In VN¡¯s novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) the narrator mentions Alexis Pan, a futurist poet who appeared on the stage with a constellation (the Greater Dog) painted on his bald brow:
Alexis Pan generally appeared on the stage dressed in a morning coat, perfectly correct but for its being embroidered with huge lotus flowers. A constellation (the Greater Dog) was painted on his bald brow. (Chapter 3)
In Nauka i svobodnoe issledovanie (¡°Science and Free Inquiry¡±), a Foreword to his book Na vesakh Iova (¡°In Job¡¯s Balances,¡± 1929), Shestov quotes Spinoza, a philosopher who mentioned the constellation called the Dog:
§ª§Ý§Ú, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §Ó§í§â§Ñ§Ù§Ú§Ý§ã§ñ, §ã§à §ã§Ó§à§Û§ã§ä§Ó§Ö§ß§ß§í§Þ §Ö§Þ§å §Ù§Ñ§Ô§Ñ§Õ§à§é§ß§í§Þ §Ú §Ù§Ý§à§Ó§Ö§ë§Ú§Þ §ã§á§à§Ü§à§Û§ã§ä§Ó§Ú§Ö§Þ, §Ó§ã§× §ä§à§ä §Ø§Ö §³§á§Ú§ß§à§Ù§Ñ: §â§Ñ§Ù§å§Þ §Ú §Ó§à§Ý§ñ §¢§à§Ô§Ñ §Ú§Þ§Ö§Ö§ä §ã§ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Ø§Ö §à§Ò§ë§Ö§Ô§à §ã §â§Ñ§Ù§å§Þ§à§Þ §Ú §Ó§à§Ý§Ö§Û §é§Ö§Ý§à§Ó§Ö§Ü§Ñ, §ã§Ü§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §ã§à§Ù§Ó§Ö§Ù§Õ§Ú§Ö §±§ã§Ñ §ã §á§ã§à§Þ, §Ý§Ñ§ð§ë§Ú§Þ §Ø§Ú§Ó§à§ä§ß§í§Þ. §£§ã§ñ§Ü§Ñ§ñ §á§à§á§í§ä§Ü§Ñ §Ó§í§â§Ó§Ñ§ä§î§ã§ñ §Ú§Ù §Ó§Ý§Ñ§ã§ä§Ú §Ó§Ö§Ü§Ñ§Þ§Ú §ã§à§Ù§Õ§Ñ§Ó§Ñ§Ó§ê§Ö§Ô§à§ã§ñ §å§Ò§Ö§Ø§Õ§Ö§ß§Ú§ñ §â§Ñ§Ù§Ò§Ú§Ó§Ñ§Ö§ä§ã§ñ §à §è§Ö§Ý§í§Û §â§ñ§Õ §Ù§Ñ§â§Ñ§ß§Ö§Ö §á§à§Õ§Ô§à§ä§à§Ó§Ý§Ö§ß§ß§í§ç, §ä§à§Ø§Ö "§ã§Ñ§Þ§à§à§é§Ö§Ó§Ú§Õ§ß§í§ç" §Ú §ß§Ö§á§â§Ö§à§Õ§à§Ý§Ú§Þ§í§ç §Ó §ã§Ó§à§Ö§Û §ã§Ñ§Þ§à§à§é§Ö§Ó§Ú§Õ§ß§à§ã§ä§Ú pudet, ineptum, impossibile.
Or, as the same Spinoza expressed it with the enigmatic and disquieting calm peculiar to him: God's reason and will have as little in common with man's reason and will as the constellation called the Dog with the dog, the barking animal. Any attempt to escape the power of this conviction, which has grown up through centuries, shipwrecks on a whole series of pudet, ineptum, and impossibile which are ready thought out, equally "self-evident", and invincible by virtue of their self-evidence. (IV)
Part One of ¡°In Job¡¯s Balances¡± is entitled Otkroveniya smerti (¡°Revelations of Death¡±). According to V. (Sebastian¡¯s half-brother who begins to write his book soon after Sebastian¡¯s death), there is an occult resemblance between a man and the date of his death:
I have managed to reconstruct more or less the last year of Sebastian's life: 1935. He died in the very beginning of 1936, and as I look at this figure I cannot help thinking that there is an occult resemblance between a man and the date of his death. Sebastian Knight d. 1936.... This date to me seems the reflection of that name in a pool of rippling water. There is something about the curves of the last three numerals that recalls the sinuous outlines of Sebastian's personality.... (Chapter 19)
Lev Shestov died on November 19, 1938. VN began writing TRLSK in December of 1938.
