Part 2 Chapter 5



The previous chapter, II.4, introduced Van as an academic psychologist, but in an essayistic, stylized, achronological way, presenting his work as a sorry surrogate for his love for Ada through long stretches of his adult life. Now II.5 rewinds to early in Van’s adulthood, and to the point where a new reunion with Ada seems possible. We see Van as young adult, a researcher and precociously young lecturer (“assistant lecher” or “assistant lecturer”) temporarily at Kingston University, Mayne, and his current research project, his colleagues, his ongoing academic writing.
But the surprise of the chapter is Lucette’s stepping for the first time onto center stage: Lucette no longer the clinging child, irritating to Van and Ada in their eagerness for sex, but herself already a young adult. In 1888 she had been hopelessly outclassed by Ada, hopelessly naïve and imitative. Now she has intellectual maturity, sophistication, style, and—except as regards Van and Ada—considerable poise and flair. In 1884 and 1888 she was anything but the Wunderkind each of her half-siblings had been; but she seems to have rapidly recouped, and now has the Veen polylingual wit and range of cultural reference and her own intellectual niche, in art history, self-deprecating though she is about her choice of field.
Ada at sixteen was thoroughly sexually experienced, with Van, Philip Rack, Percy de Prey, and happily and requitedly in love with Van. Lucette at sixteen remains a virgin, in so far as males go; but her sexual initiation, begun inadvertently in 1884 and intensified incautiously in 1888 (and we learn now just how much aware she had then been of Van and Ada’s sexual romps), has gone much further, with Ada as her initiator into torrid and tempestuous girl-on-girl sexual play. But though thoroughly trained in lust by Ada, Lucette nevertheless remains desperately, fixedly, inalterably, in love with Van.
Lucette does all she can to awaken Van’s desire and its expression, through what Don Barton Johnson calls “the brilliant display of erudition, linguistic acrobatics, and sensuality that she displays in her bid for Van’s love” (Johnson 2006: 118). She awakens Van’s desire all right—from her entrance into his rooms, he is aroused at the thought of her naked (“spontaneous combustion,” 368); in the middle of the chapter, he has an erection that makes him curse “under his breath the condition in which the image of the four embers of a vixen’s cross had now solidly put him” (377); and he is still erect at the end, when he asks her to check for herself whether his admiration for her is, as she says, “intangible” (387).
But despite her allure, despite his desire, despite the prospect that something may come of her hurling herself at Van, he still resists her invitations: “it is a mad temptation but I must not succumb. I could not live through another disaster, another sister, even one-half of a sister” (387).

Even knowing how much she wants Van herself, Lucette has nevertheless agreed to be the bearer to Van of a letter from Ada. Like Lucette but very much in her own way, Ada has not been able to rouse any kind of response from Van since he fled Ardis in despair and jealous fury four years ago. The letter—the “important message” Lucette has said she will bring (366)—hangs over the scene from the moment Van recognizes Ada’s notepaper. But Lucette’s attempts to appeal to Van, sexually and intellectually, her almost hysterical focus on Ada’s romps with her, her disclosure of Ada’s recent liaison with a fellow actor, and Van’s oblique anger at both, delay his reading the letter. At last Van seizes it, reads that Ada has received a marriage proposal and will accept if Van scorns her last plea, and promptly writes back inviting Ada to join him for breakfast tomorrow in Manhattan in the apartment he had shared with Cordula and now owns himself.



365.01: Kingston University, Mayne: Possibly a suggestion of Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey, and, given the presence of Rattner and his associates at Kingston, even of its famous Institute of Advanced Study, which in the 1950s housed people like Albert Einstein (1879-1955), John von Neumann (1903-1957), and Kurt Gödel (1906-1978).

On Earth there is a university of note, albeit not in the Princeton class, Queen’s University, in the city of Kingston, Ontario, at the latitude of Maine and just across the border with the US (and cf. Lucette’s “nearby Queenston College,” 366.16). As Zimmer’s Gazetteer notes, there is also a town of Kingston, New York, in the Hudson Valley and, he claims, about the right driving distance from Ada’s Manhattan; it was briefly the capital of New York State, in 1777, when the state constitution was being written and Albany seemed at risk from British troops, but was itself burned down by the British that year, Poughkeepsie then replacing it as state capital. Actually, Kingston, Ontario, seems a better fit in terms of driving distance from Manhattan (about six hours rather than two for Kingston, NY: see 386.13-14 and 387.23). The village of Kingston, Rhode Island, within the town of South Kingstown, has the main campus of the University of Rhode Island.

