Annotations to Ada
24: Part I Chapter 24
I.24 is the last chapter before Van’s departure from Ardis in I.25. By now author and narrator have dealt with the urgent themes of Van and Ada’s becoming lovers, and, briefly, in I.23, with Lucette as witness of their amours. Now they move beyond the linearity of time that has so far shaped the account of Ardis the First to look at Van and Ada retrospecting from much later, as they write Ada in the 1960s, and reflecting, after they have become lovers in 1884, on their previously shared past—even as they continue to make love, inexhaustibly in Ada’s case, exhaustedly in Van’s.
Most of the chapter takes place in the course of one long bicycle ride, with seven “pauses” for love-making. During the ride, Van and Ada together probe their intersecting past. The bicycle ride scene is dated “soon after the night of the Burning Barn, but before they had come across the herbarium in the attic” (148.33-149.01). (On the Night of the Burning Barn itself, the sequence had been less obvious, at least for rhetorical effect: “did the Burning Barn come before the Cockloft or the Cockloft come first. Oh, first! . . . July 28? August 4?” 114.02-07) However, the bicycle ride ends apparently very late in Ardis the First, after not only the Night of the Burning Barn but also the library scenes, the Vintage Festival scenes, Mlle Larivière’s confinement to bed for five days after the festival, and her recovery. Perhaps the bicycle ride is both a continuous scene, and a stylized composite, from early in their fully sexual phase (early in August) to near the end of Ardis the First (late August), in a kind of double time, such as Nabokov has discussed in relation to Anna Karenina (LRL 190-98, Pnin 129-30). If it is a single scene, it would place Van and Ada’s discovery, in the attic, that they are full brother and sister, very near the end of August. They certainly know that Aqua is not Van’s mother by “the end of August, 1884” (29.31).
147.01: Van . . . Vanvitelli: Vanvitelli is further identified at 147.18 by way of “Giorgio Vanvitelli’s arias”: see 147.18n. A pun on Van v Italii, Russian for “Van (or Van is) in Italy.” Cf. also “Van-less vitality,” 335.05. MOTIF: V; Van.
147.01-18: because Lettrocalamity . . . was banned . . . sweetheart: MOTIF: electricity; technology.
147.01: Lettrocalamity: Darkbloom : “A play on Ital. elettrocalamita, electromagnet.” Also a pun on “the L disaster,” 17.01. The only other occurrence of the word “calamity” in Ada is also in I.3: “Van was still being suckled by a very young wet nurse . . . who was to go mad too: for no sooner did all the fond, all the frail, come into close contact with him (as later Lucette did, to give another example) than they were bound to know anguish and calamity, unless strengthened by a strain of his father’s demon blood” (20.13-18). MOTIF: L; letters.
147.01-02: Vanvitelli’s old joke: May mean merely that this is a pun on the Italian word (hence, “Van v Italii”); more probably, that the pun has been used before: “Call her calamity electrifies man. // No electress at all” (James Joyce, Finnegans Wake [London: Faber, 1939], I.viii: 207). For a possible connection between Vanvitelli and Joyce, see 147.17n.
147.02-03: banned . . . “dirty word”: See 23.11-12: “the banning of an unmentionable ‘lammer’ ”; 83.27-29: “After the banning of ‘currents and circuits,’ she said (rapidly but freely, with an actress’s désinvolture pronouncing those not quite proper words . . . ).”
147.03-04: among upper-upper-class families (in the British and Brazilian sense): Pun on “upper-class” and “upper-middle-class.” Nabokov’s contempt for social snobbery (as for social immodesty: he saw no reason to apologize for being born into an aristocratic family) is widespread in his work. He notes in “On a Book Entitled Lolita”: “Any proletarian from Chicago can be as bourgeois (in the Flaubertian sense) as a duke” (Lolita 315). John Shade writes: “I loathe such things as . . . class-conscious Philistines” (PF 67: P924-29).
But why the “and Brazilian” here? Since in fact there appears to be no strong reason in terms of social class in our earthly Brazil, we may see this as another teasing example of transatlantic doubling (of Br- countries with heightened class consciousness) on Antiterra. MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
147.05-09: elaborate . . . “utilities” . . . gadgets . . . recorders: “Elaborate” perhaps a pun on the “el” of “electricity”? See 23.07-10 (italics added): “she, poor Aqua, had accidentally hit upon such a simple method of recording and transmitting speech, while technologists . . . were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets.”
147.07: gadgets: in Ada 1968, “ getgoods and gadgets.”
147.09: tape recorders: See 507.07-08: “a new and hard to get ‘voice recorder’ concealed in his waistcoat pocket.” See also 583.12: “Recorded and replayed in their joint memory” (followed by more direct speech).
147.10-11: Prince Zemski had one for every bed of his harem of schoolgirls: Prince Vseslav Zemski (43.05: “his barely pubescent bride,” 233.30-31: “The Zemskis were terrible rakes . . . , one of them loved small girls”). Thinking of his schoolgirl, Humbert Humbert calls himself “Idiot, triple idiot! I could have filmed her! I would have had her now with me, before my eyes, in the projection room of my pain and despair!” (Lolita II:20, 231)
147.12-13: Tartary . . . “minirechi” (“talking minarets”) of a secret make: Fleeing the 1917 October Revolution, Nabokov and his family settled at Gaspra in the Crimea, a region with a large Tatar population: “The whole place seemed completely foreign; the smells were not Russian, the sounds were not Russian, the donkey braying every evening just as the muezzin started to chant from the village minaret . . . was positively Baghdadian” (SM 244). Minirechi, as Proffer 259 notes, derives from Latin mini- (small) (actually from the verb minuere, to make smaller), and Russian rechi (“speeches,” sing. rech’). In the wake of the success of British Leyland’s Mini car (from “miniature”), launched in 1959, mini- became a popular prefix for the first time in the 1960s (miniskirt, minibudget, etc.). The miniaturization of espionage devices, especially of electrical devices in the wake of the invention of the transistor, also became a popular subject in fact and fiction in the 1950s and 1960s, as in the James Bond novels (1953-1965) of Ian Fleming (1909-1964). Nabokov had once responded indignantly to publicity that declared his The Eye to be “A James Bond-type book . . . a spy story in Ian Fleming and John Le Carré tradition”: “For goodness’ sake don’t compare me in ads to Bond or Le Carré whoever they are” (September 1965; cited VNAY 501). MOTIF: mini-; Tartar.
