at the evening star, his favorite, applying to it simile after simile, finding nothing on his evening walk more beautiful. . . . Suddenly it speaks: "Foolish man! What are you excited about? I'm a world too, not like the one on which you live, but noisy and dark like yours. There is sorrow and coarseness here too--and if you want to know at this very moment one of my inhabitants--a poet like you--looks on that star you call 'Earth' and whispers to it: 'O pure, O beautiful.'" (VNRY 152)In Ada, similarly, Nabokov lets his characters' idea of Terra or his readers' image of Antiterra stand for the romance of remoteness, the yearning for somewhere better, where for instance love can find idyllic fulfilment, despite even an obstacle as apparently insurmountable as incest. But then he reverses the telescope to suggest almost simultaneously that whatever or wherever we are, mortal life will remain a complex compound of heaven and hell.
Immortality must have a star to stand on if it wishes to branch and blossom and support thousands of blue-plumed angel birds all singing as sweetly as little eunuchs. Deep in the human mind, the concept of dying is synonymous with that of leaving the earth. To escape its gravity means to transcend the grave. . . . ("Lance," Stories 636)That too becomes an aspect of the teasing relationship between the two worlds.
The prologue ends with a coda, a transition, a second foreglimpse of Van and Ada at Ardis that matches the first, their discovery in the attic.
17.01: the L disaster (and I do not mean Elevated): In other words, not a traffic accident on the elevated railway (known as the "El") that ran in New York from 1868, and from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. Ada/Ardeur 15: "du désastre 'El' (et ce n'est pas 'Elysée' que j'entends)" ("the 'El' disaster (and I do not mean 'Elysium'"--but with a play on Paris's Champs d'Elysée). MOTIF: technology.
17.01: the L disaster: A euphemism for Antiterra's "electricity disaster," whatever that was. The euphemism is required since in the disaster's wake "electricity" has become "too obscene spiritually" (13.04) to mention directly. MOTIF: electricity; L.
17.02: the beau milieu: Darkbloom: "right in the middle."
17.02-03: which had the singular effect of both causing and cursing the notion of "Terra": How the "L disaster" causes and curses the notion of "Terra" is never spelled out: in Van's case, because his Antiterran readers ought to know the history of their own planet, in Nabokov's case, because his earthbound readers can imagine more if they are told less. Cf. 20.22n. MOTIF: Terra.
17.02-06: causing and cursing . . . too well-known historically, and too obscene spiritually . . . addressed to young laymen and lemans--and not to grave men or gravemen: the insistent doubling here mirrors the doubling of Terra and Antiterra. The Terra theme regularly brings this out in Van: cf. "the Idea of Dimension & Dementia ('You will "sturb," Van, with an alliteration on your lips,' jested old Rattner)" (365.04-06).
The progression of the pairs is from (i) a near-contrast to (ii) parallelism to (iii) close resemblance, at least in sound, to (iv) virtual identity--a succession of possible relationships that match those between Terra and Antiterra. In the case of "grave men or gravemen," the only difference between the two formulas may be either in space (in spacing), or in the gap between life (grave men) and death (gravemen), which again sums up the chief possible differences between the two worlds.
Cf. for the last two pairs Ada/Ardeur 15: "à de jeunes amateurs ou amants et non à des gens très posés ou trépassés" ("to young amateurs or lovers, and not to people very grave or deceased").
17.02: causing and cursing the notion of "Terra": Cf. "the banned, or burned, books of the three cosmologists . . . who had recklessly started the whole [Terra] business half a century earlier, causing, and endorsing, panic, demency and execrable romanchiks" (339.22-26).
17.04: too obscene spiritually: Cf. EO, II, 109: "I have not seen any notice taken before of the curious prudishness with which conventional man disguises transitions from one form [of technology] to another." Nabokov had also satirized the prudishness of science fiction in his 1951 story "Lance" (see his letter to Katharine White, cited in VNAY 208-09). Of course he also had in mind the "spiritual" objections of conventional churchmen to scientific innovations such as the Copernican theory of planetary motion or the Darwinian theory of evolution.
17.05: addressed to young laymen and lemans: "laymen," in contrast to those who read Van's more technical, philosophical, works, many "extremely abstruse and specialized" (578.15); "lemans" are lovers, especially illicit ones: Van wants his celebration of his impermissible love for Ada to appeal to the romantic in his readers.
The hero of Van's novel on the Terra theme, Letters from Terra, will be called "Sig Leymanski" but will shorten his name to "Professor Leyman" (340.20). Its letters are addressed from Theresa on Terra to Leyman.
17.06: not to grave men or gravemen: A "graveman" is "one in charge of graves" (W2), though as the French translation indicates (see 17.02-06n.), Nabokov also has in mind those who inhabit graves.
At one level the phrase implies Van does not aim his book either at solemn readers or at reviewers who would like to bury the books they review. His first book, his novel about Terra, Letters from Terra (1892), provokes only two reviews, one "by the First Clown in Elsinore, a distinguished London weekly" (343.29-30). The First Clown in the play set in Elsinore, Hamlet (1600-01), is the first gravedigger. At the end of 1965, just before beginning Ada, Nabokov commented in response to Edmund Wilson's would-be deadly review of his Eugene Onegin translation: "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" (SO 252).
17.07-09: after great anti-L years of reactionary delusion . . . our sleek little machines . . . hum again: Cf. 81.33: "the Great Reaction." Nabokov may have been thinking of the Luddites, who in Britain between 1811 and 1816 broke machines in protest at the displacement of workers in the Industrial Revolution, and perhaps of such phenomena as the modern opposition to nuclear technology. In Nabokov's 1944 story "Time and Ebb," set in 2024, flying machines have been banned since the 1940s.
17.09: Faragod bless them: Darkbloom: "apparently, the god of electricity." A combination of "God bless them" and Michael Faraday (1791-1867), the English physicist who discovered electromagnetic induction and the laws of electrolysis and prepared the way for the modern notion of the electromagnetic field.
Nabokov here parodies a familiar device of science fiction, the substitution of a technologist for a deity. Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), for instance, in his Brave New World (1932), replaces the "Lord" in "A.D." ("Anno Domini," "the year of the Lord") with "Ford," and dates his story in the seventh century "AF" (after Henry Ford). In fact the F-r-d in "Faragod," with its ending "god," sounds like a specific echo of "Ford" as "Lord."
Rivers and Walker (265) suggest: "The '-god' in Faragod is perhaps a translingual pun on '-day' via the similar-sounding Latin word dei" (deus, "god," in the genitive singular).
17.12: bric-à-Braques: Darkbloom: "allusion to a bric-à-brac painter." French painter Georges Braque (1882-1963) was with Pablo Picasso the founder of Cubism, which in its second, so-called "synthetic" phase (from 1912 to about 1918) favored collage: found materials (especially strips of newspaper or wallpaper, cardboard, wood or metal)--hence "bric-à-brac"--were combined with painting on canvas. "The pun in Ada and in Darkbloom's note is pilfered from the poem 'Pale Fire,' where John Shade says, 'I loathe such things as jazz [and] abstractist bric-a-brac' (vv. 924-26). In an interview Nabokov says that Shade's opinion of 'abstractist bric-a-brac' represents his own opinion. Nabokov has, however, expressed admiration for the work of Picasso before Guernica (1937) [SO 18, 167]" (Rivers and Walker 265).
17.16-17: Ved' ("it is, isn't it"): The Russian is correctly translated.
17.17-18.03: "Russia," instead of being a quaint synonym of Estoty . . . transferred . . . to the opposite hemisphere: For the Russian occupation of Alaska, see 3.15n, 3.19n; for "Russian" Estoty and its possible echo of Estonia, see 3.18n.
17.19: extending from: corrected from 1969, "extending, from."
17.19: Arctic no longer vicious Circle: Because in Terra whatever is negative or imprisoning in Antiterra has been transformed into something positive or liberating. Cf. "vicious circle" (335.09).
Nabokov sees the "vicious circle" as an image of entrapment, like the closed sphere of human time (SM 20), and the spiral, the circle released, as an image of freedom: "In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, unwound, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free" (SM 275); "unless spirals become vicious circles again"(SM 301); "a vicious circle as all circles are, despite their posing as apples, or planets, or human faces" (NG 149).
As Peter Lubin comments, "the Arctic no longer vicious Circle" is a case of "phrasal tmesis" (the cutting of a compound term by another phrase) complicated by the fact that the phrase which cuts it is itself a set phrase, even a cliché ("Kickshaws and Motley," in Appel and Newman, 195).
Dmitri Nabokov's emendation "no-longer-vicious" in Ada 1989 seems unjustified.
18.01: sleight of land: pun on "sleight of hand." Ada/Ardeur 15: "tour d'eskimotage," "sleight of hand trick" (pun on escamotage, "sleight of hand," and eskimo).
18.01: ha-ha: "A sunk fence; a fence, wall, or ditch, not visible till one is close upon it" (W2); "A boundary to a garden, pleasure-ground, or park, of such a kind as not to interrupt the view from within, and not to be seen till closely approached" (OED). A ha-ha features prominently in the description of Mansfield Park's Sotherton Court, whose topography Nabokov liked to impress on his students' minds with the help of a map that shows the ha-ha (LL 31). A pun, of course, on "ha-ha" as laughter, stressing the absurdity of transferring Russia across the ocean. The “ha” lost in the transformation of “sleight of hand” into “sleight of land” has been doubly repaid.
18.01: a doubled ocean: The Atlantic duplicated on Antiterra's "double"? The Atlantic and the Pacific, as marking the east and west boundaries of the Americas and the west and east of Russia? An echo of Aqua and Marina? MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
18.02-03: today's Tartary: Tartary was the name applied, after the thirteenth-century Tatar invasion westwards toward Europe, to the area of Eurasia between the Russian principalities and the Pacific. At the time Ada was written, there was a Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, between Moscow and the Urals. "Tartary" also alludes by way of the tyranny and the torture in the Soviet Union, to Tartarus, the infernal regions (cf. "Tartary, an independent inferno," 20.03) of Greek mythology. Cf. Lolita 259: "I had abandoned the search: the fiend [Quilty] was either in Tartary or burning away in my cerebellum."