But there is another level. Alexey Sklyarenko notes (“Kant’s eye in Ada,” Nabokv-L, July 31, 2014) that philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) spent his life in what was then Königsberg (“King’s mountain,” but close to “King’s burg” or Kingston), Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia), and his whole career at the University of Königsberg. In this Kingston scene Van’s floating thought seems to solve a problem in Kant at 373.17-33 (and n.), after which the philosopher is explicitly mentioned. “Kant,” pronounced in the German way, sounds like English “cunt” (see 373.32n); Nabokov seems to have chosen the location carefully for a chapter obsessively focused, especially via double entendre, on the female pudendum.

“Mayne” reflects both the state of Maine on our planet, and Mayne Reid, the author of Westerns Nabokov loved as a boy (SM ch. 10; see 4.04n.).

365.02: first-rate madhouse: MOTIF: insanity.

365.03: Department of Terrapy: Plays on “Terra” and “(psycho)therapy” and on the fact that on Antiterra the notion of Terra is believed in especially by “deranged minds (ready to plunge into any abyss)” (18.18-19), Aqua being the prime example. MOTIF: Terra.

365.04-05: the Idea of Dimension & Dementia: Links again to the nexus between Terra and insanity; “Demonia” (301.02) is another name for Antiterra (cf. especially “demency” in this context, 339.25-26) and “Dementiy” another name (to Andrey Vinelander and his sister, at least), for Demon (503.34, Ada speaking as if for Dorothy Vinelander; 504.17, 524.01, Andrey Vinelander), who has a main share in causing Aqua’s madness.

In LATH Vadim Vadimych, the hero and narrator, seems to have what he thinks a form of mild insanity, in his inability to imagine turning about in space and retracing the route he has taken; You, the heroine, explains his condition: “He has confused direction and duration. He speaks of space but he means time. . . . Nobody can imagine in physical terms the act of reversing the order of time” (LATH 252).
Cf. the title of Van and Ada’s 1957 book “Information and Form” (578.13).

MOTIF: Demon; Demonia; insanity.

365.05: ‘sturb’: Darkbloom: “pun on Germ. sterben, to die.” As Rivers and Walker 290 note, “sturb” is also an obsolete (since about 1450) English synonym of “To disturb, trouble, upset” (OED).

365.06: old Rattner: Not “Bernard Rattner, his closest friend at Chose, the great Rattner’s nephew” (317.0-109), but the uncle, whose first name we do not learn. Van at 35 (he is now 22) will be elected “to the Rattner Chair of Philosophy in the University of Kingston” (506.25-26). MOTIF: Rattner.

365.06: Rattner, resident pessimist of genius: Both the uncle and the nephew are at Kingston University: when Bernard turns up with other young scholars, Van said he had “understood we were to meet at your uncle’s place” (385.29-30). “Resident pessimist”: cf. the first mention of Rattner: “Van lay reading Rattner on Terra, a difficult and depressing work” (230.04-05). MOTIF: of genius.

365.06-08: for whom life was only a “disturbance” in the rattnerterological order of things: Life was only a “disturbance” (or, given the pun on sterben, a dis-deathing) of the deathly order of things? Perhaps intended to be vaguely reminiscent of philosophical propositions in works like Sein und Zeit (Being and Time, 1927), by Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), or the equally famous book it inspired, L’Être et le Néant (Being and Nothingness, 1943), by Jean-Paul Sartre (1915-1980).

365.07: life was only a “disturbance”: Echoes the “sturb” of 365.05.

365.07-08: the rattnerterological order of things: W2, nerterology: “Gr. nerteros, lower, nerteroi, pl., the dead, those in the lower world, + -logy . . . ] Learning about the dead. Rare.

365.08: from “nertoros,” not “terra”: See preceding n.