147.15-16: the mysterious box they had once discovered in their magic attic: See 6.23-26: “found in the same attic a reel box containing what turned out to be . . . a tremendous stretch of microfilm taken by the globetrotter.” Dan, the globetrotter, was in Italy ( Genoa), for the third time, when his triple trip around the globe was cut short (5.25-33).
147.17: so as to replay, eight decades later: Cf. 583.12-17: “Recorded and replayed in their joint memory. . . . There is one exchange that would be nice to enact. . . . Start just before that.”
147.17: Giorgio Vanvitelli’s arias: A tease. Builds on the pun “Van v Italii” in 147.01n. There is no known opera composer, character or singer named “Giorgio Vanvitelli,” although there was a Giovanni Vitali (1646-1692), a composer of sonatas and ballets, and a Late Baroque Italian architect, engineer, sculptor and painter, Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-1773), whose work Nabokov may have encountered in his trips through Italy for his uncompleted Butterflies in Art project in 1965-66. D. Barton Johnson suggests the name may allude to Daisy Miller’s “questionable suitor, Mr. Giovanelli, in Henry James’ Daisy Miller, who gains entrée into American society in Rome through his charming performance of Italian songs at parties” (“A Henry James Parody in Ada,” Vladimir Nabokov Research Newsletter [now The Nabokovian], 3 : 33), but claims, doubtfully, that this paragraph is in imitation of James’s style. The sentence does have something of James’s predilection for pauses, but where James’s tend to be qualifications and hesitations, this sentence enjoys its own speed, stamina and appetite: “—what else?—well a number of gadgets for which plain folks hanker with lolling tongues, breathing faster than gundogs (for it’s quite a long sentence). . . . ”
“Giorgio Vanvitelli’s arias” may also suggest Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787), James Joyce’s favourite opera. Joyce’s son Giorgio (1905-1976) was from 1929 a singer, as was Nabokov’s own son, basso profondo Dmitri Nabokov, based in Italy at the time of his father’s writing Ada.
147.18-19: Here, for example, is what they might have heard today: Both an assertion of the tape-recording-like accuracy of the dialogue that follows, and an admission of its inventedness.
147.19-20: with amusement, embarrassment, sorrow, wonder: Cf. SM 33: “As far back as I remember myself (with interest, with amusement, seldom with admiration or disgust). . . . ” Possibly also echoes Joyce’s Ulysses: “With what antagonistic sentiments were his subsequent reflections affected? Envy, jealousy, abnegation, equanimity.” (Ulysses, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986, 602; 17:2154-55)
148.01-02: soon after they had entered the kissing phase: See 102.19-103.01: “During our children’s kissing phase (a not particularly healthy fortnight of long messy embraces) . . . . ” The kissing phase began probably about July 22, if the second and more plausible date (“July 28? August 4?”: 114: 07) is accepted for the Night of the Burning Barn, the start of the next phase of their love.
148.02-03: their much too premature . . . romance: Cf. 73.15-16: “Van Veen’s early, too early, love for Ada Veen”; 172.06-07: “those unforgettable, much too early initiations when his lovely young English governess expertly petted him.”
148.02-03: in many ways fatal romance: “In many ways fatal”? What does Van have in mind, other than Lucette’s death? Percy’s flight from his successful rival to the Second Crimean War, and his death there? Rack’s poisoning by his jealous wife? His own near-suicides (on leaving Ardis in 1888, on Demon’s decree in 1893, at Mont Roux in 1922 after Ada seems to have left him for ever)?
148.03-11: Gun Pavilion . . . Oriental-style room . . . that had once lodged pistols and daggers . . . melancholy recess: The exoticism and decline seem to anticipate the late phase of the Villa Venuses, and especially Van’s last dream of a last Villa Venus: “It was not Ardis, it was not the library, it was not even a human room, but merely the squalid recess where the bouncer had slept. . . . ” (358.13-15)
148.03-13: Gun Pavilion alias Shooting Gallery . . . Oriental-style room . . . “we are watched by Lucette, whom I’ll strangle some day”: See 96.04-06.
The scene will have decayed by 1888: “There still was the shooting gallery, with its Orientally draped recess. . . . But it crawled now with bedbugs, reeked of stale beer, and was so grimy and greasy that one could not dream of undressing or using the little divan. All Van saw there of his new Ada were her ivorine thighs and haunches, and the very first time he clasped them she bade him, in the midst of his vigorous joy, to glance across her shoulder over the window ledge, which her hands were still clutching in the ebbing throbs of her own response, and note that Lucette was approaching—skipping rope, along a path in the shrubbery.” (212.09-18)
148.04: Shooting Gallery: “Was it that night on the lap robe? Or that day in the larchwood? Or later in the shooting gallery, or . . . ?” (129.21-22)
148.09: Parluggian Owl: A1 identifies for Italian and French translators as “Civella capogrosso / Chouette de Tengmalm,” Aegolius funereus, English common names Boreal Owl or Tengmalm’s Owl. Gennadi Barabtarlo notes that “According to Liddell and Scott, aegolius is ‘an unknown bird’ mentioned by Pliny, a screeching owl of some description. In a sense, one can say that that funereal mythic bird is a Terra-Latinized Sirin of sorts” (NABOKOV-L, 8 February 1996). Alexander Dolinin finds in the pronunciation of “-luggian” an echo of the adjectival form of “Luga (adjective ‘luzhskii’), the river and the county (uezd) seat of Nabokov’s summer paradise, about 20 miles from Rozhdestveno. The owl in question might then have a strong resemblance (par(a)-) to owls common for the Luga region” (NABOKV-L, 4 February 1996). D. Barton Johnson notes that “Aegolius funereus . . . is indeed found in the area of the Nabokov family summer homes and across Northern Russian and through to the East coast of Canada and occasionally in winter along the Northern border of the Eastern U.S. and Canada. Thus its range includes ‘Russian’ Canady where Ardis Manor is located [BB: incorrect]. A bit like Speak, Memory’s famous Swallowtail [butterfly] that escapes from Vyra and is recaptured in Colorado” (NABOKV-L, 4 February 1996) in SM 120, or the Freija fritillary that Nabokov misses near Vyra but catches in Colorado, SM 138-39.
