In VN’s story Lik (1939) Koldunov’s first wife ran away with a Circassian. In VN’s Lolita (1955) Humbert Humbert’s first wife Valeria left her husband and married Colonel Maximovich, a White Russian who worked as a taxi driver in Paris (1.8). The colonel’s name seems to hint at Maksim Maksimych, the title character of the second novella in Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time” (1841). Maksim Maksimych is a Russian officer who serves in the Caucasus. As to Valeria, her name brings to mind Lermontov’s poem Valerik (1840). Lermontov is the author of Borodino (1837). In Lolita Quilty tries to tempt Humbert with “the infolio de-luxe Bagration Island by the explorer and psychoanalist Melanie Weiss, a remarkable lady, a remarkable work - drop that gun - with photographs of eight hundred and something male organs she examined and measured in 1932 on Bagration, in the Barda Sea, very illuminating graphs, plotted with love under pleasant skies - drop that gun...” (2.35) According to Alfred Appel, the island's invented name plays on the name of Prince Peter Bagration, the general felled at the battle of Borodino.


In VN’s story Volshebnik (“The Enchanter,” 1939), a thematic prelude to Lolita, the protagonist is willing to give anything - a bagful of rubies, a pailful of blood - for possessing the girl:


И за всё это, за жар щёк, за двенадцать пар тонких рёбер, за пушок вдоль спины, за дымок души, за глуховатый голос, за ролики и за серый денёк, за то неизвестное, что сейчас подумала, неизвестно на что посмотревши с моста... Мешок рубинов, ведро крови -- всё что угодно...


The enumeration in the above quote is an obvious allusion to Lermontov's poem Blagodarnost' ("Gratitude," 1840):


За всё, за всё тебя благодарю я:
За тайные мучения страстей,
За горечь слез, отраву поцелуя,
За месть врагов и клевету друзей;
За жар души, растраченный в пустыне,
За всё, чем я обманут в жизни был...
Устрой лишь так, чтобы тебя отныне
Недолго я еще благодарил.


For all, for all! I thank you, o my dear:
For passions' deeply hidden pledge,
For poison of a kiss, and stinging of a tear,
Abuse by friends, and enemies' revenge;
For soul's light, extinguished in a prison,
For things by which I was deceived before.
But do not give me any real reason
To give you thanks from now any more.

(transl. E. Bonver)


Alexey Sklyarenko

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