The Tartary motif in Ada may owe something not only to Nabokov's hostility to the Soviet Union, and his associating it with "Asiatic" despotism, but also to the association between the Vinland map and the manuscript the Tartar Relation. The Vinland map appeared in 1957, when it was offered for sale as a 15th-century copy of a 13th-century original bound with an authentic 15th-century manuscript, the Tartar Relation. The document received wide publicity in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and in 1965 was taken by Yale University Press as having proved that Leif Ericsson visited North America in the 11th century, as the Icelandic sagas imply. A controversy about the map's authenticity had followed immediately on its discovery, however, and since Nabokov was working on the Song of Igor's Campaign in 1958 and 1959, and was privately fascinated by the possibility that it might be a forgery, he had particular reason to take notice. A review by G.R. Crone, Librarian and Map Curator of the Royal Geographical Society, London, of R.A. Skelton, Thomas E. Marston and George D. Painter, The Vineland Map and the Tartar Relation (Yale Univ. Press) was published in Encounter, February 1966, 75-78, in the same issue as "Nabokov's Reply" to Edmund Wilson's review of his Eugene Onegin translation. Crone casts doubt on the likelihood that the map was drawn at the time of The Tartar Relation and suggests it may well have been drawn up after Columbus's discoveries became known. The weight of subsequent chemical analyses of the parchment, ink and cartography suggest that although it is on 15th century parchment, the map and its apparent evidence that "the Island of Vinland" was "discovered by Bjarni and Leif in company," and that this could have been known in Columbus's Europe, are false (New Scientist, August 10, 2002, 6). For "Vinelander," see 415.31 and n. MOTIF: Tartar.
18.03: Kurland: also spelt Courland, a region of West and South Latvia between the Baltic Sea and the river Dvina.
18.03: Kuriles: the Kurile Islands, between Japan and Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. "From Kurland to the Kuriles" does indeed cover the extent of the Soviet Union from west to east.
18.04: Terrestrial spatial terms: MOTIF: Terra.
18.04-07: the Amerussia of Abraham Milton was split into its components . . . separating the political, rather than poetical, notions of "America" and Russia": "Abraham Milton" fuses the "political" figure, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65)--under whom the United States of America was indeed split into separate components during the American Civil War--and the "poetical," John Milton. Milton wrote a posthumously-published Brief History of Muscovy (1682), at the beginning of which he describes Russia as "bounded on the North with Lapland and the Ocean; Southward by the Crim Tartar; on the West by Lituania, Livonia and Poland; on the East by the River Ob, or Oby, and the Nagayan Tartars on the Volga, as far as Astracan" (Maurice Kelley, ed., Complete Prose Works of John Milton [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1982], VIII, 477). In Paradise Lost Milton refers to the Tartars fighting Russia: "As when the Tartar from his Russian foe / By Astracan over the snowy plains / Retires" (X.431-33). Cf. "Milton Abraham" (22.03).
18.07-16: a more complicated . . . discrepancy arose in regard to time . . . this "scientifically ungraspable" concourse of divergences: MOTIF: time.
18.11: a gap of up to a hundred years one way or another existed between the two earths: 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."
18.12-15: a gap marked by a bizarre confusion of directional signs at the crossroads of passing time: a parody of the overthrow of simultaneity in the General Theory of Relativity (1915) of Albert Einstein (1879-1955)? Einstein will come under fire from Van and VN later in Ada.
18.13: the crossroads of passing time: Cf. Van's "extremely abstruse and specialized . . . Compitalia (1921)" (578.15-16), a philosophical (or psychological?) work whose Latin title means "crossroads."
18.16-18: minds bien rangés . . . deranged minds: notice the coupling. Bien rangés: well-ordered, steady.
18.22: terrology: the study of Terra. Perhaps only accidentally akin to "teratology" (W2): "Fantastic mythmaking or storytelling, in which prodigies and monsters play a large part. . . . Med. The study of monstrosities, serious malformations, or marked deviations from the normal type of structure, esp. in man." MOTIF: Terra.
18.23-24: Paar of Chose and Zapater of Aardvark: distinguished philosophers, apparently, at the Antiterran equivalents of Cambridge and Harvard. A strange version of the "transatlantic doubling" theme, not only because Harvard's location in Cambridge, Massachussetts itself duplicates Cambridge, England, but because parr means "a young salmon" and "Paar of Chose" suggest "pair of shoes," while zapatero, which means "leather jack," a type of fish, comes from the Spanish for "shoemaker." French chose ("thing") is often used by François Rabelais (1494?-c. 1553), whom Van and Ada like (136.28), to mean the pudendum (John Rea, NABOKV-L 23 February 2002). MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
18.24: Chose: This proves to be Antiterran for Cambridge, England, although the reason remains unclear. Perhaps because of the expression "Hobson's choice," from the practice of Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), the famous "university carrier" at Cambridge, who when he hired out horses made each customer "choose" the horse nearest the door. Milton wrote two poems on the death of Hobson, whose name--as Nabokov would have known from his years there as a student (1919-22)--is commemorated around Cambridge in, for instance, Hobson's Conduit and Hobson's Brook (also known as the Cambridge New River).
Though this seems an even less likely connection, I note it anyway, since it shows "Chose" playing, even if briefly, the part of a town's name. In Villette (1853), by Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), narrator Lucy Snowe hears Ginevra Fanshawe declare: "'I was excessively happy at Bonn!' 'And where are you now?' I inquired. // 'Oh! at - chose,' said she. Now Miss Ginevra Fanshawe (such was this young person's name) only substituted this word 'chose' in temporary oblivion of the real name. It was a habit she had: 'chose' came in at every turn in her conversation - the convenient substitute for any missing word in any language she might chance at the time to be speaking. French girls often do the like; from them she had caught the custom. 'Chose,' however, I found, in this instance, stood for Villette - the great capital of the great kingdom of Labassecour" (Ch. 6). As this suggests, "Villette," although the name of a number of places in France and Switzerland, is in fact is a version of Brussels, where Bronte taught in circumstances akin to those of Lucy Snowe.
18.25-26: "a distortive glass of our distorted glebe": a distorting mirror of our distorted planet. Glebe means "soil, sod. . . . an earthlike mineral; an earth" (W2), but itself looks like a distorted form of globe. But the phrase also distorts "this distracted globe" in a passage in Hamlet 1.5 that Nabokov has drawn on several times. After telling Hamlet of the murder, the Ghost exhorts him:
Let not the royal bed of Denmark beHamlet at this point probably clutches his skull to indicate what globe he has in mind.
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once.
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And gins to pale his uneffectual fire.
Adieu, adieu, Hamlet. Remember me.
HAMLET: O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart,
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe.
19.23: epithelial alliterations: "epithelial," of the epithelium, "A cellular tissue covering a free surface or lining a tube or cavity" (W2). Presumably because of "he fondled, and savored, and delicately parted and defiled, in unmentionable but fascinating ways, flesh" (19.18-19) and because of the bilabial (or two-lipped) alliterations in "blended and brightened . . . mirage in an emirate . . . geminate gem" (19.20-22). W2's etymology for "epithelium" derives it from "epi- [on] + Gk. th_l_ nipple": it is almost as if Van imagines Aqua and Marina as the twin charms of one bosom for Demon to feast on. Cf. 371.25-26: "I haven't once kissed male epithelia in all my love--I mean, life."
19.25: her fourteen years of miserable marriage: Cf. Van's declaration that "his father's life, anyway, was a rose garden all the time" (151.20): in other words, there were always mistresses like the incidental "lovely Irish wild rose" (150) he is enjoying in this scene.
19.26-27: sanatoriums: MOTIF: sanatorium.19.27-29: the European part of the British Commonwealth--say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia: Antiterra boasts a larger British sphere than our earth could even at the height of the British Empire. The European part here extends from Scotland and Scandinavia in the north to the Riviera in the south; from Altar (Gibraltar) in the west to "Palermontovia" in the east: Palermo (in Sicily), Moldavia, and perhaps Mikhail Lermontov's beloved Caucasus mountains. The Caucasus chain is usually regarded as marking the extreme south-eastern boundary between Europe and Asia.
The paradox here is that what Van sees as absurd fancies seem to us often an accurate if unconventional image of our planet in our century. "Flying sharks with lateral eyes," for instance, an image that takes off from flying fish, is as unexpected as it is strikingly apt for a vision of passenger jets glimpsed by someone who has never had the chance to grow used to them. Earl Sampson notes that in Pt. 1, Ch. 9 of Zavist' (Envy, 1927), by Yuri Olesha (1899-1960), one of the few Soviet writers Nabokov admired, we find "Letatel'nye mashiny perestali byt' pokhozhimi na ptits. . . . Letatel'naia mashina pokhozha teper' na tiazheluiu rybu" ("Flying machines are no longer like birds. . . . A flying machine is now like a heavy fish").
21.12-18: a minor hymnist’s paradise, a future America of alabaster buildings one hundred stories high . . . to carry pilgrims through black ether across an entire continent from dark to shining sea: Echoes “America the Beautiful,” the unofficial second national anthem of the USA, by the “minor hymnist” (and English professor at Wellesley College, where Nabokov himself taught between 1941 and 1948) Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929). For “alabaster buildings,” see ll. 27-28 below, “Thine alabaster cities gleam / Undimmed by human tears!”; for “pilgrims,” see l. 9ff. (“for pilgrims’ feet . . . A thoroughfare for freedom . . . / Across the wilderness!”); for “from dark to shining sea,” see ll. 8 and 32 (“From sea to shining sea”). (The Kyoto Reading Circle was the first to note the “from sea to shining sea” echo.)
The first version below dates from1893, and is the version usually sung, now normally to the tune of Samuel A. Ward’s “Materna” (composed 1882).
Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.
Oh beautiful, for pilgrims' feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control,
Thy liberty in law!
Oh beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine,
’Til all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine!
Oh beautiful, for patriot's dream
That sees beyond the years!
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea!
Bates’s third revision in 1913 adds four more stanzas; “halcyon” in the first line here seems to be alluded to in the patriotic pride of 3.21, “settlers enjoy a halcyon climate under our Stars and Stripes.”
O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!
O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America ! America !
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought
Through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!
O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life !
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!
21.12-14: a minor hymnist's paradise . . . resembling a beautiful furniture store: Cf., perhaps, Mrs Tapirov's antique furniture store: "the next floor where great wardrobes and flashy dressers semi-encircled a singular company of harps" (31.20-32.01).
21.13-14: a future America of . . . buildings one hundred stories high: Perhaps an allusion to Odonoetazhnaya Amerika (One-story America, 1937), an account of their travels through depression-era America by Il’f and Petrov (Ilya Il’f Fainzilberg, 1897-1937 and Evgeniy Petrovich Kataev, 1903-1942), whose work, unlike that of nearly all other Soviet writers, Nabokov admired. Their impressions of America were unexpectedly positive for a Soviet work of this date, and in the context of “America the Beautiful” make paeans to the US appear to be an Americo-Russian phenomenon.
21.13-19: alabaster buildings . . . magic-music boxes: MOTIF: technology.
21.13-14: alabaster buildings one hundred stories high: Cf. 336.27-28: "between two alabaster colossi" (buildings in Manhattan).
21.17: through black ether: a concept of nineteenth-century physics in the midst of these visions of twentieth-century technology.
21.18-19: back to Seattle or Wark: Seattle, Washington, and not Wark, a village in Northumberland on the Scottish border, but a version of Newark, New Jersey--the western and eastern coasts of the United States, therefore--with a bizarre echo of "back to . . . work." The "New" of the real Newark is eliminated here, as if to compensate for Ada's adding a "New Cheshire" to the United States or matching the suppression of the name of New York for "Manhattan." MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
21.19-21: magic-music boxes . . . uplifting the lift girl, riding down with the miner: Cf. 553.21-24: "the 'elevator' . . . feverishly began transmitting a fragmentary report on some competition--possibly a tricycle race."
Possibly inspired by Nicholas Freeling's Double-Barrel (1964), otherwise a source for Ada (see Boyd 2004): Part 1, Chapter 5 (Penguin edition, 19): "The local people, and with them a swelling tide of strangers from congested metropolitan Holland, took with enthusiasm to easy work in sunny, canteen-and-canned-music factories."
21.19: magic-music boxes: radios, transistors, piped music of all kinds. MOTIF: music box.
21.21-22: praising beauty and godliness, the Virgin and Venus: hymns and popular love songs, presumably.21.22: Venus: MOTIF: Venus.
21.22-31: The unmentionable magnetic power denounced by evil lawmakers . . . : Notice that the banning of electricity seems to have begun in North America, then spread south, and finally to the rest of the world. MOTIF: electricity.
21.24: this our shabby country: Cf. 21.08: "this our sufficient world."
21.25: in "German" Mark Kennensie: combines the German Mark (border, boundary), and kennen Sie? (do you know?); the three states Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee (Tennessee shares borders with the other two--and did you know the three have a common boundary, and almost overlap, at Mark Twain's Mississippi River?); and the names of German villages like Markt Oberdorf and Markt Rettenbach.
21.25-26: "Swedish" Manitobogan: Manitoba, a province in central Canada, with a dash of Michigan, a state in the U.S.A., plus "toboggan," useful transportation for winters in either region. Like other Prairie states and provinces, Manitoba had a high proportion of Scandinavian settlers among its early European immigrants.
21.26: the red-shirted Yukonets: Darkbloom: "Yukonets: inhabitant of Yukon (Russ.)." Alludes to both Canada's red-shirted Mounties (members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and Russian peasant dress: cf. Stories 264: "over a crimson Russian shirt"; SM 41: "Dmitri, the smallest and oldest of our gardeners, a meek, black-booted, red-shirted dwarf."
21.27: the red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka: Lyaskanka, Alaskan woman (Antiterran Russian: cf. 12.07); red-kerchiefed, cf. SM 80: "kerchiefed peasant girls." MOTIF: Lyaska.
21.28: from Bras d'Or to Ladore: MOTIF: adore; dor(e); Ladore.
21.30: Terra: MOTIF: Terra.
21.32: consumable witch: MOTIF: torture.
21.33-34: fashionable Brown Hill College: Antiterran version of Bryn Mawr College, a women's college just outside of Philadelphia, Pa. (bryn means "hill," and mawr "high" in Welsh), with perhaps a dash of Brown University in Providence, R.I.? Or perhaps fashionable Black Mountain College, a liberal arts college near Asheville, NC that in the 1950s became a center of poetic revolt, led by Charles Olson (1910-1970), Robert Duncan (1919- ), Robert Creeley (1926- ), and Denise Levertov (1923- )? The Brownhill at which Ada and Cordula de Prey study (166.12) may be a prep school for this Brown Hill, which is presumably a tertiary institution. MOTIF: Brownhill; Brown.
21.34: founded by one of her less reputable ancestors: Presumably the Zemski ancestor who loved small girls: "We have had some dreadful perverts in our ancestry. . . . The Zemskis were terrible rakes (razvratniki), one of them loved small girls" (233.22-31) (Aleksey Sklyarenko, private communication.)
22.03: Milton Abraham: Cf. 18.04-05: "Abraham Milton." In view of the suggestion of an American president in "Abraham Milton," this name now evokes President Dwight Eisenhower's brother Milton. Milton S. Eisenhower (1899-1985) was a statesman whom President Eisenhower regarded, during the term of his own presidency, as "The man who, from the standpoint of knowledge of human and governmental affairs, persuasiveness in speech and dedication to our country, would make the best president I can think of" (Patricia Burgess, ed., The Annual Obituary: 1985, Chicago: St. James Press, 1988, 242).
He has been fused with Abraham Lincoln not only in reversal of "Abraham Milton," but because just as Lincoln struggled to keep the North and the South together in the American Civil War, so Milton Eisenhower was famous particularly for pursuing a policy that would link North and South America--on Antiterra, all part of the U.S.A. (19.29-30). In 1952 Milton Eisenhower was one of the principal authors of his brother's election programme: "One plank of this election platform was an attack on President Truman's alleged neglect of South America, and when General Eisenhower became president one of his first acts was to appoint his brother as his personal representative to the area with the title of Special Ambassador. Milton led a five-week fact-finding mission through the countries of South America in the summer of 1953 and his subsequent report became the foundation of the Eisenhower Administration's Latin American policy. He was a strong supporter of 'positive assistance' to counter the anti-US feeling in the area." (ibid.) In the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he wrote The Wine is Bitter: The United States and Latin America (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963), in which he recommended United States support for reforms in Latin America that would ensure "a peaceful but revolutionary alliance for progress" rather than "bloody revolution" (ix).
22.03-04: Phree Pharmacy: "free pharmacy": parody of the American commercial habit of "cute" spellings, which usually tend towards fewer letters ("Nite Rates") rather than more. To Nabokov, the Milton Eisenhower program of "positive assistance" obviously seemed like a "free pharmacy."
22.04: Belokonsk: See 11.25 and n. MOTIF: Belokonsk; konsk-.
22.05-06: one summer of parvenu passion dispensed to her: the "parvenu" is presumably the married man, who judging by the "dispensed" is the pharmacist himself.
22.06: garçonnière: bachelor apartment.
22.07-09: a philistine town where businessmen played "golf" on Sundays and belonged to "lodges": Cf. 571.29-30: "He could never overcome his snobbish prejudice against golf"; 528.01-02: "his 'lodge' (meeting place of brotherly moneymakers)"; Pnin 116: "a Business Executive, a Mason, a Golfer."
22.09-15: The dreadful sickness . . . ever rarer: MOTIF: insanity.
22.11-12: existalienation: existentialist alienation. Cf. " 'existentialism' (still a hot thing at the time)" (Lolita 208).
22.14: sudden dreams of eternity-certainty: Cf. 583.21-584.01: "a double chance of being together in eternity, in terrarity." MOTIF: dream.
22.22: wildly welcomed by the old appenzeller: a breed of Swiss mountain dog from the canton of Appenzell, NE Switzerland. A short-haired, smooth-coated mastiff, "black and tan, with white at toes, tail tip, chest and blaze. The tan always lies between the black and the white. . . . The breed's extroverted demeanor is accentuated by its vocal enthusiasm for life." Bonnie Wilcox and Chris Walkowicz, The Atlas of the Dog Breeds of the World (Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H Publications, 1989), 128-29. Nabokov's sister Elena Sikorski, who at the time of Ada's composition lived not far from her brother at Petit Saconnex, near Geneva, had an appenzeller of which he was very fond.
22.22: finally making the nursery: where she is desperate to check on her son, Van. (Cf. 26.26-27.05.)
22.22: wigless: she has her head shaved: see 25.11.
22.22-23: slipperless: MOTIF: slipper.
22.24-25: for a length of time hardly exceeding that of human gestation: the irony is that since he is really Marina's son he was not with Aqua during the period of his gestation.
22.26: The rosy remoteness of Terra: MOTIF: Terra.
22.26: The rosy remoteness . . . soon veiled: Cf. 36.28-29: "veiled by an odd air of remoteness."
22.27-27.23: Her disintegration . . . . demented patient: MOTIF: insanity.
22.29: the best torture house: MOTIF: torture.
22.32-24.15: She developed a morbid sensitivity to the language of tap water . . . Finito!: Cf. 414.25-28: "Ada . . . was running her bath; to its gush a guitar rhythm recently heard, kept adapting itself aquatically (the rare moments when he remembered her and her quite rational speech at her last sanatorium . . . )." Cf. Nabokov's recollection: "Aunt Pasha's last words were: 'That's interesting. Now I understand. Everything is water, vsyo--voda' " (SM 68). MOTIF: water; water-speech.
