Part One, Chapter 1
Ada or Ardor: Just as Ada as a whole parodies the grand tradition of the novel, its title parodies the fondness for women's names ending in -a as titles of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century novels (Samuel Richardson's Pamela, pub. 1740-1741, Henry Fielding's Amelia, pub. 1751, Fanny Burney's Evelina, pub. 1778, Maria Edgeworth's Belinda, pub. 1801, Jane Austen's Emma, pub. 1816, for instance). Its subtitle parodies not only the subtitles so popular throughout the same period, in novels such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse (pub. 1761), but also the particular combination of a woman's name and a subtitled abstraction, in novels such as Richardson's Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded, or John Shebbeare's Lydia; or, Filial Piety (pub. 1755). MOTIF: Ada, the ardors and arbors of Ardis; novel.
Ada: "Ada" combines the Russian a, da, "Oh, yes," and the rather less affirmative Russian ada, "of hell" (see 29.27-28, "teper' iz ada ('now is out of hell')" and 332.26, "iz ada (out of Hades)").
Ada is also the first name of a character in Bleak House (1852-53) by Charles Dickens (1812-70), which Nabokov taught at Cornell and Harvard from 1950 to 1958. Ada Clare marries her cousin Richard Carstone; Ada Veen is the love of her "cousin's" (actually brother's), Van Veen's, life, and they live together for four and a half decades.
Adah, in the verse tragedy Cain: A Mystery (1821), by Lord Byron, is both wife and twin sister of Cain, who becomes a pupil of Lucifer; Ada Veen is sister and wife in all but name of Van, a pupil, in matters of personal style and conduct, of his father, Demon. MOTIF: Ada.
Ardor: "Ardor" indicates the Russian rather than American pronunciation of Ada's name (demonstrated by Marina at 39.16-17: "She pronounced it the Russian way with two deep, dark 'a's, making it sound rather like 'ardor'") in a manner that echoes the guide to the Spanish rather than American pronunciation of "Lolita" in Humbert's first paragraph in that novel ("the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth").
In Dickens's Bleak House (see previous n.), whose Ada's name is of course pronounced in the usual English way, Ch. 45 contains the sentence: "Ada had been telling me [Esther Summerson, the narrator] only that morning of her hopes that Richard might exhaust his ardour in the Chancery suit by being so very earnest in it."
The doubling of “Ada” and “Ardor” prefigures the doubling of, for instance, Antiterra and Terra, Old World and New World, Aqua and Marina, Ada and Van, Ada and Lucette, throughout the novel. The Russian “Ada” and the American spelling of “Ardor” specifically prefigure the Old-World/New World or transatlantic doubling motif. MOTIFS: ardor; dor(e); doubling; transatlantic doubling.
A Family Chronicle: The second subtitle evokes the famous Russian novel Semeinaia khronika (A Family Chronicle, pub. 1856), by Sergey Aksakov (1791-1859). The raw frontier life and the emphatic Russianness of Aksakov's forebears could hardly be more different from the decadent international sophistication of the Veens. See also 150.19. MOTIF: family chronicle.
[x-xi]: FAMILY TREE: This family tree presents the official version. The following diagram records the actual relationships. Single lines mark official relationships, double lines the actual relationships behind official ones.
Note that Ada and Van are real brother and sister, putative first cousins (since Aqua and Marina are sisters), putative second cousins (since Demon and Dan are first cousins) and putative and real third cousins (since Demon and Dan are second cousins to Marina and Aqua). Just as the foreword-translation-commentary-index of Nabokov's Eugene Onegin (completed 1958) inspired the structure of Pale Fire (begun in its present form in 1960), so the "Pedigree of Russian Territorial Princes in Relation to The Song of Igor's Campaign" in Nabokov's translation of The Song of Igor's Campaign (completed 1959) seems to have planted the seed of this Family Tree in Ada (begun in its present form in 1965). It may also be relevant that, as Siccama and Weide note (24), there is a somewhat entangled "Duveen Family Tree" in the autobiography of James Henry Duveen, The Rise of the House of Duveen (1957) (see 4.16n below).
Individual names in Ada's Family Tree are glossed as they appear in the body of the novel, but some patterns unique to the family tree should be pointed out:
First, Russian Zemski ("earthly") derives from the root zem, "earth, land" (as in zemlya, "earth, land,"; zemskiy, zemnoy "earthly") and Temnosiniy, "dark blue," is the "traditional epithet for the sky" (Johnson 1985:129). In this sense the Veen family tree evokes old cosmogonies, as if the Veens represented a whole world--as in some sense they do.
Specifically the beginning of the family tree with a Zemski and a Temnosiniy (and the bracketing of the first chapter with these names: 3.10, 9.14-18) evokes the myth of Terra and Cœlus, Earth and Sky, most pertinently summarized in the following excerpt from the novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), by Herman Melville (1819-91), which Nabokov alludes to in Lolita I.9, and which plays with the shadow of brother-sister incest between the American aristocrat Pierre Glendinning and his illegitimate half-sister, Isabel Banford. In a dream-vision Pierre sees an outcrop on his old family lands as representing "Enceladus the Titan, the most potent of all the giants, writhing from out the imprisoning earth . . . that deathless son of Terra" (Pierre, in Herman Melville, Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence-Man, Uncollected Prose, Billy Budd, Sailor, ed. Harrison Hayford [New York: Library of America, 1984], XXV.iv, 400), then ruminates on the fable: "Old Titan's self was the son of incestuous Cœlus and Terra, the son of incestuous Heaven and Earth. And Titan married his mother Terra, another and accumulatively incestuous match. And thereof Enceladus was one issue. So Enceladus was both the son and grandson of an incest; and even thus, there had been born from the organic blended heavenliness and earthiness of Pierre, another mixed, uncertain, heaven-aspiring, but still not wholly earth-emancipated mood; which again, by its terrestrial taint held down to its terrestrial mother, generated there the present doubly incestuous Enceladus within him; so that the present mood of Pierre--that reckless sky-assaulting mood of his, was nevertheless on one side the grandson of the sky." (XXV.v, 402)
Several names here are linked with famous names in the history of the novel: "Dolly" recalls Dolly Oblonsky, in Anna Karenin (see 3.09n3), "Dedalus" Stephen Dedalus in Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses (see Edelnant 27), and "Temnosiniy," in the light of Van's comments at the end of the first chapter (see 9.14-30 and nn.), the Guermantes family of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu--thus connecting the three branches of the novel, the Russian, English and French, which formed the platform for Nabokov's own work.
[xiii]: Mrs. Ronald Oranger is Violet Knox (576.01). This editorial note seems to identify the intrusive yet self-effacing "Ed." as Ronald Oranger himself. Apart from the pun on editor as “arranger,” the echo of forename and surname in the editor's name seems to echo the name of the fictional editor of Humbert's confessions in Lolita, "John Ray, Jr." (the -ohn ray jr resounds in "oranger") and of the real editor of the Annotated Lolita, Alfred Appel, Jr. (the "apple" in "Appel" becomes an orange). Appel, Nabokov's student at Cornell in 1954, became a friend of his former teacher in 1966 and began editing the Annotated Lolita, with Nabokov's help, in 1967. MOTIF: COMPOSITION: Editor.
ForenoteAda's first chapter introduces its hero and heroine first indirectly--by way of their family background, in the manner of the nineteenth-century novel that the book invokes from the first and feigns to imitate--and then directly.
It also introduces a special world, a world whose very precision makes it seem ours, in precise times and places, and yet not ours. The first geographical detail ("Prince Peter Zemski, Governor of Bras d'Or, an American province in the Northeast of our great and variegated country") and the first technological details ("in the spring of 1871 . . . in the Up elevator of Manhattan's first ten-floor building . . . an aerocable from Marina") suggest something slightly but slyly askew.
The chapter also introduces a special texture, a wild heterogeneity unlike the solidity of most fiction or even most Nabokov: an opening pronouncement said to have "little if any relation to the story to be unfolded now," a glimpse of General Durmanov cutting his laughter short, sudden quirks like Daniel Veen's disquisitions on his mother's maiden name or his pointlessly clocking a perch, items that seem to spring from nowhere or lead nowhere. Though vivid and often amusing in their own right, such details raise the question of the part, if any, they play in the whole. Indeed, the novel opens like a sack full of exotic frogs, alive with movement and color, each little flash of life slippery and ready to bound off for somewhere unknown.
And the chapter also introduces a special challenge. It seems that the two children at the close discover in the attic at Ardis that they are not only descendants of the families we have read about so far, the Veens and Durmanovs we can find in the Family Tree, but that they are much more closely related than they are claimed to be. The scene of a fourteen-year-old boy and a twelve-year-old girl, cousins according to the Family Tree, and naked, apparently lovers, is surprising and amusing in a novel in the nineteenth-century mode, and the discovery they make ought to be momentous, to judge by its purport and its position. Yet Van and Ada seem unconcerned.
We are more concerned that their deductions from the information in the attic are so swift, so brilliant, so extravagantly stylized, so far beyond what we can deduce ourselves. We want to know more about these children, and about the tangle of relationships they have accidentally unraveled. We want to know, too, what to make of the surprise of the final line, the "marginal note in Ada Veen's late hand." But can we keep up with a density of allusion, information, deduction and design we have never encountered before, even in Nabokov?
Readers who accept the surprises so far and the surprises promised can enjoy Ada for its speed of story, scene, character, tone, thought, image and detail; readers who fret about what they cannot catch hold of can easily feel frustrated. But Nabokov knows what he is doing in creating a novel whose richly-stocked world is as full of live and elusive particulars as ours.
3.01-08: "All happy families . . . 1858): Darkbloom: "All happy families etc.: mistranslations of Russian classics are ridiculed here. The opening sentence of Tolstoy's novel is turned inside out and Anna Arkadievna's patronymic given an absurd masculine ending, while an incorrect feminine one is added to her surname. 'Mount Tabor' and 'Pontius' allude to the transfigurations (Mr G. Steiner's term, I believe) and betrayals to which great texts are subjected by pretentious and ignorant versionists." Cf. also SO 285: "I planted three blunders, meant to ridicule mistranslations of Russian classics, in the first paragraph of my Ada: the opening sentence of Anna Karenin (no additional 'a,' printer, she was not a ballerina) is turned inside out; Anna Arkadievna's patronymic is given a grotesque masculine ending; and the title of Tolstoy's family chronicle has been botched by the invented Stoner or Lower." Note that within Ada Stonelower is not named as translator of Detstvo i Otrochestvo. Cf. also SO 123: "The opening sentences of Ada inaugurate a series of blasts directed throughout the book at translators of unprotected masterpieces who betray their authors by 'transfigurations' based on ignorance and self-assertiveness." MOTIF: translation.
3.01-06: "All happy families . . . 1880): The opening sentence of Anna Karenina, by Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910) (published in parts 1875-77, except for epilogue, and in book form, Moscow, 1878), reads: "Vse schastlivye sem'i pokhozhi drug na druga, kazhdaia neschastlivaia sem'ia neschastliva po-svoemu" ("All happy families are like one another, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"). The first English translation was by N.H. Dole, Anna Karénina (New York, 1886). On Antiterra, with more interplay between Russian and Anglophone populations, the translation appears more promptly than on earth.
Levinton 1997: 332 comments that Anna Karenin's opening sentence "is one of the most cited sentences in Tolstoy, if not in all Russian literature."
3.01-04: "All happy families . . . famous novel: The reference to Anna Karenin, in Nabokov's judgement the greatest of novels, announces the theme of the parody of the novel which runs throughout this first chapter, but it also pays homage to the parodic-allusive opening of another famous Russian novel, Eugene Onegin (pub. 1825-33) by Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837), which begins in Nabokov's translation "My uncle has most honest principles" (EO I,95), and which Nabokov glosses "an echo of l. 4 of Krïlov's fable The Ass and the Boor (Osyol i muzhik). . . . 'The donkey had most honest principles' " (EO II, 30). The opening paragraph of Part 1 will be echoed in Part 1's closing paragraph by another fused allusion, this time to two famous final paragraphs in Tolstoy and Flaubert (see 325.08-09). MOTIF: novel.
3.01-02: "All happy families . . . alike": In quoting these lines it could seem--and still may seem, despite the disclaimer in the next sentence--that Van is claiming, by implication, that his tale of passionate love will be an idyll of idiosyncratic happiness, not a tragedy like Tolstoy's novel. The topic of family happiness was one to which Tolstoy often returned, from his story "Semeynoe schast'e" ("Family Happiness," 1859) to his A Confession (1879-1882).
Cf. Nabokov on family happiness and singularity: "However that may have been, I am convinced now that our life then really was imbued with a magic unknown in other families" (Gift 127); "It had become gradually clear to my conventional Lolita during our singular and bestial cohabitation that even the most miserable of family lives was better than the parody of incest, which, in the long run, was the best I could offer the waif" (Lolita 287); "Our [Nabokov's and his father's] relationship was marked by that habitual exchange of homespun nonsense, comically garbled words, proposed imitations of supposed intonations, and all those private jokes which is the secret code of happy families" (SM 191). MOTIF: art-life.
3.03: Arkadievitch: Cf. Darkbloom and SO comments, 3.01-08n. "Arkadievitch" is the masculine patronymic ("son of Arkady") rather than the correct feminine form "Arkadievna" ("daughter of Arkady") which of course does not form part of the novel's title anyway. The "t" in "Arkadievitch" parodies the kind of nineteenth-century French-influenced transliteration that is responsible for many still spelling the composer's name "Tchaikovsky." The patronymic "Arkadievich" actually belongs to a character in Ada, Greg ("Grigoriy Arkadievich") Erminin (453.06), but Van gets this wrong himself when he hails him as "Grigoriy Akimovich!" (453.05)--which in fact are the name and patronymic of G.A. Vronsky, the film director (291.07), whose surname, to close the circle, is that of Anna Karenin's lover. Arkadievich would also be the patronymic of the son born to Arkadiy Kirsanov at the end of Ottsy i deti (Fathers and Children, usually known in English as Fathers and Sons, pub. 1862), by Ivan Turgenev (1818-83), a novel which in its intergenerational, country-estate, biological research and duel themes Ada echoes, and whose title fuses later in this paragraph with one of Tolstoy's in 3.07-08, "Detstvo i Otrochestvo (Childhood and Fatherland . . . )": see 3.07-08n. below. Van evokes Tolstoy and Arcadia together again at the close of Ada: “ Nothing in world literature, save maybe Count Tolstoy’s reminiscences, can vie in pure joyousness and Arcadian innocence with the ‘Ardis’ part of the book” (588.14-16). MOTIF: Arcady.
