Part One, Chapter 36


Forenote

On Van’s return to Ardis in 1888 he has been frustrated at having to see Ada in the company of others, at the unexpected party winding down as he arrives, or around the swimming pool, or when he and Ada try to avoid Lucette’s prying eyes. After Pt 1. Ch 35, where the passionate siblings attain the seclusion of an island on the Ladore, and Van can inspect Ada in the present overlaid with his recollections of her in the past, Pt. 1 Ch. 36 now offers a pause in their lovemaking, a break from their focus only on each other, in the last sustained glimpse of Van and Ada with Lucette at Ardis.     

Where other Ardis the Second chapters have focused on the present and the past, this, although it also glances back at Flavita games in their previous summer together, records games in the present, said to help Van in “catching sight of the lining of time” in “portents and prophecies” (227), and therefore, since his hope is “not quite unfulfilled,” apparently foreshadowing the future. That poses a riddle for the first-time reader or even a first-time rereader: what can one see, what can Van in retrospect see, in the words in their Scrabble games that signals future events?

The juxtaposition of Van, Ada and Lucette once again highlights the vast difference between brilliant Ada and merely bright Lucette. Comfortably quadrilingual Lucette may be, but she is four years younger than her sister and hopelessly outclassed by her sister’s “acumen, foresight” and “phenomenal luck” (224-25) at Scrabble. Even Van—although he at least outclasses Ada to the same degree on the chessboard—finds himself far behind his love on the Scrabble board. In comparison with their exceptional gifts and precocity, Lucette seems ordinary and a child, limitations both elder siblings are ready to reinforce, Ada at the moment and Van in narrative retrospect. As the end of the chapter stresses, Lucette is especially outclassed by Ada in her ability to arouse the interest of the Van she loves. She is losing her innocence to some extent (“the simplest answer . . . is that you two can’t tell me why exactly you want to get rid of me”) yet remains utterly innocent and helpless in the face of Ada’s arrogance and Van’s readiness to exploit her devotion (“bursting into a hideous storm of sobs, Lucette rushed out of the room,” 229).

Like a number of other chapters already (I.21, the library; I.28, Van as chess-sharp at Chose; I.30, Van as Mascodagama), this chapter begins digressively, although it ends by focusing intently on the drama of the three central characters. Like a number of other chapters, too, it focuses on games: the individual games Ada had invented in I.8 and Van had resisted, the word games like “insect”-“scient”-“nicest”-“incest” and others at Ada’s twelfth birthday picnic, the games devised to distract or decoy Lucette, Van’s cardsharping and his acrobatic displays as Mascodagama.

Annotations

222.01-229.07: Pedantic Ada . . . play Scrabble without her,” said Ada: MOTIF: games.

222.01-11: looking up of words in a lexicon . . . a dictionary, gruff or complacent: MOTIF: dictionary.

222.03-04: the ornamental assortment of flowers: MOTIF: flowers.

222.05: maidenly headcocking way: Cf. 91.10: “Ada wished to be told, cocking her head.”

222.05-07: making collage-pictures of disparate butterfly wings ( . . . always vulgar and often criminal): Cf. LATH  67: “I remember more clearly a glazed case hanging on the gold-figured wall next to our table: it displayed four Morpho butterflies, two huge ones similar in harsh sheen but differently shaped, and two smaller ones beneath them, the left of a sweeter blue with white stripes and the right gleaming like silvery satin. According to the headwaiter, they had been caught by a convict in South America.” MOTIF: butterflies.

222.07-08: verbal circuses, “performing words,” “poodle-doodles”: Kyoto Reading Circle: “PF 214: “Sure, sure,” said Shade. “One can harness words like performing fleas and make them drive other fleas.” ”

222.10: logogriph: W2: “a A sort of riddle in which it is required to discover a chosen word from various combinations of its letters, or some of its letters, which form other words, or from verses containing synonyms of words that can be made from the one to be guessed;—thus, to discover the chosen cord chatter from cat, hat, rate, etc. b An anagram, or any rearrangement of letters.” While Véra Nabokov was in a sanitorium in the summer of 1926, VN included many kinds of logogriphs and other verbal puzzles to help lift his wife out of her low mood: see Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd, eds. and trans., Letters to Véra (London: Penguin, 2014 and New York: Knopf, 2014).

222.12-223.30: Flavita . . . golden-yellow (i.e., flavid, in concession to the game’s original name . . . weighty rectangles of ebony: MOTIF: black-yellow.  

222.12-223.03: Flavita . . . from alfavit, an old Russian game of chance and skill, based on the scrambling and unscrambling of alphabetic letters . . . Its chief Russian variety:  In fact “Flavita”merely scrambles or scrabbles the letters of alfavit, which Darkbloom correctly glosses as “Russ., alphabet” (stressed on the final syllable). But as the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, alfavit also echoes “the beginning of the first name” of the inventor of what we now know as Scrabble. Alfred Mosher Butts (1899-1993) invented the game in the 1930s, first calling it Lexiko, then Criss Cross Words (crosswords had become hugely successful in the 1920s) and sold the game to entrepreneur James Brunot, who modified it and renamed it Scrabble. In 1948 Brunot trademarked the game and began to manufacture it; it took off in the early 1950s, Brunot selling it to game-maker Selchow and Righter when he could no longer keep up with demand. In a 1968 interview VN reports: “An American friend gave us a Scrabble set in Cyrillic alphabet, manufactured in Newtown, Conn.; so we play Russian skrebl  for an hour or two after dinner” (SO 110). The friend was Viviana de Crespi, who had given the Nabokovs the Scrabble set early in 1967 (VNAY 528). Nabokov drew up his own Flavita board for the purpose of this chapter, with Ada’s record-breaking word (227.27) in place. At Dmitri Nabokov’s request, I took the family Scrabble set to give to the Nabokov Museum in 1999. MOTIF: letters.

222.12: Flavita: MOTIF: Flavita.

222.14: scrambling and unscrambling: W2: scramble: “Nasalized form of scrabble.”

222.14-223.33: alphabetic letters . . . lettered blocks . . . letter . . . . letter . . . . letters . . . the letter J: MOTIF: letters.

222.14-223.26: It was fashionable throughout Estoty and Canady . . . word by word: Cf. VN’s elaborate description of the card game bank or Stoss or faro as played in Pushkin’s “Pikovaya dama” (“The Queen of Spades,” 1834), in his EO, 2.258-61.

222.16-17: “Madhatters” (as the inhabitants of New Amsterdam were once called): A play on the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Chapter 7, “A Mad Tea-Party”) and Through the Looking Glass; and on Manhattan.

The reference to Carroll’s famous books (already invoked as Palace in Wonderland at 53.25-30) is appropriate, given the attention there to games (cards, chess, croquet, and more) and word puzzles, including the Mad Hatter’s famously unanswered riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

The name of the island Manhattan (on Antiterra “Manhattan” is the only name of what we know as New York City, which on Earth consists of the island and borough of Manhattan and the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn on Long Island, Staten Island, and the Bronx, on the mainland) derives from the word Manna-hatta, noted down in 1609 on the logbook of an officer of Henry Hudson’s ship Halve Maen, and thought to mean “island of many hills” in the language of the indigenous Lenape inhabitants. Manhattoes was the Dutch name of the settlement based from 1609 at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. The settlement would be incorporated as New Amsterdam in 1653, to become the English town of New York first in 1665 and after a brief reversion to Dutch possession, became New York permanently in 1674.  

Cf. also 403.34-404.05: “Knickerbockered, panama-hatted . . . . March Hare,” which plays on Manhattan; on Knickerbocker, an early surname in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, used by Washington Irving (1783-1859) as a pen-name (“Dietrich Knockerbocker”) for his 1809 A History of New York, and then for a long time as a knickname for New Yorkers; and the March Hare, the Hatter’s mad companion in “A Mad Tea-Party.”

Cf. also 243.30: “Mad Avenue” (after New York’s famous Madison Avenue).

