Molotov: The Summing Up.

In my earlier post about Pomyalovsky’s novel Молотов [Molotov], I wrote that I wanted to post about it before it went off the rails; now that I’ve finished it, I’m happy to report that my fears were groundless and that it never did fall apart as his first one did. It’s not a masterpiece, mind you; that would be a lot to ask from an author in his mid-twenties who had only published one other (short) novel. But it’s a huge leap forward, and had he not died (basically of drink) in 1863, who knows how far he might have gone? Carol Flath, in her perceptive piece on Pomyalovsky in Russian Novelists in the Age of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, calls him “a serious, talented, and original writer,” and I agree. Flath says “Molotov represents a new kind of hero in Russian literature, the raznochinets (a nongentry intellectual), who rises from poverty to take his place among the increasing numbers of white-collar workers in mid-nineteenth century Russia,” and among the many jobs he held in his checkered career (at one point he lists them all) is proofreader, which of course endeared him to me. As a matter of fact, his experiences and outlook on life in general endear him to me; he’s the closest thing to me I think I’ve yet encountered in Russian literature.

The defects of the novel are primarily of construction: Pomyalovsky lurches from the Dorogov family to Molotov and back with no clear motive, and he relies too much on coincidence and eavesdropping (a common problem in fiction of that or any era, of course). But the characters are original and well-drawn, the writing is lively if occasionally repetitive (see the excerpts I translated in the previous post for examples), and he toys so cleverly with the conventions of melodrama (and one’s expectations of how a Russian novel will develop) that he made me laugh out loud at one culminating plot point. This novel definitely deserves translation (I don’t usually recommend translators trim the original, but in this case it might be advisable in places where the author gets carried away with his rhetoric), and I hope it gets one; it sheds light on corners of Russian society you don’t get many chances to see, and it has a clever, likeable, and brave heroine.

One question for my Russian readers: he repeatedly uses the adjective зачаделый (“зачаделое, темнообразное лицо,” “она с отвращением и негодованием оттолкнула от себя зачаделый лик,” etc., always modifying лицо or лик), and not only is it not in any dictionaries (even the Словарь русских народных говоров), it doesn’t seem ever to have been used by any other Russian author. I presume it’s derived from чад ‘fumes,’ but it’s not clear to me what he means by it: ‘smoky-looking,’ maybe? All suggestions will be welcome.

Comments

  1. Зачаделый reminds me of закоптелый “covered with soot, smut”. There’s also чадить, начадить, зачадить (комнату, помещение) = to make air in a room or space bad by producing smoke.

    Also, there’s this from Alexey Tolstoy’s Aelita:

    Чад у вас, чад, чад, — сказал им Гусев по-русски, — колпак над плитой устройте. Эй, варвары, а еще марсиане!

  2. Зачаделый reminds me of закоптелый “covered with soot, smut”.

    Yeah, that’s a good comparison. And the Aelita quote is hilarious; I’ll have to read that!

  3. Gregory is completely right, I am surprised the word was actually not used more often…

    One nitpick: raznochinets is not exactly a “nongentry intellectual”. Imperial Russia (at least before 20th century, or if you wish, before the Great Reforms of 1860th took root) was a rigidly stratified society. There was nobility (landlords or personal), businessmen/merchants (kuptzy), townsfolk (meschane) , priests, and peasants (I might not recall everyone, I am not a historian). All those categories were not simply descriptive, they were established legal classes. Raznotchintzy were basically city dwellers who sort of fell through the cracks of the system. People with higher education (and therefore not simple townsfolk anymore), but without land and not in a governmental service. Thus, intellectuals or not they were indeed the new people.

  4. Зачаделый reminds me of закоптелый “covered with soot, smut”.

    So, as a single word, “begrimed,” perhaps?

  5. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    My immediate association is Polish zaczadzony which means ‘poisoned with carbon monoxide’ and metaphorically ‘intoxicated, stupefied, with a clouded mind’.

    My Russian-Polish dictionary doesn’t list зачаделый but it mentions быть как в чаду chodzić jak zaczadzony ‘walk like someone poisoned with carbon monoxide’ and чадный apparently with the meanings I mentioned for zaczadzony, among others.