3.03: Karenina: Cf. EO I, xxiii: "Except for the surnames of female performers, such as dancers, singers, actresses, and so on, which traditionally retain these feminine endings (Istomina, Pavlova), all feminine surnames, although ending in a in Russian, take a masculine ending in translation (Anna Sidorov, Anna Karenin, Princess Vyazemski)." Although this is still the convention (Véra Nabokov, Raisa Gorbachev), it tends to be overriden by any woman known in her own right (Nina Berberova [whom Nabokov referred to as Nina Berberov], Tatyana Tolstaya). Cf. other Nabokovian distortions of "Anna Karenin": "Dorianna Karenina," an actress (LD 124); "Anna Karamazov," "Dorianna Karen" (Pnin 10, 159). The title is rendered correctly at Ada 25.21-22: "as in Count Tolstoy's Anna Karenin, a novel." This correct version of the title indicates that Van recognizes Stonelower's mistranslations (it is not that there exists on Antiterra an Anna Arkadievitch Karenina which does begin "All happy families are more or less dissimilar"). In quoting this botched opening line, Van himself therefore makes a passing swipe at mistranslation, as he does often in the course of the novel.
3.04: transfigured . . . Mount Tabor: Cf. Darkbloom 3.01-08n. For the Biblical transfiguration, see Matt.17.1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and especially Luke 9:28-36: "And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light." Mount Tabor, 5 miles east of Nazareth, is traditionally identified as the mount of the transfiguration. The transfiguration is interpreted as "a high hour of vision which the disciples could trust," "a change of form, an effulgence from within, not a mere 'flood of glory' from without. . . . no pagan metamorphosis" (Interpreter's Bible). Nabokov refers to Mount Tabor in EO III,441.
Although the Transfiguration and Mount Tabor are strongly linked in any case by tradition, Alexey Sklyarenko specifically notes (Nabokv-L, 26 March 2014) that the Transfiguration and Mount Tabor occur in the 1953 poem “Avgust” (“August”), by Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), one of the “Poems of Dr. Zhivago” in his novel Dr Zhivago (1958). Nabokov respected Pasternak as a poet, but thought little of either Pasternak’s translations of Shakespeare, which he rated as more distorting “transfigurations” (see next note), or of Dr Zhivago, which becomes an explicit motif and parodic focus in Ada. Although there is no precise connection between the Mt. Tabor and Transfiguration in Pasternak’s poem—these are after all major motifs in the Christian heritage in general and in the Russian Orthodox calendar in particular—and the “transfiguration . . . Tabor” combination here in Ada, this could be a muted first sounding of a Pasternakian note that becomes distinctly audible in the transfigurations of I.2 (see 13.22-23 and note) and piercing in the comic critique of Dr Zhivago in I.8 (see 53.22-24 and note). In Zhivago’s and Pasternak’s poem, the poet imagines waking from a dream of people assembling for his own burial. Ll. 13-20 of the 48-line poem read:
Vy shli tolpoyu, vroz’ i parami,
Vdrug kto-to vspomnil, chto segodnya
Shestoe avgusta po staromu,
Obyknovenno svet bez plameni
Iskhodit v etot den’ s Favora,
I osen’, yasnaya, kak znamen’e,
K sebe prikovyvaet vzory.
You were coming in a crowd, in ones and twos,
Suddenly, someone remembered that it was
August sixth by the old calendar,
The Transfiguration of Christ.
Usually, a light without fire
Pours this day from Mt. Tabor
And autumn, clear as an omen,
Compels the gaze of all.
At the end of the poem, the poet’s prophetic voice speaks to the crowd from beyond death (ll. 38-39, 44-48):
To prezhniy golos moy providcheskiy
Zvuchal, ne tronuty raspadom:
“Proschay, lazur’ preobrazhenskaya
I zoloto vtorogo Spasa
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Proschay, razmakh kryla raspravlenniy,
Polyota vol’noe uporstvo,
I obraz mira, v slove yavlenniy,
I tvorchestvo, i chudotvorstvo.”
It was my old prophetic voice
That rang, untouched by decay:
"Farewell to the azure of Transfiguration
And the gold of the Feast of the Savior.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Farewell to you, unfurled wing-span,
Free, persistent flight,
The world's image, revealed in a word,
Creative work, and miracle-working.”
(Translation supplied by A. Sklyarenko, revised by Gennady Kreymer).
3.04: transfigured . . . R. G. Stonelower: "R. G. Stonelower" combines George Steiner (1929- ) and Robert Lowell (1917-77), one a theoretician, the other a practitioner of the free translations into verse that Nabokov had been berating since he began his own very literal translation of Eugene Onegin in the early 1950s. Steiner's extolling Lowell's translations of Osip Mandelshtam (1891-1938) particularly exasperated Nabokov.
Nabokov had read Mandelshtam's verse with care late in 1965, when his old friend Gleb Struve, the chief editor of Mandelshtam's collected works, sent him the 1964 volume of his collected poetry. He replied: "The poems are marvelous and heartrending, and I am happy to have this most precious volume on my bedside shelf" (SL 378, 4 October 1965). When he read Lowell's translations of nine poems by Mandelshtam in the New York Review of Books for 23 December 1965, he was incensed by their confident infidelities. In February 1966 Véra Nabokov wrote to William Maxwell of the New Yorker: "V.'s blood boils when he sees what passes [for] translations from the Russian of, say, poor, defenseless, doubly murdered, Mandelshtam by some of our modern practitioners" (unpublished letter of 3 February 1966, VNA).
When he had published his translation of Eugene Onegin in 1964, Nabokov had expected to provoke controversy for his literalism. But he had not expected the fierce and inept attack from his former friend Edmund Wilson (New York Review of Books, 15 July 1965). His first reply had precipitated a lively transatlantic debate, the major literary controversy of the mid-1960s. His second, devastating, reply to Wilson and others was published in Encounter in February 1966. Lowell in a letter in Encounter in May defended Wilson; in the same issue, Nabokov retorted "I wish . . . that he would stop mutilating defenceless dead poets--Mandelshtam, Rimbaud and others."
Later that year George Steiner published an essay "To Traduce or to Transfigure: On Modern Verse Translation" (Encounter 27:2 [August 1966], 48-54), whose title seems to derive from Nabokov's comment that "A schoolboy's boner mocks the ancient masterpiece less than does its commercial poetization, and it is when the translator sets out to render the 'spirit,' and not the mere sense of the text, that he begins to traduce his author" (EO I,ix). Steiner argues the converse: that the unfaithfulness inevitable in translating into verse is more than compensated for by the attitude of the translator, the initial decision to write poetry: "This creative insurgence"--"against the grain of the ordinary"--"is the very start of the poem." He writes that "A great poetic translation--Holderlin's Sophokles, Valéry's restatement of Virgil's Eclogues, Robert Lowell's readings of Osip Mandelstam--is criticism in the highest sense."A letter from Alec Nove appeared under the title "To Traduce or Transfigure," Encounter, December 1966, 110-11: " 'Robert Lowell's reading of Osip Mandelstam is criticism in the highest sense. It surrounds the original with a zone of unmastered meaning. . . . ' Thus George Steiner [Encounter, August]. Really? Surely this proposition is not illustrated by the example he quotes. The original poem has a haunting beauty, it rhymes, it scans. It is poetry. Lowell's version is not. This may be a necessary price to pay for verbal exactitude, but he does not achieve this either. It is sufficient to inflict two lines on your readers (25 per cent of an 8-line poem):
MANDELSTAM: Chúyu bez strákha chto búdet i búdet grozá
LITERALLY: I feel without fear that there will be, will be a storm.
LOWELL: I'm not afraid. I know what's on the calendar--a storm.
MANDELSTAM: Dúshno, i vsyótaki dó smerti khóchetsa zhit'.
LITERALLY: It is stuffy and yet
1. I long desperately to live
2. I wish to live until my (natural) death.
LOWELL: It's stuffy here. It's boring how much I want to live.
The double sense of this last line is probably untranslatable. The words 'dó smerti' literally mean that I want something so badly I would be willing to die for it. By colloquial use this sense has become weakened, much as in English the word 'dreadfully' no longer inspires dread. But these words have not taken on the meaning of 'deadly' in the sense of dull or boring. In fact an accurate rendering, using the same image, would be 'I am dying to live.' However in Russian the words 'dó smerti' can also mean 'until death.' Lowell's version misses both possible meanings. Since he reproduces neither rhyme nor metre, there is no advantage gained. How can this possibly serve as a model?"
A letter from Lowell "in defence of George Steiner" then appeared, again under the title "To Traduce or Transfigure," in the February 1967 Encounter, immediately after a letter by Nabokov on another subject (Freud). Nabokov therefore fuses Lowell and Steiner in Ada into the transfigurer "R.G. Steinlower."
In Ada's next chapter he directly parodies howlers in Lowell's Mandelshtam translations (11.26-34 and n.). After Ada's publication, in "On Adaptation" (New York Review of Books, Dec. 4, 1969), he took Lowell to task even more directly for an adaptation of "one of the masterpieces of Russian poetry," a poem by Mandelshtam ("Za gremuchuiu doblest' griadushchikh vekov," "For the resonant valor of ages to come," 1931); one infidelity, significantly, he calls "another miracle of misinformation, mistransfiguration, and misadaptation" (SO 280-83).
The portmanteau "Stonelower" neatly packs into one word a reverse "Exegi monumentum," the Vandals attacking Horace. For other satirical name-compounds, see Lowden (127.32), Gerschizhevsky (225.27), Falknermann (371.31), “one Eelmann” (403.05-06). (Sergey Karpukhin, private communication). MOTIFS: metamorphosis; trans-; transfigure.
3.05: little if any relation: MOTIF: relation.
3.06: a family chronicle: MOTIF: family chronicle.
3.07-08: Detstvo . . . Fatherland: Tolstoy's semi-autobiographical novellas Detstvo (Childhood, pub. 1852), Otrochestvo (Boyhood, pub. 1854) and Iunost' (Youth, pub. 1857), first collected edition 1864, are here garbled and fused with Turgenev's Ottsy i deti (Fathers and Children, usually translated as Fathers and Sons) (see 3.03n and 105.26-27 and n). The Russian for "fatherland," otechestvo, has evidently confused Stonelower. The first translation of Tolstoy's first two sketches was Childhood and youth, by "Count Nicolai [sic] Tolstoi," translated M.V. Meysenbug [sic], London, 1862. Once again the Russians mingling with Antiterra's Anglophones ensure a quicker if less accurate translation than on earth.
3.07-13: Tolstoy . . . Van’s maternal grandmother Daria (“Dolly”) Durmanov was the daughter of Prince Peter Zemski, Governor of . . . an American province . . . who had married, in 1824, Mary O’Reilly, an Irish woman of fashion: In view of the conjunction of the names “Tolstoy,” “Daria (‘Dolly’),” “Durmanov,” “Zemski” (an obvious variation on the name of Pushkin’s friend and fellow poet Prince Peter Vyazemski: see 3.10n), and the American theme, it seems worth noting, as Alexey Sklyarenko proposes (Nabokv-L, December 11, 2012), the connections between these names in Pushkin’s time. Sklyarenko points out that Elizaveta Mikhalovna Khitrovo (1783-1839), who was hopelessly in love with Pushkin (and whose nickname “Erminia” Nabokov borrows for the character Greg Erminin: see 92.10-33n), “was the mother of Daria (Dolly) Ficquelmont (born Tiesenhausen), the wife of the Austrian ambassador, mistress of the St. Petersburg salon, friend of Pushkin, Prince Peter Vyazemski (whose Irish mother was née O'Reilly) and other poets.”
Sklarenko cites the opening of Vyazemski’s 1818 poem “Tolstomu” (“To Tolstoy”), addressed to Count Fyodor Ivanovich Tolstoy (1782-1846). This Tolstoy, the first cousin of the writer Lyov Tolstoy’s father, was renowned for his duels, scandals and wild behavior. As a young officer he had taken part in Admiral Kruzenstern’s circumnavigation of the globe and had been set ashore, for a disciplinary breach, on the Russian colony in North America (see 3.15n), thereby earning the nickname “the American.” (See P. A. Vyazemski, Stikhotvoreniya, ed. L. Ya. Ginzburg [Leningrad: Sovetskiy pisatel’, 1958], 433; http://rvb.ru/19vek/vyazemsky/02comm/051.htm, accessed December 16, 2012]).
Sklyarenko writes: “In his poem Tolstomu (1818) addressed to Count Tolstoy Amerikanets Vyazemski mentions myatezhnykh sklonnostey durman (the drug of rebellious inclinations) hurling Tolstoy iz raya v ad, iz ada v ray (from paradise to hell, from hell to paradise):”
Amerikanets i tsygan,
Na svete nravstvennom zagadka,
Kotorogo, kak likhoradka,
Myatezhnykh sklonnostey durman
Ili strastey kipyashchikh skhvatka
Vsegda iz kraya mechet v kray,
Iz raya v ad, iz ada v ray! (ll. 1-7)
An American and a gypsy,
A riddle on the moral world,
Whom, like a fever,
The drug of rebellious inclinations
Or the skirmish of seething passions
Always drives from end to end,
From paradise to hell, from hell to paradise!
Note the “iz ada” in line 7, echoed in Ada 29:26-27: “My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (‘now is out of hell’).”
3.08: Childhood and Fatherland: In light of the prominence of François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) throughout Ada, and especially of his René, in which as Nabokov notes "a subtle perfume of incest permeates [René's] relationship" with his sister (EO III,100), it seems more than accidental that Childhood and Fatherland echoes the phrase "de l'enfance et de la patrie" at the beginning of René (pub. 1802, in Le Génie du christianisme), just where René introduces the subject of his special closeness to his sister: "Timide et contraint devant mon père, je ne trouvais l'aise et le contentement qu'auprès de ma soeur Amélie. Une douce conformité d'humeur et de goûts m'unissait étroitement à cette soeur; elle était un peu plus âgée que moi. Nous aimions à gravir les coteaux ensemble, à voguer sur le lac, à parcourir les bois à la chute des feuilles: promenades dont le souvenir remplit mon âme de délices. O illusions de l'enfance et de la patrie, ne perdez-vous jamais vos douceurs?" ("Timid and constrained before my father, I was happy and at ease only near my sister Amélie. A sweet match of temper and tastes linked me closely to this sister; she was a little older than me. We loved to climb the slopes together, to row on the lake, to roam the woods in the fall: outings whose memory still fills my soul with delight. O, illusions of childhood and fatherland, do you never lose your sweetness?") (Atala, René, Les Aventures du Dernier Abencérage (Paris: Garnier, 1962), 186-87. MOTIF: Chateaubriand.