MOTIF: Manhattan.

222.16-17: New Amsterdam: apart from Nieuw-Amsterdam as the original name of New York, there is also a town Nieuw Amsterdam in Drenthe, the province in the Northeast of the Netherlands used as the setting for Nicholas Freeling’s Double-Barrel, which seems to have been a source for Ada and to have provoked Nabokov to consult a map of the area for all its “-veen” (fen, peat, bog, marsh) towns (see 4.16n. and BB, Stalking Nabokov, Ch. 25). The Nieuw Amsterdam in Drenthe is adjacent on a detailed atlas map to the towns of Erica and Klazienaveen, contributors to the name of Eric Veen in Pt. 1 Ch. 3.

MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.

223.01-02: under the name of ‘Scrabble,” invented by some genius: VN did not invent crosswords, but he did invent a Russian name for a crossword puzzle, krestoslovitsa, that had a brief vogue between 1924 and 1926 before losing out to the transliteration krosvord.

Cf. 25.14-19, describing Aqua’s madness: “a careless jolt or a nurse’s elbow can disturb so easily those lightweight fragments which become incomprehensible blancs of anonymous objects, or the blank backs of ‘Scrabble’ counters, which she could not turn over sunny side up, because her hands bad been tied by a male nurse with Demon’s black eyes.”

223.05: rows and files: Cf. 72.23-24: “The windows in the black castle went out in rows, files, and knight moves; 468.18: “His ability to break space into ranks and files.”

223.06-07: squares. Of these, 24 were brown, 12 black, 16 orange, 8 red, and the rest golden-yellow: VN was synesthetic, automatically associating each letter, as pronounced in the different languages he learned as a child, Russian, English, and French, with a different color; see his description in SM 34-35.

223.07-31: golden-yellow (i.e., flavid . . . rectangles of ebony inlaid with platinum letters: W2, flavid: “Golden yellow.” MOTIF: Flavita; riches.

223.09-10: the rare Russian F as much as 10, the common A as little as 1: These are the correct values of these Cyrillic characters in Russian Scrabble, with one F and 9 As in the 126-tile version standard until 1990.

223.13-16: her sister’s triumphs in doubling, tripling, and even nonupling . . . the numerical value of words evolved monstrous forms in her delirium during a severe streptococcal ague: “As a little boy, I showed an abnormal aptitude for mathematics. . . . . This gift played a horrible part in tussles with quinsy or scarlet fever, when I felt enormous spheres and huge numbers swell relentlessly in my aching brain. . . . Such were the monsters that thrived on my delirium” (SM 36-37).  Lucette seems illness-prone: she had pneumonia in the spring of 1884, 36.28.

223.16: a severe streptococcal ague: W2, streptococcus: “A genus of non-motive, chiefly parasitic, Gram-positive bacteria. . . . Several species are virulently pathogenic. S. pyogenes, the type species, causes various acute diseases in man and animals, affecting the sinuses, lung, brain, and spinal cord, middle-ear bones, joints, blood, etc.” Cf. Lucette’s report, 384.08-09: “After an appalling illness in California, I recouped myself: the Pioneers vanquished the Pyogenes.”

223.16: in September, 1888, in California: Ada will write to Van from Los Angeles in early and mid-September 1888 (332.01, 332.25); the girls are there with Marina, who had presumably followed her latest lover, the actor Pedro, based in California (291.01).

223.27: The set our three children received: VN was given an elaborate Staunton chess set by his uncle Konstantin Nabokov: “My Staunton chessmen (a twenty-year-old set given to me by my father's Englished brother, Konstantin), splendidly massive pieces, of tawny or black wood, up to four and a quarter inches tall, displayed their shiny contours as if conscious of the part they played. Alas, if examined closely, some of the men were seen to be chipped (after traveling in their box through the fifty or sixty lodgings I had changed during those years); but the top of the king's rook and the brow of the king's knight still showed a small crimson crown painted upon them, recalling the round mark on a happy Hindu's forehead.” (SM 292)

223.27-28: an old friend of the family (as Marina’s former lovers were known): Cf. “‘poor old’ Demon (all her pillow mates being retired with that title)” (253.05-06).

223.28-224.04: as Marina’s former lovers were known), Baron Klim Avidov . . . . to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule: Cf. Marina’s former lover Baron d’Onsky (13-15), who does have the particule (the French d’) in his name as a sign of noble status.

223.28-29: Baron Klim Avidov: Anagram of “Vladimir Nabokov.” Cf. VN’s other anagrammic stand-ins, “Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine” (SM 218), and Clare Quilty’s occasional co-author in Lolita, Vivian Darkbloom, the name with which VN would also sign the “Notes to Ada” that he first supplied for the Penguin 1970 edition of the novel; his 1923 play “Skital’tsy” (“The Wanderers) (Literatur’niy al’manakh “Grani” 1923, 67-99) feigns to be translated from the non-existent English author “Vivian Calmbrood,” as does “Iz Kalmbrudovoy poemy ‘Nochnoe puteshetsvie’” (“From Calmbrood’s long poem ‘The Night Journey’”), Rul’, 12 July 1932, 2-3 ; he introduces a Blavdak Vinomori into KQK and an Adam von Librikov into TT.

223.29: large folding board of saffian: W2, saffian: “A kind of leather made of goatskins or sheepskins tanned with sumac and dyed with bright colors.”Cf. 305.32-33: “a pair of saffian bedroom slippers fetally folded.”

223.31-32: the letter J on the two joker blocks: In Scrabble, including the Russian version, there are usually two blank tiles that serve as “wild cards.” The Joker is VN’s comic importation from cards.

223.33: Jupiter or Jurojin: For the combination of Japanese and Jupiter, cf. 520.17-18: “her new, young, divine Japanese neck which he had been coveting like a veritable Jupiter Olorinus.”

223.33: Jurojin: A1: “Chinese godkin.” W2: “One of the Seven Gods of Happiness, probably of Taoist origin. He is white-bearded, bestows longevity, and is associated with a deer.” Kyoto Reading Circle:The Japanese name of one of the seven ancient Gods of Fortune, also known sometimes as Fukurokuju. Jurojin’s origins go back to a holy Taoist hermit-god, said to be Lao-tse’s reincarnation, whose face is red from drinking. He carries a peach, symbolic of long life, and a gourd filled with a liquid that gives immortality to those who drink it and is accompanied by a deer, symbol of nature and long life.”

223.34-224.04: Avidov . . . at a particule : Kyoto Reading Circle:The gist of this short incident is that Avidov was accused by the Englishman [Walter C.] Keyway of his pretentions to aristocratic lineage by using the French [nobiliary particle] ‘de’ before his name,” as if his name were really Davidov, but he had altered it to “d’Avidov” to pose as a baron.  Davydov (Davidov, Davydoff) is a common Russian surname. (There is also an Italian surname D’Ovidio.)

Given that Baron Klim Avidov is an anagram of “Vladimir Nabokov,” the incident plays on Nabokov’s own touchiness about honor (as demonstrated in his letters to the editor in the 1960s and 1970s, some included in SO, like the letter to the Sunday Times, January 1, 1967, SO 214-15),the supposition of his aristocratic arrogance, and his expertise as a boxer. He received coaching in boxing as a boy, and at school was happy to take on bigger bullies (VNRY 100), and in 1927 (by which time he was occasionally earning money as a boxing coach) meted out justice with his fists to a violinist named Kosta Spiresco who had beaten his wife so severely she hanged herself; Nabokov roughed Spiresco up at a restaurant where he was playing (VNRY 271-72). In one way, this farcical scene of Avidov and Keyway prepares for VN’s own stinging response to Edmund Wilson’s attack on his scholarship and Russian (see below, 224.15-16n.).

Cf. also 151.25-26: “the theatrical big shot, Gran D. du Mont (the ‘D’ also stood for Duke, his mother’s maiden name, des hobereaux irlandais, quoi)” (a play on “grandee” as well as the D as a doubled (with du Mont) nobiliary particle.