  6. Piotr Gąsiorowski says:

    Polish oczadziały and zaczadziały are perhaps less common but have the same meaning. But then the meaning of czad in Polish is rather narrow: ‘toxic fumes’ or even specifically ‘carbon monoxide’ (as in zatrucie czadem ‘CO poisoning’ = zaczadzenie if interpreted non-metaphorically). I think Russian leaves more elbow-space for semantic interpretation, including ‘browned with smoke’ — unless native speakers disagree.

  7. One nitpick: raznochinets is not exactly a “nongentry intellectual”.

    Quite right, and I assume Flath knows that perfectly well, but it’s pretty much impossible to summarize the word accurately in a quick parenthetical, and she was writing about Pomyalovsky, not the soslovie system (incidentally, one of my birthday gifts was For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia by Alison K. Smith, and I’m looking forward to learning about it).

    My immediate association is Polish zaczadzony which means ‘poisoned with carbon monoxide’ and metaphorically ‘intoxicated, stupefied, with a clouded mind’.

    That’s a perfectly natural association in Russian too, but it doesn’t make sense in context. The worthy general whose face is thus described is not intoxicated or stupefied, he’s just old and (to Nadya) repellent.

    I am surprised the word was actually not used more often

    It is used only in this novel, so it’s not really a Russian word at all. I can’t think offhand of another instance where an author uses a lexeme offhandedly, as if it were a perfectly normal word, but it occurs nowhere else in the language.

  8. Зачаделый reminds me of закоптелый “covered with soot, smut”.

    Same with me, although I’m not sure about smut here. It seems that czad mostly refers to carbon monoxide in Polish so corresponds not so much to чад as to угар in Russian (CO = угарный газ, to be poisoned with CO = угореть). On the other hand, копоть and kopeć seem to have similar meanings.

  9. There was nobility (landlords or personal), businessmen/merchants (kuptzy), townsfolk (meschane) , priests, and peasants (I might not recall everyone, I am not a historian). All those categories were not simply descriptive, they were established legal classes. Raznotchintzy were basically city dwellers who sort of fell through the cracks of the system.

    There were lots of “minor” official hereditary or semi-hereditary classes, the biggest of which was military and retired military. The townspeople (bourgeois) class was the least desirable, because it came with duties and taxes but hardly any privileges. So most city dwellers actually belonged to the hereditary peasant class (and enjoyed a few important privileges such as share in the communally held lands and waters at their ancestral village, as well as communal protections against extreme poverty / loss of ability to work due to injury or old age).
    Two other principal minor classes were honorary citizens of several sorts, and educated formerly lower-class people (who formed a bewildering array of very small legal classes, which just begged combining this group into an aggregation of “many different classes” ~~~ raznochintsy). Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and veterinarians, just to give one example, formed 4 separate official classes. Graduates of Higher Schools for Women formed classes separately from male graduates of universities, each such school forming its own class! Upon issuing a diploma or a certificate of education, a school would begin correspondence with the place of the original hereditary registration of a graduate, requesting that the graduate be removed from the roster of the locally registered taxpayers of his or her class. The town authorities would write back, confirming that the graduate is no longer listed as a townsperson there, and the correspondence would be attached to the permanent file of the student. Thus a former member of a taxpayer class of an ancestral location would be elevated into a higher meta-class (an array of great many specific official classes) of raznochintsy.

  10. Higher Schools for Women

    I’m quite interested in these; is there a good resource about them? Could anybody go to them, or did you have to satisfy certain requirements?

  11. Typically a women’s school operated as a kind of an annex facility of a university (partly drawing on the same instructors). Enrollment required a Gymnasium diploma and a few more restrictions (such as age restrictions). The best known was Bestuzhevka in St Petersburg ( https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%91%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B5_%D0%BA%D1%83%D1%80%D1%81%D1%8B and links within). The legal class status title was quite lengthy, “a graduate of Bestuzhev women’s courses”

  12. X, thank you. Oh. This is one of those things where knowing less seems to be for the best. But it’s just a momentary weakness on my part. Thanks again for writing about it.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Gregory:Зачаделый reminds me of закоптелый “covered with soot, smut”. There’s also чадить, начадить, зачадить (комнату, помещение) = to make air in a room or space bad by producing smoke.

    As someone with no Russian and non-native English, I was reminded of Norwegian innrøykt, which my No.-En. dictionary for some reason simply glosses as “seasoned”. Maybe “smoke-seasoned”?

    It is used only in this novel, so it’s not really a Russian word at all.