3.08: Pontius: See Darkbloom 3.01-08n. Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judaea from AD 26 to 36, was judge in the trial of Jesus Christ. See Mark 15:15: "And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified" (King James Version). In the Revised Standard Version the phrase I have italicized is rendered "wishing to satisfy the crowd." Cf. Nabokov's scorn for translations that betray the text in the interest of "the conventions attributed to the consumer" (EO I,vii).
3.09-5.33: parody of the "genealogical" introduction of the hero or heroine in nineteenth-century novels such as Jane Austen's Persuasion (pub. 1818) or William Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond (pub. 1852). MOTIF: novel.
3.09: Van's: As noted in the family tree, Van's name is short for Ivan, the Russian equivalent of English John and especially of Spanish Juan. The Don Juan story sticks to Van, as myths of Venus attach themselves to all the Veens (see 4.16n2).“Van Veen,” the character’s usual name, may owe something to the story “Vanina Vanini” by Stendhal (1783-1842), the nom de plume of Marie-Henri Beyle. It may have come to Nabokov’s attention again in the years Ada was beginning to gestate through the film Vanina Vanina (1961), directed by Roberto Rossellini (1906-1977) and starring Sandra Milo (1935- ) in the title role.
3.09: Van's maternal grandmother: the phrasing neatly evades the question, "Who is Van's mother, Aqua or Marina?"--one of the chief concerns of the chapter. MOTIF: family relationship.
3.09: Daria ("Dolly") Durmanov: As Proffer notes, Dolly (Daria Oblonsky) appears in the opening page of Anna Karenin. Cf. Ada 25.21-24. "Durmanov": accented on the second syllable. Durman means "thorn-apple (Datura stramonium)" and "drug, narcotic" and the verb durmanit', "to intoxicate." Nabokov's cousin, the best friend of his boyhood, was Baron Yuri Rausch von Traubenberg (1897-1919; see SM, ch. 10), whose surname Rausch means "intoxication," while Traubenberg means "grape-hill" or "vineyard." Nabokov knew that his cousin's was a very old noble family (see Boyd 1990: 15); its first written record in fact dates back to A.D. 474. Aleksey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokv-L, July 3, 2012) that in his story “Zatish’e” (“The Lull,” 1854), Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) alludes to the combination of attractiveness and danger in daturas, which are poisonous and have been often been used for suicide and murder: “ ‘Kak datury. . . . Pomnish’, Masha, kak khoroshi byli datury u nas na balkone, pri lune, s svoimi dlinnymi belymi tsvetami. Pomnish’, kakoy iz nikh lilsya zapakh, sladkiy, vkradchiviy i kovarniy.’ ‘Kovarniy zapakh!’ voskliknul Vladimir Sergeich. ‘Da, kovarniy. Chemu vy udivlyaetes’? On, govoryat, opasen, a privlekaet. Otchego zloe mozhet privlekat’? Zloe ne dolzhno byt’ krasivym!’” (“ ‘Like daturas. . . . Remember, Masha, how good the daturas were on our balcony, in the moonlight, with their long white flowers. Remember how a sweet, secret, insidious smell streamed from them.’ ‘An insidious smell!’ exclaimed Vladimir Sergeich. ‘Yes, insidious. Why are you surprised? They say it’s dangerous but attractive. How can evil attract? Evil shouldn’t be beautiful!” MOTIF: Nabokov; poison.
3.10: Prince Peter Zemski: Cf. "Prince (knyaz') Pyotr Vyazemski (1792-1878), a minor poet, . . . a verbal virtuoso, a fine prose stylist, a brilliant (though by no means always reliable) memoirist, critic, and wit. Pushkin was very fond of him and vied with him in scatological metaphors (see their letters). He was Karamzin's ward, Reason's godchild, Romanticism's champion, and an Irishman on his mother's side (O'Reilly)" (EO II, 27).
Levinton 1997: 333 points out the Russian custom of surnaming illegitimate children of noble families by omitting the first syllable of the father's name: "Zemski could be the illegitimate offshoot of the Vyazemskis, as Prince Repnin's offspring was called Pnin"--a fact Nabokov was certainly aware of, and used in his own Pnin. (See Gennady Barabtarlo, Phantom of Fact: A Guide to Nabokov's Pnin, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1989, 56.) The first name in the Veen family tree already raises suspicions.
Cf. also note on Zemski under x-xi: Family Tree.
3.10: Governor of: The beginnings of Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the novel are linked by references to the governors of, respectively: Bras d'Or; Bessarabia and Armenia (330.18-20); and Armenia (449.05). MOTIF: governor of.
3.10-11: Bras d'Or: a play on Labrador, the Atlantic coastal territory now part of Canada's Newfoundland province. Ada 1968 has "Governor of Le- Bras d'Or." Cf. "in the Russian countryside, latitude of Labrador" (Pnin 106).
But Bras d'Or is also the name of a tidal salt-water lake in central Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada (mentioned as a location in Nabokov's "Nearctic Members of Lycaeides Hübner," p. 507), where Dr. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), the inventor of the telephone, experimented also with hydrofoils and photophones, a fact that in view of Ada's dorophones (hydrophones), "jikkers" (magic carpets), and "prismatic pulsations," Nabokov appears to have known. MOTIF: dor(e).
3.11-21: an American province . . . not only French, but Macedonian and Bavarian settlers: again Chateaubriand's prominence in Ada, especially his René, Atala and Mémoires d'outre-tombe, make the opening paragraph of Atala (1801) seem not accidentally related to this part of Ada's prologue: "La France possédait autrefois, dans l'Amérique septentrionale, un vast empire qui s'étendait depuis le Labrador jusqu'aux Florides, et depuis les rivages de l'Atlantique jusqu'aux lacs les plus reculés du haut Canada" ("France once possessed, in northern America, a vast empire extending from Labrador to the Floridas, and from the shores of the Atlantic to the remotest lakes of upper Canada") (Atala, René, Les Aventures du Dernier Abencérage, 29).
3.12: Mary O'Reilly: see 3.10n on Prince Peter Vyazemski.Vyazemski’s mother, born Mary O’Reilly (1762-1802), was Russified as Evgenia Ivanovna Vyazemski; Yvazemski mentions her in his memoir-essay “Dopotopnaya, ili Dozharnaya Moskva” (“Moscow Before the Flood, or the Fire,” 1865) (Aleksey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, August 28, 2102).
3.13: Irish: MOTIF: Irish.
3.13: woman of fashion: MOTIF: woman of fashion (and cf. the "man of fashion" motif in PF).
3.14: tender and wayward age: Cf. "tender age" (51.27).
3.15-21: General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon Fortress . . . Severn Tories . . . under our Stars and Stripes: Possibly an echo of Melville's Pierre (see x-xi [Family Tree] n.). In the second chapter, a genealogical retrospective on "the historic line of Glendinning" introduces the future General Glendinning, who "in the Revolutionary War . . . had for several months defended a rude but all-important fort, against the repeated combined assaults of Indians, Tories, and Regulars" (Pierre, I.ii, 10). The fictional General Glendinning pays homage to Melville's own maternal grandfather, Peter Gansevoort (1749-1812), who would become a brigadier general and the "hero of Fort Stanwix" after his 1775 defense of this fort.
3.15: General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon Fortress: Nabokov's great-uncle General Ivan Nabokov (1787-1852) was "commander of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg" (SM 53). There is a small settlement of Fort Yukon in northeast Alaska (66° 34' N, 145° 16' W), founded in 1847 as a Canadian outpost in Russian Territory; Alaska was a Russian colony between 1799 and 1867. Nabokov's comic distortions of earthly fact in his Antiterran fiction, first signalled in this paragraph, usually conceal comic correspondences.
3.16-17: Severn Tories (Severnïya Territorii): Darkbloom: "Severnïya Territorii: Northern Territories. Here and elsewhere transliteration is based on the old Russian orthography." The old orthography applies because there has been no revolution on Antiterra to affect the Russian spoken and written throughout the planet's North America. Reforms of the Russian alphabet were discussed in the nineteenth century but were not implanted until the Bolsheviks in 1918 introduced a revised orthography in keeping with their program of modernization.
The Severn is the longest river in Wales and England, and "Tories" the name in Britain since the eighteenth century for members of what is now the Conservative Party; but neither this "Severn" nor "Tories" has anything to do with "Severnïya Territorii" (Northern Territories). However there is a Fort Severn situated at the extreme northwest of Ontario-a province long noted for its Tory leanings-and therefore not far from Canada's Northwest Territories. Because of his work on butterflies, especially nearctic butterflies, Nabokov had an extraordinary knowledge of place names, especially North America ones.
In this context of American fortresses, however, the most relevant sense of "Tories," however, derives from the American Revolutionary War: W2, "Tory . . . 4 Amer. Hist. One who, at the time of the Revolution, favored submitting to the claims of Great Britiain against the colonies; an adherent of the crown; a loyalist." (See 3.15-21n.)
It may be possible, as Gerard de Vries suggests (private communication, 1994), that the Severn here alludes to the Comus (1634) of John Milton (1608-1674) (cf. Milton in 3.18n.). In this masque, Sabrina after her death--she seems to drown to preserve her own innocence--becomes goddess of the river Severn. The Attendant Spirit in the form of Thyrsis explains:
There is a gentle nymph not far from hence,
That with moist curb sways the Severn stream,
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure,
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father Brute.
The guiltless damsel flying the mad pursuit
Of her enraged stepdame Guendolen,
Commended her fair innocence to the flood
That stayed her light with his cross-flowing course,
The water-nymphs that in the bottom played,
Held up their pearled wrists and took her in,
Bearing her straight to aged Nereus' hall,
And gave her to his daughters to imbathe
In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel,
And through the porch and inlet of each sense
Dropped in ambrosial oils till she revived,
And underwent a quick immortal change
Made goddess of the river; still she retains
Her maiden gentleness. . . . (ll. 823-42)
Though the passing "Severn Tories" is a frail peg on which to hang such a weighty allusion--Nabokov usually foregrounds allusions that count--the passage does seem a strikingly apt prefiguration of the Lucette who also "commended her fair innocence to the flood" (Comus 830) and becomes a "mermaid in the groves of Atlantis" (Ada 559.16). MOTIF: transatlantic doublings.
3.17: tesselated: "formed of little squares, oblongs, or pieces approximating squares, as mosaic work; marked like a checkerboard" (W2). See also 3.18-19n.
3.18: "Russian" Estoty: The name Estotiland first appeared on a map of the
North Atlantic published in Venice in 1558 by the nobleman and historian Nicolò
Zeno, along with letters he claimed he had discovered in the family storeroom. Estotiland
on the map approximates in position to the northeastern part of North America,
now northeast Labrador. The documents published by Zeno purported to show that
his ancestors Nicolò and Antonio Zeno, brothers of the naval hero Carlo Zeno, explored
the North Atlantic and reached North America around 1400, almost a century
It seems likely that the documents were fabrications, and therefore related to the famous Vinland or Vineland map, which has multiple echoes in Ada. The so-called Vinland map, purportedly a fifteenth-century (and therefore also pre-Columbian) map of the world as then known to Europeans, marks a large island of Vinland in the approximate location of Labrador. It was offered to the British Museum in 1957, acquired by Yale University, and now generally believed to have been skilfully faked in the first half of the twentieth century. The map was much in the news between 1957 and 1965, especially as a Viking settlement at Lanse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland was discovered in 1960 and was soon recognized as likely to be the main settlement of Vinland. Vinland was the name given to a colony in North America by the Norse explorer Leif Eriksson, who appears to have been the first European to discover North America, c. 1000, as recorded in the Icelandic sagas, the Saga of Eric the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders.
Old mapmakers let Estotiland stretch as far north as their conjectured coastline ventured. Cf. John Milton, Paradise Lost, X.686: "From cold Estotiland." "Estotiland" is listed, along with Eden and Arcadia, under the heading "utopia, paradise, heaven, heaven on earth" in Roget's International Thesaurus (New York: Crowell, 1962). "'Russian' Estoty" may contain an echo of "Russian" Estonia. Or "Estoty," as Dmitry Kirsanov suggests (private communication), could be the plural of an imagined Russian word estota, "estate, state."
MOTIF: explorer; old maps; Vineland.
3.18-19: granoblastically and organically: Darkbloom: "granoblastically: in a tesselar (mosaic) jumble." Granoblastic: "Petrog. Having a texture in which the fragments are irregular and angular and, under the microscope, appear like a mosaic" (W2). Gran': Russ., border, edge, facet. Oblast': Russ., province, region, district. In other words this complex bilingual pun means that the border (gran') of each province (oblast') in Antiterra's North America helps to mark the edges in a mosaic (granoblastic) jumble; note that the letters of "granoblastically" and "organically" have themselves been rearranged like pieces in a mosaic.
3.19: "Russian" Canady: another echo of Russia's nineteenth-century settlement of Alaska; on Antiterra, Canada (spelt "Canady" perhaps to avoid a superfluous "ada") seems only a region of the United States, and has a substantial Russian component. Or as Dmitry Kirsanov suggests (private communication), "Canady" could be the plural of a Russian "Kanada," reflecting the fact that from 1791 to 1841 there were two Canadas, the Province of Upper Canada (further up the St. Lawrence River basin), roughly modern Southern Ontario, and the Province of Lower Canada (lower down the river) roughly modern Quebec.
3.19-20: "French" Estoty: allusion to the regions of French settlement in Canada, the province of Quebec and the areas of Nova Scotia and Brunswick peopled by Acadians (after "Acadie," the old French colony on the Atlantic coast of what is now Canada).
3.20-21: not only French, but Macedonian and Bavarian settlers: allusion to the reputation of the United States of America as a refuge for settlers from throughout the world.
3.21: a halcyon climate under our Stars and Stripes: Combines l. 33, “O beautiful for halcyon skies,” of “America the Beautiful,” the unofficial second national anthem of the USA (alluded to in detail at 21.12-18: see 21.12-18n.) and the description of the US flag as the “stars and stripes,” as in line 3, “Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,” of the official US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” words by Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), in his poem “The Defense of Fort M’Henry” (1813). “Halcyon climate” contrasts with Estotiland's reputation for extreme cold (cf. Milton at 3.18n.) “The Stars and Stripes” is the popular name for the flag of the United States of America, adopted in its first form in 1777 (Act of June 14, 1777), with the stars in a circle within the blue corner rectangle, and in its modern form, with the stars for each current state in a rectangular grid, in 1818 (Act of April 4, 1818).
4.01-04: favorite domain . . . Raduga near the burg of that name . . . between elegant Kaluga, New Cheshire, U.S.A., and no less elegant Ladoga, Mayne: The Nabokovs' favorite domain, which Nabokov associated in his autobiography with stained glass and rainbow (raduga) images, was Vyra, situated between Luga and Ladoga in the province of St. Petersburg.