Cf. Nabokov’s remark in CE 40: “My contempt for the émigré de Kickovski, who ‘hates the Reds’ because they ‘stole’ his money and land, is complete.”

224.02: English tourist: VN thought the British often absurdly class-conscious. In an interview he imagines the “middlebrow or the upper Philistine” who does not like his books: “if British, he is acutely and ridiculously class-conscious” (SO 41). Cf. also Ada 147.03-04: “upper-upper-class families (in the British and Brazilian sense”).

224.05: to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule: Darkbloom: “‘de’ or ‘d’.” MOTIF: letters.

224.05-06: at the Gritz, in Venezia Rossa: Pun on 1) the famous luxury hotels, the Hôtel Ritz Paris, opened in 1898 by Swiss hotelier César Ritz (1850-1918), the Ritz Hotel in London, which he opened in 1906, and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Montreal (1912), New York City (1917), Atlantic City (1921), Boston (1927) and elsewhere; 2) the word they spawned, ritzy,“ostentatiously or vulgarly smart in appearance and manner; ultrafashionable” (W2), as in the novella “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” (1922) by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940); and 3) “grit,” small rough particle, as in sand, out of keeping with the standards of a luxury hotel, 4) “gritty” (as in “gritty realism,” fiction that emphasizes especially the hard lives of the poor and disadvantaged), and 5) the Gritti, a luxury hotel in Venice which the Nabokovs became fond of in the 1960s.

Cf. 425.32: “the sugar-white Cohnritz Hotel in Cairo.”

224.05: Venezia Rossa: A1: “Venise la rouge.” Alfred de Musset wrote two poems, very different in tone, although beginning with the same lines and retaining some of the same stanzas: “Venise” (“Dans Venise la rouge,” Premières Poésies,1828), which moves from an overview of the city to a more galante mood; and “Dans Venise la rouge” (“Dans Venise la rouge,” Poésies à mon frère revenant de l’Italie,1844), which soon shifts into fierce pangs of regret. Kyoto Reading Circle:Venice is famous for the red brick the city produces.” As the photograph of the Gritti Hotel linked to the previous note shows, the hotel’s façade features this red Venetian brick.

224.06-08: By July the ten A’s . . . the D was lost: MOTIF: letters.

224.06-07: By July the ten A’s had dwindled to nine, and the four D’s to three: MOTIF: Ada.

224.07-08: The missing A eventually turned up under an Aproned Armchair, but the D was lost: A hint that the D could perhaps be found under the celebrated Divan in the library (especially as the A and D glance at Ada’s name, and the divan at Van’s). MOTIF: divan.

224.08-09: the D was lost—faking the fate of its apostrophizable double as imagined by a Walter C. Keyway: Faking the fate, that is, of the letter D that Baron Klim Avidov has “lost” from an original surname Davidov, as the “English tourist” of 224.02 imagines, in order to be known as D’Avidov.

224.09: Walter C. Keyway:  W2, keyway: “1. Mach. A groove or channel for a key, as in a shaft or in the hub of a pulley; a key seat. 2. The aperture for the key in locks having flat steel keys.” Is there a pun in his name, “Walter seek away” (in the sense of “keep seeking” for the lost D)? MOTIF: Walter.

224.10: with a couple of unstamped postcards: In contrast with his own face, which bears the stamp of Van’s fist.

224.11: a speechless multilinguist in a frock coat with brass buttons: Kyoto Reading Circle:This is the porter, recognized by his brass buttons,” his frock coat, and his multilingualism.

224.12-13: The wit of the Veens (says Ada in a marginal note) knows no bounds: Cf. 254.32: “‘The Veen wit, the Veen wit,’ murmured Demon”; 368.33 (Van as narrator, commenting on his own spoken flourish): “Once a Veen, always a Veen.” Is there an additional pun on marginal and bounds (the margin as the boundary of the page)? MOTIF: CompositionAda.

224.14-32: Van, a first-rate chess player . . . Ada did manage . . . if the grand sacrifice were not accepted: MOTIF: games.

224.14: Van, a first-rate chess player: Cf. 172.04-05, just before Van reports on his becoming an accomplished card-sharp: “He passed through various little passions—parlor magic, chess, fluff-weight boxing matches at fairs, stunt-riding.” VN was a world-class chess problem composer (see SM 288-93 and the problems in PP), and a good but not first-rate chess player.

224.15-16: chess . . . beat the Minsk-born Pat Rishin (champion of Underhill and Wilson, N.C.): The prominent critic Norman B. Podhoretz (1930- ), whose surname is close to “Underhill” in Russian or Ukrainian (but see below), wrote articles on “Edmund Wilson, the last Patrician,” in The Reporter, December 25, 1958, 25-28 and January 8, 1959, 32-35. “Underhill” may also have overtones of “over the hill,” in the idiomatic sense of “past one’s best.” Glossing “Underhill,” Darkbloom notes: “Pat Rishin: A play on ‘patrician.’ One may recall Podgoretz (Russ. ‘underhill’) applying that epithet to a popular critic, would-be expert in Russian as spoken in Minsk and elsewhere. Minsk and Chess also figure in Chapter Six of Speak, Memory (p. 133, N.Y. ed. 1966).”

The passage VN-as-Darkbloom refers to is this: “I had long wanted that particular species, and, when near enough, I struck. You have heard champion chess players moan after muffing an easy shot. You may have seen the face of the world-famous grandmaster Wilhelm Edmundson when, during a simultaneous display in a Minsk café, he lost his rook, by an absurd oversight, to the local amateur and pediatrician, Dr. Schach, who eventually won” (SM 132-33). (Schach is German for “chess,” or, in chess, “check.”)

These passages exact revenge on VN’s former friend, the enormously influential American critic Edmund Wilson (1895-1977), for Wilson’s attack on VN’s 1964 translation of and commentary to Eugene Onegin, “The Strange Case of Pushkin and Nabokov” (New York Review of Books, July 15, 1965, 3-6), and his reply to VN’s first reply, both in the NYRB (“Letters: The Strange Case of Nabokov and Wilson”), August 26, 1965, 25-26.

The high-achieving Wilson and Nabokov had been enthusiastic friends with a penchant for pedantic and needling competition and correction, appropriate to this chapter on Scrabble. VN wrote to Wilson on November 21, 1948: “Your having taken up chess is good news. I hope you will soon be playing well enough for me to beat you” (DBDV 241); he ended the letter with a little amphisbaenic poem, “To E.W. on reading his amphisbaenic poem,” closing his poem: “I fear your envy, / and humbly sign: V.N.”

Wilson’s New York Review of Books letter in reply to VN’s letter-reply there resumed his criticism of VN’s brief and approximate guide to the pronunciation of Russian sounds (EO I, xxiv: “t’ sounds somewhat like ts, d’ like tz, and so on”): “I might add that I have found no one who agrees with him that t and d with the sound sign ‘sound somewhat like ts and dz [sic]. I am told that this ts effect is a feature of Byelo-Russian. Now, I have heard Mr. Nabokov insist on the superiority of the Petersburg pronunciation to that of Moscow, and I am rather surprised to find him recommending the pronunciation of Minsk.”

In late October and early November 1965, VN responded at length in “Nabokov’s Reply,” published in Encounter in February 1966, 80-89 (reprinted in SO as “Reply to My Critics”), just as he was beginning to write Ada. VN writes of “the unusual, unbelievable, and highly entertaining opportunity that I am unexpectedly given by Mr. Wilson himself of refuting practically every item of criticism in his enormous piece. . . . It is a polemicist’s dream come true, and one must be a poor sportsman to disdain what it offers. As Mr. Wilson points out . . . he and I are old friends. . . . A patient confidant of his long and hopeless infatuation with the Russian language and literature, I have invariably done my best to explain his monstrous mistakes of pronunciation, grammar, and interpretation. As late as 1957, at one of our last meetings . . . [u]pon being challenged to read Evgeniy Onegin aloud, he started to perform with great gusto, garbling every second word, and turning Pushkin’s iambic line into a kind of spastic anapest with a lot of jaw-twisting haws and rather endearing little barks that utterly jumbled the rhythm and soon had us both in stitches” (SO 247-48).