Nabokov’s invented name for the owl appears to pun on the Italian verb parlucchiare, to express oneself with much uncertainty in a foreign language (perhaps as a pun in turn on “Tengmalm,” which might be construed as to express oneself badly, mal, in a foreign “teng” or tongue?).
148.10-11: the year of the obsolete brand being 1842: Significance unknown. The only other reference in Ada to 1842 is the year of Ivan Durmanov’s birth in the Family Tree.
148.12: Don’t jingle them: Ada/Ardeur 126 makes the referent clear: “Tâche de ne pas les faire cliqueter, ces clefs” (“Try not to jingle those keys”). Van unlocks the literal door of the pavilion at 148.29, as well as the metaphorical “green door against which they were to bang. . . . ”).
148.14: a grotto: Cf. 44.05: “a sham grotto.”
148.15-28: “Officially we are maternal cousins” . . . “specially decreed cousins”: Cf. 8.16-9.05. MOTIF: family relationship.
148.15: Officially we are maternal cousins, and cousins: In Ada 1968 initially “We are so-called ‘second cousins,’ and second cousins,” before revision thus.
148.16: special decree: Cf. 148.28: “specially decreed.”
148.17-18: the father-in-law of my mother was the brother of your grandfather: That is, Ardelion, the father-in-law of Marina, was the brother of Dedalus. Note how punctilious Ada avoids involving Dan—it would be much simpler to say “my grandfather” or “my father’s father”—because Dan’s paternity over Ada is precisely what is at issue. Ada skirts the doubtful relationship to focus on the uncontested ones.
148.20: “Not sufficiently distant . . . or is it?”: In Ada 1968 initially “Awfully distant . . . isn’t it?” before revision thus.
148.21: “Far enough, fair enough”: In Ada/Ardeur 126, Van answers “Suffisament pour être amants” (“Enough to be lovers”).
148.22-23: I saw that verse in small violet letters before you put it in orange ones: Cf. Nabokov’s famous description of his colored hearing, SM 34-35, and his description of his and his mother’s sharing some of the same synesthesic values: “I was using a heap of old alphabet blocks to build a tower. I casually remarked to her that their colors were all wrong. We discovered then that some of her letters had the same tint as mine” (SM 35). See also “The Alphabetic Rainbows of Speak, Memory” in Johnson. Is there any connection with Van and Ada’s future typist and secretary, Violet Knox and her eventual husband, Ronald Oranger?
148.24: shot: Should be corrected to: shot.”
148.25-26: Physically . . . we are more like twins than cousins: MOTIF: Ada-Van similarity; family resemblance.
148.28: Unless . . . they are specially decreed cousins: Or specially decreed siblings, like the royal family in ancient Egypt.
148.28: specially decreed: In Ada 1968 initially “legally second” before revision thus.
148.29: the door—the green door: MOTIF: green.
148.29-30: the green door against which they were to bang so often with boneless fists: Cf. SM 20: “That this darkness is caused merely by the walls of time separating me and my bruised fists from the free world of timelessness is a belief I gladly share with the most gaudily painted savage.”
148.32-155.25: Another time, on a bicycle ride . . . munch smile: For dating of the bicycle ride, see Forenote.
148.32: (with several pauses): Cf. 154.24-25: “They made a last pause before reaching the darkness of Ardis Park.”
148.33-34: the night of the Burning Barn: MOTIF: Burning Barn.
148.34-149.01: the herbarium in the attic: See 7.06-9.12. Cf. 442.04: “the herbarium in the attic.” Cf. SM 122: “Other books I found in that attic, among herbariums. . . . ” MOTIF: -arium.
149.01-02: and found confirmation of something both had forefelt: Further confirmation that the attic find establishes that they are full brother and sister. MOTIF: family relationship.
149.03: Van casually mentioned he was born in Switzerland: At Ex, as recorded obliquely in the herbarium in the attic, 7.06-9.12.
149.04: abroad twice in his boyhood: In 1881, in Nice, Italy and Switzerland, 152.25-34, and in the summer of 1883, in Naples, 9.07-08.
149.04: She had been once: In 1881 she had been taken to “the Riviera, to Switzerland, to the Italian lakes” (151.23-31).
149.05-06: their Kaluga town home: Cf. the Durmanovs’ town house, a generation earlier, in Ladoga, and their favorite domain, Raduga, “between elegant Kaluga, New Cheshire, U.S.A., and no less elegant Ladoga, Mayne,” 4.01-05.
149.06-07: the former Zemski chertog (palazzo): Presumably belonging to Peter Zemski and his wife Mary, whose only surviving descendants by 1884 are Marina and her children. The Zemskis hailed from the same Kaluga-Ladoga area as the Durmanovs, as the families of Nabokov’s parents, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov and his wife Elena Ivanovna, née Rukavishnikov, had homes even more closely together, the Rukavishnikovs at Vyra and Rozhdestveno, the Nabokovs at adjacent Batovo, not far from Luga in the province of St. Petersburg.
149.08: In 1880, Van, aged ten: In Ada 1968, initially “In 1877, Van, aged seven, and again in late 1879,” before revision thus.
149.08-09: in silver trains with showerbaths: Cf. the romance of luxury train travel in SM, ch. 7. MOTIF: riches.
