In VN’s novel Lolita (1955) Humbert Humbert and Lolita spend their first night together in The Enchanted Hunters (a hotel in Briceland) in the summer of 1947. In the novel’s Russian version (1967) Humbert Humbert says that “the most penetrating bodkin” with which Trapp (Quilty) hurt him was Nik. Pavlych Khokhotov, Vran, Arizona (the entry in the book of the Kasbeam motel):


Но больнее всего пронзила меня кощунственная анаграмма нашего первого незабвенного привала (в 1947-ом году, читатель!), которую я отыскал в книге касбимского мотеля, где он ночевал рядом с нами: «Ник. Павлыч Хохотов, Вран, Аризона». (2.23)


Nik. Pavlych Khokhotov, Vran, Arizona is an anagram of Prival zacharovannykh okhotnikov (The Enchanted Hunters). “Nik.[olay] Pavlych” seems to hint at Nicholas I, the tsar who was nicknamed Nikolay Palkin (from palka, “stick, cane”). Palkin was a fashionable restaurant in St. Petersburg: Nevsky Avenue, 47. The Nabokovs’ address in St. Petersburg was Bolshaya Morskaya street, 47. Morskaya is fem. of morskoy (of the sea). Annabel Lee (1849) by E. A. Poe begins:


It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea.


In Lolita (1.3) Annabel Leigh is the name of HH’s first love. In VN’s novel Look at the Harlequins! (1974) A Kingdom by the Sea (1962) is Vadim’s novel that corresponds to VN’s Lolita. In his poem K byustu zavoevatelya (“To the Bust of the Conqueror,” 1829) Pushkin says the tsar Alexander I (the elder brother of Nicholas I) was v litse i v zhizni arlekin (an harlequin in his face and in his life):


Напрасно видишь тут ошибку:
Рука искусства навела
На мрамор этих уст улыбку,
А гнев на хладный лоск чела.

Недаром лик сей двуязычен.
Таков и был сей властелин:
К противочувствиям привычен,
В лице и в жизни арлекин.


In vain, you’re seeking errors here:

The hand of art has camouflaged

The marble of lips with a smile, smeared,

Ice of a brow - with a rage…


In fact, this image is two-faced.

The same was and that mighty king:

Used to his soul’s controversies,

A face and life – of Harlequin.

(tr. E. Bonver)


In his poem N[ikolayu] P[avlovichu] (“To Nicholas I,” 1855) Tyutchev says that Nicholas I was ne tsar’, a litsedey (an actor, not tsar):


Не богу ты служил и не России,
Служил лишь суете своей,
И все дела твои, и добрые и злые, –
Всё было ложь в тебе, всё призраки пустые:
Ты был не царь, а лицедей.


To serve God and Russia was never your intention.

Your conceit alone deserved your full attention.

Whether good whether bad, your every task

was nothing but spectral, false invention.

You had no throne - you wore an actor's mask!

(tr. F. Jude)


Vran is an archaic form of voron (raven). E. A. Poe is the author of The Raven (1845). In Khodasevich’s essay Pushkin i Nikolay I (“Pushkin and Nicholas I,” 1938) Pushkin, in a conversation with Count Yuli Strutynski (a Polish aristocrat), quotes the sayings voron voronu glaz ne vyklyuet (“Hawks will not pick hawks' eyes;” in the Russian version the proverbial bird is raven) and s volkami zhit’ – po-volch’I vyt’ (when in Rome, do as the Romans do; literally: “to live amongst wolves, you should howl like a wolf”):


- А разве сами эти губернаторы - не помещики? - перебил Пушкин. - Разве у этих предводителей нет своих подданных? Ворон ворону глаз не выклюет, друг мой! С волками жить - по-волчьи выть! Это - вечная истина, неопровержимая.


In VN’s story Volshebnik (“The Enchanter,” 1939), Lolita’s Russian precursor, the protagonist is compared to the wolf from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale “The Little Red Riding Hood.” The surname Khokhotov comes from khokhotat’ (to guffaw), a verb that is repeated twice in “The Enchanter” (see my previous post). Btw., Khokhotov also brings to mind kho-kho, in Ilf and Petrov’s novel Dvenadtsat’ stulyev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) one of the thirty words and short phrases in Ellochka Shchukin’s vocabulary (kho-kho expresses irony, surprise, delight, loathing, joy, contempt and satisfaction, according to the circumstances). In Ilf and Petrov’s novel the chapter “Ellochka the Cannibal” begins as follows:


Словарь Вильяма Шекспира по подсчёту исследователей составляет 12 000 слов. Словарь негра из людоедского племени "Мумбо-Юмбо" составляет 300 слов.

Эллочка Щукина легко и свободно обходилась тридцатью.


William Shakespeare's vocabulary has been estimated by the experts at twelve thousand words. The vocabulary of a Negro from the Mumbo Jumbo tribe amounts to three hundred words.

Ellochka Shukin managed easily and fluently on thirty. (chapter 23)


One of the twelve thousand words in Shakespeare’s vocabulary is “bodkin.”


Sobaka being Russian for “dog,” Fima Sobak (a friend of Ellochka the Cannibal) brings to mind the dogs that are not admitted at The Enchanted Hunters:


Their note paper was headed:


     The Enchanted Hunters

Near Churches             No Dogs

        All legal beverages


I wondered if the last statement was true. All? Did they have for instance sidewalk grenadine? I also wondered if a hunter, enchanted or otherwise, would not need a pointer more than a pew, and with a spasm of pain I recalled a scene worthy of a great artist: petite nymphe accroupie; but that silky cocker spaniel had perhaps been a baptized one. (2.26)


Lolita’s mother dies because of a neighbor’s dog. HH’s and Lolita’s room in The Enchanted Hunters has the same number, 342, as Charlotte Haze’s address in Ramsdale.


Alexey Sklyarenko

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