VN’s reply in Encounter in turn occasioned responses from poet Robert Lowell (a letter in the May 1966 Encounter, defending Wilson, responded to by a letter from VN in the same issue), and an essay by critic George Steiner in the August 1966 Encounter, which in turn led to Nabokov’s barbed response on mistranslation and transfiguration in the opening sentence of Ada (see 3.01-05, and 3.01-08n and 3.04n2).

VN’s Darkbloom note explaining “Underhill” contains further barbs. He writes “One may recall Podgoretz (Russ. ‘underhill’) applying that epithet” (i.e. “patrician”), etc. Underhill itself as an epithet would be podgorniy in Russian, not podgoretz; but podgoret’ (pronounced in Wilson’s version of VN’s supposedly Minsk accent as podgoretz) means “to get a little burnt”—as VN perhaps implies Wilson has (in the English colloquial sense) by this return fire. “Underhill” may also reflect Wilson’s most celebrated fiction, the novel Memoirs of Hecate County (1946), Hecate being the Greek goddess associated with the underworld and night.

224.16: Underhill: A small town of this name (pop. 1965, in the 1952 Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World) exists in the Green Mountains of northwest Vermont.

224.16: Wilson, N.C.: A real city, capital of Wilson County, North Carolina, pop. 28,000, in the 1952 Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World.

224.17: to raise: corrected from 1969, "of raising."

224.17-18: damsel-errant: Pun on “knight-errant,” and on the oblique (or errant) course of a chess knight on the chessboard.

224.18: above that of a young lady in an old novel: MOTIF: novel.

224.19: one of those anti-dandruff color-photo ads: May well be a real advertisement, stylized, like advertisements textually appropriated in Lolita (69; identified and reproduced by Alfred Appel, Jr. in the revised Annotated Lolita) and Pale Fire (114-15, identified and reproduced by Appel in Nabokov’s Dark Cinema, 33), and the advertisement at 460.01-461.09 (identified and reproduced in Boyd 1985/2001); if so, not identified. Cf. the discussion of psoriasis, 132.05-32, and of 240.17 (“Crêmlin on my bald spot) and n.

224.19: show: corrected from 1969, "shows."

224.22-23: traffic jam of white and scarlet, elaborately and unrecognizably carved Lalla Rookh chessmen: Pun on the chess “rook” and the long poem Lalla Rookh (1817), by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852). Chess sets have long been ornamental and themed, especially since the early eighteenth century; see 223.27n. for the Indian element in Nabokov’s own chess set.

Kyoto Reading Circle: “A princess of an Indian state on her journey to marry a prince stops in Kashmere and meets a poet, Feramore, who tells her a poem-narrative. She falls in love with him, but he reveals himself as the prince who was to marry her.”

In his commentary on a discarded draft of Eugene Onegin VIII.xvii, where Pushkin conjures up a woman in a Lalla Rookh costume at Tatiana’s ball, Nabokov glosses “Lalla Rookh”: “The young Empress Alexandra of Russia (1798-1860) . . . had received this nom de société ever since she appeared in a piece of fashionable pageantry, disguised as the heroine of Thomas Moore’s very long poem, Lalla Rookh; an Oriental Romance (1817). She was sung under that name by her teacher of Russian, Zhukovski, who devoted three poems to the fashionable theme of Lalla Rookh when staying in Berlin, where, in January, 1821, various court festivals (described, with illustrations, in a special album: Lallah Roukh, divertissement mêlé de chants et de danses, Berlin, 1822) took place with Princess Alexandra in the part of the Oriental princess and the Grand Duke Nicholas in the part of Aliris.. . . The habitat of Moore’s princess is in the India of eighteenth-century jejune fantasies. She is entertained by a minstrel in a wilderness of monotonous couplets and Gallic chevilles” (EO 3, 210-11). VN also notes that before beginning Eugene Onegin Pushkin criticized “as trashy orientalizations Moore’s Lalla Rookh . . . , saying that the entire thing ‘is not worth ten lines of Tristram Shandy’” (EO 2, 305).

224.23: carved Lalla: corrected from 1969, "carved, Lalla."

224.26-32: Ada did manage . . . to conjure up a combinational sacrifice, offering, say, her queen . . . but she saw only one side of the question, preferring to ignore . . . the obvious counter combination . . . not accepted: Perhaps this serves in part as a commentary on Ada’s deployment of Lucette as a kind of “combinational sacrifice” to her love for Van (and her need to distract him from her affair with Percy de Prey), and her failure to see that this could play out in a very different way from what she had foreseen?

224.33-34: Ada was transformed into a sort of graceful computing machine: As Carolyn Kunin suggests (Nabokv-L, October 8, 2003), this may be a reference to Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), a mathematician famous for her work on the early computer, the analytical engine of Charles Babbage (1791-1817), and especially for her devising what has been considered the first computer program, an algorithm intended to be run on that machine. She was born Augusta Ada Byron, the daughter of Byron (who died when she was eight) and his wife Anna Isabella Milbanke, Baroness Byron. She was named after Byron’s half-sister, Augusta Maria Byron, later Leigh (1783-1851), with whom Byron may have had an incestuous relationship, and was named “Ada” by Byron himself. In 1835 she married William King, a baron, and became Baroness King; in 1838 her husband became Earl of Lovelace, and Ada was therefore known as “The Right Honourable Countess of Lovelace” for most of her married life. Ada Lovelace’s (contested) fame as the first computer programmer grew only as computers became ubiquitous, and therefore mostly after VN composed Ada,but her memoir on the Analytic Engine is included in B.V. Bowden’s history of British computers to date, Faster than Thought (London: Pitman, 1953).

225.03: collops: W2, collop,“2. A small portion or slice of anything.”

225.05-07: not deigning to check “rare” or “obsolete” but quite acceptable possibilities provided by a loyal dictionary: Kyoto Reading Circle: “One of the issues fought by Nabokov and Edmund Wilson in their letter exchanges was over the difference in their dictionary preferences.   See ‘Reply to My Critics,’ Strong Opinions, Vintage 1973, 251, for Nabokov on judging good dictionaries.)” Cf. “Reply to My Critics”: “Mr. Wilson can hardly be unaware that once a writer chooses to youthen or resurrect a word, it lives again, sobs again, stumbles all over the cemetery in doublet and trunk hose, and will keep annoying stodgy gravediggers as long as that writer’s book endures. . . . I do not care if a word is ‘archaic’ or ‘dialect’ or ‘slang’; I am an eclectic democrat in this matter, and whatever suits me, goes” (SO 252). MOTIF: dictionary.

225.12-13: Especially boring were the girls’ squabbles over the legitimacy of this or that word: Kyoto Reading Circle:This scene resembles the Nabokov-Wilson disputes—perhaps an indirect self-criticism on Nabokov’s part.” I suspect not. Such squabbles are common when playing Scrabble, and although discussions about the legitimacy of words were heated and protracted in the Nabokov-Wilson controversy, VN, once provoked, seems to have relished the opportunity to rebuff Wilson’s charges.

225.17-19: the beautiful ARDIS which her governess had told her meant “the point of an arrow”—but only in Greek, alas: W2, “Ardisia [NL, fr. G. ardis the point of an arrow—alluding to the acute lobes of the corolla]. a Bot. A genus of tropical evergreen shrubs and trees. . . . ”

Since Ada parodies so much in the nineteenth-century novel, it may be worth noting this playful sentence in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876): “though Miss Arrowpoint was one of the best archeresses. . . . towards the Arrowpoint party.” (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988, ed. Graham Handley, 91; Chapter X).  MOTIF: Ardis; Ardis . . . arrow.

