in which zemlya (earth;
cf. Kinbote's Zembla) is mentioned:

Несомненно, он ждал и хотел смерти. В его черновиках я нашёл наброски
стихотворения, кончавшегося такими словами:

О сердце, колос пыльный!
К земле, костьми обильной,
Ты клонишься, дремля.

Но приблизить конец искусственно было бы всё же противно всей его жизненной
и поэтической философии, основанной на том, что, не закрывая глаз на обиды,
чинимые свыше, человек из единой гордости должен вынести всё до конца.

Я в том себе ищу и гордости, и чести,
Что утешение отверг с надеждой вместе, -

говорит он.

In another poem Travnikov (whose name comes from trava, "grass") says that
he rejected consolation together with nadezhda (hope). It seems that Hazel
Shade's "real" name is Nadezhda Botkin. After her suicide her father,
Professor Vsevolod Botkin (an American scholar of Russian descent), went mad
and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus.

Khodasevich's friend Muni (the penname of Samuil Kissin; btw., the name of
Shade's father was Samuel) committed suicide in March of 1916. In his memoir
essay Muni (1926) included in his book Necropolis (1939) Khodasevich tells
about Muni's attempt to become another person, Alexander Beklemishev. In his
Foreword to PF Kinbote says that his brown beard is of a rather rich tint
and texture. According to Khodasevich, Muni used to conceal his hollow
cheeks in a broad and thick beard:

Муни состоял из широкого костяка, обтянутого кожей. Но он мешковато
одевался, тяжело ступал, впалые щеки прикрывал большой бородой. У него были
непомерно длинные руки, и он ими загребал, как горилла или борец.

Like Travnikov, Kinbote finds suicide unacceptable:

God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example
of the other two characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may
assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist. I may turn up
yet, on another campus, as an old, happy, health heterosexual Russian, a
writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but
his art. I may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture: Escape from
Zembla (ball in the palace, bomb in the palace square). I may pander to the
simple tastes of theatrical critics and cook up a stage play, an
old-fashioned melodrama with three principles: a lunatic who intends to kill
an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and
a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and
perishes in the clash between the two figments. Oh, I may do many things!
History permitting, I may sail back to my recovered kingdom, and with a
great sob greet the gray coastline and the gleam of a roof in the rain. I
may huddle and groan in a madhouse. But whatever happens, wherever the scene
is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out--somebody has already set
out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a
ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and
presently he will ring at my door--a bigger, more respectable, more
competent Gradus. (note to Line 1000)

I hope that ten' velikogo pisatelya (the shade of the great writer) will
pardon me for my attempt to guess what happened next. After completing his
work on Shade's poem (on Oct. 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum)
Kinbote, despite his own words, commits suicide. There is a hope that after
Kinbote's death Botkin will be "full" again.

There is dozh (doge) in dozhd' (rain). If it is raining on St. Swithin's
day, it will rain for forty days. In the Orthodox tradition it is believed
that after one's death the soul of the departed remains on Earth for forty

дож + ладья + весперт = дождь + Ялта + Веспер

дож - doge

ладья - poet., boat; rook, castle (chessman)

весперт - vespert in Russian spelling

дождь - rain

Ялта - Yalta (a city in the Crimea)

Веспер - Vesper

Alexey Sklyarenko

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