149.09-10: his father’s beautiful secretary: And more: see next note, for instance, and 151.20. MOTIF: Demon-female servant.
149.10-11: the secretary’s eighteen-year-old white-gloved sister (with a bit part as Van’s English governess and milkmaid): Cf. 172.06-09: “those unforgettable, much too early initiations when his lovely young English governess expertly petted him between milkshake and bed, she, petticoated, petititted, half-dressed for some party with her sister and Demon’; 545.32-33: “the pensive half-smile of a young English governess, in 1880, neatly reclosing her charge’s prepuce after the bedtime treat.” There may be a submerged pun on “kid gloves” and “kid sister” (cf. SM 87, Nabokov’s “lovely” English governess Miss Norcott who “lost a white kid glove”).
149.12: his chaste, angelic Russian tutor: With the possible implication that the governess and the secretary by contrast are not chaste and angelic, but unchaste and “demonic.” Aksakov has been mentioned previously as Van’s “beloved Russian tutor, who gently courted Mlle L., wrote ‘decadent’ Russian verse in sprung rhythm, and drank, in Russian solitude” (63.16-18). MOTIF: angel.
149.12-16: Andrey Andreevich Aksakov (“AAA”) . . . AAA: After the novelist Sergey Aksakov and his novel A Family Chronicle, 1856: see Title page n. MOTIF: A; family chronicle; novel.
149.13: gay resorts in Louisiana and Nevada: Presumably New Orleans and Reno (rather than Las Vegas), respectively: Baron “Demon” Veen is “that memorable Manhattan and Reno figure” (588.12). But Nevada is also the name of a gambling town on Antiterra: see 333.04-05.
149.15: Pushkin and Dumas had African blood: Pushkin was proud of deriving from his great-grandfather Abram Gannibal, whose Northern African origins Nabokov examines in his appendix, “Abram Gannibal,” in EO. The father of the French novelist Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, who took the name Dumas, was born in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, the natural son of Antoine-Alexandre Davy, marquis de la Pailleterie, by a negress, Marie Cessette Dumas, who died in 1772.
149.21: whistling one of his three tunes: Cf. 128.15-16: “Van, humming his school song—the only tune he could ever carry.” MOTIF: family resemblance.
149.22: “cambler” (camel driver . . . ): The Dutchman’s pronunciation of “gambler.” A camel driver is a cameleer or camelier.
149.22-23: shamoes having been imported recently: Play on French chameaux, “camels”; perhaps on “sham,” from the bluff and deception in card-playing; and on “chamois”, also spelt “shamoy,” “A soft, pliant leather, prepared from the skin of the chamois” (W2). Demon later wipes “his monocle with a special zamshinka (‘shammy’)” (238.06-07).
149.24-28: his father’s pretty house . . . (two giant guards were soon to rise on both sides of it, ready to frog-march it away): Cf. “your meek little palazzo standing between its two giant guards” (445.28-29).
149.25: Florentine style: In secular architecture, a style developed in medieval and Renaissance Florence and refined to its most influential form by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). Florentine palazzi tended to be symmetrical, three-storied, with façades using classical elements stylistically differentiated on each floor: generally rough stone blocks on the ground floor, sharply channeled but smooth-faced stone on the piano nobile, the grandest floor, and completely smooth facings on the top floor, the whole façade being topped by a classical cornice. The upper two storeys tended to have “regularly disposed, bifoliate windows with a central colonnette.” (Dictionary of Art, Grove, 1996, 16: 629). In the interior a central, rectangular, arcaded courtyard was the rule.
149.25: 5 Park Lane: A play on the two most prestigious north-south avenues in Manhattan, Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue, and on Park Lane in London, from the 1830s “one of the most fashionable streets in London, all of its residents being rich and many of them titled” (Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, eds, The London Encyclopaedia, London: Macmillan, 1983, 583).
In Ada 1968, originally “ Park Avenue,” before revision thus.
149.28: Summers in Radugalet: Pun on Russian leto, “summer,” gen. pl. let. Radugalet appears to be ten versts from Raduga station, and not quite to be confused with the Durmanov estate “Raduga near the burg of that name,” 4.01-02. MOTIF: -let; rainbow.
149.29-30: the “other Ardis,” . . . this, Ada’s, Ardis: MOTIF: Ada; Ardis.
149.29: so much colder and duller: Dan’s other estate, owned conjointly with Demon, and presumably to be equated with this Radugalet, is “up north on Lake Kitezh, near Luga” (5.08-09).
149.32-151.22: Of course . . . did not interest Ada: Note the stylized interweaving of varied speech-tags: “ Ada recalled . . . she imagined . . . Van suggested . . . she guessed . . . said Van . . . he imagined . . . Van interrupted . . . said Van . . . inserted Van . . . added Ada.”
149.32-33: the first time . . . she had glimpsed him: Cf. 151.15: “the charming glimpse was granted her of tiny Van.”
149.33-34: his little white sailor suit and blue sailor cap: See 78.24-25n.
149.34-150.01: Un régulier angelochek, commented Van in the Raduga jargon: “A regular little angel” in Franco-Russo-American slang. MOTIF: angel; patois.
150.01-02: Uncle Dan had unexpectedly expressed the desire to revisit the old estate: Cf. 5.07-09: “He had revisited only a few times since his boyhood another estate he had, up north on Lake Kitezh, near Luga.”