Cf. “Villa Armina: Marina never realized it was an anagram of the sea, not of her” (163.05-06).

MOTIF: Terra.

365.09-11: Van Veen . . . liked to change his abode at the end of a section or chapter or even paragraph: Evident especially in his viatic composition of Part 4 of Ada, The Texture of Time.

365.09-10: Van Veen [as also, in his small way, the editor of Ada]: The Editor, despite his prim display of modesty, is unusually and fussily intrusive in this chapter. MOTIF: Composition: Editor.

365.12-14: the divorce between time and the contents of time (such as action on matter, in space, and the nature of space itself): Cf. Van in his 1922 The Texture of Time: “Time free of content, context, and running commentary—this is my time and theme” (539.21-23).

365.14: contemplating moving to Manhattan: Back to what had been “Cordula’s penthouse apartment,” which he has recently bought (365.20-366.01), and where he had been inspired with the initial conception of Letters from Terra.

365.15: mental rubrication: W2, rubrication: “Act or process of rubrication, as a manuscript or book, or letters or words in it”; rubricate, v.t, “To mark or distinguish with red, as titles in a book, also, to arrange as in a rubric; to fix in form.” The more expected word would be “lucubration”: cf. “sat down at a lady’s bureau to his ‘lucubratiuncula’” (559.03-04). There is a good deal of “mental marking with red” in Van’s images of Lucette naked in the coming scene, in, for instance, “the image of the four embers of a vixen’s cross” (377.21-22).

365.16-17: some farcical “influence of environment” endorsed by Marx père, the popular author of “historical” plays: Combines Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his daughter, Eleanor Marx Aveling (1855-1898), translator into English of Madame Bovary and some of Ibsen’s plays (hence her father is “Marx père”) and Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870), popular author of historical novels and plays, including Les Trois Mousquetaires (1844). Nabokov comments in his autobiography that “there is in every child the essentially human urge to reshape the earth, to act upon a friable environment (unless he is a born Marxist or a corpse and meekly waits for the environment to fashion him)” (SM 302); cf. also “Environment, I suppose, does act upon a creature if there is, in that creature, already a certain responsive particle or strain” (SM 269), and “to show ‘poor Knight’ as a product of what he calls ‘our time’—though why some people are so keen to make others share in their chronometric concepts, has always been a mystery to me” (RLSK 60). Karl Marx stressed that “The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and intellectual processes of life” (preface to Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859, cited in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., 11:555). French literary naturalism, inspired by the ideas of critic Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893), and exemplified above all in the novels of Émile Zola (1840-1902), also strongly stressed the influence of the environment on human thought and action.

In A1, Nabokov glosses: “ = Dumas = Dumarx.”

365.18-19: an unexpected dorophone call which for a moment affected violently his entire pulmonary and systemic circulation: Cf. the comic effects on the water-pipes of other dorophone calls, as at 179.20-22: “Ada herself who had been on the qui vive all night answered from the nursery, where the clearest instrument in the house quivered and bubbled under a dead barometer.” Here, the unexpected call is from Lucette, pleading for an interview (366.18); Van’s momentary convulsive reaction reflects her speaking “in a new, darker voice, agonizingly resembling Ada’s” (366.18-19). MOTIF: dorophone; hydro-.

365.19-366.01: Nobody, not even his father, knew that Van had recently bought Cordula’s penthouse apartment: Narrative preparation for Demon’s unexpected visit to the apartment, thinking Van must still be living there with Cordula, in II.10.

366.01-02: Cordula’s penthouse apartment between Manhattan’s Library and Park: In terrestrial New York this would be between the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, and Central Park, whose southern end is on 59th Street; if “between” were exact, this would be on Fifth Avenue. Cordula’s apartment is “on Alexis Avenue” (322.01-02), evocative of New York’s Lexington Avenue (and perhaps also, given the “A__ Avenue,” of “Avenue of the Americas” or Sixth Avenue).

366.03-04: that terrace of scholarly seclusion suspended in a celestial void: For the terrace, its proximity to Manhattan’s Public Library, its location outside the penthouse of the “tall building,” and its suitability for scholarly productivity, see 324.08-325.07.