4.01-02: Raduga near the burg of that name: although there is a tiny settlement called Raduga (52.35N, 31.05E) in what Nabokov knew as Belorussia, this "burg" is an invention from the Russian raduga, rainbow. There is a Radugovitra ("rainbow glass") in PF 258, and various "burgs" in Nabokov's American fiction, such as the "ancient little burg of Vandel in the Dordogne" (Pnin 140), or "a little burg we were traversing" (Lolita 171).
MOTIF: rainbow; -uga.
4.02-03: Atlantic panel of the continent: The French edition makes the image more explicit: "le volet atlantique du polyptique continental" (Ada/Ardeur 3: "the Atlantic panel of the continental polyptych").
4.03-04: elegant Kaluga . . . no less elegant Ladoga: MOTIF: doubling; ga . . . ga.
4.03: Kaluga: city 90 miles SW of Moscow, about the same distance SW of Moscow as Luga (4.01-04n) is of St. Petersburg. At 108.08 there is also a Kaluga, Conn. The Russian kaluga means "marsh," "bog." The ga comes from a pre-Russian root meaning “water” (as in Volga) (Gennady Kreymer, personal communication). MOTIF: -uga; peat, bog.
4.03: New Cheshire: since the New England state of New Hampshire echoes the English county of Hampshire, and New York the English city and county of York, since American names in fact were frequently duplicated "across the ha-ha of a doubled ocean" (18.01), Nabokov invents the state of New Cheshire, in honor of the English county of Cheshire but perhaps also, with a grin at Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat, in honor of New York's Catskill Mountains (cf. Appel, Ada 167). There is also a Cheshire County in New Hampshire, less than fifteen miles from West Wardsboro, Vermont, where Nabokov spent two summers (1940 and 1942). MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
4.04: elegant Ladoga: after the lake near St. Petersburg, the largest lake in Europe.There are several small to minute settlements called Ladoga in North America, the largest of these being Ladoga, Indiana (2010 pop. 985). Ladoga, Mayne is "not to be confused with Ladoga, N.A." (156.03). Perhaps merely coincidentally, "elegant Ladoga" strikingly resembles the singular combination “elephant lanugo” in Lolita II.2: 156. MOTIF: -uga.
4.04: Mayne: the state of Maine, with a dash of Mayne Reid (1818-1883), the Anglo-Irish author of American Westerns avidly read by Nabokov and countless other Russian children (SM, ch. 10). Nabokov also continues here the theme of transatlantic doublings, since Maine was named after the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century French province of Maine, of which the feudal proprietor was Henrietta Maria (1609-69), wife of Charles I (1600-49), king of England at the time the state was first colonized. The name therefore nicely compacts the Anglo-French and Amerussian components of Ada's world.
4.06: a son, who died young and famous: Ivan Durmanov, Van and Ada's Uncle Vanya, so to speak, famous at eighteen (65.26-27) as a violinist (43.10), dies at twenty of lung cancer (65.23). Like Van and Ada's uncle, VN's uncle, his mother's older brother, Vladimir, died young, at sixteen, in a Swiss sanatorium (cf. 65.23-25 and SM 66). MOTIF: Nabokov.
4.07: twins: MOTIF: twin.
4.10: Aqua and Marina: a play on the Latin aqua marina (sea water) and its English derivative, aquamarine (the gem, the color). "Marina" is a very common Russian feminine name. Possibly, especially given the later confusion of their roles and loves, an allusion to the Russian equivalent of “as alike as two peas in a pod,” pokhozhi kak dve kapli vody, “as alike as two drops of water.” MOTIFS: aquamarine; colors-names; doubling; sisters confused; water.
4.10: Why not Tofana?: Darkbloom: "allusion to 'aqua tofana' (see any good dictionary)." W2 defines "aqua tofana" as "A fluid (described as colorless and tasteless, probably containing arsenic), used for secret poisoning, made by a Sicilian woman named Tofana, in the middle of the 17th century, who is said to have poisoned more than 600 persons." Not in the other two largest English-language dictionaries, W3 (why drop such a gem?) and OED. In his "Reply to My Critics," composed January 1966 after the Eugene Onegin controversy, Nabokov commented on Edmund Wilson's attacking him for "my 'addiction to rare and unfamiliar words.' It does not occur to him that I may have rare and unfamiliar things to convey; that is his loss." A page later, he asks: "And should the translator simply omit any reference to an idea or an object if the only right word--a word he happens to know as a teacher or a naturalist, or an inventor of words--is discoverable in the revised edition of a standard dictionary but not its earlier edition or vice versa?" (SO 250-51) Nabokov "happened to know" of aqua tofana before consulting W2: he wrote in 1928, in Korol', dama, valet, "Toffana prodavala svoiu voditsu v skliankakh s nevinnym izobrazheniem sviatogo" ("Tofana sold her 'aqua' in vials with the innocent image of a saint") (p. 159), and expanded this in King, Queen, Knave, at the end of 1966 and the beginning of 1967--by which time he was writing Ada and could consult W2 and W3--into: "Tofana, a Sicilian girl, who dispatched 639 people, sold her 'aqua' in vials mislabelled with the innocent image of a saint" (p. 162). MOTIF: poison; water.
4.11: sur-royally antlered: Darkbloom: "fully antlered, with terminal prongs." After the brow antler there appear first the bay antler, then the royal antler and finally the sur-royal or crown antlers. The sur-royal antlers are usually attained at the age of four years, the length of time General Durmanov has been married when he makes this remark. Nabokov here adds a naturalist's twist to horns as the traditional emblem of the cuckold. MOTIF: antlers.
4.14-15: April 23, 1869, in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga: Nabokov's--and Shakespeare's--birthday: "I find 'April 23' under 'birth date' in my most recent passport, which is also the birth date of Shakespeare" (SM 13-14). Nabokov's actual date of birth in Russia was April 10, 1899, Old Style, "which corresponded to April 22 in the West. But since with the new century Old Style dates fell an extra day behind the Western calendar, Nabokov's first and subsequent birthdays took place on April 10/23. When he left Russia, April 23 . . . therefore became his date of birth." (VNRY 37n.)
Cf. (referring to this wedding) "ever since Shakespeare's birthday on a green rainy day" (26.16).
In view of the importance of Eric Veen's Villa Venus brothels in Ada, it should also be pointed out that ancient Rome's second temple to Venus Erucina, outside the Colline gate, "developed in a way reminiscent of the temple at Eryx with its harlots, becoming the place of worship of Roman courtesans, hence the title of dies meretricium ('prostitutes' day') attached to April 23, the day of its foundation" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1972 ed., 22:978; Boyd 1979:196). April 23 is also St. George's Day (see 19.09-11). MOTIF: April 23; Nabokov.4.15-20: Kaluga, Aqua . . . Walter D. Veen . . . Walter D. Veen: The doubling up of "Walter" reflects the "water" in the doubled "Aqua" and "Marina," especially since, as a passage in Shakespeare shows, "Walter" and "water" were perfect homophones in early modern English:
WHITMORE. And so am I: my name is Walter Whitmore.
How now? Why starts thou? What doth death affright?
SUFFOLK. Thy name affrights me, in whose sound is death:
A cunning man did calculate my birth,
And told me that by Water I should dye;
Yet let not this make thee bloody-minded,
Thy name is Gualtier, being rightly sounded.
WHITMORE. Gualtier or Walter, which it is I care not.
(2 Henry VI, 4.1.31ff.)
In the double doubling of Aqua and Marina and Walter and Walter, Nabokov parodies all literary character parallelism and contrast-the sort of thing that led Shakespeare to name his characters Olivia and Viola and Malvolio in Twelfth Night, or Goethe to name the protagonists of his Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities) Otto, Otto (Eduard), Charlotte and Ottilie--although the water imagery will prove to have a specific and serious undercurrent.
But Russian kaluga also means “bog, swamp” (see 4.03n.), as does Dutch veen (see 4.16n2.).
MOTIF: doubling; water.
4.16: Walter D. Veen: the "D. Veen" in this art collector's name suggests Joseph Duveen, the first Baron of Millbank (1869-1939), "the dean of international art dealers" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1962 ed., 7:783). Nabokov read and enjoyed S. N. Behrman's biography Duveen (London, 1953) as it appeared serially in the New Yorker (unpub. letter to Katharine White, November 29, 1951, VNA).
4.16: Veen: in the course of the novel Nabokov plays on several aspects of the surname."Van Veen," the name of Ada's narrator, is a Dutch surname (there was a Cornell professor Van Veen whose name was painted on the letterbox of a home in Highland Road, Cayuga Heights, Ithaca, when Nabokov was living further along Highland Road in 1957). Otto van Veen (1556-1629), a Flemish painter and draughtsman, is now best known as a teacher of Rubens and for his "Amorum Emblemata, a collection of engraved emblems in which various aspects of love are symbolized through the actions of naked children in a kind of landscape garden." (Patricia Crown, VNRN 4 , 38; cf. also Gennady Barabtarlo, Nabokovian 14 , 25).
"Veen" in Dutch means "peat" or "bog," a fact Nabokov puts to good use later in the novel. He learned of this through the novel Double-Barrel (1964), by the crime writer Nicolas Freeling (1928-2003). (See Paul H. Fry, “Moving Van: The Neverland Veens of Nabokov’s Ada,” Contemporary Literature 26: 2 (1985), 123-39 and Wilma Siccama and Jack van der Weide, “Een sleutel in Meppel: Neederlandse aantekeningen bij Vladimir Nabokovs Ada,” Maatstaaf 1995:6, 17-27.) Freeling’s novel presumably came to Nabokov's attention because at one point the detective and narrator, Van der Valk, sifting through criminal records in a dreary little town in Drente, the province in the north of the Netherlands to which he has been sent from Amsterdam, notes: "The State Recherche--very very thorough indeed--had even unearthed the fact that the burgomaster, earlier in his career, had once been thought rather too fond of sitting little girls on his lap. Charming; Burgomaster Humbert N. Petit of Larousse, Ill." (DB 25).
The nod to Lolita and even to Quilty's alias in the cryptogrammic paper chase follows a few pages after this:
The keyword in this north-eastern corner of Holland is 'Veen.' It occurs as a suffix in place-names. Over to the west are Hoogeveen and Heerenveen--larger towns these, around the twenty thousand mark. To the south, Klazinaveen, Vriezeveen--smaller, hardly more than villages. . . . 'Veen' means turf: the boggy peaty moorland that was cut for fuel in the depression days, before the oil pipelines and the natural gas. (DB 17) (Boyd 2004: 000)
"Veen" also evokes "V.N.," the initials Nabokov was often known by in the literary world in the years of his fame in the 1960s and 1970s, and thereby lures readers into at first identifying Van and Ada with their maker.
Van himself also links "Veen" with Venus, the Roman goddess of love: Van, Ada and Lucette are called at 410.10 "the children of Venus"; and since the name of the Greek Aphrodite, the origin of most of Venus's attributes as goddess of love, means "foam-born" (and scenes of her birth commonly depict her as rising from the sea), there is a double aptness in the first names of Aqua and Marina Veen. That these two names reflect each other, and water, as do "Walter D. Veen" and "Walter D. Veen," becomes even apter if one recalls that the emblem of Venus is a mirror.
Venus and Earth, because of their similarity in size, mass and density, were, at the time Nabokov began writing Ada, widely regarded as sister planets, or as Ada has it, "sibling" planets (231.03 and n.). Because of the brightness of its cloud cover, Venus appears mirror-bright from Earth, and could be supposed, behind the mystery of the clouds, to be a kind of mirror-image of our planet, as Antiterra may be of Terra (see 7.27-28 and n.). As Andrew Caulton notes, Venus "rotates on its axis in the opposite ('anti') direction" and it has the "nickname the Hell planet" (unpub. MA thesis, University of Otago, 1995, 21). But in our galaxy the veil of Venus began to be penetrated in the late 1960s by the Soviet Venera program, after many failed missions in the early 1960s, as seems to be echoed in Van's science fiction novel Letters from Terra (see 342.01-07 and n.) The Veen name marks the fact that the relationship between Venus and Earth in some ways matches the relationship between Antiterra and Terra.
Vina is also the Russian for "fault," "guilt," "blame," which in the genitive plural is simply vin (pronounced like an Anglophone "Veen" or "Ven-us").
See also 4.17n. MOTIFS: Veen; peat, bog; Nabokov; Terra.
4.17: ancient Anglo-Irish ancestry: In an interview with Alden Whitman, Nabokov referred to the "noble and wealthy Veen clan--it's an Irish name" (New York Times, April 19, 1969), but this seems to reflect the fiction, not the facts. "Vaughan" is an anglicized form of "Mahon," which while generally a distinct name is sometimes used as an abbreviated form of MacMahon, "one of the best known and most distinguished names in Ireland" (Edward MacLysaght, Irish Families: Their Names, Arms and Origins [Dublin: Hodges Figgis, 1957], 217-18). But more in keeping with Nabokov's imagination is that veen as Dutch for "peat" or "bog" can seem appropriately Irish. MOTIF: Irish.
4.17: long conducted: Since January 5, 1868 (10.01-02).
4.19: some time in 1871: December 16, although the date is memorialized as August 16, to disguise the fact of Demon's having impregnated Marina well before mid-December (see 5.34-6.16); hence the evasiveness here.
4.22: Demon: From the Greek, daimon, "a divinity," and Latin demon, "an evil spirit, a devil," a contrast in senses characteristic of Ada. His name derives principally from the hero of the long narrative poem Demon (begun 1828, last version completed 1841, pub. 1856) by Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841), and its derivatives in Russian culture, such as the three-act opera Demon (1871) by Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) (libretto by Pavel Viskovatov, 1842-1905), the series of paintings by Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) and the long poem Vozmezdie ("Retribution," 1911), by Aleksandr Blok (1880-1921) (see Levinton 1997: 333-34 and Kurganov 2001: 92-95). Nabokov’s father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov (1870-1922), an avid theater- and opera-goer, notes that “Rubinstein’s Demon was very popular” on the stage of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater (“Teatral’nyy Peterburg,” Teatr i zhizn’ 8, March 1922, 10), where he often took Vladimir and the other children; in June 1960 Nabokov travelled to Milan to hear his son Dmitri sing two arias and a duet from the opera (VNAY 420). Demon, theatrical and operatic himself, first appears on Ada’s stage, as it were, in the torrid theater scene of I.2, during a stylized version of the travestied operatic version by another Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovsky, of another long Russian poem, Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. Ada alludes most explicitly to Vrubel’s visual versions of Lermontov’s hero. But Levinton also comments that in Blok's poem, "(also a 'family chronicle' in its own way) the nickname 'Demon' is constantly applied to the father of the Hero, right from the 'Foreword': 'In this family there is a certain "demon," the harbinger of "individualism." . . . The second chapter must be dedicated to the son of this "demon," the inheritor of his rebellious passions and painful falls, the unfeeling son of our age. . . . In the third chapter describes the death of the father, what happened to the formerly dazzling "demon," into what an abyss this < . . . > man fell' " (Levinton's italics). Kurganov 2001 makes a long but unconvincing case for the centrality of the demonology of the Hebrew apocrypha to Ada (and Lolita).