22.33-23.01: echoes sometimes (much as the bloodstream does predormitarily) a fragment of human speech lingering in one's ears: Cf. 570.11-15: "To an echo of that creak, transmitted vascularly to the brain before the system of sleep took over, he put down the eerie detonation. . . . "; SM 33: "As far back as I remember . . . I have been subject to mild hallucinations. Some are aural, others are optical. . . . Just before falling asleep, I often become aware of a kind of one-sided conversation going on in an adjacent section of my mind, quite independently from the actual trend of my thoughts. It is a neutral, detached, anonymous voice. . . . the auditory counterpart of certain praedormitary visions."
23.05: poor Aqua: MOTIF: poor Aqua.
23.06-12: technologists . . . unmentionable "lammer": MOTIF: technology.
23.08-12: the extremely elaborate . . . gadgets . . . the banning of an unmentionable "lammer": See 23.12n. MOTIF: electricity.
23.09: elaborate and still very expensive hydrodynamic: emended by DN from 1969: "elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic". Perhaps VN in fact intended "elaborate, and still very expensive, hydrodynamic"--which seems closer to the parenthetical qualificatory cadences of the chapter.
23.09: hydrodynamic telephones: Charles Nicol's notes that "the word 'telephone' was coined in the eighteenth century on our world . . . , where it once described devices that predated [Alexander Graham] Bell's invention: "[T]here were sound telephones and steam telephones and musical telephones long before 1876. In Germany the speaking tube was sometimes called the telephone." [Catherine Mackenzie, Alexander Graham Bell: The Man Who Contracted Space, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1928, 7].' " ("Buzzwords and Dorophonemes: How Words Proliferate and Things Decay in Ada," in Gavriel Shapiro, ed., Nabokov at Cornell, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 91-100: 96). MOTIF: hydro-; telephone.
23.11: k chertyam sobach'im: MOTIF: chort.
23.11: "to the devil": MOTIF: devil.
23.12: unmentionable "lammer": Darkbloom: "lammer: amber (Fr: l'ambre), allusion to electricity." Amber becomes strongly electric through friction; the Arabic word for it, ‘anbar, is the origin of English amber, while the Greek term, elektron, has been used for electric, whose etymology W2 gives as: "NL. electricus electric, produced from amber (by friction), fr. L. electrum amber." Under lammer, W2 notes: "[F. l'ambre the amber] Amber. Scot. & N. of Eng."
William Gilbert (1544-1603), English physician and physicist, in his De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure (On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, and on the Great Magnet the Earth, 1600), used the term electricus, "like amber." Drawing on Gilbert, the English writer Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or, Enquiries into Very many Received Tenets, and commonly Presumed Truths (1646), coined the word “electricity.” See
OED: “electric: a. Of a (non-conducting) substance or object: possessing the property (first observed in amber) of developing static electricity when rubbed. Now hist.Originally the word referred only to the property of attracting lightweight objects, even the phenomenon of electrical repulsion being a later discovery (Gilbert indeed mentions the non-existence of repulsion as evidence of a distinction between magnetism and electricity).
1626 F. Bacon Physiol. Remains in Baconiana (1679) 149 Crystal, Lapis Specularis, Glass, and other such Electric Bodies, if burnt, or scorch'd, draw not.
1646 Sir T. Browne Pseudodoxia Epidemica ii. iv. 78 By Electrick bodies, I conceive . . . such as conveniently placed unto their objects attract all bodies palpable.”
OED: “electricity: . . . In early use: the property of amber, glass, and certain other substances of attracting lightweight objects when rubbed (cf. electric adj. 1a); (also) the state produced in such substances by rubbing. Subsequently: the cause of this phenomenon (and of others found to be of the same origin, such as electric sparks and lightning), a form of energy occurring in two modes (positive and negative) as an intrinsic property of electrons and certain other subatomic particles, and produced as a flowing current when a conductor such as a copper wire is moved through a magnetic field. Benjamin Franklin considered electric phenomena to be due to a fluid (see electric fluid n.). Later in the 19th cent. the prevailing view was that electricity is a distinctive condition either of the molecules of an electrified object or of the ether surrounding it.
1646 Sir T. Browne Pseudodoxia Epidemica ii. i. 51 Crystal will calefy into electricity; that is, a power to attract strawes or light bodies, and convert the needle freely placed.”
In view of Aqua's and Marina's names, and the watery surrogate Aqua here imagines for an electrical effect, surely the French la mer (the sea) also comes in here? MOTIF: amber.
23.22: my lad, my pretty, my love, take pity: Darkbloom: "paraphrase of a verse in Housman." From A Shropshire Lad (1896), by Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936), poem V ("Oh see how thick the goldcup flowers"), l.31: "Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty." Although this comic poem of a failed seduction involves "lass and lad," Nabokov alters to "my lad, my pretty, my love" to point to Housman's homosexuality, never too far from the surface of the wistful poems in this collection. In Pale Fire the homosexual Kinbote refers to "Alfred Housman (1859-1936), whose collection The Shropshire Lad vies with the In Memoriam of Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) in representing, perhaps (no, delete this craven 'perhaps') the highest achievement of English poetry in a hundred years" (PF 269). Nabokov, who saw Housman at mealtimes in the Trinity College Hall all through his years at Cambridge (SM 273), himself ranked A Shropshire Lad very highly: in an unpublished 1937 interview, asked to name his favorite book, he answered: "The book I shall write some day. Also: 'Eugene Onegin,' 'Hamlet,' 'Madame Bovary, 'The Shropshire Lad.'" (VNA)
23.23: flou: French, "fuzzy, woolly, hazy."
23.26-28: ballatetta . . . mente: Darkbloom: "fragmentation and distortion of a passage in a 'little ballad' by the Italian poet Guido Cavalcanti (1255-1300). The relevant lines are: 'you frightened and weak little voice that comes weeping from my woeful heart, go with my soul and that ditty, telling of a destroyed mind.'" From "Ballata" ("Perch' i' no spero di tornar giammai"), ll. 37-40: "Tu, voce sbigottita e deboletta / ch'esci piangendo de lo cor dolente, / coll'anima e con questo ballatetta / va' ragionando della strutta mente." The poet, far from Tuscany, and soon to die, sends his ballad to pay homage to his beloved. Notice that sbigottita echoes in Aqua's mind as spigotty (a pun on "spigot": cf. Ada/Ardeur 20, where sbigottita is deformed into gouttelette, "droplet"), and deboletta becomes diavoletta ("lively little imp," "young rascal," from diavolo, "devil"). Cavalcanti, Le Rime, ed. Guido Favati (Milan and Naples: Riccardi, 1957), 268-69; for Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation ("Ballata: In Exile at Sarzana"), see Rossetti, The Collected Works (London: Ellis and Elvey, 1901, II, 149-150).
23.26-27: diavoletta: MOTIF: devil.
23.29-32: the guide will go on demonstrating . . . in Florence a silly pillar commemorating . . . the "elmo" that broke into leaf when they carried stone-heavy-dead St. Zeus by it through the gradual, gradual shade: Aqua's distorted recollection of the patter of a tour guide in Florence.
St. Zenobius was a patron saint and bishop of Florence in the 5th century. When his remains were being carried through the city, to be deposited under the high altar, his body was "thrown against the trunk of a withered elm . . . and the tree which had for years been dead and dried up, burst into fresh leaves" (A. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, II, 102-03). His best known miracles, most often represented in art, featured restoring the dead to life. In the 19th century a picture of him and his attribute, a tree bursting into leaf, was suspended against one of the pillars opposite the entrance to the Cathedral of Florence, close to the Baptistry.
"Silly pillar" in this context seems to echo the German selig, "blessed" (cf. Seligsprechung, "beatification"), from which the English "silly" derives. Perhaps the guide Aqua overheard was German and referred to "ein seliger Pfeiler."
There also seems, in the "pillar . . . 'elmo' . . . broke into leaf . . . St. Zeus," a faint flash of Zeus's lightning or St. Elmo's fire, a flamelike electrical discharge seen in storms at the tips of ship masts, steeples and trees.
"Gradual, gradual shade" surely echoes Gradus and Shade in PF. A minute before "gradual Gradus" (PF 152) kills him, Shade walks across to Kinbote's house as "the evening's shade covered the rest of the path. . . . Then the tide of the shade reached the laurels" (PF 290). In view of Shade's concern for what lies beyond death, St. Zenobius's reputation for restoring the dead seems curiously apt, while in view of the "'elmo' . . . broke into leaf . . . St. Zeus" it should perhaps be added that Shade has a poem "The Nature of Electricity" where he suggests "The dead, the gentle dead-who knows?- / In tungsten filaments abide, / . . . / And when above the livid plain / Forked lightning plays, therein may dwell / The torments of a Tamerlane" (PF 192-93).
Aleksey Sklyarenko notes that the story, "Radosti zemnoy lyubvi" ("Joys of Earthly Love") by Nikolay Gumilyov (1886-1921) whose hero is the poet Cavalcanti (see 23.25-28 and 24.07), who in order to win his beloved Primavera "tells a story in her presence about a signor living alone in his castle weeping all the time before the ivory-and-golden statue of the merciless lady whom he loves. [At last], the statue sighs and holds out its hand as if for a kiss." (Sklyarenko 2001)
23.31: broke into leaf: A broken English "burst into life"?
23.33: Arlington harridan: Arlington, Virginia, an urban county across the Potomac from Washington D.C., is the site of the United States's National War Cemetery.
24.01: Jack Black: U.S. General John J. ("Black Jack") Pershing (1860-1948), who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I and emerged from the war as its most celebrated American hero, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. MOTIF: black.