150.08-10: past the coaches of the stopped local, banging shut door after door, all six doors of every carriage, each of which consisted of six one-window carrosses of pumpkin origin, fused together: See VN drawing in A1. Cf. EO 2.109: “The passenger part of the chariot was, in lateral view, a more or less symmetrical affair (easily derived from the fairy tale pumpkin). . . . the outline of the passenger part of the chariot was multiplied in the lateral view of the first railway carriage.” Cf. also: “That puritanical leather (on which they sat) was the very last remnant of a phylogenetic link between the modern highly differentiated Pullman idea and a bench in the primitive stagecoach,” BS 113. In NG Nabokov quotes from Gogol’s description in Dead Souls of Korobochka’s carriage (the bracketed asides are VN’s): “It looked neither like a tarantas [simplest kind of traveling carriage], nor like a calash, nor like a britzka, being in sooth more like a fat-cheeked very round watermelon set upon wheels [now comes a certain subtle correspondence to the description of round Chichikov’s box]. The cheeks of this melon, that is, the carriage doors, that bore remnants of their former yellow varnish . . . ” (NG 93). Nabokov adds in his own voice: “Madame Korobochka is as much like Cinderella as Paul Chichikov is like Pickwick. The melon she emerges from can hardly be said to be related to the fairy pumpkin.” (NG 95). MOTIF: Cinderella.
150.11-12: tower in the mist (as she called any good recollection): For Ada’s philosophy of happiness, her “things,” “towers” and “bridges,” see 74.20-75.03. MOTIF: tower.
150.12-13: walked on the running board . . . with the train also running: Van plays with these related verbs; the second “running” presumably means the train is still chugging, but not moving?
150.16: mauve tower: The Kyoto Reading Circle notes:“ See ‘mauve shades of Monsieur Proust.’ [56.07]. . . VN calls the mauve color, which runs throughout Remembrance of Things Past, ‘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” (LL 241). (“Annotations to Ada (7),” May 2005, http://vnjapan.s141.xrea.com/main/ada/index.html) MOTIF: tower.
150.16: motor landaulet to Radugalet: [Image of landaulet]W2: “2: An automobile body with an enclosed rear section containing one cross seat, the roof being collapsible and the driver’s seat open.” Cf. SM 182: “I would ascertain which of our two cars, the Benz or the Wolseley, was there to take me to school. The first, a gray landaulet. . . . ” MOTIF: -let; rainbow.
150.17: Ten versts: A verst is two-thirds of a mile.
150.19-20: with Aksakov, his tutor, and Bagrov’s grandson: Darkbloom: “allusion to Childhood Years of Bagrov’s Grandson by the minor writer Sergey Aksakov ( a.d. 1791-1859).” Cf. EO 3.139: “Sergey Aksakov (1791-1859), a very minor writer, tremendously puffed up by Slavophile groups.” Proffer 259 notes that in his Family Chronicle “Aksakov portrays his own family under the name of Bagrov. Aksakov himself was old Bagrov’s grandson.” MOTIF: novel.
150.21-22: quietly massacred moles and anything else with fur on: Cf. perhaps 73.06-07: “crusty Proust who liked to decapitate rats.”
150.25: drinking goldwine (sweet whisky): Apparently invented.
150.25-151.20: an orphan he had adopted . . . a lovely Irish wild rose . . . a rose garden all the time: MOTIF: Demon-female servant.
150.25-26: an orphan he had adopted, he said: Cf. 551.27-28: Van “has been climbing with two Austrian guides and a temporarily adopted daughter. . . . ”
150.26: lovely Irish wild rose: “My Wild Irish Rose” (1899), words and music by Chauncey Olcott, was one of the earliest successful ballads to come from Tin Pan Alley. A musical biopic of Olcott’s life, also entitled My Wild Irish Rose and starring Dennis Morgan, was released in 1947. MOTIF: flowers; Irish; rose.
150.27-29: maid who had briefly worked at Ardis Hall, and had been ravished by an unknown gentleman—who was now well known: I.e., Demon, who encounters Marina’s runaway maid in a brothel in Texas in 1869 (16.23-25), appreciatively appraises the Ardis maid Blanche in 1888 (244.03-10), and in 1892 will elope with Mlle Larivière’s successor as the French governess at Ardis (374.26-27). MOTIF:
150.30-31: Dan wore a monocle in gay-dog copy of his cousin, and this he screwed in: Cf. 12.28: “Demon screwed in his monocle.” MOTIF: Demon’s monocle.
150.30-31: and this he screwed in to view Rose: Pun, anticipating what Dan would like to do to Rose. Cf. Ada/Ardeur 128: “qu’il ajusta (screwed in) présentement afin de contempler Rose” (“which he now adjusted (screwed in) to view Rose”). Ada’s pun on “screw,” even more than her “whom perhaps he had also been promised,” occasions Van’s response at 150.32-33.
150.31-32: Rose, whom perhaps he had also been promised: Cf. “rang for Rose, the sportive Negro maid whom he shared in more ways than one with the famous, recently decorated cryptogrammatist, Mr. Dean” (390.15-17).
151.01: Grandpa Bagrov hobbled in from a nap: Proffer 259: “In Aksakov’s Family Chronicle, Part One, Grandfather Bagrov wakes up from his nap.” MOTIF: novel.
151.02: grande cocotte: Courtesan.
151.03: poor Dan: Cf. 5.14, “Poor Dan’s erotic life was neither complicated nor beautiful,” immediately following a first glimpse of this present visit to Radugalet at 5.07-13.
151.05-08: Ada . . . “play in the garden” . . . numbering in raw-flesh red the white trunks of a row of young birches . . . preamble to a game she now could not remember: As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, Alice at the beginning of Ch. 8 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland comes upon three gardeners (the Two, Five and Seven of spades) painting the white roses of a large rose-tree red, because, as they explain, the Queen had wanted “a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake” (Annotated Alice, ed. Martin Gardner, New York: Bramhall House, 1960, 106). (“Annotations to Ada (7),” May 2005, http://vnjapan.s141.xrea.com/main/ada/index.html) MOTIF: games.
151.08: what a pity, said Van: Ironic, in keeping with his irritation at 52.24-26.
151.10: leaving Dan—to his devices and vices: Cf. 374.12-13: “we were left to our own devices, which had long lost the particule in your case and Ada’s.”
151.11: added Ada: MOTIF: Ada.