366.04-05: that noisy but convenient city lapping below at the base of his mind’s invulnerable rock: Cf. Dasha Vinelander, Andrey Vinelander’s “sister’s sonorous soliloquy (lapping at Van’s rock)” in the dining room of the Bellevue Hotel in Mont Roux in 1905 (514.06-07).

366.06-07: a “bachelor’s folly” where he could secretly entertain any girl or girls he pleased: For the “girl” here, in the context of Cordula’s apartment, see Van’s reassurance to his father that he will not marry Cordula: “‘you needn’t worry, sir, we have interrupted our affair for the time being—till the next time I return to live in her girlinière’ (Canady slang)” (330.24-27).

366.06: a “bachelor’s folly”: An invented variant of “bachelor pad,” redeploying the sense of “folly” as (W2): “4. An excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking, esp., a building left unfinished because its expense proved too great for the builder’s resources”; cf. also the other architectural sense, (W3) “6 b: a summer-house or pavilion designed for picturesque effect or to suit a fanciful taste.”

366.07-08: “your wing à terre”: A play on pied à terre, literally “foot to the gound”: (W2), “A temporary lodging”; (W3): “a temporary or second lodging (as a city apartment maintained by a country dweller).” The unknown girl has deftly played on the “wing” of a building, and the height of the penthouse; but there are several more ironies unknown to her: in this apartment, Van had thought up Letters from Terra; on its terrace he had also discovered that his gift for handwalking, learned from King Wing, had vanished forever, after his being “winged” by Captain Tapper’s shot in his duel (323.02-12); on the terrace in the next chapter, II.6, Van will see Ada approaching in a monoplane, and prepare for her a dream-fueled phrase: “I saw you circling above me on libellula wings” (390.33-34); and Demon, to tell Van the news of Dan’s death, sets off “at once for Manhattan, eyes blazing, wings whistling” (433.11-12), only to find his son and daughter living together as lovers, and to ban them from ever seeing one another again. MOTIF: Terra.

366.11-13: In the fall of 1891 she had sent him from California a rambling, indecent, crazy, almost savage declaration of love in a ten-page letter: Marijeta Bozovic writes that after the strong echoes of Eugene Onegin in the account of the loves of Demon, Marina, and Aqua, when we come to the next generation of Veens “We initially identify Ada as the Tatiana-figure and dismiss the less interesting sister, but it is Lucette who writes Van the excruciating confessional love-letter. It is to Lucette that Van quotes Onegin’s most famous lines: ‘I love you with a brother’s love and maybe still more tenderly’ (481). The lines are given exactly as Nabokov translates them in his Eugene Onegin, missing only the line break. . . . . At some point in the novel, the reader is tempted to assume that Lucette is the real heroine, and that Van will recognize and fall in love with the girl he once ignored; but not so. Lucette goes the way of Anna Karenina instead. Then again, Van is the author of this pseudo-memoir. He reinvents the world in the process of remembering it, and sees all his romances in the light of his beloved Russian literature.” “From Onegin to Ada: Nabokov and the Transnational Imperative,” in Brian Boyd and Marijeta Bozovic, eds., Nabokov Upside Down (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2017), 230.

366.13-14: a ten-page letter, which shall not be discussed in this memoir [See, however, a little farther. Ed.]: See 371.09-10, 374.32-34. MOTIF: Composition-Editor.

366.15-16: “the second-rater’s last refuge”: Cf. Samuel Johnson’s famous dictum “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” (Samuel Boswell, Life of Johnson, 7 April 1775).

366.16-17: in nearby Queenston College for Glamorous and Glupovatïh (“dumb”) Girls: A further play on “Kingston University” (365.01) as reflecting Earth’s Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. There is no Queenston College on our world, but there is no shortage of well-known Queen’s Colleges (such as Queen’s College, Oxford; Queen’s College, London; Queens College, New York). Queenston College would seem to be university-level, rather than a high school, even if Lucette is only sixteen, since she appears to be majoring in art history and has a “Professor of Ornament” (374.24); Van too had begun university studies by that age.

366.18-19: in a new, darker, voice, agonizingly resembling Ada’s: Cf. 365.18-19 and n.

