According to Kinbote, he became a vegetarian after reading a story about an Italian despot:
When the fallen tyrant is tied, naked and howling, to a plank in the public square and killed piecemeal by the people who cut slices out, and eat them, and distribute his living body among themselves (as I read when young in a story about an Italian despot, which made of me a vegetarian for life), Gradus does not take part in the infernal sacrament: he points out the right instrument and directs the carving. (note to Line 171)
In VN¡¯s story Krug (¡°The Circle,¡± 1936) Tanya mentions Revolutionary verses about ¡°the despot who feasts in his rich palace hall:¡±
§¢§Ö§ã§Ö§Õ§Ñ §ß§Ö §Ý§Ñ§Õ§Ú§Ý§Ñ§ã§î; §´§Ñ§ß§ñ, §é§ä§à-§ä§à §ã§á§å§ä§Ñ§Ó, §å§Ó§Ö§â§ñ§Ý§Ñ, §é§ä§à §à§ß §Ö§× §Ü§à§Ô§Õ§Ñ-§ä§à §å§é§Ú§Ý §â§Ö§Ó§à§Ý§ð§è§Ú§à§ß§ß§í§Þ §ã§ä§Ú§ç§Ñ§Þ §à §ä§à§Þ, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §Õ§Ö§ã§á§à§ä §á§Ú§â§å§Ö§ä, §Ñ §Ô§â§à§Ù§ß§í§Ö §Ò§å§Ü§Ó§í §Õ§Ñ§Ó§ß§à §ß§Ñ §ã§ä§Ö§ß§Ö §å§Ø §é§Ö§â§ä§Ú§ä §â§å§Ü§Ñ §â§à§Ü§à§Ó§Ñ§ñ. "§¥§â§å§Ô§Ú§Þ§Ú §ã§Ý§à§Ó§Ñ§Þ§Ú, §á§Ö§â§Ó§Ñ§ñ §ã§ä§Ö§ß§Ô§Ñ§Ù§Ö§ä§Ñ",-- §ã§Ü§Ñ§Ù§Ñ§Ý §¬§å§ä§Ñ§ã§à§Ó, §Ý§ð§Ò§Ú§Ó§ê§Ú§Û §à§ã§ä§â§Ú§ä§î. §¦§ë§× §Ó§í§ñ§ã§ß§Ú§Ý§à§ã§î, §é§ä§à §ä§Ñ§ß§Ú§ß §Ò§â§Ñ§ä §Ø§Ú§Ó§×§ä §Ó §¢§Ö§â§Ý§Ú§ß§Ö, §Ú §¦§Ý§Ú§Ù§Ñ§Ó§Ö§ä§Ñ §±§Ñ§Ó§Ý§à§Ó§ß§Ñ §á§â§Ú§ß§ñ§Ý§Ñ§ã§î §â§Ñ§ã§ã§Ü§Ñ§Ù§í§Ó§Ñ§ä§î §à §ß§×§Þ... §£§Õ§â§å§Ô §ª§ß§ß§à§Ü§Ö§ß§ä§Ú§Û §á§à§é§å§Ó§ã§ä§Ó§à§Ó§Ñ§Ý: §ß§Ú§é§ä§à-§ß§Ú§é§ä§à §ß§Ö §á§â§à§á§Ñ§Õ§Ñ§Ö§ä, §Ó §á§Ñ§Þ§ñ§ä§Ú §ß§Ñ§Ü§à§á§Ý§ñ§ð§ä§ã§ñ §ã§à§Ü§â§à§Ó§Ú§ë§Ñ, §â§Ñ§ã§ä§å§ä §ã§Ü§â§í§ä§í§Ö §ã§Ü§Ý§Ñ§Õ§í §Ó §ä§Ö§Þ§ß§à§ä§Ö, §Ó §á§í§Ý§Ú,-- §Ú §Ó§à§ä §Ü§ä§à-§ä§à §á§â§à§Ö§Ù§Ø§Ú§Û §Ó§Õ§â§å§Ô §ä§â§Ö§Ò§å§Ö§ä §å §Ò§Ú§Ò§Ý§Ú§à§ä§Ö§Ü§Ñ§â§ñ §Ü§ß§Ú§Ô§å, §ß§Ö §Ó§í§Õ§Ñ§Ó§Ñ§Ó§ê§å§ð§ã§ñ §Õ§Ó§Ñ§Õ§è§Ñ§ä§î §Ý§Ö§ä.
