Dialogue on the Threshold

Диалог на пороге

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Ships, and their Picturesqueness — / Have I noticed the approximation to Round and Rondure, in the Square and triangular Forms — and that pleasure which depends on the subtle Sense of Est quod non est? — Balance: Synthesis of Antithesis? — and secondly (and if I have not directly or by Implication anticipated it, of first-rate importance to me), that which in my last night’s Dose I called the Polyolbiosis of each appearance from the recollections of so many others subtly combining with it
The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Kathleen Coburn, Volume 2 (1804-1808), Part 1, London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962, entry 2061.

Polyolbiosis — compound dream word that coalesced during laudanum reverie, a hapax legomenon unique to Coleridge: "state of polyvalent beatitude" (ὄλβιος, ον happy, blessed, -ωσις suffix forming nouns of process or condition)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The cockroach in Russian literature (6): Dostoevsky (3)

Один из двух мужчин, бывших в комнате, был еще очень молодой человек, лет двадцати пяти, тот самый Обноскин, о котором давеча упоминал дядя, восхваляя его ум и мораль. Этот господин мне чрезвычайно не понравился: всё в нем сбивалось на какой-то шик дурного тона; костюм его, несмотря на шик, был как-то потерт и скуден; в лице его было что-то как будто тоже потертое. Белобрысые, тонкие, тараканьи усы и неудавшаяся клочковатая бороденка, очевидно, предназначены были предъявлять человека независимого и, может быть, вольнодумца.

Федор Достоевский, Село Степанчиково и его обитатели. Из записок неизвестного (1859)

One of the two gentlemen in the room was a man still young, twenty-five years of age, the very same Obnoskin whom my uncle had mentioned that afternoon, praising his intellect and morals. This gentleman was not at all to my liking: everything about him somehow smacked of tasteless chic; his attire, despite being chic, was somewhat shabby and common; his face also betrayed something somehow threadbare. His thin, colourless, cockroach moustaches* and wispy failure of a goatee were evidently intended to display that he was an independent and, perhaps, free-thinking character. 

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Village of Stepanchikovo and Its Inhabitants. From the Notes of an Anonymous Author (1859)

(translation: Alistair Ian Blyth)

* "Cockroach moustaches", cf. Mandelshtam's "Stalin Epigram" of November 1933:

Тараканьи смеются усища (l. 7)

His cockroach moustaches chortle

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The "Malbrough theme" (тема Мальбрука) (4)

On peut, à la cour, prendre pied de deux façons: dans les nuées, on est auguste ; dans la boue, on est puissant.

Dans le premier cas, on est de l'Olympe. Dans le second cas, on est de la garde-robe.

Qui est de l'Olympe n'a que la foudre ; qui est de la garde-robe a la police.

La garde-robe contient tous les instruments de règne, et parfois, car elle est traître, le châtiment. Héliogabale y vient mourir. Alors elle s'appelle les latrines.

Victor Hugo, L'Homme qui rit (1869), Deuxième partie: Par ordre du roi, Livre premier: Éternelle présence du passé: Les hommes reflètent l'homme, VIII. Inferi

At court one can gain a foothold in two ways: in the clouds, one is august; in the muck, one is powerful. 

In the first case, one belongs to Olympus. In the second case, one belongs to the closet.

He who belongs to Olympus has only thunder; he who belongs to the closet has policy.

The closet contains all the instruments of rule, and sometimes, for it is treacherous, punishment. Thither comes Heliogabalus to die. Then it is called the jakes.