Alexey Sklyarenko notes Nabokv-L (27 June 2016) that in Blok’s long poem “Vozmezdie (‘Retribution,’ 1910-21) the hero’s father was nicknamed Demon, because Dostoevski said that he resembled Byron.” Given the Byronic and Don Juanic associations around both Demon and especially Van (Byronic: Demon: 255.29; Van: 402.11, 522.24-25; Don Juan, Demon’s womanizing in general, and his bet with Prince N. at 10.14-12.02 in particular; Van: 487.12ff), this link seems highly pertinent. Sklyarenko quotes from Chapter 1:
Raz (on gostinoy prokhodil)
Ego zametil Dostoevsky.
“Kto sey krasavets?--on sprosil
Negromko, naklonivshis’ k Vrevskoy:-
Pokhozh na Bayrona.” –Slovtso
Krylatoe vse podkhvatili.
I vse na novoe litso
Svoyo vniman’e obratili.
I damy bily v voskhishchen’i:
“On—Bayron, znachit –demon . . . ”—Chto zh?
On vpryam’ byl s gordom lordom skhozh
Litsa nadmennym vyrazhen’em
I chem-to, chto khochu nazvat’
Tyazholym plamenem pechali.
Once (he was crossing the living room)
Dostoevsky noticed him.
“Who is this beauty?” he asked
Not loudly, leaning to Vrevskaya,
“Looks like Byron.” All took up
The winged witticism
And all toward the new face
Turned their attention.
And the women were in raptures:
“He’s Byron, that means—a demon.” –What?
He really was like the proud lord
In the face’s haughty expression
And something I’d like to call
The heavy flame of grief.
4.23: Demian or Dementius: Cf. this exchange from The Waltz Invention, written 1938: "COLONEL: I beg your pardon, Your Demency, but I am only performing my plain duty. WALTZ: A sonorous title. From 'demon' or 'dementia'? You're rather a grim wit" (WI 74). Nabokov added Waltz's second sentence in the English translation in late 1965. MOTIF: insanity.
4.24: Raven: In allusion to his dark coloring, but also to "The Raven" (pub. 1845), the best-known poem of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), the author most frequently alluded to in Lolita. Ll. 103-105 read: "And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting / On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; / And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming." The famous refrain "Nevermore" may be applied to Demon's injunction to his children in Pt.2 Ch.11.
4.25-26: Dark Walter . . . Durak Walter . . . Red Veen: The "Dark" and the "Red" allude to the emphatic blackness and redness, respectively, of Demon's and Dan's hair. "Durak" seems to continue the obtrusive parallelism, but in fact as Darkbloom notes means "'fool' in Russian"; Dan is slow-witted beside the mentally and physically hyperactive Demon. MOTIF: black-red; colors-names; red hair.
4.27: collecting old masters and young mistresses: cf. 4.16n. and Demon's activities passim. Joseph Duveen "was often accused of making Old Masters look like new masters" (S. N. Behrman, Duveen [London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953], 115).
4.28: middle-aged puns: cf. Demon's "'prebrandial' brandy (an ancient quip)" (238.07-08).
4.29-32: Trumbell . . . "bell": "The Turnbulls, so largely represented in the North, according to Buchanan (1820) and others, obtained the surname in the fourteenth century upon one of their ancestors turning an unruly bull which threatened to be disrespectful to King Robert I. Doubtless, like many other similar tales, the story is made to fit the name rather than the reverse. If the surname was acquired through any achievement, it is much more probable to have resulted from a daring act in the brutal sport of bull-running, which was popular from time immemorial up to the last century. . . . The surname ramified strongly in the northern counties and Scotland, variants being Trumball, Trumble, and possibly Trumble, Tremble, etc., but these two may be of local origin" (C. L'Estrange Ewen, A History of Surnames of the British Isles [London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1931], 226); "Turnbull. . . . There can be no doubt that this much-discussed surname is a nickname from 'turn bull,' indicative of strength or bravery. The name appears to be northern, particularly Scottish, but early examples are not common. Black's derivation from Trumbald cannot be correct. The early forms of Trumble are quite distinct from those of Turnbull and there is no proof that any of the 15th-century Scottish Trumbles were Turnbulls. . . . [Old English] Trumbeald ["strong, bold"] developed naturally to Trumbell, also spelled Trumbull. It is much more likely that this should be corrupted to Turnbull than that Turnbull should become an unintelligible Trumbull, Trumble. The nickname origin of the surname is proved by Ewen himself (despite his antipathy to nicknames) in his reference to a Yorkshire horse named Turnebull (1358)" (P.H. Reaney, A Dictionary of British Surnames, 2nd ed. corr. and add. R.M. Wilson [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958, 1977], 357).
Van's "side-tracked by a bore-baiter" plays teasingly with "boar" and "bear-baiter" and the "turn bull" image; the English "bull" and the New England "bell" echo both the onomastic relationship between "Turnbull" and "Trumble" and the kind of doubling of English names in New England or New World locales toyed with in "New Cheshire" (4.03). "In the course of American history an English 'bull' had become a New England bell" plays with this doubling as it raises echoes of John Bull as emblem of England and the Liberty Bell as emblem of American independence from England.
However the real point of this bizarre digression is likely to be that Dan's very boringness, exemplified in his explaining at length the origins of his mother's maiden name, accounts for Marina's turning down his offer of marriage (she is at this time still in her passionate affair with Dan's far more fascinating cousin Demon) and his very dullness also accounts for the fact that he cannot see he is being used when Marina, now pregnant with Ada, and having had a final rift with Demon, turns to him to accept, belatedly, his proposal. He is, in other words, a cuckold even before (as well as repeatedly during) marriage: as Laura Little suggestes (private communication, 2002) the horns on the bull echo the traditional cuckold's horns, already played on in the reference to Ivan Durmanov as "the good and sur-royally antlered general."
The bull-horns imagery echoes especially Benedick in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, a rather wittier man, who denies he will ever love or marry; Don Pedro responds:
Well, as time shall try:
"In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke."
BENEDICK The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted; and in such great letters as they writer "Here is good horse to hire" let them signify under my sign "Here you may see Benedick the married man."
Much Ado About Nothing (c. 1597), 1.1.260-68
In view of the Venus and Villa Venus brothel motifs in the novel (see 4.14-15n.), it may be relevant that in Shakespeare's time Turnbull Street in London's Clerkenwell district was noted for its brothels. Falstaff comments on Shallow that he "hath done nothing but prate to me of the wildness of his youth, and the feats he hath done about Turnbull Street" (2 Henry IV, 3.2.330) and Thomas Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside [ed Brian Parker, p. 43] MOTIF: antlers.
4.31-32: English "bull" . . . New England "bell": MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
4.32: Somehow or other: Cf. 5.15: "somehow or other" (also of Dan, in this case his falling "comfortably in love" with Marina).
5.03: ups and down: apparently a still uncorrected typo for "ups and downs."
5.06: a few carefully shaded summer weekends: because of Dan's red hair and sensitive skin, which Lucette will inherit.
5.06: Ardis: although gazetteers list Ardisa, a reservoir in Spain, and Ardes, a village in France, and although the Latin town of Ardea was involved in the bringing of the cult of Venus Erycina to Rome, Nabokov seems to have chosen the name primarily to evoke intimations of "paradise" (from the Greek paradeisos, park, paradise (of Persian origin) and "artist" and the Greek ardis, "point of an arrow" (225.17-19; important in connection with the theme of "the ardis of time" [185.01, 538.30]). There may also be an echo of Sardis, the former capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor, which was notorious to early Greek historians for its luxury and immorality.
However Ardis is also a place-name in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, as Kurganov 97-107 notes, the peak on Mt Hermon where the angels come to mate with the daughters of men: Book of Enoch, Chapter 7: "1 It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. 2 And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children. 3 Then their leader Samyaza said to them: I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise; 4 And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime. 5 But they answered him and said: We all swear; 6 And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking. 7 Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of mount Armon." From The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R.H. Charles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913). "Upon Ardis" had earlier been translated by R.H. Charles, "in the days of Jared" in The Book of Enoch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893), p. 63. See http://www.piney.com/ApocEnoch1.html. MOTIF: Ardis.
5.07: Ladore: Named after La Dore, a river in Puy-de-Dôme department, central France, that is commemorated in Chateaubriand's "Romance à Hélène" (l.10: "Du château que baignait la Dore," "The castle bathed by the Dore"), which he composed during a trip to Mont Dore in the Auvergne region and which becomes a celebratory refrain for Van and Ada (138-39). The village of Ardes lies twenty miles southeast of Mont Dore and thirty miles west of the source of the Dore, but Nabokov locates Ada's Ladore "in an unspoiled part of New England" (New York Times, April 19, 1969, p. 20).
Chateaubriand's romance is considered one of the finest examples of its kind in French. Nabokov was particularly fond of it, and even considered calling his autobiography, in its French translation, "Le château que baignait l'Adore (ou est-ce 'La Dore'? -- je ne me souviens pas au juste)" ("The castle bathed by the Adore (or is it 'the Dore'--I can't quite remember") (unpub. VN letter to Doussia Ergaz, October 30 1951, VNA). MOTIF: adore; dore; Ladore; Romance à Hélène.
5.08: another estate: Radugalet (149.28) One of these rare visits of Dan’s is also the first time Van and Ada meet, or at least the first time Ada recalls glimpsing Van (see 149.32ff.).
5.09-11: Lake Kitezh . . . body of water: MOTIF: body of water; water.
5.09: Lake Kitezh: Darkbloom: "allusion to the legendary town of Kitezh which shines at the bottom of a lake in a Russian fairytale." "According to this tale, the Virgin Mary, in answer to prayers from the inhabitants of Kitezh, made the city invisible to save it from being sacked by the Tartars. The reflection of the invisible city, however, could still be seen in a nearby lake. When the Tartars beheld the reflection, they fled before this evidence of the Christian God's power. The tale of Kitezh combined with the tale of St. Fevronia is the basis for an opera by [Nikolay] Rimsky-Korsakov [1844-1908] with libretto by Vladimir Belsky, The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia (composed 1904, first performed 1907). An interesting feature of Rimsky's opera is the singing of the sirin, a mythical bird that lives in paradise, to herald the final transfiguration and apotheosis of Kitezh. Another sirin associated in the Russian tradition with fairy tales and magical transformation is, of course, Vladimir Sirin, né Nabokov, who puts his personal and artistic signature on the passage in this allusion to Kitezh" (Rivers & Walker 263). The Sirin sings at the end of Act 4 Scene 1. MOTIF: Atlantis; fairy tale; Nabokov.
5.09: Luga: city 85 miles SSW of St. Petersburg. Vyra, the Nabokov estate, was on the Petersburg-Luga highway. MOTIF: -uga.
5.10-11: oddly rectangular though quite natural body of water: the rectangular but natural Lake Kitezh at Radugalet, the "other Ardis" (149.29) is not to be confused with "that rectangular lake" (116.19), the man-made reservoir, at Ardis itself. But given the strong presence of Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, explicitly in Pt. 2 Ch. 10, implicitly throughout, it might be worth noting the rectangular though quite natural (it has four rivers flowing into it) body of water in the background of the central panel.
5.10-13: body of water which a perch . . . great fisherman in his youth: this pair of "weirdly misleading" (SM 288) and seemingly irrelevant clauses, introducing details that recur nowhere else, hints, by way of Demon's ability to catch the fish that Dan can only time, at the two men's comparable relations with women.
Dan owns this "body of water" (Lake Kitezh) "jointly with his cousin," Demon. But Marina herself is by name a "body of water" and in the next chapter Demon thinks of the likeness of Marina to an old master sketch as the similarity "of young bodies of water" (13.27). Dan also, the analogy seems to suggest, shares Marina herself with Demon. And that proves to be the case. While Dan can time a fish at Kitezh, it is at Kitezh--where she spends an ardent month with Demon--(26.23) that Marina becomes pregnant with Ada just before suggesting Demon divorce Aqua and marry her, at which he throws her out and she has to revert to Dan's proposal.If Dan has timed Marina's pregnancy with Ada--and not only does the timing of that pregnancy form the subject of the next two paragraphs, but we also learn that Dan has a penchant for timing natural phenomena (see 5.11n)--he will have discovered that he cannot be the father of his wife's first child, and may have guessed that the true father is Demon. Cf. the memorable image from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (c. 1610):
There have been,(And perhaps also, from Measure for Measure (c. 1604):
Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now,
And many a man there is, even at this present,
Now, while I speak this, holds his wife by th'arm,
That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence,
And his pond fished by his next neighbour, by
Sir Smile, his neighbour. (1.2.191-97)
Mistress Overdone: Well, what has he done?
Pompey: A woman.
Mistress Overdone: But what's his offence?
Pompey: Groping for trouts in a peculiar river. (1.2.85-88))
As narrator, Van, always happy to mock Dan, seems to have introduced these apparent irrelevancies as a particularly elaborate taunt--one which would pass Dan by but Demon would have been able to catch in a flash. (Cf. Boyd 1979:199-200.)
5.11-13: a perch which he had once clocked took half an hour . . . fisherman in his youth: a bizarre subliminal pun lurks here. The fact that Dan measures the speed of this perch may prompt us to recall the homonym of "perch," perch as a unit of measure (16½ feet). A synonym of this "perch" is "rod," a homonym of which in turn is the fisherman's implement. The bizarre convergence of perch-perch-rod-rod here simultaneously mocks the Walter D. Veen-Walter D. Veen, Raven-Red, Dark-Durak pairings and confirms that Demon's rod hooks Dan's perch.
5.11: perch which he had once clocked took half an hour: Dan enjoys timing things: he informs "Van that it was going to rain in a few minutes 'because it had started to rain at Ladore,' and the rain, he said, 'took about half-an-hour to reach Ardis.'" (67.16-18) Curiously, he is right about the rain.
5.15: somehow or other: Cf. 4.32 and n.
5.19-20: later sold to Mr. Eliot, a Jewish businessman: Darkbloom: "Mr Eliot: we shall meet him again, on pages  and , in the company of the author of 'The Waistline' and 'Agonic Lines.'" Nabokov disliked T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) as a writer and an anti-Semite. In "Gerontion" (pub. 1920), ll. 7-8 originally read "My house is a decayed house, And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner," until after objections to the lower-case "j" in "jew," Eliot changed the word to "Jew." Nabokov parodies and echoes "Gerontion" in Lolita (16, 258), as he does here in making Mr Eliot a Jew and a "real-estate man" (505.31). Alfred Appel lists Eliot allusions in Nabokov's fiction in the Annotated Lolita (rev. ed. 16n3).