24.02-03: Bathwater . . . too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly: Caliban, in Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611-12), is the native of the island on which Prospero finds himself cast away. Miranda, Prospero's daughter, reminds Caliban that she "Took pains to make thee speak . . . when thou didst not, savage, / Know thine own meaning, but would'st gabble like / A thing most brutish" (I.ii.356-59). In view of the "elmo . . . St. Zeus" at the end of the previous sentence, it may be of relevance that the spirit Ariel, reporting back to Prospero how he staged a storm for the passing fleet, gives a vivid description of St. Elmo's fire: "I boarded the king's ship: now on the beak, / Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin, / I flam'd amazement: sometime I'd divide, / And burn in many places; on the topmast, / The yards and boresprit, would I flame distinctly, / Then meet and join. Jove's lightnings, the precursors / O' th' dreadful thunderclaps, more momentary / And sight-outrunning were not" (I.ii.196-204).
24.04: infernal ardor: MOTIF: ardor; infernal.
24.04: ardor to bother: corrected from 1969, "ardor--to bother."
24.05: flowlets: MOTIF: -let.
24.06: her first "home": MOTIF: home.
24.07-09: hateful . . . hateful . . . hateful: Cf. 27.04: "hateful long dead Marina's hell-dwelling mind."
24.07: the Cavalcanti quoter: see 23.26-28 and n.
24.11-12: her namesake's loquacious quells: that is, approximately, "water's talkative flows or torments." Quell as a verb can mean "suppress, quash" (and derives from Old Norse kvelja, "to torment") or "well, flow out," and as a noun can mean "spring, fountain" or "killing, slaughter." Notice the "Aqua" present in different forms in "her namesake," "loquacious" and "quells."
24.14: lymph: water (poetic).
24.15: Finito!: Italian, "finished": in other words the water itself has declared there will be no more water talk.
24.17: yamï: corrected from 1969, "yam¯i" [macron over the "i"].
24.18-19: mental panic and physical pain: MOTIF: panic and pain.
24.19: black-ruby hands: Cf. 20.14: "Ruby Black, born Black, who was to go mad too." MOTIF: black-red.
24.22: Tellurians: earth-dwellers.
24.26: people of genius: MOTIF: of genius.
24.25-25.02: The effort to comprehend the information conveyed . . . by the hands of a timepiece. . . . Half-past for--for what?": MOTIF: time.
24.27: hands of a timepiece, or piece of time: Cf. 29.13-18: "The hands of a clock . . . must know and let the dumbest little watch know where they stand. . . . Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek."
24.28-31: the Chinese chant of that young student with a non-Chinese guitar . . . mauve baby: Cf. 9.05: "possibly belonging to a very sick Chinese boy who came all the way from Barkley College."
24.30: she or her sister had given birth: MOTIF: sisters confused.
25.03-04: 'never . . . twin son: MOTIF: twin.
25.03: 'never' and 'mind' are twins: in other words, she is never in her right mind.
25.04: a twin son: her confused awareness that Van has a "twin" in the aborted foetus who was substituted for him, or that Van is the son of her, Aqua's, twin. See below, 25.25-26.02.
25.05: pudendron: combines "pudendum" and "rhododendron."
25.05: Hairy Alpine Rose in her album: the hairy alpenrose is Rhododendron hirsutum L., a native of the Central European alps, the Austrian Alps, and the mountains of north-west Yugoslavia, and distinguished from the alpine rhododenron Rhododendron ferrugineum L., (European Alps, Pyrenees, and mountains of west Yugoslavia), by the bristles on the margins of the leaves and on the branches and petioles, and by the hairy margin of the corolla-lobes. (H. H. Davidian, The Rhododendron Species, vol. 1: Lepidotes [London: B.T. Batsford, 1982], p. 134). Alpine rose is a name applied also to the edelweiss. Cf. the artificial edelweiss in Marina's album, 7.30. MOTIF: album; flowers.
25.09-12: She wanted (and was allowed, bless the hospital barber, Bob Bean) to have her dark curls shaved . . . because they grew into her porous skull and curled inside: Aqua seems to imagine her hair coiling as if on a bobbin inside her head, unless Bob Bean shaves her.
To bob is to cut (a woman's) hair short enough so that it does not fall below the nape. Bean can have the slang sense of "head" and especially "skull." A bobbin is a spool around which thread can be curled, inside, for instance, a sewing machine. The Russian word bob, as William Rowe points out, means "bean" (Nabokov's Deceptive World, New York: New York Univ. Press, 1971, 32). Ada/Ardeur 21 translates "Bob Bean" as "Bob Bine" (French bobine, "bobbin").
The idea of hair growing inside the skull seems to derive (Franklin Johnson, private communication) from an interview with Bob Dylan in the March 1966 issue of Playboy, in which Nabokov published an excerpt from Despair. Asked by interviewer Nat Hentoff about long hair, Dylan replied with his usual sub-surrealistic non-cooperation: "The thing that most people don't realize is that it's warmer to have long hair. Everybody wants to be warm. People with short hair freeze easily. Then they try to hide their coldness, and they get jealous of everybody that's warm. Then they become either barbers or Congressmen. . . . I guess if you figure it out, you realize that all of one's hair surrounds and lays on the brain inside your head. Mathematically speaking, the more of it you can get out of your head, the better. People who want free minds sometimes overlook the fact that you have to have an uncluttered brain. Obviously, if you get your hair on the outside of your head, your brain will be a little more freer" (Playboy, March 1966, 139).
25.11: aquamarine prickle: Cf. 19.30-32: "prickled with . . . pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs." MOTIF: aquamarine.
25.12-13: Jigsaw pieces of sky or wall came apart: Cf. 580.14-15: "the jigsaw puzzle of Terrestrial autonomies."
25.15-17: the blank backs of "Scrabble" counters, which she could not turn over sunny side up: in other words she suffers from patches of agnosia or aphasia, when she is unable to identify objects or to put words to them, as if they were Scrabble counters she cannot turn over to see the letters. A Scrabble game--usually known on Antiterra as "Flavita"--is described at length in I.36.
25.19: panic and pain: MOTIF: panic and pain.
25.19-22: like a pair of children in a boisterous game . . . ran away to manipulate each other behind a bush as in Count Tolstoy's Anna Karenin: Part 6 Chapter 5: Koznyshev and Varenka, who both expect him to propose to her imminently, accompany Dolly's children on a mushroom hunt. But the subject of the proposal never finds its moment. After a break in the text, the scene resumes: "'Quiet, children, quiet!' Lyovin shouted at the children, angrily even, as he stepped out in front of his wife to protect her when the crowd of children flew towards them with shrieks of delight. // Koznyshev and Varenka followed the children out of the wood." In Part 6 Chapter 15, Lyovin comes upon Dolly scolding her daughter Masha. She explains to Lyovin what has happened: "She and Grisha went among the raspberry bushes and there . . . I can't even say what she did. So naughty! A thousand pities Miss Elliot's not here. This one doesn't see anything, she's a machine. . . . Figurez-vous qu'elle . . . ' // And Dolly reported Masha's crime. // 'That proves nothing. It's not naughtiness, it was just a joke,' Lyovin calmed her."
25.23-24: their mother had the same first name as hers had: Dolly (see 3.09).25.25-26.25: this provides the explanation that solves the riddle of Van and Ada's parentage. See Forenotes to I.1 and I.3. Note that although this sounds highly romantic, such things happen. In the impeccable realism of Tolstoy's Anna Karenin we find this:
Madam Shtal' . . . byla vsegda boleznennaya i vostorzhennaya zhenshchina. Kogda ona rodila, uzhe razvedyas' s muzhem, pervogo rebyonka, rebyonok etot totchas zhe umer, i rodnye g-zh Shtal', znaya ee chuvstvitel'nost i boyas', chtob eto izvestie ne ubilo ee, podmenili ey rebyonka, vzyav roduvshuyusya v tu zhe noch' i v tom zhe dome v Peterburge doch' pridvornogo povara. Eto byla Varen'ka. (II.xiii)
Mme Stahl . . . had always been a sickly and rapturous woman. She gave birth to her first child when she was already divorced from her husband. The child died at once, and Mme Stahl's family, knowing her susceptibility and fearing the news might kill her, replaced the baby, taking the daughter of a court cook born the same night and in the same house in Petersburg. This was Varenka. (Anna Karenina, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky, London: Penguin, 2001, 219-20)
25.26: a surprised little fetus, a fish of rubber: Cf. 143.03-04: "a fetus-sized rubber doll."
25.27: lieu de naissance plainly marked X: a combination of x as an unknown and "X marks the spot." Outside Aqua's dreams the place is well known: cf. Van's "my lieu de naissance" (8.17-18 and n.), at "Ex, a mountain resort" (7.09). MOTIF: Ex.
25.27-28: plainly marked X in her dreams: MOTIF: dream.
25.28: skiing at full pulver: at full pulver seems to fuse "at full pelt (speed)" with an image of the trail of powder snow (pulver [OED]: "powder, dust") that Aqua throws up in her wake. Cf. Marina, "who would woosh down fluffy slopes on a bobsleigh a fortnight after parturition" (252.01-02)--on the same day, that is, that Aqua skis into the larch.
25.28: larch stump: the rest of the tree seems to have been cut down for a Christmas tree at Aqua's Home (7.32, 9.03). MOTIF: larch.
25.29: Nusshaus: Darkbloom: "Nuss: German for 'nut.'" See 7.15n.
25.30-31: blood-soaked cotton wool: Cf. 68.27-28: "blood-soaked cotton wool."
25.33-26.01: her sister's, born out of wedlock, during an exhausting, yet highly romantic blizzard: Cf. "'Snowing in Fate's crystal ball,' as he used to say" (8.03-04), in Marina's entry recording Van's birth. It seems probable that this very storm marks the death of Eric Veen: he dies presumably at the end of 1869 after being "sent to Ex-en-Valais, whose crystal air was supposed at the time to strengthen young lungs; instead of which its worst hurricane hurled a roof tile at him, fatally fracturing his skull" (347.18-348.01). The "crystal" in 8.04's "crystal ball" seems to confirm the link.