    If it’s a well-formed word made from Russian elements, then I’ll argue that it’s as Russian a word as they come.

  14. Trond Engen says:

    It seems that the different classes were taxed differently. Were graduates from different universities kept as distinct classes because they paid taxes to their old university?

  15. If it’s a well-formed word made from Russian elements, then I’ll argue that it’s as Russian a word as they come.

    Well, sure, I was just trying to express the fairly astonishing situation of this word as dramatically as possible. I can’t really think of a parallel. I mean, there are lots of words used only by one author, but they’re obvious nonce inventions and tend to stand out like a sore thumb. This case, of a well-formed word that is in no way peculiar except that it is used by no one else, is unique in my experience.

  16. Russian language is capable of forming many millions of words, obviously most of them are never used and some are apparently used only once a century.

  17. David Marjanović says:

    The worthy general whose face is thus described is not intoxicated or stupefied, he’s just old and (to Nadya) repellent.

    So he’s simply smoked like a ham, his skin showing the signs of a long hard life? Still strange that the word isn’t attested anywhere else, though. In German such faces have been described as gegerbt “tanned” (referring to texture, not color), but that’s an established literary metaphor.

    Linguistic fun with CO: CO poisoning from a fire is generally called Rauchgasvergiftung “smoke-gas poisoning” in German, but I’ve never encountered Rauchgas; CO doesn’t get any simpler than Kohlenmonoxid, and smoke-associated gas as a broader category doesn’t seem to be talked about.

    Graduates of Higher Schools for Women formed classes separately from male graduates of universities, each such school forming its own class!

    This idea hasn’t died out. One of my titles is Docteur de l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie. Yay corporate branding for entitites that really aren’t corporate at all.

  18. Rauchgas apparently means ‘the gaseous products of combustion’, a mixture (according to the linked article) of N2, CO2, SO2, NOx, H2O, and sometimes CO and H2. Wikipedia.de also mentions the particulate content of smoke as being part of it. So no, it is not CO specifically, which suggests that Rauchgasvergiftung may include choking on smoke as well as poisoning with any or all of the toxic gases mentioned.

  19. @languagehat: Tolkien’s coinage “wilderland” strikes me as a similar case. It does not call attention to itself, seeing like a perfectly ordinary word, transparent in meaning.

  20. Well, except I would see that and think “cute word invention,” not “huh, a word I haven’t seen before.”

  21. Russian is different. You can invent words on a go, nobody will notice.

    претенденциозный
    одичь
    выглот

    Do these words words exist in Russian? (I just invented them right now)

    The problem is, you can’t say they don’t exist.

    Because they can and it doesn’t matter whether anyone uses them or not. They exist potentially

  22. I know, from talking to some other readers, that I was not the only person who didn’t realize “wilderland” was a coinage of Tolkien’s. On the other hand, we probably all encountered the word first in elementary school, when coming across new lexemes was a much more common occurrence. I wonder what somebody first reading The Hobbit as an adult would think.

  23. In Russian, угореть (to get poisoned by smoke) and its parent word угар do not spell exactly what gas caused poisoning though угарный газ is a technical term for carbon monoxide. Go figure.

  24. “Wilderland” is a proper noun, though, isn’t it? I don’t recall the details myself, but that’s what the OED sample sentence (under “quiet-footed”) implies with its capitalization:

    J. R. R. Tolkien Fellowship of Ring i. ii. 62 Long after, but still very long ago, there lived by the banks of the Great River on the edge of Wilderland a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people.

    If so, it’s kind of a special case.

    Context matters, too. Tolkein was known for making up words (indeed, languages) and was writing about a fantasy world too. If I read “wilderland” (as a regular noun) in, say, Nabakov’s translation of Eugene Onegin, I’m sure I’d just assume it was another of the many antiquarian curiosities on display in that work.

  25. It seems that the different classes were taxed differently. Were graduates from different universities kept as distinct classes because they paid taxes to their old university?

    The tax in question was “Poll tax” (paid equally by all male taxpayers depending on class, locality, and religion, but regardless of age or income). In mid-XIX c. Russia it amounted to between 1 and 6 rubles a year, paid directly to the treasury by the communities rather than by individuals who would then be charged by their local authorities.