5.21: elevator: though elevators powered by man, beast or flowing water had been attempted from Roman times, the first practical elevators, using the hydraulic principle, were developed in Europe in the early 1800s. But "because of physical limitations of plunger length, drilling depth and piston lengths for geared hydraulics, building heights and elevator speed were limited. . . . In the U.S. the electric elevator was first used commercially in 1889." (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1962 ed., 8:351) Since on Antiterra electricity is intermittently banned and its technological role taken over by various obscure methods of harnessing water, it is apt that the first real technological reference in Ada should be to something we automatically imagine as being powered by electricity but which as late as Nabokov's youth could still be operated hydraulically: a hydraulic elevator remained in use in the Nabokov townhouse in Petersburg in the 1910s (SM 114-15, DB 107; cf. also Defense 164). MOTIF: technology.
5.21-22: Manhattan's first ten-floor building: The Home Insurance building in Chicago, which consisted of ten floors when built in 1885 (two more were added in 1889) is "generally acclaimed the forerunner of the modern skyscraper" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1962 ed., 21:369C). The 10-story Tower Building, 50 Broadway, designed by Bradford Gilbert, was New York’s first steel-skeleton building, 1888. The 26-story Manhattan Life Building was built in 1893-95 (The Encyclopedia of New York City, ed. Kenneth T. Jackson [New Haven: CT: Yale UP, 1995, s.v. "skyscraper"]. (Kyoto Reading Circle, Krug 2: 18). MOTIF: technology.
5.23-7.05: to air his feelings, set off . . . film . . . : Cosily "adventurous" travel, combined with photography, is Dan's habitual solace for amatory upset: cf. "a semi-divorced Dan went to some place in equatorial Africa to photograph tigers (which he was surprised not to see) and other notorious wild animals, trained to cross the motorist's path . . . " (151.31-152.01). Unlike Fogg (5.24), Captain Grant (334.29, from Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant (1868), also by Jules Verne (1828-1905), and various other figures in the novel, Dan is no explorer (but see 466.05). MOTIF: explorer.
5.23-24: to air his feelings, set off . . . on a triple trip around the globe: Among many examples from literature and life: in Julie, ou La nouvelle Héloïse by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) --a novel Nabokov refers to often in the course of his EO commentary--Saint-Preux, after he finds his beloved Julie is to marry M. de Wolmar, sets off on a trip around the world to distract him from his disappointment.
5.24-33: on a triple trip round the globe . . . his return to America. MOTIF: Dan's plans;
5.24: counter-Fogg direction: Darkbloom: "Phileas Fogg, Jules Verne's globetrotter, travelled from West to East" in Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours (Around the World in Eighty Days, pub. 1873). For other references to Verne's novel, see Defense 33, Stories 482, SO 43.
5.26-28: November 1871 . . . already hired twice: Dan is on the third of his three trips, in other words. If he travels in a counter-Fogg direction, he travels at exactly Fogg's rate. He began in "spring" (5.20). If we count from April, as mid-spring, and from mid-April, April 15, to mid-November, November 15, there are 215 days. Two 80-day circumnavigations, and just under three-quarters of the third, would require just under 220 days.
5.26-27: making his evening plans with the same smelly but nice cicerone: Cf. Marina at 233.21: "You are not a pederast, like your poor uncle, are you?" (although the "poor uncle" here could be Ivan Veen rather than Dan)
5.27: cicerone: in view of the reference to Ada's text being typed on "special Atticus paper" (587.19-20) in the novel's last chapter, it seems not accidental that this first chapter, with its attic scene, should contain the word "cicerone," derived from Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC). Cicero's letters to his friend Atticus are one of the most remarkable collections of early letters. MOTIF: letters.
5.29: aerocable from Marina: she has been thrown out by Demon, whom she hoped to marry, and has been pregnant with Ada since September 1871.
5.29: aerocable: neologism, fusing "aerogram" and "cablegram." The cable part at least is not anachronistic: a permanently successful transatlantic cable was laid in 1866. MOTIF: technology.
5.31: dove hole marked RE AMOR: since doves, though members of the pigeon family, are traditionally associated with love in a way "pigeons" are not, Van has renamed the pigeonhole marked "Re Love."
5.32: silver salver: though the obtrusive alliteration makes the phrase sound distinctly Nabokovian, it is a natural conjunction. See for instance Dickens's Our Mutual Friend (pub. 1864-65), Bk. 3, Ch. 16: "the Coachman manifesting a purpose of coming at the company with a silver salver, as though intent upon making a collection for his wife and family."
5.34-9.12: the following episode, the first "scene" of the novel and the densest passage in all of Nabokov's fiction, explains Van and Ada's true parentage, and their discovery that they are brother and sister. See afternote. MOTIF: family relationship; novel.
5.34-6.22: Sunday supplement of a newspaper . . . Kaluga Gazette: Cf. “the voluminous Sunday supplements of the papers from Balticomore, and Kaluga, and Luga” (128.12-13); the present newspaper is the Kaluga Gazette (6.22). MOTIF: Kaluga newspapers.
6.01-03: on its funnies page the now long defunct Goodnight Kids, Nicky and Pimpernella (sweet siblings who shared a narrow bed): Darkbloom: "Goodnight Kids: their names are borrowed, with distortions, from a comic strip for French-speaking children." In fact a very popular television puppet series for French-speaking children, Bonne Nuit les Petits (Goodnight Kids), created by Claude Laydu and broadcast in 570 5- to 7-minute episodes between December 1962 and December 1970 on the first channel of ORTF. The first year the show was called simply Bonne Nuit, and the characters P'tit Louis, Mirabelle, Gros Ours (Big Bear) and Ulysse, the Marchand de Sable (Sandman). In 1963 Laydu renamed the first three principals Nicolas (about three, a dark-haired, two-foot high puppet), Pimprenelle (about four, blonde, same height) and Nounours (a big brown bear with a big heart, who like the Marchand de Sable stood about four feet tall). Nicolas and Pimprenelle were indeed close siblings, very much alike in voice, vocabulary and moods. Always wearing nightdress--like the children who watched the 7.30 p.m. program, they were scrubbed after their evening bath and ready for bed--they would be visited by Nounours who came down by rope ladder from the steerable cloud he shared with his friend the Marchand de Sable. After being asked "Vous avez été sages?," the sweet siblings would play with their visitor then head off to sleep in the narrow wooden bed they shared. As Nounours intoned a husky but gentle "Bonne nuit les petits," the bedclothes would heave gently in time with the children's sleepy respiration. (Information from Institut National de l'Audovisuel, Bry-sur-Marne, France, by way of Geraldine Chouard and Eric Roman.)
Cf. "two children being put to bed . . . --no, not children, but . . . honeymooners " (492.10-12); "As lovers and siblings,' she cried . . . " (583.21); "a little book in the Ardis Hall nursery, could no longer prop up in the mysterious first picture: two people in one bed" (588.02-04). MOTIF: Pompeianella; sibling.
6.01-03: on its funnies page the now long defunct: cf. "the abrupt, mysterious, never explained demise of a comic strip in a Sunday newspaper" (28.29-30).
6.04: cockloft: "an upper loft or attic" (W2), here with appropriately obscene overtones.
6.05: on St. Adelaida's Day: Nabokov intends December 16 (see 6.10). Although this is the date when St. Adelaida (931-999) died, St. Adelaida's Day is actually December 12. Adelaida "was aged sixteen when she married the son of the man who had wedded her mother. The marriage was incestuous, but no prelate of the time ventured to remonstrate." (S. Baring-Gould, The Lives of the Saints, 3rd ed., 1914, 15:163) Kept in captivity, she was freed by a subterranean passage.
Nevertheless, Nabokov has not slipped up. December 16 happens to be the day of St. Ado, remembered partly for his involvement in an incest case. Lothair, anxious to marry his concubine, accused his wife (whose case Ado pleaded before the Pope) "of having been guilty of incest with her brother, abbot of S. Maurice, a churchman of profligate character, who lived in oriental luxury, surrounded by a bevy of beautiful dancing-girls. This most revolting charge was made more loathsome by minute circumstances, contradictory and impossible." (Baring-Gould, 15:200)
6.06: two naked children: cf. "our two naked children" (121.33-122.01).
6.07-08: one dark-haired and tanned, the other dark-haired and milk-white: the descriptions of Van ("dark-haired and tanned") and Ada ("dark-haired and milk-white") anticipate the imminent discovery that Ada is not the child of "Red" Veen and that both are in fact the offspring of "Dark" Veen.
6.08: sunlight that slanted: cf. "slant of scholarly sunlight" (41.11).
6.13; kneehole library table: MOTIF: library (Ardis).
6.14-15: commonplace sweep of a bride's ectoplasmic veil: Although "ectoplasm" can mean (W2) "An external or cortical modified layer of protoplasm in a cell," it's second meaning in W2 seems implied (and hardly "commonplace"): "Spiritualism. The emanation from a spiritualistic medium, which effects telekinesis and other phenomena; exteriorized protoplasm." Encylopedia Britannica defines as "a mysterious, usually light-colored, viscous substance that is said to exude from the body of a spiritualist medium in a trance and may then take the shape of a face, a hand, or a complete body" (Micropedia, "ectoplasm"). "It is said to exude, more specifically, from the 'navel, mouth, or nose' of a medium (Jenny Randles, Strange and Unexplained Mysteries of the Twentieth Century [New York: Sterling, 1994: 54]). According to Randles, taking photographs at séances, which had begun in the 1920s, became popular in the 1940s with the invention of infra-red film (ibid, 53-54) (Kyoto Reading Circle, Krug 2, which reproduces a photograph). As a visual image, the phrase suggests that the white veil, blown against face and waist, seems as if it exudes from them. Later in life Marina becomes obsessed with eastern mysticism.
6.15: parvis: W2: "[ . . . fr. L. paradisus paradise . . . ] A court or an enclosed space before a building, esp. a church, often surrounded by a balustrade or parapet or with colonnades or porticos . . . --a term little used in English-speaking countries."
6.17: July 21, 1872: Ada's birthday commemorates Nabokov's father's birthday, July 21, 1870. Nabokov in the first version of his autobiography assigned his first conscious memory, "the birth of sentient life" (CE 4), to the day of his father's birthday in 1902, although in Speak, Memory he corrected the date. His father's birthday also features in Pale Fire as the date of Shade's death (PF 13). Cf. "Ada (born on July 21, 1872)" (218.31).
6.18: for some obscure mnemonic reason: in other words, to remind Marina of the actual date of her wedding, not the false date she has assigned it.
6.19: Adelaida: the name, German in origin, means "nobility"; perhaps there is also an echo of "Atala," the heroine of Chateaubriand's Atala. MOTIF: Ada.
6.19-20: Another daughter, this time Dan's very own: Lucette. Significantly, she seems not even worth mentioning by name in this chapter.
6.22: gaga Kaluga Gazette: MOTIF: ga . . . ga; -uga.
6.22-23: Pimpernel and Nicolette: an echo perhaps of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) by Baroness Orczy (1865-1947) and certainly of the medieval French tale Aucassin et Nicolette (13th century), which Nabokov studied at Cambridge. MOTIF: Pompeianella.
6.23: in the same attic a reel box: Cf. 147.15-16: “the mysterious box they had once discovered in their magic attic.”
6.24-25: according to Kim, the kitchen boy, as will be understood later: Kim Beauharnais enjoys photography, but the real point here is that he is also a blackmailer, and some of the material on this microfilm could have proved embarrassing to Dan. Kim, incidentally, takes a photograph of this scene: "another abominable glimpse--apparently, through a hole in the boards of the attic" (406.19-20). MOTIF: Kim's photography.
6.25: microfilm: microfilming began in the 1920s. MOTIF: micro-; technology.
6.28: heliocolor: neologism, from helio-, "sun-" and -color (as in trade names like "Kodacolor," "Technicolor"), with a glance at heliochromy, color photography. MOTIF: technology.
6.28-29: Naturally, at a time one was starting to build a family: drily ironic, since it is Demon, not Dan, who at this point has started to build a family with Marina.
6.30-33: Damascus . . . squitteroo: notice the play of s-k-a-(r) sounds: "Damascus . . . starring . . . cigar . . . archeologist . . . Arkansas . . . scar . . . squitteroo."
6.32: liver side: right side; with pun on Russ. levyi, "left"?
6.33: old Archie: the archeologist from Arkansas; the arche- in archeologist means "ancient, old."
6.33: squitteroo: neologism: as a noun squitter, according to W2, is English dialect for "squirt," and according to OED, for "diarrhea"; as an intransitive verb, according to OED, it means "to void thin excrement." "Premature squitteroo," with its play on "premature ejaculation," suggests a nasty combination of diarrhea and sodomy. MOTIF: homosexual.
7.07: in a lower layer of the past: Cf: "earlier or later, lower or higher, in the stratigraphy of my past" (546.12-13).
7.07-9.10: small green album with neatly glued flowers that Marina had picked . . . : Cf. "I must have been eight when, in a storeroom of our country house, among all kinds of dusty objects, I discovered some wonderful books acquired in the days when my mother had been interested in natural science. . . . Other books I found in that attic among herbariums full of alpine columbines" (SM 121-22; in CE, this ends "full of edelweiss flowers"). In The Defense (p. 61) young Luzhin also finds his mother's herbarium. MOTIF: album; flowers.
7.09: Ex, a mountain resort: the "ex" ending (pronounced "-ay") is common in the Swiss cantons of Vaud (where Montreux is situated) and especially the Valais (where this "Ex" lies, 20.11). There are a Gex near Geneva (where Pale Fire locates a Lex ), a Bex in the Vaud, a Mex, a Vex and even a Sex Rouge and Sex Noir (see 26.01, 509.29) in the Valais. Though set in the Valais, this Ex may be modeled on the Vaudois town of Château-d'Oex, twenty miles from Montreux. A health resort noted for its rich flora, and frequented both in summer and winter, it has chalets attractively scattered on the hillside, 1000 meters above sea level. A celebrated 1934 poster by François Gos for the Office du Tourisme de Château d’Oex, widely reproduced in Montreux, shows a picture of the Rochers de Naye a bright red in the background and on a hillside in the foreground a close-up of a number of a dozen or so Koch’s gentians, two marsh marigolds and two Christmas roses. Cf. 567.10-11: "the château recently built at Ex."
Ada's "Ex" could also be pronounced the English way, which would render the pronunciation of the French place name "Aix," as in Aix-les-Bains, a resort town at the foot of the Alps. MOTIF: Ex.