26.01: mountain refuge: Cf. 450.07-09: Van "liked composing his works . . . in mountain refuges," of which his and Ada's château at Ex is their favorite (567.11-12). It is there that they complete Ada, and that they both die.
26.01: Sex Rouge: "Le Sex Rouge" exists, a peak of 2884m. in the Massif des Diablerets, in the Vaud, 12 km. north of Sion, east south east of Montreux (7° 23' W, 46° 20' N). Below Sex Rouge (also Scex Rouge) a small valley to the northeast leads to the village of Les Diablerets, where the Nabokovs had bought a small plot of land in 1962, about 12 km. as the crow flies from Château d’Oex (Baedeker’s Switzerland, 18th ed., Leipzig: Baedeker, 1899), map facing p. 265. Sex or Scex means “rock” (ultimately from Latin saxum): see http://suter.home.cern.ch/suter/topoS0.html#Sa1.
Cf. 7.09n for the Alpine place-names Bex, Gex, Mex, Vex. As so often in Ada Nabokov provokes the reader into asking why he would be so obvious--"Red Sex--really!"--only to conceal another reason far from obvious, even if as here it is no more than the obscure and absurd truth. Cf. also 180.18: "kasbek rouge"; 509.26-29: "Mount Russet . . . Sex Noir."
DN emends to "Sex (Scex) Rouge" without justification. MOTIF: black-red (with 509.29); Ex; red mountain.
26.02: a Dr. Alpiner: in fact his name is Lapiner, though the first time he is mentioned Marina notes "Dr. Lapiner's walled alpine garden" (7.25-26). But Lapiner's wife was born Countess Alp (440.22). In fact it is Dr. Lapiner who suggests the baby swap (440.26-28).
26.02-03: gentian-lover: Cf. 8.05: "Gentiane de Koch, rare, brought by lapochka [darling] Lapiner from his 'mute gentiarium.'"
26.04-25: Some confusion ensued . . . still stood on her bedside table; her favorite flame-colored nightgown . . . : MOTIF: sisters confused.
26.06: her next refuge: as opposed to the "mountain refuge" (26.01) on Sex Rouge that she blurrily remembers as the place where Van was born. Somewhere in the United States (see 20.11-12 and next n. below).
26.07: her husband's unforgettable country house: the one that Demon shares with Dan (5.12-13).
26.07-09: imitate a foreigner: "Signor Konduktor, ay vant go Lago di Luga, hier geld": "Mister (Italian signore / Spanish señor) conductor (Russian), I want to go to (pigeon English) Lake Luga (Italian), here is money (German)." The Lago di Lugano is on the Italo-Swiss border, but here the lake is "Lake Kitezh, near Luga," of which Demon and Dan's country estate "practically consist[s]" (5.09). For the Russian city of Luga, see 5.09n. For Lugano, Pa., see 108.09. MOTIF: -uga.
26.09: solarium: MOTIF: -arium.
26.11-23: her talc powder . . . Marina had spent a . . . month with him: Cf. the powder of the wrong sister (Lucette rather than Ada) at 559.07-18.
26.12: Quelques Fleurs: A genuine perfume, introduced in 1912 by the eminent perfumier Robert Bien-Aimé of Parfum Houbigant, the oldest of the great French perfume houses, established by Jean-Jacques Houbigant in 1775. Quelques Fleurs remained popular in the 1920s and 1930s and was reintroduced by Houbigant in 1988. It was "the first commercially sold perfume based on multiple floral notes, as opposed to a single floral note" (cited by Freda Fuller, NABOKV-L 31 October 2002). There was also a Quelques Fleurs powder. For images of the perfume and powder, see http://www.duft-seiten.de/Houbigant,_Max.html (Quelques Fleurs powder at bottom right) and for the detailed Quelques Fleurs logo (flowers in a basket where there is room, a colorful garland where there is not), see http://www.rubylane.com/shops/kayzarkade/item/PMH1. (Carolyn Kunin, NABOKV-L, 5 November 2002.)
Cf. the "few flowers" of the herbarium when Aqua and Marina last overlapped, 7.08-8.13. MOTIF: flowers.
26.15: ever since Shakespeare's birthday on a green rainy day: the day of her marriage, "April 23, 1869, in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga" (4.14-15). MOTIF: April 23.
26.17-19: after G.A. Vronsky . . . had left Marina . . . : Cf. 249.23: "Marina (and G.A. Vronsky, during their brief romance)."
26.19: Khristosik: Darkbloom: "little Christ (Russ.)." D. Barton Johnson (Johnson 2000) links this with the krestik motif. Aleksey Sklyarenko notes “In his memoir essay ‘The Sinani Family’ included in Shum vremeni (The Noise of Time, 1925) Osip Mandelshtam compares young members of the SR Party (whom Boris Sinani, Mandelshtam's classmate at the Tenishev school and a Karaite, called Khristosiki) to Jesus in Nesterov's paintings: “’Khristosiki’ byli rusachki s nezhnymi ltsami, nositeli ‘idei lichnosti v istorii,’ –i v samon dele mnogie iz nikh pokhodili na nesterovskikh Iisusov” ("The ‘Khristosiks’ were soft-faced young Russians, the bearers of ‘the idea of an individual's role in history’ - and, indeed, many of them resembled Jesus in Nesterov's paintings”). . . . [Mikhail] Nesterov[1862-1942]'s most famous painting is Videnie otroku Varfolomeyu (Vision to the Youth Bartholomew, 1890.
26.19-20: had conceived, c'est bien le cas de le dire, the brilliant idea: In other words, she has conceived the idea of conceiving (getting pregnant) by Demon in order to pressure him into divorcing Aqua and marrying her. Cf. "Special Delivery, c'est bien le cas de le dire" (8.01 and n.), where there is also a pun on the word before "c'est bien le cas de le dire" (flowers sent special delivery on Marina's being delivered of Van).
26.20-25: the brilliant idea of having Demon divorce mad Aqua and marry Marina . . . but . . . he threw her out of the house: Cf. Van's idea that Ada should leave her husband to rejoin him, a plan which fails when it is discovered that Vinelander, like Aqua, seems defenseless (with tuberculosis, in his case): 529.19-530.06.
26.21-22: Marina who thought (happily and correctly) she was pregnant again: since Marina is here pregnant with Ada, there seems to be either a miscalculation on Nabokov's part, or an unduly long gestation period, unless Aqua's "September 1871" (26.05) is meant to be a mistake on her part, which the context seems to suggest is not the case. Ada is born on July 21, 1872. Even if Aqua arrives at Kitezh at the very end of September 1871, and Marina has just left, at least two weeks, say, after conceiving Ada (so that there is time for her to have noticed a missed period), then Marina will be at least five weeks over term with Ada.
26.22-23: rukuliruyushchiy: Darkbloom: "Russ., from Fr. roucoulant, cooing."
26.26: all those ambiguous recollections: about the fetus, about her having lived with Demon all along.
26.28: "sanastoria" at Centaur, Arizona: a "sanastoria" seems to be a sanitorium for the stars (Latin, astra), a hotel de luxe, like various Astoria hotels from New York to St. Petersburg. "Center" or "Centerville" is a common name for American towns, but a centaur is a fabulous creature from Greek mythology, as is a phoenix, the legendary bird that gave its name to Phoenix, the capital of Arizona. (Pun first noted by Penny McCarthy, “ Nabokov’s Ada and Sidney’s Arcadia: The Regeneration of a Phoenix,” Modern Language Review 99 (2004), 17-31: 25.) Phoenix however exists in its own right in Ada’s Arizona (436.10). Nabokov toys with the geography of Phoenix, Arizona in Lolita II.2, 160: see Corinne Scheiner, Nabokv-L, January 10, 2004. MOTIF: centaur.
Cf. 27.19-20: "astorium in St. Taurus, or whatever it was called." MOTIF: Arizona; astor; sanatorium.
26.29: petite maman: "dear little mummy."
26.29-31: describing the amusing school he would be living at after his thirteenth birthday: Riverlane (32.23). This prepares for I.4, Van at school in 1884, an interlude which quickly provides him with some immediate background reality before his arrival at Ardis in I.5.
26.31: tinnitus: a ringing sound in the ear, not produced by any external source.
26.32: planful: full of plans, but with also an overtone of "painful"?
26.32: last, last insomnias: Cf. 490.15-16: "Lucette, who turned to them with her last, last, last free gift of staunch courtesy" as another suicide looms.
27.01-02: triplets and heraldic dracunculi often occurred in trilingual families: Unclear. Does the triplet in this trilingual family refer to Van's triple designation for his "mother": maman (French), mama (accented on second syllable, English), mama (accented on first syllable, Russian)? Or to Van, the fetus, and his uncle Ivan? Dracunculi are "little dragons."
27.03: no doubt whatsoever now: now that Van has started writing letters to her calling her "mother": this, to poor damaged Aqua, proves she must be his mother.
27.04: hateful: Cf. Aqua's "the most hateful of the visiting doctors . . . hateful instructions . . . into her hateful bidet" (24.07-09).
27.04: long-dead: Marina in fact has another seventeen years to live.
27.04: hell-dwelling mind: MOTIF: hell.
27.05: her, her, Aqua's, beloved son: note how the sequence of the sentence makes Marina seem the antecedent of "her, her" until Aqua insists on herself.
27.08: in distant France, at a much less radiant and easygoing "home": the principal allusion seems to be to the suicide of Emma Bovary, in a distorted Antiterran version. In Flaubert's novel she does not die in an institutional "home." MOTIF: home.
27.09-14: A Dr. Froid . . . may have been an émigré brother . . . or, more likely, the same man . . . only sons: The "Mondieu-Mondieu" not only plays on the second syllable of Freud's first name (see next n.), but in this context, seems to suggest monde (French, "world," and cf. 27.22 "Mondefroid"), in echo of the doubling of worlds in Terra and Antiterra. MOTIF: relation; transatlantic doubling.