225.20-31: the angry or disdainful looking up of dubious words in a number of lexicons . . . Dahl . . . ethnographer: MOTIF: dictionary.

225.23: divan: MOTIF: divan.

225.25: moronic Ozhegov: The Slovar’ russkogo yazyka (Dictionary of the Russian Language), Moscow: Russkiy Yazik, 1949, 1952, 1960 and later editions, edited until his death by Sergey Ivanovich Ozhegov (1900-1964), became from the time of its publication the most readily available largish Russian dictionary. VN, who may have acquired it to translate Lolita into Russian in the mid-1960s, mocks it in his essay “Inspiration,” by citing at the beginning of the essay definitions of “inspiration” from his three favourite dictionaries, Webster’s Second, 1957, Littré’s French dictionary, 1963, and Dal’s Russian dictionary, 1904, the last of which offers “The enthusiasm, concentration, and unusual manifestation of the mental faculties,” before citing Ozhegov, 1960: “A creative upsurge. [Examples:] Inspired poet. Inspired socialistic work” (SO 308). Carl R. Proffer writes, in an essay on “Russian Writing and Border Guards: Twenty-five Years of the New Isolationism”: “While it is true the Soviets produced the largest multi-volume dictionary of the Russian literary language (17 vols., 1950-65) and that other lexicographers like [Dmitri] Ushakov did brilliant work, neither set was common on writers’ desks after Stalin. Writers, like most Russians, instead used the acceptable 50,000 words of the dull, dreadful, ubiquitous Ozhegov Dictionary, which wordsmiths such as Nabokov have justly abused. For limited minds, the perfect Sovietese and nugatory definitions of numberless Ozhegovs were the ideal weapon” (The Widows of Russia and Other Writings, Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1987, 149).

225.26-27: a small but chippy Edmundson: Another poke at Edmund Wilson (in the SM taunt cited above, “world-famous grandmaster Wilhelm Edmundson,” 133)—who not long before his review of VN’s EO had written an essay “My Fifty Years with Dictionaries and Grammars” (New Yorker, April 20, 1963, 165-208)—for his critique of VN’s use of rare words in his EO translation. Wilson’s essay had discussed dictionaries he had worked with in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Russian, English, French, German, and Hungarian. It begins: “I have always been greedy for words. I never can get enough of them. I love Elizabethan plays, dictionaries of slang and argot, lists of Americanisms. I am always studying foreign languages. . . . I think, that I get from this exercise the same sort of intellectual relaxation that other people get from crossword puzzles and chess problems” (165). Nabokov responds to Wilson’s EO review: “Edmund Wilson sees himself [in his review] (not quite candidly, I am afraid, and certainly quite erroneously) as a commonsensical, artless, average reader with a natural vocabulary of, say, six hundred basic words. No doubt such an imaginary reader may be sometimes puzzled and upset by the tricky terms I find it necessary to use here and there—very much here and there. But how many such innocents will tackle EO anyway? And what does Mr. Wilson mean by implying I should not use words that in the process of lexicographic evolution begin to occur only at the level of a ‘fairly comprehensive dictionary’? When does a dictionary cease being an abridged one and start growing ‘fairly’ and then ‘extremely’ comprehensive? Is the sequence: vest-pocket, coat-pocket, greatcoat-pocket, my three book shelves, Mr. Wilson’s rich library? 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 in its earlier edition or vice versa? Disturbing possibilities! Nightmarish doubts! And how does the harassed translator know that somewhere on the library ladder he has just stopped short of Wilson’s Fairly Comprehensive and may safely use ‘polyhedral’ but not ‘lingonberry’?” (SO 251).

225:26: chippy: Perhaps in W2 sense “3. Abounding in, or resembling, chips; dry and tasteless; very dry”; or in OED sense “4. colloq. a Given to chipping; ready to chip. Also, fig. cross,irritable.” Possibly also, given Wilson’s fondness for drink, with a hint of OED sense “3 . . . b. Vulgarly applied to the physical sensations after alcoholic dissipation. Also gen. ‘off colour,’ seedy, unwell.”

225.27: in Dr. Gerschizhevsky’s reverent version: Darkbloom: “a Slavist’s name mixed here with that of Chizhevski, another Slavist.” Combines the Slavist Dmitri Ivanovich Chizhevsky (1894-1977, a professor at Harvard from 1949 to 1956), whose commentary to EO Nabokov attacks in his own, and the distinguished economist Alexander Gerschenkron (1904-1978), also of Harvard University, who in a review article on VN’s EO (“A Manufactured Moment?,” Modern Philology, 63, May 1966, 336-47) defends Chizhevsky (342-43), but does not mention Edmund Wilson, although, like Wilson, he does criticize VN for his choosing rare words where Pushkin’s diction had not been anything like so arcane.

VN’s comments on Chizhevsky include: “I have ignored the hopelessly unreliable data published before 1936, as well as the worthless compilations (such as N. Brodski’s, 1950, or D. Chizhevski’s, 1953) that added their own blunders to those of their obsolete sources” (1, 60); “D. Chizhevski’s careless compilation (Harvard University Press, 1953), (2, 80); “Chizhevski’s explication of Pushkin’s use of the word (‘perhaps under the influence of the Baltic provinces near by’—what influence? near what?) is a typical example of the comic naïvetés in his running, or rather stumbling, commentary to EO” (2, 221); “Prof. Chizhevski (Čiževsky) of Harvard, in his commentary to Evgenij Onegin (Cambridge, Mass., 1953) makes the following incredible statement (p. 230): ‘Grandison, the hero of Clarissa Harlowe [wrong novel] is familiar to the mother only as the nickname of a Moscow sergeant [mistranslation]!’” (2, 288); “We are also haunted by such bibliographic spooks as the references to nonexistent authors and works in Chizhevski’s notes to EO” (2, 355), etc.

Gerschenkron comments that VN’s “remarks on other commentators of EO show neither restraint for fairness. . . . Brodskii, a Soviet popularizer, is indeed not much better than he should be. His attempts to convert Onegin into a radical are fairly silly. . . . Professor Chizhevskii, on the other hand, is a very considerable scholar of great erudition. True, his comments contain some errors for which he must be held responsible. . . . But Nabokov is out to cut throats [on his own copy of the review article, VN has underlined these words, with a question mark in the margin], and there is no literary fair-practices act to restrain him. The tone of Nabokov’s milder strictures may be best illustrated by applying it to Nabokov’s own errors. . . . ” (342).

Gerschenkron is the subject of a biography by his grandson, Nikolay Dawidoff, The Fly Swatter: Portrait of an Exceptional Character (New York: Vintage, 2003). Dawidoff reports Dolinin on Nabokov on Gerschenkron on Nabokov: “‘Nabokov took issue with every one of [the critics of his EO], even the most minor critics in the most obscure journals, but he never mentioned Gerschenkron’s name,’ recalls Alexander Dolinin. . . . ‘What I noticed is that all the objections and notions of Gerschenkron were so correct that Nabokov quietly made all of Gerschenkron’s corrections when he put out his second edition of Eugene Onegin” (201). (This is wrong on four counts: Nabokov did not respond to all the critics, not, for instance to Robert Conquest, in Poetry (June 1964), Lydia Pasternak Slater, in Book Week (June 1964), Ronald Hingley, in The Spectator (January 1, 1965), or A.F.B Clark, in University of Toronto Quarterly (1967); some of the critics, including John Bayley, Anthony Burgess, and John Wain, he responds to he does not take issue with, but merely thanks for pointing out errors and omissions, SO 246-47; those he responded to were not in obscure journals, but in the New Republic, Novyy Zhurnal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Book Review, The Observer, The Listener, The Russian Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and Wilson’s in the New York Review of Books; and he does not incorporate in his revised EO all the points Gerschenkron proposes as errors, though he does incorporate four. Dolinin’s comment also overlooks the fact that Nabokov did not write a response to critics after “Reply to My Critics,” and Gerschenkron’s and Clark’s appeared later.)  Dawidoff ends by citing the “Dr. Gerschizhevsky” dig in Ada, and reports: “The New York Times asked [Gerschenkron] how he felt about this little lampoon, and the response was brief: ‘A small man’s revenge’” (201).