151.13: k chertyam sobach’im, to hell’s hounds: Cf. 23.09-12: “hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets that were to replace those that had gone k chertyam sobach’im (Russian ‘to the devil’) with the banning of an unmentionable ‘lammer’”; 438.23-25: “Especially so now—when everything had gone to the hell curs, k chertyam sobach’im . . . as Dan explained.” MOTIF: chort; hell.
151.15: the charming glimpse was granted her: Cf. 149.32-33: “the first time, Ada recalled, she had glimpsed him.”
151.15-16: another sweet boy: Bagrov’s grandson, 150.19-20.
151.20: father’s life, anyway, was a rose garden all the time: This metaphor at “the other Ardis,” describing Demon’s plucking, so to speak, young women at will, helps explain Aqua’s suicide, and links with Van’s comment on her suicide “in the rose garden of Ardis Manor at the end of August, 1884,” 29.30-31.
151.21-22: he had been caressed by ungloved lovely hands more than once himself: See 149.10-11; 172.05-09; 545.32-34. Cf. Nabokov’s innocent relations with his lovely and gloved governesses: “lovely, black-haired, aquamarine-eyed Miss Norcott, who lost a white kid glove at Nice or Beaulieu. . . . ” (SM 87) Note the play on “love” in “ungloved lovely.”
151.25-26: theatrical big shot, Gran D. du Mont (the “D” also stood for Duke . . . ): A pun on “grandee”(see 153.04), “grand duke” and “de” as particule (French nobiliary particle). The man certainly presents himself as being “upper-upper-class” (147.03), with the “du Mont” adding a kind of “king of the castle” overtone. Cf. 223.27-224.04: “an old friend of the family (as Marina’s former lovers were known), Baron Klim Avidov. . . . the same kindly but touchy Avidov . . . who once catapulted with an uppercut an unfortunate English tourist into the porter’s lodge for his jokingly remarking how clever it was to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule.”
151.27: des hobereaux irlandais, quoi: Darkboom: “country squires.” (“Irish country squires, eh?”) Andrey Vinelander will be described as having the “neat appearance of the one-bath-per-week Estotian hobereau” (513.16-17).
151.31-152.01: semi-divorced Dan went to some place in equatorial Africa to photograph tigers . . . and other notorious wild animals, trained to cross the motorist’s path: This is only ten years after Stanley’s finding Livingstone at Ujiji, on our Earth, and less than ten years after Livingstone stopped exploring equatorial Africa. Cf. Dan’s “triple trip round the globe” (5.24) in 1871 and the photographs he takes there (6.23-7.05) after his initial rejection by Marina. MOTIF: explorer.
151.32-33: to photograph tigers (which he was surprised not to see): Tigers of course occur in the wild only in Asia, especially from India to Vietnam, the Malay archipelago, and Sumatra, and in China and eastern Siberia.
152.01: agent’s: Ada/Ardeur 129: “d’un agent de voyages” (“of a travel agent”).
152.01: in the wilds of Mozambique: In the village of Mocuba (152.28).
152.05-07: a handsome suntanned man with a black mustache who kept staring at her from his corner in the restaurant of Geneva’s Manhattan Palace: Who? Lolita’s Quilty, escaped from the Enchanted Hunters Hotel? Demon,who has a tanned face and a mustache at 238.09-10, and is repeatedly associated with hotels? No: a kind of glimpse of the future Van, who in October 1905 will sport a mustache (510.03) when, over breakfast in the restaurant of the “Manhattan Palace in Geneva” (508.04), he receives a cable from Ada.
152.06-07: Geneva’s Manhattan Palace: In Ada 1968, originally “Vevey’s Corona Palace,” before revision thus. MOTIF: Palace Hotel.
152.07-08: Lucette . . . remembered heaps of bagatelles, little “turrets” and little “barrels,”: Cf. 370.26-29: “ ‘One remembers those little things much too clearly, Lucette. Please, stop.’ ‘One remembers, Van, those little things much more clearly than the big fatal ones.’ ”
Small-scale echoes of Ada’s “towers” (three or more “things” occurring at the same time, 74.27-28) and her “bridges.” But also, as the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, with a kind of pre-emblematizing of “the little organ” (374.15) in the secrétaire that for Lucette pre-emblematizes the clitoris: the Kyoto Reading Circle note the “little ‘turrets’ and little ‘barrels’” as “Freudian male and female symbols.” (“Annotations to Ada (7),” May 2005, http://vnjapan.s141.xrea.com/main/ada/index.html)
152.09: biryul’ki proshlago: Darkbloom: “Russ., the Past’s baubles.”
152.09: cette Lucette: “This Lucette.”
152.09-10: like the girl in Ah, cette Line (a popular novel): A tease. Presumably a pun on acetylene (“Colorless and explosive, like some popular novels,” suggests Mary Krimmel on NABOKV-L, April 20, 2005) and on the feminine name Aline, but the “popular novel” has not been identified.
Carolyn Kunin notes (NABOKV-L, April 20, 2005) that in 1895, “Henri Moissan discovered that calcium carbide and water produced acetylene gas, and burning acetylene produced light. For the next ten years, acetylene producers flourished until the lower cost of electric and coal gas lighting collapsed the acetylene market.” Now Lucette means “little light.” If acetylene is a precursor or surrogate for electricity in light generation (as Nabokov knew: see the “carbide lamps” at 154.23 and n.), such as would be permissible in Antiterra, and if the word acetylene is disguised in Ah, cette Line, as the word electricity is disguised in various ways in Ada (as in “the L disaster” or “Lettrocalamity”), then Ah, cette Line almost becomes an image of Ada itself (woman’s name, begins with “Ah” sound, and set on a world where electricity can’t even be mentioned), but with Lucette as perhaps its heroine.
Lucette later compares herself to the heroine of the novel The Gitanilla, an Antiterran equivalent of Lolita: “I’m like Dolores—when she says she’s ‘only a picture painted on air.’ ” (464.30-31)
152.11-16: she had confessed . . . through the larches: See 143.17-22.