The Leshino topic was falling apart; Tanya, getting it all wrong, insisted that he used to teach her the pre-Revolution songs of radical students, such as the one about ¡°the despot who feasts in his rich palace hall while destiny¡¯s hand has already begun to trace the dread words on the wall.¡± ¡°In other words, our first stengazeta¡± (Soviet wall gazette), remarked Kutaysov, a great wit. Tanya¡¯s brother was mentioned: he lived in Berlin, and the Countess started to talk about him. Suddenly Innokentiy grasped a wonderful fact: nothing is lost, nothing whatever; memory accumulates treasures, stored-up secrets grow in darkness and dust, and one day a transient visitor at a lending library wants a book that has not once been asked for in twenty-two years.
The story¡¯s main character, Innokentiy, is a namesake of Innokentiy Annenski (1855-1909), the poet who wrote under the pseudonym Nik. T-o. Nikto (nobody) is the last word in Lermontov¡¯s poem Net, ya ne Bayron, ya drugoy¡ ("Nay, I'm not Byron, I'm another..." 1832). The essays in Annenski¡¯s Vtoraya kniga otrazheniy (¡°The Second Book of Reflections,¡± 1909) include Yumor Lermontova (¡°Lermontov¡¯s Humor¡±). In his note to Line 172 Kinbote quotes Shade¡¯s words about Russian intellectuals and humorists:
Speaking of the Head of the bloated Russian Department, Prof. Pnin, a regular martinet in regard to his underlings (happily, Prof. Botkin, who taught in another department, was not subordinated to that grotesque ¡°perfectionist¡±): ¡°How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov.¡±
Ostap Bender (the main character in Ilf and Petrov¡¯s novels ¡°The Twelve Chairs¡± and ¡°The Golden Calf¡±) has the same first name as Taras Bulba¡¯s elder son in Gogol¡¯s story Taras Bulba (1835). In Ukrainian, bulba means ¡°potato.¡± At the beginning of Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions ¡°the grand potato:¡±
L'if, lifeless tree! Your great Maybe, Rabelais:
The grand potato. (ll. 501-502)
In his Commentary Kinbote writes:
An execrable pun, deliberately placed in this epigraphic position to stress lack of respect for Death. I remember from my schoolroom days Rabelais¡¯ soi-disant "last words" among other bright bits in some French manual: Je m¡¯en vais chercher le grand peut-¨ºtre. (note to Line 502)
In a letter of October 17, 1908, to Ekaterina Mukhin, Annenski says that the people who ceased to believe in God but continue to fear the devil have created this otzyvayushchiysya kalamburom (smacking of a pun) terror before the smell of sulfuric pitch, Le grand Peut-Etre:
§§ð§Õ§Ú, §á§Ö§â§Ö§ã§ä§Ñ§Ó§ê§Ú§Ö §Ó§Ö§â§Ú§ä§î §Ó §Ò§à§Ô§Ñ, §ß§à §á§â§à§Õ§à§Ý§Ø§Ñ§ð§ë§Ú§Ö §ä§â§Ö§á§Ö§ä§Ñ§ä§î §é§×§â§ä§Ñ... §¿§ä§à §à§ß§Ú §ã§à§Ù§Õ§Ñ§Ý§Ú §ß§Ñ §ñ§Ù§í§Ü§Ö §ä§í§ã§ñ§é§Ö§Ý§Ö§ä§ß§Ö§Û §Ú§â§à§ß§Ú§Ú §ï§ä§à§ä §à§ä§Ù§í§Ó§Ñ§ð§ë§Ú§Û§ã§ñ §Ü§Ñ§Ý§Ñ§Þ§Ò§å§â§à§Þ §å§Ø§Ñ§ã §á§Ö§â§Ö§Õ §Ù§Ñ§á§Ñ§ç§à§Þ §ã§Ö§â§ß§à§Û §ã§Þ§à§Ý§í - Le grand Peut-Etre. §¥§Ý§ñ §Þ§Ö§ß§ñ peut-etre - §ß§Ö §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Ò§à§Ô, §ß§à §ï§ä§à §Ó§ã§×, §ç§à§ä§ñ §ï§ä§à §Ú §ß§Ö §à§ä§Ó§Ö§ä, §Ú §ß§Ö §å§ã§á§à§Ü§à§Ö§ß§Ú§Ö¡
According to Annenski, for him peut-¨ºtre is not just God, it is everything (although it is neither answer, nor quieting).