VN wrote to his friend Roman Grynberg (also a friend of Wilson’s) on February 18, 1967 (VéN typed it on her English typewriter): “Nashchyot Gershenkrona: Ego stateyka daleko ne nevinnaya (ona napisana, s poshleyshimi uzhimkami, v zashchitu Garvardskago Chizhevskago, kotorago ya za delo trepal), a Vil’sonu, podsunuvshemu eyo tebe, mozhesh’ skazat’ ot menya, chto on prohvost” (“About Gerschenkron: His article is far from innocent (it was written, with the most vulgar grimaces, in defense of Harvard’s Chizhevsky, whom I ruffled with good reason), and you can tell Wilson from me, that in passing it on to you [to translate for the journal Vozdushnye puti, which Grynberg edited], he’s a scoundrel” (VNA).

225.28-31: the unconventional magnanimity of a four-volume Dahl . . . the gentle long-bearded ethnographer: Proffer 263: “Vladimir Dahl (Dal’) [1801-1872] – the first major Russian lexicographer, also an ethnographer and short story writer from Gogol’s time. His four-volume [Tolkoviy slovar’ zhivogo velikorusskogo yazyka] Interpretive Dictionary of the Living [Great-] Russian Language (186[3]-68) is spectacularly rich in colloquialisms, dialectisms, and botanical terms. It was Nabokov’s companion during his Cambridge days (see Speak, Memory, p. 265).” (In Cambridge in about 1920 VN bought a secondhand copy “and resolved to read at least ten pages a day, and I kept this up for a considerable time,” SM 265.)

The dictionary was unconventional in that it arranged it was arranged not alphabetically by word but by head-word, in a so called “alphabet-nest system.” There were other idiosyncrasies. “Though the old encyclopedia of Brockhaus and Efron (published before the Revolution) insists—in doing Dahl, however, full honor—that ‘he remained to the end of his days a self-taught dilettante,’ his book has the attractiveness, the personal flavor, of the man with a passion for his subject who has explored the whole field for himself” (Wilson, “My Fifty Years with Dictionaries and Grammars,” 186).

Dahl’s dictionary became more magnanimous (and less difficult to navigate) in the third (1903-10) and fourth (1912-1914) editions, revised by Jan Niecisław Ignacy Baudouin de Courtenay (1845-1929).

Dahl’s portrait, indeed gentle and long-bearded, appeared as the frontispiece to the dictionary.

225.29: dahlia: [dahlia] A genus of flowering bushes of Mexican origin. MOTIF: flowers.

225.30: an obsolete cant word: Dahl’ was famous for his “voracious appetite for colloquial and vulgar speech” (Wilson, “My Fifty Years with Dictionaries,” 185).

225.32-34: stung as a scientist by the curious affinity between certain aspects of Scrabble and those of the planchette: OED, planchette: “An instrument, invented about 1855, used in the investigation of automatism and other psychical phenomena, consisting of a small board, generally heart-shaped, supported by two castors and a vertical pencil, which, when one or more persons rest their fingers lightly on the board,  is said to trace lines or letters, and even to write sentences, without conscious direction or effort.” In real life, “Scrabble coincidences struck Nabokov’s imagination: ‘There is something of the planchette in this game,’ he observed to his sister” Elena Sikorski (VNAY 528).

226.01-02: under a sunset sky the last fire of which snaked across the corner of the reservoir: Cf., on the night of the Burning Barn, 116.11-17: “a distant flamingo flush at the spot where the Barn was Burning. To reach it one had to drive around a large reservoir which I could make out breaking into scaly light here and there . . . typical raft ripples like fire snakes in Japan”; on the eve of Lucette’s death, 474.05-6: “as he watched the low sun’s ardency break into green-golden eye-spots a few sea-serpent yards to starboard.” MOTIF: snake.

226.03: Lucette’s copper curls: Cf. 355.03-05: “Cherry, the only lad in our next (American) floramor,  . . . . looked so amusing with his copper curls”; 421.15-17: “even coarse, smelly coachmen are known to have been driven insane by a pair of green eyes and a copper curl”; 486.09-10: “He could describe her dress only as struthious (if there existed copper-curled ostriches).” MOTIF: copper.

226.05: Pretty Blanche: Van, as narrator, about Blanche, on his first night at Ardis in 1888: “Oh, she had become wonderfully pretty” (191.11)

226.07-08: redolent with the perfume called Miniver Musk by handmaids: Cf. 114.15-17: “Blanche . . . . rushed down the corridor and lost a miniver-trimmed slipper on the grand staircase, like Ashette in the English version.” Cf. also Van hastening to join Ada, his “young accomplice, whose delicate musk he still preserved in the hollow of his hand” (124.09-10) on the night after the Burning Barn. A1: “see p. 190.” In fact 191.04-10: “Blanche . . . wore a miniver cloak that Ada had lost in the woods.” MOTIF: Cinderella; miniver.

226.08-15: brought a still unneeded lamp. . . . kerosin: Cf. 231.08-09: “At ten minutes to five, Bout quietly came in with a lighted kerosene lamp.” Cf. SM 100: “A large, alabaster-based kerosene lamp is steered into the gloaming. Gently it floats and comes down: the hand of memory, now in a footman’s white glove, places it in the center of a round table.”

226.10-12: seven “luckies” . . . lay face down, showing nothing but their anonymous black backs: Play on seven as a lucky number. Kyoto Reading Circle:The personification of the blocks also recalls the playing-card soldiers and gardeners in Alice’s Wonderland.”

226.13: flavid velvet: Cf. 222.12, “Flavita,” 223.07-08: “flavid, in concession to the game’s original name.” MOTIF: Flavita.

226.14: the Benten lamp: Pun on “benzene lamp” (actually a kerosene lamp, as at 231.09). (Cf. SM 130: “the tea-smelling Opel convertible (benzine forty years ago smelled that way.”) W2, Benten, “[Jap.] The Hindu deity Sarasvati, represented in Japan as the only female among the Seven Gods of Happiness, with the serpent as her messenger. She is guardian of music and eloquence and giver of wealth.” Kyoto Reading Circle: “Benten or, more precisely, Benzaiten, is the only goddess of the seven ancient Japanese gods of fortune (or Shichifukujin) and has roots in the Hindu goddess Sarasvati (meaning “sacred river” in Sanscrit). Benten is commonly believed to be the goddess of prosperity, associated with water and sometimes with music, often depicted with seven arms holding protective weapons and/or a ‘biwa’ (Japanese lute), and is worshipped in both Buddhist and Shinto religions.”

Alexey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokv-L, January 3, 2010) that in Jules Verne’s Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours  (Around the World in Eighty Days) (see 5.24 and n.), Verne writes: “The Japanese quarter of Yokohama is called Benten, after the goddess of the sea, who is worshipped on the islands round about” (Ch. 22).

226.15: out of kerosin: The Russian spelling of kerosene is introduced here partly to prepare for the seven Scrabble letters spelling out the word at 226.17.

226.15: Pet (addressing Lucette): MOTIF: pet.

226.15: be a good scout: “A trustworthy or helpful person: U.S., anglicised ca. 1920” (Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 2 vols., London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th ed, 1961, 735). Cf. 262.07: “‘Van,’ said his father, ‘be a good scout.’”

226.17-21: The seven letters she had taken . . . . their random assemblage: MOTIF: letters.