    Only peasants and townspeople were obligated to pay poll taxes. All other (“Non-taxable”) classes were exempt from this specific tax, but were liable for other taxes and fees, of course. Anyway there were other important privileges which only non-taxable classes enjoyed, such as freedom from corporal punishment, freedom from community-imposed Siberian exile, freedom of movement within the Empire, and exemption from draft.

    Tax-exempt classes included nobility (and certain subclasses of tribal chieftains), clergy, merchants and dealers, government and royal court servants and military servicemen, medical practitioners and educated classes, honorary citizens, descendants of Ivan Susanin near Kostroma, and descendants of Yermolay Gerasimov, Grigory Merkul’yev and a few more nontaxable peasant clans of the White Sea shores, all of whom were granted these privileges for special services to the Czars, mostly in the troublesome times of the early XVII c.
    (Before Peter the Great there were more numerous peasant and artisan communities with non-taxable status, but most of them lost their privileges during Peter’s reforms. Only the ones to whom Peter or his direct ancestors were personally indebted got to keep their exempt status)

  26. (This comment was posted at Language Log in 2008; I’ve updated it.)

    Tolkien is really not much of a word-coiner when it comes to the English of The Lord of the Rings. It’s true there are almost 300 coined names, some from English components like Wilderland, some from Elvish languages. But Tolkien’s lower-case words are pretty much English, though he does have a broad vocabulary: carcanet, mathom, northmost, riverward, vanishment, westering, etc.

    I made a wordlist of the L.R., which has just over 8000 distinct words (including inflectional forms, HTML artifacts, etc.) I then subtracted words found in a large English wordlist of 81,536 words, leaving 997 candidate words. Removing capitalized words (the source of the name count above after I removed plurals and such), British spellings, inflectional forms, dialect words like axin’ ‘asking’, rare words that are nevertheless found in the OED, and so on, I wound up with only 65 words.

    Of these 65, 51 are Elvish or Orkish: all but four of these are used only when a character is speaking in one of those languages. The four are crebain, ithildin, miruvor, mithril.

    Jason Fisher, an independent Tolkien scholar, was able to eliminate backarappers, dolven, eleventy(-one), elven, errandless, rightabouts as rarities or dialect words. (Elven has now become part of standard English.)

    The remaining 8 words are: evermind (translation of coined OE symbelmyne), gentlehobbit, hobbit, smials, starmoon (translation of ithildin above), truesilver (translation of mithril above), tweens (as a noun), and warg. Not much for half a million words of text!

  27. David Marjanović says:

    I wonder what somebody first reading The Hobbit as an adult would think.

    I should do that experiment sometime, then.

    has now become part of standard English

    So has !!!!1!1!11!1!eleventy{one|eleven}!!!!!

  28. January First-of-May says:

    So has tweens, for that matter (if it means what I think it means).

    Could easily be a case of “first attested in Tolkien”, however (though that’s unlikely if Tolkien’s context for it was “hobbit equivalent to teens”).

  29. Correction: simbelmyne, though both JRRT and OE actually use symbel as a variant form: it means ‘continual, perpetual’, so the idea is that the flowers on the burial mounds are an everlasting remembrance of the dead.

  30. According to The Annotated Hobbit, the first appearance of “Wilderland” is indeed as a proper noun. The text, unchanged across the various editions is:

    ‘Is that The Mountain?’ asked Bilbo in a solemn voice, looking at it with round eyes. He had never seen a thing that looked so big before.

    ‘Of course not!’ said Balin. ‘That is only the beginning of the Misty Mountains, and we have got to get through, or over, or under those somehow, before we can come into Wilderland beyond. And it is a deal of a way even from the other side of them to the Lonely Mountain in the East where Smaug lies on our treasure.’

    ‘O!’ said Bilbo, and just at that moment he felt more tired than he ever remembered feeling before. He was thinking once again of his comfortable chair before the fire in his favourite sitting-room in his hobbit-hole, and of the kettle singing. Not for the last time!

    I was evidently strongly influenced by the five-record set of Merlin reading the book. Bilbo and Balin’s conversation at the beginning of chapter three can be found at the 38-minute mark, and Nicol Williamson clearly says “the wilderland beyond,” which makes it sound like a common noun.

  31. You’re right! That’s very interesting. So “wilderland” was plausible enough as a common noun (whether invented or pre-existing) to Williamson that it overrode what was written on the page before him. They wouldn’t have stood for that in the Third Age.

Speak Your Mind

*