366.20: bringing him an important message: First instance of the chapter’s “message” theme: Lucette brings her message (a letter from Ada) to Van in his rooms in Voltemand Hall (first mentioned at 368.19-20), named after the courtier and messenger in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

366.21-22: he also felt that her visit would touch off infernal fires: See Bozovic’s comments cited at 366.11-13n: Van seems to fear he will be tempted by Lucette. Imagery of “fire” and “embers” runs through the chapter. MOTIF: inferno.

366.24-25: the emblazed trees, that defied the season: Cf. 368.06-07: “Indian summer.” Again, the fire-emb[er] themes.

366.27: Greencloth Court: This improbable name suggests the lawn covering the court looks as smooth as a billiard table. The central court in VN’s college at Cambridge, Trinity College, is “Great Court,” another “Gre--- Court.” Are the “emblazed trees” and “Greencloth Court” (Lucette regularly wears green) chosen with Lucette in mind? MOTIF: red-green.

366.27-28: kept fighting Ardis and its orchards and orchids: “Orchards” because Van is looking out at the trees at one end of his suite. But also appropriate to Lucette, since in 1884 she overhears Van falling onto pantiless Ada in Ardis’s shattal apple tree (94-95). In 1888 she imitates Ada’s orchid-drawing (288-89). MOTIF: Ada, the arbors and ardors of Ardis; orchids.

366.32: only obliquely concerned: Cf. “obscurely related” (163.13)?

366.32-367.01: she inhabited this or that dapple of drifting sunlight, but could not be wholly dismissed with the rest of sun-flecked Ardis: MOTIF: sun-Ardis.

366.33: this or that dapple of drifting sunlight: Note the “apple” in “dapple” linking with “orchards” at 366.28. “Dapple” refers specifically to the shattal tree incident, and to Lucette’s overhearing it: “After the first contact, so light, so mute, between his soft lips and her softer skin had been established—high up in that dappled tree, with only that stray ardilla daintily leavesdropping—nothing seemed changed in one sense, all was lost in another” (98.10-13). Van’s first sight of one of his “cousins” at Ardis is of Lucette, but he wrongly “decided she must be ‘Ardelia,’ the eldest of the two little cousins he was supposed to get acquainted with. Actually it was Lucette, the younger one” (36.23-26); the “ardilla”-“Ardelia” link, the meaning of “Ardelia” (busybody) and the “daintily leavesdropping” confirms that Lucette eavesdrops on her sister and “cousin” in the shattal tree (see I.15 Afternote).

367.01: with the rest of sun-flecked Ardis: Pointedly echoes the light effects of the book Ada reads on the way back from her sixteenth birthday picnic, “the small brown, gold-tooled book (a great success with the passing sun flecks)” (279.16-17). The book is Chateaubriand’s Ombres et couleurs (280.22-23): that and the fact that Lucette is here sitting on Van’s knee on this return trip echo the Chateaubriand-incest-and-entanglement theme discussed in previous Afternotes and in Boyd 1985/2001, 125-28. The next sentence continues the theme.

367.01-04: He recalled, in passing, the sweetness in his lap, her round little bottom, her prasine eyes as she turned toward him and the receding road: Cf., for “the sweetness in his lap” in Van sitting under Lucette on the return from the 1888 picnic: “He remembered with a pang of pleasure the indulgent skirt Ada had been wearing then, . . . and he regretted (smiling) that Lucette had those chaste shorts on today, and Ada, husked-corn (laughing) trousers. In the fatal course of the most painful ailments, sometimes (nodding gravely), sometimes there occur sweet mornings of perfect repose” (281.05-11); for “her round little bottom,” cf. “‘Ouch!’ grunted Van as he received the rounded load” (279.13), i.e. Lucette, and “Lucette’s compact bottom” (280.10); for “the receding road,” cf. Lucette, turning her head back to talk to Ada behind her, and Van’s telling her “You know you get carriage-sick when the road— . . . —when the road ‘runs out of you,’ as your sister once said when she was your age” (279.21-31), an image from 1888 that Lucette picks up on in 1901, the night of her suicide:

“That’s very clever, darling,” said Van “—except that time itself is motionless and changeless.”
            “Yes, it’s always I in your lap and the receding road. Roads move?”
            “Roads move.” (482.13-17)

367.03: prasine: W2 defines the “Rare” adjective: “Having the green color of a leek,” and the noun: “A green mineral. specif. a Obs. Verdigris; green chalk. b In medieval glyptics, any green stone resembling an emerald.” Cf., just before the start of the 1888 return picnic ride: “Lucette considered with darkening green eyes the occupation of her habitual perch” (278.28-29). MOTIF: green [Lucette].