226.18: spektrik (the little trough of japanned wood: A diminutive from Russian, spektr, “spectrum,” with a sense therefore of “little specter.” Appropriate because of the seven tiles a player has in each turn, and the seven colors traditionally identified in the spectrum or rainbow, but also connected with the spiritualism or eeriness of the “planchette” (225.34) that Scrabble reminds Van of. Cf. also: “Our modern sense of the word ‘spectrum’ as a ‘colored band into which a beam of light is decomposed by means of a prism’ came into the English language in 1671 in Isaac Newton’s writings on optics and the reflecting telescope. Before Newton, however, the word meant an apparition or phantom, a sense that survives in our current meaning of ‘spectre.’ Both spectrum and spectre have the Latin specere, ‘to look,’ as their root, and both works raise question about the nature of bodies and the role of the senses, particularly vision” (Elizabeth D. Harvey, “Flesh Colors and Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” in Michael Schoenfeldt, ed., A Companion to Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007, 314-328, p. 314). As Edelnant 361 hints, the suggestion of rainbow in the spectrum of letter-tiles also suggests VN’s letter-color synesthesia, which he describes explicitly in terms of a rainbow (“The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow, is in my private language the hardly pronounceable: kzspygv,” SM 35)—all the more so as it is Baron Klim Avidov, unscrambled as Vladimir Nabokov, who has given the Veen family the Scrabble set.

Cf. also the “chromesthesia” of Spencer Muldoon (468-69), whose “fingertips could convey to his brain ‘a tactile transcription of the prismatic specter’” (469.30-31).

226.22-23: in the bay of the library, on a thundery evening (a few hours before the barn burned): Cf. 115.01-02, on the Night of the Burning Barn: “That night because of the bothersome blink of remote sheet lightning.” MOTIF: Burning Barn.

226.24-27: the amusing VANIADA . . . the very piece of furniture she was in the act of referring to . . . : ‘But I, too, perhaps, would like to sit on the divan’: Divan means the same in Russian; in Russian, “Van i Ada” means “Van and Ada”; Lucette’s “I” can also be imagined as wedged in between Van and Ada. Van and Ada will engage in their first advanced sexual contact on the divan a few hours after this Scrabble scene: Ada “joined Van on the divan” (116.32-33). Cf. 373.28-29: “at the heel end of the Vaniada divan.” MOTIF: Ada; divan; Van; Vaniada.

226.28-31: Soon after that, as so often occurs with games, and toys, and vacational friendships, that seem to promise an eternal future of fun, Flavita followed the bronze and blood-red trees into the autumn mists: Foreshadows Van and Ada’s own “vacational friendship,” which will be destroyed by autumn. Cf. 139.27-30: “had not summer, which had appeared in prospect as a boundless flow of green glory and freedom, begun to hint hazily at possible fadings and failings.” MOTIF: games.

226.30: Flavita followed: MOTIF: Flavita.

226.30-31: the bronze and blood-red trees into the autumn mists: Echoes the description of autumn leaves in Coppée’s “Matin d’Octobre” in translations made by Ada in 1884 (127) and Van in 1888 (247). Ardeur 190: “la feuille de cuivre et la feuille de sang dans les brouillards de l’automne” (“the leaf of copper and the leaf of blood into the autumn mists”): echoes exactly the lines of Coppée’s “Le Matin d’octobre” cited at 247.15-16: “Le chêne à sa feuille de cuivre / L’érable à sa feuille de sang.” MOTIF: blood-red; Leur chute est lente.

226.33-34: Lucette’s visit to town where she spent a few days with her father in mid-July, 1888: Cf. 236.01-02: “In mid-July Uncle Dan took Lucette to Kaluga where she was to stay, with Belle and French, for five days.”

227.01-10: the last game of Flavita that the three young Veens were ever to play together. . . the last round of that particular game . . . . Buchstaben: Cf. 379.01-02: “I got stuck with six Buchstaben in the last round of a Flavita game.” This last mentioned (but not last: it took place in 1884) game will be recalled in detail by Lucette, when she visits Van (II.5, 379).

227.01: last game of Flavita: MOTIF: Flavita.

227.04-05: Van took some notes in the hope—not quite unfulfilled—of "catching sight of the lining of time": VN rated highly Pushkin’s use of a game the card-game faro in his story "The Queen of Spades" as a way to explore the relationship between present signs and future events.  Cf. 34.14-15: “a chance crease in the texture of time”; 337.10 and later, “Texture of Time.”MOTIF: time.

227.07: the last: corrected from 1969, "but the last."

227.09: Je ne peux rien faire . . . mais rien: Darkbloom: “I can do nothing, but nothing.” Lucette’s has learned French from her governess, Mlle Larivière.

227.10-31: idiotic Buchstaben . . . Russian scrambler: MOTIF: letters.

227.10: Buchstaben: Darkbloom: “Germ., letters of the alphabet.” Lucette has learned German via her music teacher, Philip Rack.

227.10: REMNILK, LINKREM: MOTIF: Kremlin.

227.11: c’est tout simple: Darkbloom: “It’s quite simple.”

227.11-12: shift those two syllables and you get a fortress in ancient Muscovy: In other words, Kremlin (“citadel”). “Muscovy” was the English name for the Grand Duchy of Moscow, from 1283 to 1547, in which year Ivan the Terrible was crowned and proclaimed Russia as a tsardom. The most famous of the many kremlins, the Moscow Kremlin, was a fortification (grad)from the second century BCE; the word kremlin was first recorded in 1331. Cf. 240.17: “put Crêmlin on my bald spot.” MOTIF: Kremlin.

227.13-14: wagging her finger at the height of her temple in a way she had: Inherited from Demon, who says, in talking to Van: “like catching oneself repeating an ancestral mannerism—for example, this (wagging his left forefinger three times at the height of his temple), which my mother did in casual, pacific denial; that gene missed you” (240.12-15). MOTIF: family relationship.

227.14-16: That pretty word does not exist in Russian. A Frenchman invented it. There is no second syllable: W2, kremlin, “[F<rench>., fr. Russ. kreml’, of Tatar origin.] The citadel of a city, esp. [cap.] of Moscow, Russia.” The Russian word kreml’ means “fortress” (see 227.20-21).

227.17: Ruth: Pity.

227.19-20: a little cream, KREM or KREME—or even better—there’s KREMLI: In part, a play on the hair tonic Kreml, develop din Germany by B. Semler, sold and advertised widely in the US from the 1930s to the 1950s. Cf. the 1884 Scrabble game discussed by Lucette in 1892, and reconceived by Van. In the 1884 game Lucette found the letters LIKROT, which could yield Russian KLITOR, causing her older siblings “a paroxysm of incomprehensible merriment”; in the 1892 discussion, Van suggests “a medically minded English Scrabbler, having two more letters to cope with, could make, for example, STIRCOIL, a well-known sweat-gland stimulant, or CITROILS, which grooms use for rubbing fillies” (379.04-21).

227.20-21: KREMLI, which means Yukon prisons:  See 227.14-16n.; kremli is the plural of the monosyllabic kreml’; “Yukon” here reflects Antiterran history. Cf. 3.15: “General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon Fortress.”

227.21-22: Go through her ORHIDEYa.” “Through her silly orchid,” said Lucette: I.e. form the word KREMLI through the R, the I, or the E of ORHIDEYa (using whichever of these letters letter is positioned on the Scrabble board so as to permit the formation of a word as long as KREML).

The resemblance of the purple-lipped Cattleya orchid to the female pudendum was the basis of Proust’s making “faire Cattleya” a private equivalent to “make love” for Swann and Odette; see 56.06-10 and n. 

Cf. “One common orchid, a Lady’s Slipper, was all that wilted on the satchel which she had left on a garden table” (287.14-15).

MOTIF: flowers; orchids.

227.21: ORHIDEYa: corrects 1969: "ORHIDEYA." Russ., “orchid.” The Ya is a single letter (Я) in Russian.

227.27: the adjective TORFYaNUYu: “Peaty, boggy,” accusative case, agreeing with a feminine noun. The Ya and Yu are single characters (Я, Ю) in Cyrillic. With her ORHIDEYa already on the board, a feminine noun, this suggests “bog orchid”: cf. 288.31-33: “a red-bearded pogonia <a genus of orchids>, with indecent details of structure, a plant peculiar to the Ladoga bogs”; 297.25-26: “as she might suggest walking a little way out on the edge of a bog to see if a certain orchid was out.” MOTIF: peat, bog; Torfyanaya.