Sebastian Knight was born on the thirty-first of December, 1899. In Chekhov¡¯s story Strashnaya noch¡¯ (¡°A Terrible Night,¡± 1884) the action takes place on Christmas Eve in 1883. Having returned from a s¨¦ance at which the spirit of Spinoza predicted to him that he will die on that very night, Ivan Panikhidin finds a coffin in his room. The name Panikhidin begins with Pan- and comes from panikhida (office for the dead). In his poem Zabludivshiysya tramvay (¡°The Lost Tram,¡± 1921) Gumilyov mentions panikhida (a requiem mass):
§£§Ö§â§ß§à§Û §ä§Ó§Ö§â§Õ§í§ß§Ö§ð §á§â§Ñ§Ó§à§ã§Ý§Ñ§Ó§î§ñ
§£§â§Ö§Ù§Ñ§ß §ª§ã§Ñ§Ü§Ú§Û §Ó §Ó§í§ê§Ú§ß§Ö,
§´§Ñ§Þ §à§ä§ã§Ý§å§Ø§å §Þ§à§Ý§Ö§Ò§Ö§ß §à §Ù§Õ§â§Ñ§Ó§î§Ú
§®§Ñ§ê§Ö§ß§î§Ü§Ú §Ú §á§Ñ§ß§Ú§ç§Ú§Õ§å §á§à §Þ§ß§Ö.
That faithful stronghold of Orthodoxy,
Isaac's, is etched upon the sky,
There I will hold a service for Mashenka's health
And a requiem mass for myself.
Mashenka (¡°Mary,¡± 1926) is VN¡¯s first novel. The name of Alexis Pan¡¯s wife, Larissa, seems to hint at Larisa Reisner, Gumilyov¡¯s mistress who married Fyodor Raskolnikov (the commander of Red fleets on the Caspian and the Baltic during the Russian Civil War). Rodion Raskolnikov is the main character in Fyodor Dostoevski¡¯s Prestuplenie i nakazanie (¡°Crime and Punishment,¡± 1866). The first essay in ¡°Revelations of Death¡± (Part One of Shestov¡¯s ¡°In Job¡¯s Balances¡±), Preodolenie samoochevidnostey (¡°The Conquest of the Self-Evident¡±), is subtitled K stoletiyu rozhdeniya F. M. Dostoevskogo (¡°To the Hundredth Anniversary of F. M. Dostoevski¡¯s Birth¡±). Dostoevski was born in 1821. Gumilyov was executed in 1921 (soon after Alexander Blok¡¯s death). In his poem Osenniy vecher byl¡ (¡°It was an autumnal evening...¡± 1912) Blok mentions lokhmatyi pyos (¡°a shaggy dog¡±). Blok is the author of Dvenadtsat¡¯ (¡°The Twelve,¡± 1918). Shestov (whose pseudonym comes from shest¡¯, ¡°six¡±) died at the age of seventy-two. 72 = 12 ¡Á 6 = 36 ¡Á 2. Sebastian Knight died in the very beginning of 1936, at the age of thirty-six.
In his book ¡°In Job¡¯s Balances¡± Shestov compares Kant to Nietzsche:
§¬§Ñ§ß§ä §Ø§Ú§Ý §Õ§à 80 §Ý§Ö§ä. §¯§Ú§è§ê§Ö §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Õ§à 44. §¯§à §ß§Ñ§ã§Ü§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §¯§Ú§è§ê§Ö §à§á§í§ä§ß§Ö§Ö §¬§Ñ§ß§ä§Ñ!
Kant lived to eighty, Nietzsche only to forty-four. But how much more experienced was Nietzsche than Kant! (23)
Like Nietzsche, Chekhov lived only to forty-four. In Chekhov¡¯s one-act play Svad¡¯ba (¡°The Wedding,¡± 1889) Aplombov says that he is not a Spinoza or anybody of that sort:
§¡ §á §Ý §à §Þ §Ò §à §Ó. §Á §ß§Ö §³§á§Ú§ß§à§Ù§Ñ §Ü§Ñ§Ü§à§Û-§ß§Ú§Ò§å§Õ§î, §é§ä§à§Ò §Ó§í§Õ§Ö§Ý§í§Ó§Ñ§ä§î §ß§à§Ô§Ñ§Þ§Ú §Ü§â§Ö§ß§Õ§Ö§Ý§ñ. §Á §é§Ö§Ý§à§Ó§Ö§Ü §á§à§Ý§à§Ø§Ú§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§í§Û §Ú §ã §ç§Ñ§â§Ñ§Ü§ä§Ö§â§à§Þ §Ú §ß§Ö §Ó§Ú§Ø§å §ß§Ú§Ü§Ñ§Ü§à§Ô§à §â§Ñ§Ù§Ó§Ý§Ö§é§Ö§ß§Ú§ñ §Ó §á§å§ã§ä§í§ç §å§Õ§à§Ó§à§Ý§î§ã§ä§Ó§Ú§ñ§ç. §¯§à §Õ§Ö§Ý§à §ß§Ö §Ó §ä§Ñ§ß§è§Ñ§ç. §±§â§à§ã§ä§Ú§ä§Ö, maman, §ß§à §ñ §Þ§ß§à§Ô§à§Ô§à §ß§Ö §á§à§ß§Ú§Þ§Ñ§ð §Ó §Ó§Ñ§ê§Ú§ç §á§à§ã§ä§å§á§Ü§Ñ§ç. §¯§Ñ§á§â§Ú§Þ§Ö§â, §Ü§â§à§Þ§Ö §á§â§Ö§Õ§Þ§Ö§ä§à§Ó §Õ§à§Þ§Ñ§ê§ß§Ö§Û §ß§Ö§à§Ò§ç§à§Õ§Ú§Þ§à§ã§ä§Ú, §Ó§í §à§Ò§Ö§ë§Ñ§Ý§Ú §ä§Ñ§Ü§Ø§Ö §Õ§Ñ§ä§î §Þ§ß§Ö §Ù§Ñ §Ó§Ñ§ê§Ö§Û §Õ§à§é§Ö§â§î§ð §Õ§Ó§Ñ §Ó§í§Ú§Ô§â§í§ê§ß§í§ç §Ò§Ú§Ý§Ö§ä§Ñ. §¤§Õ§Ö §à§ß§Ú?