367.04-05: whether she had become fat and freckled: Fat like her father, Dan; freckled as she was when Van first saw her at eight years old: “a freckled button for nose” (36.27).

367.05-06: or had joined the graceful Zemski group of nymphs: Cf. “Prince Vseslav Zemski . . . portrayed in rich oil holding his barely pubescent bride and her blond doll in his satin lap” (43.03-06); “Prince Zemski had [a tape recorder] for every bed of his harem of schoolgirls” (147.10-11). See also 367.18-19 and n.

367.09-12: in the middle of his twentieth trudge “back to the ardors and arbors! Eros qui prend son essor! Arts that our marblery harbors: Eros, the rose and the sore”: Van apparently composes this verselet as he paces back and forth through his suite; the “emblazed trees” (366.24-25) at one end of his trajectory certainly seem to recall “the ardors and arbors.” The lines vary the phrase that “sang through his brain” on waking in the hammock at Ardis in 1884, full of desire for Ada but with no knowledge that she cares for him: “‘Ada, our ardors and arbors’—a dactylic trimeter that was to remain Van Veen’s only contribution to Anglo-American poetry” (74.06-08), only this time, in keeping with the resolute distance from Ada he currently maintains, he omits her name. Here Van also seems consciously influenced by Swinburne’s verse (see 367.14-15 and 367.15-16 and nn.), with its robust rhymes, rollicking rhythms and ample anagrams, as well as by memories of Ardis’s marble steps and Sore, Ardis’s night watchman, and his erotic dallyings with Blanche, despite her venereal sores (see, for instance, 191.05-06). In view of “I am ill at these numbers” (367.11-12 and n2), the verse also matches Hamlet’s quatrain for Ophelia, in the midst of his letter for her, which has the same abab rhyme scheme: “Doubt thou the stars are fire, / Doubt that the sun doth move, / Doubt truth to be a liar, / But never doubt I love” (Hamlet 2.2.116-19).

MOTIF: Ada, the arbors and ardors of Ardis; Eros; Eros, the rose and the sore.

367.09-16: “back to the ardors . . . ” . . . virgins or whores: Van, when emotionally agitated, often shows it in a torrent of arcane allusions: “Van was apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappointment by means of bombastic and arcane utterances which hurt like a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell” (530.08-10). Usually this is in conversation; here, although the emotion is apprehension rather than anger or disappointment (except perhaps insofar as he thinks of the loss of Ada), it seems to be in lone thought.

367.10: qui prend son essor!: Darkbloom: “that takes wing.”

367.11-12: Arts that our marblery harbors: In the context of Van’s past, this would seem to mean “arts of love that the marbles of Ardis provide shelter or cover for.” Cf. also the end of the novel, cataloguing aspects of Ardis: “a misty view descried from marble steps” (589.06-07).

367.11-12: I am ill at these numbers: “I am ill at these numbers” (meaning “I am poor at writing verse such as this”), Hamlet, 2.2.120, Hamlet after writing a few verse lines of love for Ophelia, as read out by Polonius to Claudius and Gertrude. As Zimmer 2010: 993-994 notes, Voltemand (whose name will appear in Ada’s next line) has just a few lines earlier returned with a message and letter from the King of Norway for Claudius.

367.12-14: but e’en rhymery is easier “than confuting the past in mute prose.” Who wrote that? Voltimand or Voltemand? Or the Burning Swine?: The question “Who wrote that?” seems to refer to “than confuting the past in mute prose,” although the playful allusion to Swinburne makes it obscure: is Van referring to his own verselet?

367.12-13: e’en rhymery is easier “than confuting the past in mute prose”: After the genuine quotation from Hamlet come two mock-quotations, “e’en rhymery,” with its mock-Elizabethan diction and elision (“rhymery” in fact dates back only to the nineteenth century, according to OED), then the quotation marks around the remainder, which seems invented.