On the other hand, the surname Bender brings to mind VN¡¯s novel Bend Sinister (1947). Its characters include the philosopher Adam Krug and his friend Ember (a translator of Shakespeare).
Adam Krug + Ember = krug ada + member
krug ada ¨C Russ., circle of hell
There are nine circles in Dante¡¯s Inferno. In its unfinished form Shade¡¯s poem has 999 lines.
In Pushkin¡¯s Mozart and Salieri (1830) Salieri (who slipped poison into Mozart¡¯s glass) listens to Mozart's Requiem and mentions a suffering member that the healing knife had chopped off:
§£§á§Ö§â§Ó§í§Ö §Ý§î§ð: §Ú §Ò§à§Ý§î§ß§à §Ú §á§â§Ú§ñ§ä§ß§à,
§¬§Ñ§Ü §Ò§å§Õ§ä§à §ä§ñ§Ø§Ü§Ú§Û §ã§à§Ó§Ö§â§ê§Ú§Ý §ñ §Õ§à§Ý§Ô,
§¬§Ñ§Ü §Ò§å§Õ§ä§à §ß§à§Ø §è§Ö§Ý§Ö§Ò§ß§í§Û §Þ§ß§Ö §à§ä§ã§Ö§Ü
Such tears as these
I shed for the first time. It hurts, yet soothes,
As if I had fulfilled a heavy duty,
As if at last the healing knife had chopped
A suffering member off. (scene II, transl. A. Shaw)
In Pushkin¡¯s little tragedy Mozart uses the phrase nikto b (none would):
§¬§à§Ô§Õ§Ñ §Ò§í §Ó§ã§Ö §ä§Ñ§Ü §é§å§Ó§ã§ä§Ó§à§Ó§Ñ§Ý§Ú §ã§Ú§Ý§å
§¤§Ñ§â§Þ§à§ß§Ú§Ú! §¯§à §ß§Ö§ä: §ä§à§Ô§Õ§Ñ §Ò §ß§Ö §Þ§à§Ô
§ª §Þ§Ú§â §ã§å§ë§Ö§ã§ä§Ó§à§Ó§Ñ§ä§î; §ß§Ú§Ü§ä§à §Ò §ß§Ö §ã§ä§Ñ§Ý
§©§Ñ§Ò§à§ä§Ú§ä§î§ã§ñ §à §ß§å§Ø§Õ§Ñ§ç §ß§Ú§Ù§Ü§à§Û §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§Ú;
§£§ã§Ö §á§â§Ö§Õ§Ñ§Ý§Ú§ã§î §Ò§í §Ó§à§Ý§î§ß§à§Þ§å §Ú§ã§Ü§å§ã§ã§ä§Ó§å.
If all could feel like you the power of harmony!
But no: the world could not go on then. None
Would bother with the needs of lowly life;
All would surrender to the free art. (ibid.)
Nikto b is Botkin backwards. Shade¡¯s, Kinbote¡¯s and Gradus¡¯ ¡°real¡± name seems to be Botkin. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbote¡¯s Commentary). There is a hope that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shade¡¯s poem and commits suicide (on October 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin¡¯s Lyceum), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (the governor of New Russia, a target of Pushkin¡¯s epigrams), will be ¡°full¡± again.
Btw., Lermontov¡¯s poem Nadezhda (¡°Hope,¡± 1831) begins: Est¡¯ ptichka raya u menya¡ (I have a bird of paradise¡)