7.09: Brig: a town in the Valais on the banks of the upper Rhône.7.10: where she had sojourned before her marriage: Marina would be about four months pregnant with Van when she comes to Ex under the pretext of being close to her sister Aqua, who is also pregnant by Demon, her husband. Picking flowers, not a usual hobby for Marina (65.20-22), kills time for her in this enforced retirement.
7.14: Hotel Florey: MOTIF: Flora.
7.14: sanatorium: MOTIF: sanatorium.
7.15: nusshaus: Aqua's jocular German for "nuthouse." This is Aqua's "first bout with insanity" (20.11). MOTIF: insanity.
7.15: poor Aqua: MOTIF: poor Aqua.
7.15: "the Home": MOTIF: "Home".
7.16: identified: corrected from 1969, "indentified."
7.19-20: conspicuous decrease in the number of specimens: the visibly pregnant Marina does not want to be seen outside.
7.20-21: a regular little melodrama acted out by the ghosts of dead flowers: Nabokov's imagination may have been prompted by a Pushkin lyric of 1828. "Tsvetok" ("Little Flower"). Seeing a little flower dried in a book, the speaker wonders where it grew and when, and was it plucked by a stranger's or a familiar hand. Why was it placed here? In memory of a tender meeting, or a fateful parting, or a long stroll in the quiet of the fields, or in the shade of a wood? And is he dead, and is she alive? . . .
7.22: Dourmanoff (sic): in Francophone Switzerland Marina adopts the French transliteration of her name.
7.23: Ancolie Bleue des Alpes: Alpine columbine, Aquilegia alpina, a plant of the western Alps, having blue flowers with long spurs bent at the tip and blooming in June-July or July-August.
7.23-24: From Englishman in hotel. "Alpine Columbine, color of your eyes": not yet obviously pregnant, Marina can still be flirted with.
7.25: Epervière auricule: Hieracium auricula, a hawkweed with an ear-shaped leaf. The leaves point to the donor, Dr. Lapiner (from French lapin, "rabbit"): see 7.25n3.
7.25: 25.X.69, Ex, ex: MOTIF: Ex.
7.25: ex Dr Lapiner's walled alpine garden: by now it is only for a visit to the doctor who will attend at delivery that Marina leaves her seclusion; his walled garden presents her with a precious opportunity to remain outside unseen.
7.25: Dr. Lapiner's: Darkbloom: "for some obscure but not unattractive reason, most of the physicians in the book turn out to bear names connected with rabbits. The French 'lapin' is matched by the Russian 'Krolik,' the name of Ada's beloved lepidopterist (p. , et passim) and the Russian 'zayats' (hare) sounds like 'Seitz' (the German gynecologist on page ); there is a Latin 'cuniculus' in 'Nikulin' ('grandson of the great rodentiologist Kunikulinov,' p. ), and a Greek 'lagos' in 'Lagosse' (the doctor who attends Van in his old age). Note also Coniglietto, the Italian cancer-of-the-blood specialist, p. ." MOTIF: Krolik.
7.27: ginkgo: a handsome tree (Ginkgo biloba), native to China and common in Montreux, where Nabokov wrote most of Ada. It has green fan-shaped leaves that become a bright golden yellow in the fall. Cf. 299.32-300.06 and PF 93.
7.27-28: "The Truth about Terra": first mention of Terra, the "sibling planet" believed in by some on Ada's Antiterra. To us, Terra (Latin for "earth") sounds like our planet, but on Antiterra it is often the deranged, like Aqua, who have faith in Terra (18.18-20). MOTIF: Terra.
7.30: Artificial edelweiss: paper copy (9.04-05) of edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), the floral emblem of Switzerland, the symbol of Alpine flora. Cf. "Edelweiss. . . the velvety white flower, that pet of herbariums" (Glory 1). MOTIF: artificial flowers.
7.30: brought by my new nurse: Marina no longer ventures outside, and has a nurse for her impending pregnancy.
7.31-32: "mizernoe and bizarre" Christmas Tree: What is particularly mizernoe (see next n.) and bizarre about this Christmas tree, is, first, that it is a larch (9.03), and that (as Ken Tapscott pointed out) larches, unlike most conifers, including the firs that are particularly favored as Christmas trees, are deciduous, so that at this time of year it would be a very threadbare Christmas tree; and second, even more mizerno and bizzarely, is that pregnant Aqua skis into the stump presumably left when this very tree is cut down for Christmas, and thus aborts the child she is carrying (8.07-09, 25.27-28).
7.31: mizernoe: Darkbloom: "Franco-Russian form of 'miserable' in the sense of 'paltry'" (French misérable, paltry, Russian mizernoe, scanty, meagre).
7.33: Petal of orchid, one of 99 orchids: from a butterfly orchis (8.21-22), and sent by the typically extravagant Demon (8.19) on the occasion of Marina's giving birth (to Van, on January 1, 1870). Van's birthday can be deduced from information disclosed at 535.17-19 and 547.04-06. MOTIF: orchids.
8.01: yesterday: since Marina would hardly be up to adding a new entry in her herbarium on the very day her first child is born.
8.01: Special Delivery: pun: special delivery post; and Marina is delivered of a child, Van.
8.01: c'est bien le cas de le dire: Darkbloom: "and make no mistake." Marina's comment draws Van and Ada's attention to the pun in the preceding phrase, and from this vital clue the children deduce that the orchids have been sent on Marina's giving birth to Van. Nabokov uses the phrase again in his characteristic way to foreground a pun at 26.19-20: "had conceived, c'est bien le cas de le dire . . . the brilliant idea. . . . "
8.02: Villa Armina: Demon's villa near Nice, where he has recently fought a duel (14-15). Cf. 15.14, 163.05-06. In view of the Armenian theme in Ada (see 330.20 and n.), it may be noted that Armenia appeared “under the name of Armina . . . , a satrapy of the Achaemenid empire, in the Behistun inscription of Darius Hystapes (521 B.C.)” (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1962, 2:377). There is a Hotel Mirana in Lolita (9-10), also on the French Riviera. MOTIF: Armenia; Marina; Villa.
8.02: Alpes-Maritimes: France's southeasternmost department.
8.03-04: "Snowing in Fate's crystal ball": in other words, now that she has given birth to Van, unmarried Marina cannot see her future clearly. For the snow, cf. 25.32-26.01 ("At other moments she felt convinced that the child was her sister's, born out of wedlock, during an exhausting, yet highly romantic blizzard"); for crystal balls, cf. 175.26; for the paperweight, cf. Pnin 45: "a sad stylized toy, a bauble found in the attic, a crystal globe which you shake to make a soft luminous snowstorm inside over a minuscule fir tree and a log cabin of papier mâché." MOTIF: crystal of Ex.
8.04: as he used to say: Demon, who is allusive and imagistic in the Veen manner, and whom Marina dare not name here.
8.04: (Date erased.): the date must be January 2, 1870, the day after Van's birth. For Van's birthday, cf. 551.23n.
8.05: Gentiane de Koch: Koch's gentian, Gentiana kochiana, whose large, intense dark-blue flowers bloom naturally in the Alps between May and August.
8.05: lapochka: Russ., literally "little paw"; cf. 342.32. Lapiner is "a general practitioner and gentian-lover" (26.02-03).
8.06: gentiarium: a place for growing gentians. MOTIF: -arium.
8.06: 5.I.70: the occasion is Marina's twenty-sixth birthday (cf. 10.01-02).
8.07-09: [blue-ink blot . . . 15.I.70: Marina's whimsical and grotesque record of Aqua's skiing accident, which killed her six-month-old fetus, and of her own decision to substitute her two-week-old boy (the future Van) for dazed Aqua's dead son (25.25-26.04). The mock-Latin, mock-taxonomy might be rendered "the aquamarina variety of the flower Compliquaria compliquata (common name: Complications complicated)." Cf. Nabokov's poem "A Discovery": "being versed / In taxonomic Latin" (PP 155). MOTIF: flower drawing/painting.
8.10: Fancy flower of paper: identified at 8.23. MOTIF: artificial flowers.
8.10: 16.II.70: presumably the paper flower was given to Aqua for Valentine's Day two days earlier.
8.12: Gentiana verna (printanière): the spring gentian, with deep-blue flowers from April to August.
8.16-9.12: Ada contains much more dialogue than most Nabokov novels, despite his frequent disparagement of dialogue in fiction: "even the humblest reader (who likes books in dialogue form with a minimum of 'descriptions'--because conversations are 'life')" (NG 133); "dismally pedestrian writing with oodles of dialogue" (ND 199); "who for instance would want a detective story without a single dialogue in it?" (Lolita 313); cf. also SO 43, 57. For a less negative comment, see SO 138: "Dialogue can be delightful if dramatically or comically stylized or artistically blended with descriptive prose; in other words, if it is a feature of style and structure in a given work. If not, then it is nothing but automatic typewriting, formless speeches filling page after page, over which the eye skims like a flying saucer over the Dust Bowl." Part of the explanation for Ada's extensive dialogue may be found in this last quotation, and in the lines from Speak, Memory cited in 3.01-02n ("Our relationship was marked by that habitual exchange of homespun nonsense, comically garbled words, proposed imitations of supposed intonations, and all those private jokes which is the secret code of happy families"), and in Nabokov's distrust of the reliability of memoirists who effortlessly reproduce dialogue. MOTIF: Ada-Van similarity; family resemblance.
8.16-17: not yet married Marina and her married sister: note Van's careful avoidance of the term "my mother."
8.17-18: lieu de naissance: Darkbloom: "birthplace." Cf. 25.27: "in a lieu de naissance."
8.18: her own Dr. Krolik: MOTIF: Krolik.
8.18: pour ainsi dire: Darkbloom: "so to say."
8.19-22: orchids . . . Butterfly Orchis: Ada's first spoken words in the novel, at the end of the first chapter, will be matched by Van's last words, at the end of the last chapter, 589.06-07: "butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance." MOTIF: orchids.
8.20: by the sea, his dark-blue great-grandmother: a particularly exhibitionistic example of the allusive "Veen wit" (254). Demon has chosen to stay not in Switzerland but in Villa Armina, whose name recalls the sea (as Demon explains: "Marina never realized it was an anagram of the sea, not of her" [163.05-06]), as does the name of Van's great-great-grandmother, Princess Sofia Temnosiniy (see Family Tree and 9.14-18). Van says "the sea, his dark-blue great-grandmother" in allusion to the opening chapter of another famous novel, Ulysses (pub. 1922), by James Joyce (1882-1941). In the opening chapter Buck Mulligan, looking seaward, and like Van and Ada also showing off in the first conversation in the novel, exclaims: "Isn't the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton" ([Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986], 4; 1.77-78). "Algy" here is Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909): "I will go back to the great sweet mother, / Mother and lover of men, the sea" ("The Triumph of Time," pub. 1866, ll. 257-58). "Epi oinopa ponton" means "over the wine-dark sea," a Homeric formula recurring throughout the Odyssey.
Notice that Nabokov's "dark-blue great-grandmother" wittily combines the "grey" color term in Joyce's recycling of Swinburne's phrase and the "great sweet mother" in Swinburne, with the "great" again wittily given an improbable new value in "great-grandmother."
Note that "by the sea, his dark-blue great-grandmother" points to Demon's closest common ancestor with the other two main characters under discussion, Aqua, Demon's wife and Van's ostensible mother, and Marina, his actual mother, thereby stressing both the theme of consanguinity or overrelatedness and the "water" theme which has such wide repercussions in Ada.
Notice that the birth of the elder of the two Veen children who form the mainstay of the story hereby also echoes the birth of Venus from the waves.
It is as if Van already knows he is in a novel, as Ada seems to at 8.26-29, and as Van as narrator certainly does from the moment of the Tolstoy allusion in 3.01. MOTIF: colors-names; novel.
8.20: grandmother.": corrected from Ada 1969, which omits quotation mark.
8.21-9.03: Ada is an expert naturalist. MOTIF: Ada's taxonomy.
8.22: Butterfly Orchis: W3: "1 : either of two European terrestrial species of the genus Platanthera (P. bifolia and P. chlorantha) 2 : a Mexican epiphytic orchid (Epidendrum venosum) often cultivated 3 : BUTTERFLY PLANT 4 : an orchid of the genus Gymnadenia." W3 glosses butterfly plant as "1 : ONCIDIUM 2 2 : an East Indian orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis) having spikes of white-and-yellow flowers." W3 explains oncidium 2 as "any plant of the genus Oncidium." Given Ada's "common Butterfly Orchis," it is probably this diverse genus (about 750 species) she has in mind, and especially the orange-and-brown-flowered species Oncidium papilio (syn. Psychopsis papilio), which aroused the worldwide interest in orchids. MOTIF: butterflies.
8.22-23: my mother was even crazier than her sister: Ada reveals here that she has already deduced that her mother, Marina, had substituted Van for Aqua's dead child, and in that sense is "crazier" than Aqua in her "nusshaus."
8.23-30: paper flower . . . perfectly recognizable . . . early-spring sanicle . . . hills in coastal California last February . . . Bear-Foot: a sanicle is "any plant of the genus Sanicula," "a genus of chiefly American herbs of the carrot family (Ammiaceae), the sanicles, having palmately compound leaves, and unisexual flowers in panicled umbels" (W2). The flower Ada remembers is Sanicula arctopoides, also known as the Bear's-foot Sanicle, snake-root, footsteps-of-spring, and yellow mats. It grows on open hillsides from northern Oregon to central California, usually from March to June. Ada would recognize it by its conspicuous involucels which exceed the heads (Leroy Abrams, Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States: Washington, Oregon and California [Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1951], III, 220).
Unless he misheard the name Bear's-foot, or heard it in a variant form, Nabokov drops the s for the sake of the pun on "bare-foot" (see 8.30-31n.). The flower intended is not to be confused with the "bear-foot," the Christmas rose Helleborus niger or the related European herb Helleborus viridis.
Nabokov had arrived in Hollywood on March 1, 1960, and immediately began collecting butterflies in the local hills. MOTIF: artificial flowers.