Aplombov. I¡¯m not a Spinoza or anybody of that sort, to go making figures-of-eight with my legs. I am a serious man, and I have a character, and I see no amusement in empty pleasures. But it isn¡¯t just a matter of dances. You must excuse me, maman, but there is a good deal in your behavior which I am unable to understand. For instance, in addition to objects of domestic importance, you promised also to give me, with your daughter, two lottery tickets. Where are they?
Spinoza mentioned by Aplombov is not the Dutch philosopher, but the Spanish dancer L¨¦on Espinosa (1825-1903) who worked in Moscow with Marius Petipa. Chekhov (1860-1904) outlived Espinosa (who was born in the year of the Decembrist uprising) only by a year. According to Pushkin, he wrote his Count Nulin in Mikhaylovskoe in two days, on December 13-14, 1825 (the Decembrist uprising took place in St. Petersburg on December 14, 1825). The name Nulin comes from nul¡¯ (zero). Shestov¡¯s essay on Chekhov is entitled Tvorchestvo iz nichego (¡°Creation from Nothing,¡± 1905). In his memoir essay on Chekhov Ivan Bunin says that one of the best articles on Chekhov was written by Shestov. One of Bunin¡¯s best poems is Sirius (1922):
§¤§Õ§Ö §ä§í, §Ù§Ó§Ö§Ù§Õ§Ñ §Þ§à§ñ §Ù§Ñ§Ó§Ö§ä§ß§Ñ§ñ,
§£§Ö§ß§Ö§è §ß§Ö§Ò§Ö§ã§ß§à§Û §Ü§â§Ñ§ã§à§ä§í?
§³§ß§Ö§Ô§à§Ó §Ú §Ý§å§ß§ß§à§Û §Ó§í§ã§à§ä§í?
§¤§Õ§Ö §Ó§í, §ã§Ü§Ú§ä§Ñ§ß§Ú§ñ §á§à§Ý§ß§à§é§ß§í§Ö
§£ §â§Ñ§Ó§ß§Ú§ß§Ñ§ç §ã§Ó§Ö§ä§Ý§í§ç §Ú §ß§Ñ§Ô§Ú§ç,
§¯§Ñ§Õ§Ö§Ø§Õ§í, §Õ§å§Þ§í §ß§Ö§á§à§â§à§é§ß§í§Ö
§¥§Ñ§Ý§×§Ü§Ú§ç §ð§ß§í§ç §Ý§Ö§ä §Þ§à§Ú§ç?
§±§í§Ý§Ñ§Û, §Ú§Ô§â§Ñ§Û §ã§ä§à§è§Ó§Ö§ä§ß§à§Û §ã§Ú§Ý§à§ð,
§¯§Ñ§Õ §Õ§Ñ§Ý§î§ß§Ö§ð §Þ§à§Ö§Û §Þ§à§Ô§Ú§Ý§à§ð,
§©§Ñ§Ò§í§ä§à§Û §¢§à§Ô§à§Þ §ß§Ñ§Ó§ã§Ö§Ô§Õ§Ñ!
¡Shine, play with a hundred-colored strength,
the inextinguishable star,
above my distant grave
forgotten by God forever!
The brightest star in the constellation the Greater Dog (in fact, the brightest star in the sky), Sirius brings to mind Sirin, VN¡¯s Russian nom de plume.
Sirius + Vladimir Nabokov + Pan + Eva = Sirin + bukva + slovo/volos + piramida + Neva/vena/Vena
Eva ¨C Eve
bukva ¨C letter (character)
slovo ¨C word
volos ¨C hair
piramida ¨C pyramid
vena ¨C vein
Vena ¨C Russian name of Vienna
VN (who was born in 1899, a hundred years after Pushkin¡¯s birth) married Vera Slonim in April of 1925.