27.09-10: A Dr. Froid, one of the administerial centaurs: Nabokov's dislike for the theories of Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is ubiquitous in his work from 1930 on. Here the doctor's name means "cold" in French. Nabokov plays on the German meaning of Freude, "joy," in "Sigismond Lejoyeux" (SM 156). MOTIF: Froid.
27.11-12: the Dr. Froit of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu in the Ardennes: a play on Sigmund Freud's first and last names, the French phrase "Mon Dieu, mon Dieu" ("good Lord"), and place-names like Signy-l'Abbaye and Signy-le-Petit in the department of Ardennes, Northern France. MOTIF: Froid; Sig; Signy-Mondieu.
27.13: both came from Vienne, Isère: Vienne is the French form of "Vienna," and there is a Vienne in the department of Isère, southeast France. Freud, whom Nabokov liked to call "the Viennese witch doctor" (IB 8) or "the Viennese quack" (SM 300, SO 47), lived almost all his life in Vienna. In the forewords to his novels, Nabokov regularly stressed that "the Viennese delegation" (Mary xiii, KQK x, Defense 10, etc.) was not invited. Since in fact these attacks on Freud became such a Nabokov trademark, "Vienne, Isère" could well be read (with the appropriate French accent) as "VN is 'ere."
Philip Rack, a German, will address Van as "Baron von Wien" (316.17), Wien being the German name for Vienna and a homophone of "Veen," almost as if the Veens are throughout an anti-"Vienna" device. Cf. 28.08-09.
27.14: only sons (as her son was): Cf. 25.03-04: "I have a . . . twin son."
27.15: therapistic device: rather than "therapeutic device": a neologism suggesting that the device is not therapeutic for the patient, but of benefit only to the therapist.
27.15: a "group" feeling: an extreme individualist, Nabokov disliked group thought and group therapy: "I have never belonged to any club or group" (SO 3); "conformists flocking together in sticky goups . . . I do not write for groups, nor approve of group therapy (the big scene in the Freudian Farce)" (SO 114).
27.17-19: repeated exactly clever Eleonore Bonvard's trick, namely, opting for the making of beds and the cleaning of glass shelves: a distorted Antiterran version of Emma Bovary's name and a rewriting of her actions. Rather than collecting pills, as Aqua does, from shelves that she volunteers to clean, Emma Bovary simply eats arsenic on the shelf of the pharmacist Homais's laboratory.
27.19-20: The astorium in St. Taurus, or whatever it was called: in misremembering the name (cf. 26.28), Aqua has with Nabokov's help transformed the centaur (man-horse) into saint-bull; and in the combination of the stars in "astorium" and the spelling and the zodiacal sign in "St. Taurus" there is also a hint of the metamorphosis of the centaur Chiron into the constellation Sagittarius, a myth drawn on in The Centaur (1963), by John Updike (1932- ), which Nabokov alludes to as "Chiron" at 132.06-07. MOTIF: astor; centaur; sanatorium.
27.20: one forgets little things very fast: Cf. 5.16: "as one forgets the measurements and price. . . . "
27.22-23: the Mondefroid bleak-house horsepittle: Mondefroid: after "Dr. Froid" and "Signy Mondieu-Mondieu" (27.09, 27.11-12), or "Sigmund Freud"; read as French, the word also means "cold world," preparing for the "bleak house" in the next phrase.
Bleak House horsepittle: Darkbloom: "horsepittle: 'hospital,' borrowed from a passage in Dickens' Bleak House. Poor Jo's pun, not a poor Joycean one." Bleak House (1852-53), ch. 46: "'[He] Put me in a horsepittle,' replied Jo, whispering, 'till I was discharged, then giv me a little money. . . . " Like Aqua, Jo at this point has very little time to live.
Nabokov's Darkbloom comment is a response to D.J. Enright's review of Ada ("Pun-Up," Listener, October 2, 1969, 457-58), which referred to "horsepittle" as "the same fish fried in an inferior Joycepan." Joyce himself, as Nabokov may have known, refers to "Pore old Joe!" in Finnegans Wake (141).
As Rivers and Walker point out (p. 266), the pun comes not from the illiterate Jo, who means only "hospital," but from Dickens. But it is a pun, especially in Nabokov's context, where Van contrasts the luxury of the Arizona "sanastoria" with the "Mondefroid bleakhouse horsepittle," for a "spittle" was a "house or place for the reception of the indigent or diseased, . . . esp. one chiefly occupied by persons of a low class or afflicted with foul diseases. . . . Distinguished from hospital, as being of a lower class than this" (OED). Cf. Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour (1601): "May they lie and starve in some miserable spittle." MOTIF: Froid; Signy-Mondieu.
27.23-24: in both places a demented patient could outwit in one snap an imbecile pedant: Cf. Lolita 36: "I owe my complete restoration to a discovery I made while being treated at that particular very expensive sanatorium. I discovered there was an endless source of robust enjoyment in trifling with psychiatrists: cunningly leading them on; never letting them see that you know all the tricks of the trade."
27.26-28.03: tablets . . . : Cf. Lucette's Quietus pills (487.24-25, 492.33-34).
27.33: cleansing fluid commercially known as Morona: Perhaps a play on "Marina" and the etymology of "Durmanov" (durmanit', "to drug, intoxicate, stupefy": cf. 3.09n.)
27.33-28.03: a plump purple pill reminding her, she had to laugh, of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale . . . puts to sleep all the sportsmen . . . at the opening of the hunting season: an exact and compound allusion to a very distorted Lolita (1955).
Lolita was conceived on her parents' honeymoon in Vera Cruz, and is given a Spanish name and nickname (Dolores, Lolita) as a memento. Humbert in turn dubs her his Carmen. On Antiterra, the novel about her becomes The Gitanilla (a word--meaning "little gypsy girl"--that Humbert also applies once to Lolita, after he calls her "My Carmen": p. 246). It even turns out to have been written in Spanish, by Osberg (the Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges [1899-1986], often compared with Nabokov in the 1960s) (see 77.02-05 and n., 488.28-29, 499.01-03).
Humbert, attempting to avail himself of Lolita while she is sleeping beside him at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel, has armed himself with soporifics to foist on her and ensure her sleep will remain uninterrupted even when he violates her. Humbert's accumulating pills powerful enough for his needs becomes a motif in Lolita: "Papa's Purple Pills . . . Purpills" (124). Nevertheless, the sleeping pills do not work, and he dares not attempt anything. When, the next morning, Lolita suggests they make love, Humbert feels as if the role of hunter and hunted have been enchantedly reversed.
Later, Clare Quilty, also at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel that night, will write a play called The Enchanted Hunters in which the heroine, to be played by Lolita herself, proves to the seventh hunter, a young poet who insists that she and the rest are all his fancy, that "she was not a poet's fancy, but a rustic, down-to-brown-earth lass" (203), as if in echo of Humbert and Lolita's night at the Enchanted Hunters, when Lolita proved to be more than Humbert's solipsistic dream.
The gipsy motif and the pill here link Aqua's suicide with Lucette's, which is immediately occasioned by Van's catching sight of Ada playing Dolores, a gitana and dancing girl, in the movie Don Juan's Last Fling (488.26-29). This instantly dispells the sexual arousal Lucette has managed to stir in Van, defeats her plan, and leads within an hour or two to her suicide, after she takes five Quietus Pills. MOTIF: Carmen; gipsy; gitanilla; Lolita.
28.03-04: Lest some busybody resurrect her in the middle of the float-away process: another link with Lucette's suicide, since she floats away to her death.
28.06: elsewhere than in a glass house: somewhere other, that is, than in a "sanastoria" where the clients are carefully monitored, as if under glass. Sanatorium architecture of course abounds in glass to allow the patients as much sun as possible.
28.08-09: another agent or double of the Isère Professor: Cf. 27.09-14. MOTIF: transatlantic doubling.
28.09: a Dr. Sig Heiler: another play on the Sig in "Sigmund Freud," plus the Nazi slogan Sieg Heil! ("To Victory!) and presumably, in "Heiler," Adolf Hitler (1889-1945).
Since Freud escaped Vienna after Hitler's annexation of Austria, Nabokov is not suggesting any literal link between the two; metaphorically, though, he does find something totalitarian in Freudian thought. In one interview, he called psychoanalysis "A disgusting racket. La psychanalyse a quelque chose de bolchévik: la police intérieure . . . " (" . . . psychoanalysis has something of the Bolshevik about it: internal police . . .") (Anne Guérin, "Entretien: Vladimir Nabokov," L'Express, January 26, 1961). (Nabokov equated Nazi and Bolshevik thought control.) Cf. also: "I have never belonged to any political party but have always loathed and despised dictatorships and police states, as well as any sort of oppression. This goes for regimentation of thought, governmental censorship, racial or religious persecution, and all the rest of it" (SO 47-48). MOTIF: Sig.
28.10: near-genius in the usual sense of near-beer: "Near beer," usually considered non-alcoholic because containing less than half a per cent of alcohol, is therefore nowhere near beer. Perhaps in this context ("Sig Heiler," "great guy"), also an allusion to the German heartiness associated with beer-drinking and jingoism.
28.10-16: Such patients who proved . . . that Sig . . . was in the process of being dreamt of as a "papa Fig": MOTIF: dream.
28.11-12: proved by certain twitchings of the eyelids and other semi-private parts under the control of medical students: Rapid Eye Movements of sleeping subjects are monitored by psychologists as indicative of a certain phase of sleep (thought, at the time Nabokov was writing Ada, to be exclusively indicative of the dreaming phases of sleep). Private parts are also monitored by psychiatrists investigating, for instance, the capacity of lucid dreamers to induce real orgasm in willed erotic sleep.
28.13: Sig: MOTIF: Sig.