8.25-28: to whom you, Van, as Jane Austen might have phrased it . . . : Darkbloom: "Jane Austen: allusion to rapid narrative information imparted through dialogue, in Mansfield Park." Nabokov has in mind an unexpectedly apt passage from the opening chapter of Mansfield Park (1814), by Jane Austen (1775-1817), a novel he knew thoroughly through teaching it at Cornell in the 1950s. Just as Van's words introduce an undefined Dr. Krolik into the novel and Ada adds specific information, so Sir Thomas Bertram's reference to his sons merely establishes their existence, while Mrs Norris's reply names the young gentlemen and indicates their ages. Mrs Norris is trying to suggest that the Bertrams could much more easily accommodate their poor niece Fanny Price than could Mrs Norris herself: "You are thinking of your sons--but do not you know that of all things on earth that is the least likely to happen; brought up, as they would be, always together like brothers and sisters? It is morally impossible. I never knew an instance of it. It is, in fact, the only sure way of providing against the connection. Suppose her a pretty girl, and seen by Tom or Edmund for the first time seven years hence, and I dare say there would be mischief. The very idea of her having suffered to grow up at a distance from us in poverty and neglect, would be enough to make either of the dear sweet-tempered boys in love with her. But breed her up with them from this time, . . . and she will never be more to either than a sister." (Mansfield Park [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966], 44) Despite Mrs Norris's reasoning, Fanny ends up marrying Edmund. In fact, in his teaching copy of Mansfield Park (London: Dent, 1948), Nabokov noted, beside a phrase on p. 411 ("and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love"): "faint flavor of incest throughout the book." (A.S. Byatt detects this same flavour also in the warm relations between Mary Crawford and her brother Henry: cf. A.S. Byatt and Ignês Sodré, Imagining Characters: Six Conversations about Women Writers, ed. Rebecca Swift [London: Chatto and Windus, 1995], 20). Somewhat different are the instances in Chapter 5, when Tom Bertram mentions "The Andersons of Baker Street. We were speaking of them the other day, you know. Edmund, you have heard me mention Charles Anderson"; and "a week with a friend . . . my friend Sneyd--you have heard me speak of Sneyd, Edmund."
The additional ironic point is that although everyone else in the Veen family tree has been named as soon as they are referred to, Van and Ada have not been named for the reader. Ada is still unnamed, and her "Van" here is his first naming within Chapter 1. They are "two naked children, one dark-haired and tanned, the other dark-haired and milk-white," at 6.06-07; then "our frolicsome Pimpernel and Nicolette" at 6.22-23; "the two young discoverers" at 8.14; "the boy" and "the girl" at 8.16 and 8.21, respectively. Ada's comment on naming for the sake of "rapid narrative information," in other words, is ironically counterpointed at the very moment of uttering with the deferred first naming of one of the novel's two main characters, even in the midst of their rapidly extracting narrative information from the evidence in the attic. MOTIF: novel; art-life.
8.28-29: (you recall Brown, don't you, Smith?): perhaps a glancing allusion to The Comedians (1966), by Graham Greene (1904-1991), which is narrated by a Brown and with Smith and Jones as leading characters, or Nabokov may simply be using the names as Greene did, as stock English surnames.
For a comment on Ada's speaking style, at twelve, see 61.14-15: "Her spectacular handling of subordinate clauses, her parenthetic asides. . . . " MOTIF: Brown.
8.30-31: Bear-Foot, B, E, A, R, my love, not my foot or yours: Darkbloom: "both children are naked."
8.31: or the Stabian flower-girl's: Darkbloom: "allusion to the celebrated mural painting (the so-called 'Spring') from Stabiae in the National Museum of Naples: a maiden scattering blossoms." The maiden (who is in fact gathering blossoms rather than scattering them) is bare-footed. One of the best-known paintings of antiquity, the so-called "Primavera" is given for instance a generous full-page color reproduction in Ernst Gombrich's popular The Story of Art (London: Phaidon, 1950 and numerous subsequent editions). Stabiae was buried along with Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.
8.32-34: an allusion . . . like this: Demon, an art connoisseur, can instantly consult "the copiously illustrated catalogue of his immediate mind" (435.09-10).
8.33: your father, who, according to Blanche, is also mine: Blanche presumably knows from Bouteillan, one of her lovers, who was Demon's butler at the time of both Van's conception and birth and Demon's last row with Marina, when she was already pregnant with Ada (252.17-20). Blanche is an inveterate gossip and romantic.
8.34: like this": corrected from 1969, which omits quotation mark.
9.02: its scientific name: see 8.30n.
9.02-04: the other foot . . . is by the same hand: notice the submerged joke. Cf Lolita 20: "her heavily armed foot" (a girl on skates). MOTIF: artificial flowers.
9.02-03: Pied de Lion: lion's foot, a name for several flowers, here specifically the "edelweiss" (Leontopodium alpinum) at 7.30.
9.03: larch: MOTIF: larch.9.04-05: a very sick Chinese boy who came all the way from Barkley College: Ada's exuberant but unsupported guesswork ("very sick": because he is "a fellow patient" [8.11]; "Chinese," because of the paper flower, although origami is a Japanese art; "Barkley College," because the sanicle grows in profusion in coastal California), or a family reminiscence (cf. "the Chinese chant of that young student with a non-Chinese guitar" [24.28-29]) or, as it seems, another inspired deduction?
9.05: Barkley College: University of California at Berkeley, via the British pronunciation ("Barkley") of the surname.
9.06-08: Pompeianella . . . Naples museum: MOTIF: painting location.
9.06: Pompeianella: because of the Nicky and Pimpernella comic strip (6.02) and Stabiae's proximity to Pompeii. MOTIF: Pompeianella.
9.07: picture books: see 8.31n.
9.07-08: but whom I admired last summer in a Naples museum: Nabokov himself, at the time of writing Ada, had just been travelling in Italy looking at museums in small towns and large cities for a projected but never written Butterflies in Art. He visited Naples and the Museo Nazionale di Napoli--where a large proportion of the relics from Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae are housed--in May 1966 (VNAY 512).
9.09-10: bury or burn: MOTIF: burnberry.
9.11: Destroy and forget: Ada realizes that her and Van's consanguinity could prove embarrassing if a blackmailer knew of their affair. For the herbarium album as a precursor of Kim's blackmailing photograph album, see 397.03-05n. For the framing of Part 1 by the combination of album and "destroy and forget," see 323-24n. MOTIF: destroy and forget.
9.11-12: But we still have an hour before tea: in view of Ada's sexual appetite, this means "We have time to make love again before tea" (and perhaps more than once). Despite just discovering that they are brother and sister, Ada and Van are quite undaunted about their relationship. (See VNAY 542-51.)
9.13: the "dark-blue" allusion: see 8.20.
9.14-30: This passage should turn us back to the Family Tree--if we have not already been enticed to do so--to check the details of Van and Ada's parentage against the official genealogy. The first and simplest of Ada's challenges is set before us: if Van appears to be the son of Demon and Aqua, and Ada the daughter of Dan and Marina, how can both be the children of Demon and Marina?
9.14-18: Temnosiniy . . . "dark blue": "Temnosiniy" may seem as unusual a surname in Russian as "Darkblue" in English (and in fact one Russian reviewer singled out the absurdity of this name as proof of the contrivedness of the novel), so that there would appear to be here an echo of "Darkbloom," especially in view of the later "blue bloom" motif (see 295.30n.) that itself echoes the sound play on Bloom's name ("Blew. Blue bloom is on the") in the "Sirens" chapter (Chapter 11) of Ulysses. "Vivian Darkbloom" is a minor character in Lolita, Clare Quilty's occasional co-author, and Nabokov's way of signing himself anagrammatically into a novel that he intended for a long time to publish anonymously. Nabokov then signed his annotations to Ada, first published in 1970, "Vivian Darkbloom."
In fact, however, Temonosiniy is a real Russian princely name, recorded in the Barkhatnaya kniga (the Velvet Book of the Russian nobility, see 9.22n.) The Velvet Book lists: "Princes Temnosinie. Descended form Yaroslav Princes. Received their name from a forefather named Volodimer Temnosiney" who lived in the second half of the fifteenth century. The last Temnosiny, Alexander Alexandrovich, died in 1824 century (Alexey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, 9 Nov 2002). In Berlin in the early 1930s Nabokov had received from his friend Nikolay Yakovlev a list of extinct Russian families whose names he would use in various works: Barbashin (Sobytie [The Event]), Cherdynstev (Dar [The Gift]), Kachurin (the poem "K Kn. S.M. Kachurinu," "To Prince S.M. Kachurin"), Ryovhsin (The Event), Sineusov (Ultima Thule).
Note the dark-blue color of several of the flowers in the herbarium--the Ancolie Bleue des Alpes, the Gentiane de Koch, and the Gentiana verna--as well as of the "blue-ink blot." MOTIF: colors-names; Nabokov.
9.16-17: a direct descendant of the Yaroslav rulers of pre-Tartar times . . . a millennium-old name: princes of Kievan Russia, 10th and early 11th century, beginning with Yaroslav I (d. 1054). See SIC 19-20, 24-25, 75. The Tartar invasions of Russia began "in the third decade of the thirteenth century" (Song of Igor's Campaign, trans. VN [New York: Vintage, 1960], 75); the Tartars dominated the country from 1240 to 1480. Russian snobs particularly valued families that could trace their origins (as the Nabokovs could not) right back to the nobility of Rurik (died 872) and his descendants such as the House of Yaroslavl. According to the Velvet Book (see 9.22n.), the Princes Temnosiniy did descend from Yaroslav princes but did not have a millennium-old name. MOTIF: Tartar.
9.18-29: The recollective, sensual, synesthetic, allusive style here pays homage to A la Recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, pub. 1913-27), by Marcel Proust (1871-1922). So of course does the subject: nowhere does the combination of aestheticism and snobbishness evident here receive fuller expression than in Proust's novel (cf. Kinbote's reference to Proust's "Tolstoian nuances of snobbishness repeated and expanded to an unsufferable length" [PF 162]).
When at 9.27-29 Van announces that "his favorite purple passage remained the one concerning the name 'Guermantes,' with whose hue . . . ," he has in mind Marcel's meditation, beginning on the second page of Le Côté de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way) and lasting for several more pages (Pléiade ed., 1954, II,10-15) on the romance, the sounds and the color of names, especially of an old aristocratic name like "Guermantes." Nor is it accidental that a chapter that begins with an echo of Tolstoy's novel should end with a reference to Proust's, right where Marcel muses: "C'était, ce Guermantes, comme le cadre d'un roman" ("It was, this 'Guermantes,' like the scene of a novel"). Since the Guermantes name comes back to Marcel at its purest as "ce mauve si doux, trop brillant, trop neuf, dont se veloutait la cravate gonflée de la jeune duchesse" ("that purple so soft, too brilliant, too new, which gave a velvet bloom to the young Duchess's billowy scarf"), Van's "purple passage" (9.27), though quite accurate, is also a pun.
Indeed, the pun is compounded, since the "purple" in "purple passage" derives from the use of cloth dyed purple, "esp., a purple robe worn as an emblem of rank or authority, specif., that worn by Roman emperors" (W2, purple), a sense extended colloquially to refer to "exalted station; great wealth. . . . 'Born in the purple.' Gibbon" (W2). But the term "purple passage" itself, while drawing on this sense, derives as a phrase from the Ars Poetica of Horace (65-8 B.C.E), lines 14-16: "Inceptis gravibus plerumque et magna professis / purpureus, late qui splendeat, unus et alter / adsuitur pannus" ("Works with noble beginnings and grand promises often have one or two purple patches so stitched on so as to glitter far and wide," Loeb edition, 1929, trans. H.R. Fairclough).
Since Van's own "purple passage" here, about his favorite purple passage in Proust, concerns the purple scarf of the Duchess of Guermantes, a family born in the purple, and is itself tacked on ("Re the 'dark-blue' allusion, left hanging") to the beginning of a large work, the pun is at least four-way, or as Joyce would say, not trivial but quadrivial. It is also a wonderful summary of the involved, hypersensual, snobbery-infested temporal palimpsest that is Proust.
Various other details of Van's reverie echo Marcel's longer one: the "velvet background" picks up the velvet bloom of the Guermantes name; the "summer sky through the black foliage of the family tree" tips its hat to scenery like "dépliées sur l'écran d'or du couchant, les ailes noires et ramifiées de la cathédrale" ("the black, branched wings of the cathedral, spread out against the golden screen of the setting sun"); "the prism of his mind" recalls the prismatic top whose spinning and slowing Marcel compares to the mind losing and regaining the distinct sense of a name's successive hues.
Nabokov writes in his lectures on Proust on the effect on Marcel of first hearing Gilberte's name:
The light that the name, like a cloud passing over, sheds for Marcel was 'a marvellous little band of light, of the colour of heliotrope,' and then with an inner simile it turns the lawn to a magic carpet.
This band of light was of a mauve colour, the violet tint that runs through the whole book, the very color of time. This rose-purple mauve, a pinkish lilac, a violet flush, is linked in European literature with certain sophistications of the artistic temperament. . . . From this mauve to the delicate pink of hawthorns in the Combray chapters there are all kinds of shadings within Proust's flushed prism. (LL 241).
In preparing to lecture on Proust, Nabokov rewrote a passage he found in Derrick Leon, Proust: His Life, His Circle, and His Work (Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner) pp. 218-220: "Names mean more than faces, historic names are wrapped in all the mysterious splendor of a distant past, this seduces the imagination of the young narrator." MOTIF: novel.
9.22: velvet background: Alludes to the so-called Velvet Book (Barkhatnaya kniga) of the genealogy of the Russian nobility: Rodoslovnaya kniga, sobrannaya i sochinyonnaya v Rozryade pri Tsare Feodore Alekseeviche i po vremenam dopolnenyaemaya, i kotoraya izvestna pod nazvaniem Barkhatnoy Knigi (The Family Register, Collected and Composed in a Department under the Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich, supplemented from time to time and known by the title The Velvet Book), part of Rodoslovnaya Kniga Knyazey i Dvoryan Rossiishikh i Vyezhikh (The Family Register of Russian Princes and Nobles and Those Arrived in Russia), compiled according to the edict of Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich in 1682. The initial book, bound in red velvet, was kept in the Heralds' Department of the Senate; the only printed edition (1787) was prepared by N.I. Novikov. Seee Pyotr Dologrukov, Rossiiskaya Rodoslovnaya Kniga, 4 v., 1854-1857, app. 4 (v. 2). (Alexey Sklyarenko, NABOKV-L, 9 Nov 2002)
9.24-27: never been able to reread Proust . . . without . . . heartburn: may seem related to "that special asparagus . . . which does not produce Proust's After-effect" (254.13-14), except that the after-effect is not heartburn but "an asparagus dream" (PF 162).
9.28-29: with whose hue: in this context of snobbishness, and in light of Ada's quibble at 9.31, an echo of Who's Who, as confirmed by A1; cf. 587.29 "In the latest Who's Who the list of his main papers. . . . " MOTIF: Who's Who.
9.30: Van's artistic vanity: MOTIF: Van.
9.31-32: Hue or who? . . . Ada Veen's late hand): the first firm indication that Ada will not be a third-person narrative, and that Ada herself is somehow involved in the book's composition. MOTIF: COMPOSITION: Ada.9.31: Hue or who?: MOTIF: colors-names.
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 1