227.30: 383 in all, the highest score ever obtained for one word by a Russian scrambler: The record for a single play in English Scrabble, made after VN’s time, is 392 points (for CAZIQUES),made by Dr Saladin Karl Khoshnaw in 1982.

227.31: Scrabbler: emended by Dmitri Nabokov from 1969 "scrambler." The emendation seems unjustified, despite “a medically minded English Scrabbler” (379.18), since W2 explains the etymology of scramble as “Nasalized form of scrabble.”

227.31-32: Pas facile: Darkbloom: “not easy.”

227.32-33: brushing away with rosy knuckles of her white hand the black-bronze hair from her temple: MOTIF: black-white; tossing hair [Ada].

227.32: black-bronze hair: Cf. 362.09-10, “their tumbled hair, red-bronze and black-bronze,” 417.01-02: “the beloved, beautiful, treacherous blue-black-bronze hair smelt of Ardis.”

228.01-02: like a princess narrating the poison-cup killing of a superfluous lover: Cf. 281.32-34: “Van chided himself for having attempted to use a little pauper instead of the princess in the fairy tale.” MOTIF: fairy-tale.

228.05-09: the first little station after Ladore Bridge. . . . Torfyanaya, or as Blanche says, La Tourbière is, indeed, the pretty but rather damp little village where our cendrillon’s family lives: Mentioned only once before with a Russian name, Torfyanka (see 35.01 and n.). Tourbière means “peaty, boggy” in French (also agreeing with a feminine noun), which is the native language of Blanche, “our cendrillon.” As a place name it would be excluded from Scrabble (225.14).

Torfyanaya is also the name of the small railway station at which Zhivago and Tonya get out, in Dr. Zhivago, Ch. 8, “Arrival.” Blanche’s favorite reading is “That tattered chapbook . . . Les Amours du Docteur Mertvago, a mystical romance by a pastor” (53.22-24).

MOTIF: Torfyanaya; Tourbière; Veen-bog.

228.07: That’s right, pet. . . . Oh, pet, you are so right: MOTIF: pet.

228.08-10: Torfyanaya . . . Blanche . . . La Tourbière . . . cendrillon’s: Cf. “”Blanche . . . Tourbière . . . . Cendrillon’s . . . Torfyanka” (299.11-26).


228.09: pretty but rather damp village: Peat needs 300 days of rain a year to form.

228.09: cendrillon’s: Darkbloom: “Cinderella.” MOTIF: Cinderella; fairy-tale.

228.10: mon petit: Cf. 228.12: “my pet.” Darkbloom: “darling.” MOTIF: pet.

228.10: in our mother’s tongue—que dis-je, in the tongue of a maternal grandmother we all share: Instead of the usual “mother tongue.” “Our mother,” Marina née Durmanov, is indeed Russian; but Ada should not divulge to Lucette that Van has the same mother as them; hence her correcting herself to refer to their common maternal grandmother, Daria née Zemski. MOTIF: family relationship.

228.10: que dis-je: Darkbloom: “in fact.”

228.12: my pet: Cf. 228.10: “mon petit.” MOTIF: pet.

228.12-13: a Canadian brand of French: Blanche’s “brand,” further localized as “her soft Ladoran French. . . . ‘I am a poor peat-digger’s daughter’” (49.13-15). Cf. Lucette’s using “Canady French” (379.09) while recounting the 1884 Scrabble game for Van. MOTIF: Canadian French.

228.13-14: French . . . adjective . . . . accusative case: Cf. “Frantsúzskuyu:  French (adj., accus.)” (300.16-17).

228.21-22: her sister’s last masterstroke. . . . The bloom: In the fourth chapter of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom visits the outhouse and wipes his bottom with a page of a newspaper story, “Matcham’s Last Masterstroke.”

228.25: a translucent lakescape with Japanese dragons: Kyoto Reading Circle: “Another motif linking this chapter and Chapter 19. Cf. ‘typical raft ripples like fire snakes in Japan’ (116.16). Dragons on lampshades are not very common in Japan and are more likely to be a Chinese motif. Cf. 373.03 where Lucette [leading up to her account of the 1884 Scrabble game], mentions ‘a Chinese stand japanned in red lacquer’ with golden dragons painted all over it.”

228.26-27: than those tensed fingers . . . could ever add up in the past, present or future: Pun on grammatical “tense” (such as past, present, or future). MOTIF: time.

228.26: those tensed fingers bunched: Cf. Lucette’s “chubby fingers grew like pink mushrooms . . . . to examine a bunch of pink mushrooms that clung to the stump, snoring” (203.03-30).

228.30-31: a big cup . . . of cocoa (sweet, dark, skinless Cadbury cocoa: Cf. Van in 1892: “not knowing what Lucette might like (he remembered her old craving for cocoa)” (417.18-20). John Cadbury opened a grocer’s shop in Birmingham in 1824, shifted to manufacturing in 1831 and by 1842 offered sixteen varieties of drinking chocolate and eleven cocoas. In 1906 the firm created the sweeter alkalized Bournville cocoa.

228.30: (the dark-blue cup!): Kyoto Reading Circle: Cf. “your Darkblue ancestor” (29.11).

229.02-03: over a script which cannot be more stupid: The film adaptation of Mademoiselle Larivière’s novelette Les Enfants Maudits. MOTIF: enfants maudits.

229.07: those Oriental gymnastics: Cf. 137.01-06: “The collection of Uncle Dan’s Oriental Erotica prints turned out to be artistically second-rate and inept calisthenically. . . . a Mongolian woman . . . shown communicating sexually with six rather plump, blank-faced gymnasts” Cf. also 92.14-16, Mlle Larivière watching over Lucette: “‘Elle devient pourpre, she is getting crimson,’ commented the governess. ‘I sustain that these indecent gymnastics are no good for her.’”

229. 07-12: “. . . you remember . . . as you remember.” “Oh, I remember! You remember . . . you remember . . . ” “You remember a lot”: Cf. 109.11-15: “ ‘And do you remember, a tï pomnish’, et te souviens-tu’ . . . . became with them, in their intense talks, the standard device for beginning every other sentence.” MOTIF: remember.

229.09-11: I showed you what my teacher of athletics . . . King Wing, taught me: Cf. 81.23-25: “after a conference with Demon, King Wing, the latter’s wrestling master, taught the strong lad to walk on his hands.”

229.12-13: remember . . . in her green pajamas: Cf. “Mémoire . . . in her green nightgown” (64.17-27). MOTIF: green [Lucette].

229.13: sun-tanned chest bare: Cf. 198.10: “Lucette remained topless”; 199.02-03: “the tan that had californized Lucette.” MOTIF: Lucette: sunbathing-tan.

229.14: arms akimbo: Perhaps with an implied similarity to Kim Beauharnais, another unwelcome witness to Van and Ada’s love-making?

229.21-23: Van stroked the silky top of her head and kissed her behind the ear; and, bursting into a hideous storm of sobs, Lucette rushed out of the room: Cf. “Because one can’t stroke (as he did now) the upper copper without imagining at once the lower fox cub” (368.08-10); “Ten eager, evil, loving, long fingers belonging to two different young demons caress their helpless bed pet. . . . Lucette, snatching up her nightdress, escaped to her room” (420.02-10).

229.24: She’s an utterly mad and depraved gipsy nymphet: Cf. Lucette’s “I’m like Dolores—when she says she’s ‘only a picture painted on air’” (464.30-31), and “her lolita (thus dubbed after the little Andalusian gipsy of that name in Osberg’s novel” (77.02-04), “A gitana . . . her sister, Dolores . . . (lifted from Osberg’s novella . . . )” (488.26-29). MOTIF: gipsy; Lolita, nymphet.

Afternote to Part One, Chapter 36

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