28.14-15: in the process of being dreamt of as a "papa Fig," spanker of girl bottoms and spunky spittoon-user: "father figure," alluding to the centrality of the Oedipus complex in Freudian theory; alludes also to transference in Freudian psychoanalysis (the patient's transferring feelings toward a parent to the therapist) and to displacement in Freudian dream theory ("spanker of girl bottoms and spunky spittoon-user," besides conjuring up a stereotypical patriarchal father, also implies "spunk" in the slang sense of "sperm"). Perhaps also in "fig" an allusion to the fig-leaf covering the genitals in Old Master versions of Adam and Eve.
28.17-21: picnics . . . black bolero . . . pinewood: Ada wears another black "Spanish" costume, a "lolita" (an ample skirt) on another picnic in a pinewood, on her twelfth birthday: see 77.01-12, 79.09. MOTIF: pine.
28.19: startlingly contrasty jet-black pupils: Cf. 29.06: "I, this eye-rolling toy."
28.20: yellow slacks and a black bolero: Van's last glimpse of Ada at Ardis is of her wearing "yellow slacks and a black bolero," 295.26. Bitter, he tears himself away from Ada in a near-suicidal mood (299.31-300.08). One tragedy in his "mother's" life therefore seems to prefigure another in Van's own. But Lucette also dons "black slacks and a lemon shirt" (492.25-26) before jumping to her death. MOTIF: black-yellow.
28.21-22: walked through a little pinewood . . . found a suitable gulch in the chaparral: Cf. 56.28-29: "Aqua had walked through a wood and into a gulch to do it last year"; 336.09-11: "not very far from the little gulch in which Aqua died and into which I myself feel like creeping some day." In Nabokov's 1947 poem "K Kn. S.M. Kachurinu" ("To Prince S.M. Kachurin"), he writes of returning "k charuyushchemu 'chaparalyu' / iz Vsadnika bez Golovy" ("or to what is enchantingly called 'chaparral' / in The Headless Horseman," ll. 79-80). In his autobiography he recalls the games he and his cousin Yurik (Yuri Rausch von Traubenberg) would have in imitation of the Wild West adventures in The Headless Horseman (1866) by Mayne Reid (1818-1883): "Exhausted by our adventures in the chaparral, . . . " (SM 203).
28.27-30: She smiled, dreamingly enjoying the thought (rather 'Kareninian' in tone) that her extinction would affect people about as deeply as . . . : Anna, in the hours before her suicide, succumbs to a torrent of gloomy thoughts (Part 7 Chapters 28-31). Nabokov particularly valued this sequence as the first sustained passage in a stream-of-consciousness style.
28.29-30: the abrupt, mysterious, never explained demise of a comic strip in a Sunday paper: Cf. 5.34-6.03.
28.32: Siggy: MOTIF: Sig.
29.01-02: a fetus-in-utero position, a comment that seemed relevant to his students, as it may be to mine: A sardonic comment on the popularity of the fetal position in psychological and anthroplogical symbolism, an anticipation of Van's denunciation of symbolism in his lectures as a psychologist (363.03-364.07), and an echo of the importance to Aqua's breakdown of her memory of the fetus (25.26) for whom Van is substituted. Cf. also: 143.04: “fetus-sized rubber doll.”
29.04-05: the sanest person on this or that earth: on this earth (known as Demonia as well as Antiterra, 301.02, and thereby linked with Dementius, said to be another form of Demon, 4.22-23) or that earth, Terra, believed in primarily by the insane or the unstable.
29.06-28: Aqua's letter completes the prologue's catalog of documents brought forward in explanation of the intrigues among the older generations of Veens: Dan's films and Marina's herbarium, both found in the attic at the end of in Chapter 1; Demon's letter to Marina, at the end of Chapter 2; and now, at the end of Chapter 3, Aqua's suicide note.
29.06: Aujourd'hui (heute-toity!): Darkbloom: "aujourd'hui, heute: to-day (Fr., Germ.)." At school, Nabokov too was accused of being "hoity-toity," "of 'showing off' (mainly by peppering my Russian papers with English and French terms, which came naturally to me)" (SM 185).
29.06: I, this eye-rolling toy: Cf. 28.18-20: "her light-blue eyes (with those startlingly contrasty jet-black pupils that Dolly, her mother, also had)": the light-blue color, the jet-black pupils, and the "doll" in Dolly's name all feed into the phrase. Cf. 307.30-34: "those helpful hobbies which polio patients, lunatics and convicts are taught by . . . ingenious psychiatrists--such as bookbinding, or putting blue beads into the orbits of dolls made by others criminals, cripples and madmen."
29.07: psykitsch: combines German psychich, "psychic, mental," and kitsch: Freudian psychiatry as psychological kitsch.
29.07: landparty: German Landpartie, excursion, country outing. Lucette, a few moments before her death, recalls a picnic in a painter's diary she has been reading: "Déjeuner sur l'herbe. . . . onto the picnic nappe." (493.21-24)
29.08: Herr Doktor Sig: MOTIF: Sig.
29.08: Nurse Joan the Terrible: Joan of Arc (1412-31) meets Ivan the Terrible (1530-84)? Joan, Joanna, Johann and Ivan are of course etymologically related.
29.09: piney wood: MOTIF: pine.
29.10-11: the same skunk-like squirrels . . . Ardis Park: Cf. 94.07 "A silver-and sable skybab squirrel," named by Nabokov after the Kaibab Plateau, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, the state where Aqua's "sanastoria" is situated; the same squirrel returns as "that stray ardilla" (98.12). MOTIF: ardilla.
29.11: your Darkblue ancestor: Prince Ivan Temnosiniy: cf. 8.20, 9.13-18.
29.11: to Ardis Park: prepares the transition to Van and Ada at Ardis in the next paragraph, and to Van on his way to Ardis in the next chapter.
29.11-12: to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt: a comic understatement, in view of the importance Ardis comes to have for Van. Perhaps it is this prediction in a suicide note that leads--as if it were a kind of last wish that must be honored--to Van's being sent to Ardis for his next summer vacation.
29.12-18: The hands of a clock . . . even a klok (piece) of a chelovek: Cf. 24.26-27: "the hands of a timepiece, or piece of time"; 401.18-19: "the great Vekchelo turned back into an ordinary chelovek."
29.17-22: must know where he stands and let others know . . . Hence I must fall: Cf. Nabokov's address to his wife: "It cannot be helped; I must know where I stand, where you and my son stand" (SM 297). Like Nabokov here, Aqua feels she has to find her bearings, in time and in life--and cannot do so.
29.19-20: "a tit of it" as poor Ruby . . . used to say of her scanty right breast: Ruby is Van's "very young wet nurse, almost a child, Ruby Black" (20.13-14).
29.20-21: Princesse Lointaine, très lointaine by now: Darkbloom: "Princesse Lointaine: Distant Princess, title of a French play." "The poetic drama La Princesse lointaine (1895) by Edmond Rostand (1868-1918), based on a legend about the Provençal poet Jaufré Rudel. Jaufré Rudel supposedly fell in love with the countess of Tripoli, whom he had never seen but whom he nevertheless celebrated in a famous poem about his amor de lonh ('distant love'). The legend says he set sail to see the woman, fell ill during the voyage, and died in her arms upon his arrival" (Rivers and Walker 267).
29.27-28: [Signed] My sister's sister who teper' iz ada: teper' iz ada is a pun on "Sheherazade," the tale-teller in the Thousand and One Nights, whose sister Dunyazade is known only as her sister's sister, though at the end of the story Sharyar and Shah Zaman marry Sheherazade and Dunyazade, saying "We shall be two brothers married to two sure and honest sisters" (Powys Mathers, trans., The Book of the Thousand and One Nights and One Nights [n.d.; rpt. London: Routledge, 1947], IV, 740), as Demon and Dan are two cousins, both Veens, married to two sisters. Cf. 217.26: "'Now I'm Scheher,' he said, 'and you are his Ada.'"
Like Lucette, Aqua is doomed by her position as her "sister's sister." MOTIF: Scheherazade; sisters confused.
29.27-28: teper' iz ada ("now is out of hell"): the translation is accurate, and the first indication to the non-Russian reader that Ada's name carries overtones of the Russian ad (genitive ada), "hell." Cf. 332.26: "a second howl iz ada (out of Hades)." MOTIF: Ada; hell.
29.29: If we want life's sundial to show its hand: If we want the dial to cast a shadow, so we can tell the time; if we want life to show its hand, as at cards: to reveal what it has in reserve. Van elegantly develops Aqua's confused metaphor. He is clearly the son of the Demon who says "Snowing in Fate's crystal ball" (8.03-04).
29.30: in the rose garden of Ardis: Cf. 151.20: "his father's [Demon's] life, anyway, was a rose garden all the time"--meaning that Demon constantly has mistresses like his current "Rose": another reminder of the cause of Aqua's suicide.
29.31: at the end of August, 1884: by which time Van and Ada have become lovers, and have discovered the herbarium in the attic which reveals to them they are brother and sister.
30.01-02: the strength, the dignity, the delight of man is to spite and despise the shadows and stars that hide their secrets from us: Cf. Nabokov himself at the beginning of his autobiography: "Nature expects a full-grown man to accept the two black voids, fore and aft, as stolidly as he accepts the extraordinary visions in between. . . . I rebel against this state of affairs. I feel the urge to take my rebellion outside and picket nature. Over and over again, my mind has made colossal efforts to distinguish the faintest of personal glimmers in the impersonal darkness on both sides of my life" (SM 20).
30.03: Only the ridiculous power of pain made her surrender: Cf. Van and Ada's apparent decision to submit to euthanasia because of "the thick, steady, solid duration of I-can't-bear-it pain" (586.32-587.02).
30.05: Estotially speaking: given the incest laws in Estoty?
30.05-06: if she really were my mother: these last words of the prologue conclude and confirm its demonstration that Aqua is not Van's real mother, and that he and Ada are aware of the fact. Readers, should they have missed these conclusions, are provoked into looking back at the details. MOTIF: family relationship.
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 3