367.12: rhymery: W2: “The art or habit of rhyming;—used in contempt.”

367.13: Voltimand or Voltemand?: A courtier at the Danish court to whom (with another courtier, Cornelius) Claudius in Hamlet 1.2 gives a message to take to the King of Norway; Voltimand delivers the King of Norway’s message on his return, in 2.2. The name is spelled “Voltimand” in the later Folios, “Voltemand” in the First Folio, and “Valtemand” in the Quartos (see William Shakespeare, Hamlet: A New Variorum Edition, ed.Horace Howard Furness, ed., 2 vols., 1877; New York: Dover, 1963, I.29). In Ada, “Voltemand” is Van’s pseudonym in publishing Letters from Terra (342.28) and the name of the college building where Van is based at Kingston University (368.19-20). Why does “Voltimand or Voltemand” come into Van’s head as the author of “confuting the past in mute prose”? Does he think of Letters from Terra, which he signed “Voltemand,” as a confutation of his past with Ada?

367.14: Or the Burning Swine?: In view of the quotation that follows, the English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), although given the “mute prose” it could at first seem to refer to the famous, and famously playful, essay “A Dissertation upon Roast Pig” by English essayist Charles Lamb (1775-1834), also a noted Shakespearean critic, and author, with his sister Mary Lamb (1764-1847), of the famous prose Tales from Shakespeare (1807).

367.14: A pest on his anapest!: Echoes the common Shakespearean curse, “a plague on” (or “upon”). “Pest” (peste is French for “plague”) can mean (W2): “1. A fatal epidemic disease; a pestilence; specif. the plague”; the common modern sense of “nuisance” derives from this. Shakespeare did not use “pest” in any sense.

Along with his exuberant rhymes, Swinburne was famous for his variety of meters: mostly iambic, by far the commonest verse meter in English, but also amphibrachic, anapestic, trochaic, and dactylic. Cf. “The amphibrachic trimeter in English is generally intermixed with anapaestic lines. The purest example is probably Swinburne’s, otherwise dreadful, Dolores (1866)” (EO 3.523). See next n.

367.14-15: “All our old loves are corpses or wives”: From Swinburne’s “bitter poem” (Zimmer 2010: 994), mostly in anapestic trimeter, the 440-line “Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs)” (1866). (Or is it amphibrachic? VN himself seems to have changed his mind between EO and Ada.) The twentieth stanza (ll. 153-60) reads:

For the crown of our life as it closes
      Is darkness, the fruit thereof dust;
No thorns go as deep as a rose's,
      And love is more cruel than lust.
Time turns the old days to derision,
      Our loves into corpses or wives;
And marriage and death and division
      Make barren our lives.
The approximation of the quotation may indicate VN cites it from memory.

Alexey Sklyarenko notes (“Eros qui prend son essor in Ada,”, May 8, 2021) that Swinburne’s poem Eros may also stand behind Van’s verse; certainly the prominent “rose” and its anagrammatic relation to “Eros” (they also seem meant to rhyme, in Swinburne) match Van’s effort.


Eros, from rest in isles far-famed,
With rising Anthesterion rose,
And all Hellenic heights acclaimed

The sea one pearl, the shore one rose,
All round him all the flower-month flamed
And lightened, laughing off repose.

Earth’s heart, sublime and unashamed,
Knew, even perchance as man’s heart knows,
The thirst of all men’s nature named


Eros, a fire of heart untamed,
A light of spirit in sense that glows,
Flamed heavenward still ere earth defamed

Nor fear nor shame durst curb or close
His golden godhead, marred and maimed,
Fast round with bonds that burnt and froze.

Ere evil faith struck blind and lamed
Love, pure as fire or flowers or snows,
Earth hailed as blameless and unblamed

Eros, with shafts by thousands aimed
At laughing lovers round in rows,
Fades from their sight whose tongues proclaimed

But higher than transient shapes or shows
The light of love in life inflamed
Springs, toward no goal that these disclose.