152.13-14: the damsel in distress: See 143.26-28: “to refrain from turning Lucette’s head by making of her a fairy-tale damsel in distress.”
152.16-17: that explains the angle of the soap: See 144.14-15.
152.18-20: Ada only hoped . . . Van hoped: Note the comic deflating echo.
152.18-19: only hoped the poor little thing would be as happy at Ada’s age as Ada was now: Ada is 12. Lucette, now 8, will be 12 during Van’s second visit to Ardis, Ardis the Second, where the gap between her and Ada’s relationship to Van will become even more apparent and where her involvement in their physical frolics will begin to damage her serenity.
152.20-22: Van hoped the bicycles . . . did not show . . . forest road: Cf. 179.28-30: “along a narrow ‘forest ride.’ The first thing he saw was the star gleam of her dismissed bike.”
152.23-153.13: After that, they tried to settle whether their ways had merged. . . . any concrete thrill: A number of Nabokov’s characters try, after falling in love, to probe their past to see whether fate has tried to bring them together previously: Fyodor and Zina in The Gift (see VNRY 462-63), Sebastian Knight’s characters in his novel Success, a parodic version in Look at the Harlequins!, and Nabokov and Véra in real life. In Lolita, Humbert and Annabel also “ compared notes. We found strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!” (Lolita I.4: 14)
152.26-27: his grandmother’s villa near Nice: Villa Armina, the home of Van’s paternal grandmother, Countess Irina Veen, née Garina (see 163.02-05).
152.28: Cuba . . . Mocuba: Cf. 329.16: “ Cuba or Hecuba.” MOTIF: place-names: additional syllables.
152.28: Mocuba: A village in Zambézia province, central Mozambique, where Dan is visiting his agent (152.01).
152.29: Capri: A small rocky island opposite the peninsula of Sorrento, south of Naples, famous for its picturesque scenery, sunny climate, luxurious vegetation, history and touristic appeal. The name is stressed on the first syllable.
152.31: Gardone on Lake Garda: A tourist town on the west shore of the picturesque Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, on the Lombardy-Veneto border.
152.32-33: Aksakov reverently pointed out Goethe’s and d’Annunzio’s marble footprints: Goethe stayed on the Lake of Garda, at Torbole, in 1786. Poet, novelist and playwright Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863-1938) died at the Vittoriale degli Italiani in Gardone di Sopra, where his villa is now part of the garden and memorial complex.
Cf. 171.13-16: “He struggled to keep back his tears, while AAA blew his fat red nose, when shown the peasant-bare footprint of Tolstoy preserved in the clay of a motor court in Utah.” MOTIF: footprints.
152.34-153.01: above Leman Lake (where Karamzin and Count Tolstoy had roamed): French name for Lake Geneva.“Nikolay Karamzin (1766-1826) . . . a reformer of language and . . . the historian of Russia. Karamzin’s Letters of a Russian Traveler (1792), an account of a trip he took through western Europe, had a tremendous impact on the . . . generation” preceding Pushkin (EO 3.143). When settled in Montreux, on the banks of Lake Geneva, in the 1960s and 1970s, Nabokov often noted other Russians who had traveled in the area: “Zhukovski, Tolstoy, Gogol, Tyutchev . . . ” (interview with Dieter E. Zimmer, from TS, VNA).
153.03: Both girls had scarlet fever in Cannes: As idle images flood through Van’s mind, in 1901, he thinks of “Lucette, and, by further mechanical association, a depraved little girl called Lisette, in Cannes” (471.08-09).
153.04: her Grandee: See 151.25-26n.
153.06-08: Riviera road . . . rented victories that both remembered were green, with green-harnessed horses: Cf. Lucette “jumping out of a green calèche and up into the Ausonian Express that had brought me to Nice” (461.31-33).
153.15: the quay of a Swiss town: In Ada 1968, originally “the quay of Montreux or Vevey,” before revision to “the lakeside of a Swiss town.” Note that the Swiss setting and the discussion of various means of transport prefigures Part 4 of Ada, Van’s Texture of Time, mentally composed during a car trip through Switzerland.
153.17-22: that maze of the past . . . viaduct. . . tackling . . . problems of space and time: Cf. 340.34-341.02: “our annals lagged by about half a century behind Terra’s along the bridges of time, but overtook some of its underwater currents.”
153.23: space as time: Cf. 357.09-10: “the naked sea, not seen but heard as a panting space separated from time.”
153.23: time as space: A notion that Van will particularly challenge in Part 4, “The Texture of Time”: see especially 538-39.
153.24: tragic triumph: Nabokov often paired these words, as for instance in variants of the title of his lecture on “The Trials and Tribulations of Russian Literature.”
153.24-25: triumph of human cogitation: I am because I die: Echo of the famous dictum, often known as the cogito, of René Descartes (1596-1650): “Cogito, ergo sum”: “I think, therefore I am.” Trying to provide a bedrock of certitude, Descartes in his Discours de la Méthode (1637) observed that the proposition “je pense, donc je suis” could not be shaken by “the most extravagant suppositions of the skeptics.” The better-known Latin form occurs in the Principia philosophiae (1644).
153.32-33: we are lost ‘in another part of the forest’: Van echoes a common place-setting in pastoral, as for instance in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (1599), where the stage-direction “Another Part of the Forest” occurs as a stage direction for eleven scenes. Perhaps also suggests The Babes in the Wood, which will be associated with time and death at the end of Van’s and Ada’s lives, 588.01-02.
The Kyoto Reading Circle comments: “ Van already regards this forest philosophically as being both a temporal and spatial one.” (“Annotations to Ada (7),” May 2005, http://vnjapan.s141.xrea.com/main/ada/index.html)
154.01-02: I want to make sure of our whereabouts and whenabouts. . . . It is a philosophical need: Cf. Aqua at 29.16-22: “Similarly chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek. . . . I . . . do not know where I stand. Hence I must fall” and Van at 73.26-32: “His nights . . . were now haunted . . . by that meaningless space overhead, underhead, everywhere.” MOTIF: family resemblance.
154.10-12: Gamlet . . . Russian traktir . . . tavern: “Gamlet, a half-Russian village,” 35.10-11. Traktir: Darkbloom: “Russ., pub.” Cf. 424.15: “a traktir (roadside tavern).”
154.14: straight from a pretzel-string of old novels: In Russia, street vendors hang their bubliki twenty or thirty at a time on a string. They are naturally made to the same formula, as the novels are implied to be. But which novels? MOTIF: novel.
154.18: “wiping her hands on her apron”: The quotation marks indicate that the ironic echoes of novelistic clichés continue. MOTIF: novel.
154.20: little chatelaine’s "young man": MOTIF: chatelaine; [adjective] [young/old] man.
154.22-23: from under the jasmins: Cf. the “smithy smothered in jasmines” (35.03) in Torfyanka, which seems to be another name for Gamlet.
154.23: carbide lamps: Cf. Mary 67: “Straight out of the bright country house, he would plunge into the black, bubbling darkness and ignite the soft flame of his bicycle lamp; and now, when he inhaled that smell of carbide, it brought back everything at once: . . . . the disk of milky light that imbibed and dissolved the obscurity”; and SM 233: “On dark rainy evenings I would load the lamp of my bicycle with magical lumps of calcium carbide, shield a match from the gusty wind and, having imprisoned a white flame in the glass, ride cautiously into the darkness” (Nabokov heading for a tryst with “Tamara,” Valentina Shulgina).
154.24: They made a last pause: Cf. 148.32: “(with several pauses).”
154.26-28: By a kind of lyrical coincidence . . . evening tea in the seldom-used Russian-style glassed-in veranda: A coincidence because Van and Ada have just come from a Russian traktir where someone is slurping tea and where they have eaten “Russian-type ‘hamburgers’” (154.10-21). Presumably Marina and Mlle Larivière are taking evening tea here because the nights are already becoming cooler?
154.27: having evening tea: For a detailed description of the ritual of “evening tea” at Ardis, see 47.01-15.
154.28: novelist, who was now quite restored: She had taken to her bed for five days after spraining her back at the Vintage Fair, and in order to write: 142.01-06.
154.29-155.02: just finished reading her new story . . . much affected by the suicide of the gentleman “au cou rouge et puissant de veuf encore plein de sève” . . . the little girl he had raped in a moment of «gloutonnerie impardonnable»: A version of Maupassant’s story “La Petite Roque” (see 142.03-05n.). Mlle Larivière has evidently been writing her “Rockette” (if that is its name) in bed and at speed.
The phrase “au cou rouge et puissant de veuf encore plein de sève” is translated by Darkbloom: “with the ruddy and stout neck of a widower still full of sap.” As Rivers and Walker 281 note, “de veuf encore plein de sève” is Nabokov’s addition to Maupassant.
Nabokov-Darkbloom translates the first word of gloutonnerie impardonnable as “gourmandise” (the second means “unforgivable”). Rivers and Walker 281 note that “the phrase does not appear in the [Maupassant] story. Darkbloom’s translation of gloutonnerie (‘gluttony’) as ‘gourmandise’ is a whimsical understatement in light of the gruesome events of Maupassant’s tale.”
Nevertheless, Maupassant has something similar: “Il l’avait commis d’abord dans l’affolement d’une ivresse irresistible” (“He had committed it at first in the madness of an irresistible drunkenness”), p. 54. Nabokov has changed the phrasing so that it links with Ada’s gluttony or “gourmandise,” as her literal gourmandise echoes her insatiable appetite for sexual sweets.
154.30: on the morrow: MOTIF: on the morrow.
154.31: Tokay-sipping: Tokay is “a moderately strong wine of a topaz color, produced in the vicinity of Tokay, in Hungary” (W2).
154.31: had le vin triste: Darkbloom: “(avoir le) vin triste: to be melancholy in one’s cups.”
155.05: Tant pis: Darkbloom: “too bad.”
155.06-07: “Hammock?” she inquired; but tottering Van shook his head: Van has no strength left for a further rendezvous with Ada in his hammock. After their first night together at Ardis the Second, Ada will again have more physical energy and appetite than Van: see 196.14.
155.11: angelica: W3: “an plant of the genus Angelica; esp: a biennial cultivated herb (A. archangelica) having rootstalks that are candied and roots and seeds that yield a flavouring oil.”
155.11: cedrat: W2: “The preserved rind of the citron, used in fruitcake, puddings, and the like.”
155.15-16: Je rêve . . . immonde: Darkbloom: “I must be dreaming. It cannot be that anyone should spread butter on top of all that indigestible and vile British dough.” It adds to Anglophobe Mlle Larivière’s disgust that Ada is buttering “keks (English fruit cake).”
155.17: Et ce n’est que la première tranche: Darkbloom: “and it is only the first slice.”’
155.18: lait caillé: Darkboom: “curds and whey.” Cf. 47.06-07: “prostokvasha (translated by English governesses as curds-and-whey, and by Mlle Larivière as lait caillé, ‘curdled milk’).”
155.19: Belle: Cf. 91.02: “ ‘Belle’ (Lucette’s name for her governess).”
155.23-24: how many miles you rode to have our athlete drained so thoroughly: Bodenstein 313 notes the double entendres on “rode” and “drained.”
155.25: Only seven: We seem invited to infer that they have also made love “only” (by Ada’s insatiable standards) seven times: that is why she smiles as she munches. As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, Van and Ada devour half a dozen bitochki each, before their last “pause” and last love-making; as they comment, appetites for food and sex “are treated as synonymous in this chapter” (“Annotations to Ada (7),” May 2005, http://vnjapan.s141.xrea.com/main/ada/index.html). The inference is confirmed in Ada/Ardeur 132, where Marina asks how many kilomètres and Ada answers “Sept, seulement” (“Only seven”): it is the number, not the distance, that occasions her smile.
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 24