Above those heavens which passion claimed
Shines, veiled by change that ebbs and flows,
The soul in all things born or framed,

367.15-16: All our sorrows are virgins or whores: In “sorrows” Van picks up on the subtitle of Swinburne’s Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs), “Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows,” echoed in the opening line of the poem’s second stanza: “Seven sorrows the priests give their Virgin.” Is Van thinking ahead, in “virgins,” to Lucette the virgin (and ultimate suicide), and in “whores” back to Ada, the unfaithful? But if this is a thought within the narrative present, he does not know of Lucette’s future, although he does know of Ada’s past.

367.17-368.14: A black bear . . . (vïhuhol'): Like Lucette here, Ada at her next visit will also appear in and provoke Van's reflections on furs (391.13-27).

367.17: A black bear: Van at first thinks Lucette is wearing the fur of the sea bear, Callorhinus ursinus, but realizes at 368.14-15 that she is not. At the Ursus (Bear) restaurant in II.8, she, like Ada, wears a sinchilla (chinchilla?) mantilla (413.31). MOTIF: bear.

367.17-19: bright russet locks . . . . green eyes: MOTIF: green-Lucette; red-green.

367.17: bright russet locks: MOTIF: red hair; russet.

367.18-19: Yes—the Z gene had won: Lucette is not fat, as Van wondered she might be at 367.04-05, but has “joined the graceful Zemski group of nymphs.” Cf. also “Z for Zemski. As I had hoped, you do resemble Dolly, still in her pretty pantelets, holding a Flemish pink in the library portrait” (378.22-24).

367.20-21: Cnsiderably more dissolute than her sister had seemed at that fatal age: Van by the Ardis pool in 1888, seeing Lucette there, topless, recalls “in a scowling mood . . . with mixed feelings how much more developed her sister had been at not quite twelve years of age” (198.14-16). “Fatal”: Van thinks of Ada, after parting from her bitterly in 1888, as “his pale fatal sister” (307.11). In many ways Lucette, so much behind her siblings in 1884 and 1888, has caught up with them in a rush.

367.21: She wore black furs: Identified by Van (“he liked furs,” 368.13) at 368.13-14.

367.23: “My joy (moya radost’),” said Lucette—just like that: Radost’ does mean “joy,” but in addressing someone has the sense “darling.” Lucette’s first words as a sixteen-year-old reveal a world of new poise. Cf. her endearment on meeting Van in Paris in 1901: “Moyo grustnoe schastie!” (“My sad bliss,” 461.19-20).

367.24-25: all in all he had hardly known her before—except as an embered embryo: Cf. Lucette’s own reflection, on her last night alive: “Young people are less misled by the passage of time than the established old who have not much changed lately and are not used to the long-unseen young changing” (482.10-12).

367.25: except as an embered embryo: Cf. Van’s first glimpse of Lucette naked, at eight, as he and Ada are about to imprison her in the bath: “Lucette had not escaped the delusive pubescence of red-haired little girls. Her armpits showed a slight stipple of bright floss and her chub was dusted with copper” (144.06-08). MOTIF: embers.

367.26: Eyes swimming, coral nostrils distended: A prolepsis of Lucette drowned and “a mermaid in the groves of Atlantis” (559.16)? Cf. Van’s playing obtuse about Lucette’s word krestik, by which she means “clitoris”: “Is it something you wear, or used to wear, on a chainlet round your neck? a small acorn of coral, the glandulella of vestals in ancient Rome?” (378.03-05).

367.30-31: the aurora, who knows (she knew), of a new life for both: Cf. Van’s “first compliment” to Lucette, as she gets up from the poolside mat on the Tobakoff: “You rise . . . like Aurora” (479.28-30).

367.32-33: “Cheekbone” . . . “You prefer skeletiki (little skeletons)”: The surprising skeletiki may come come to Lucette’s mind not just because of the “bone” in “cheekbone,” but even more because of the Russian for “cheekbone,” skula; and, in this chapter about to be saturated with clitoral allusions deriving from and focusing on Lucette, the colloquial Russian sekel’, “clitoris,” as Don Barton Johnson points out (Johnson 1985:54), seems to hover nearby.

368.02: his half-sister’s: MOTIF: family relationship.

368.02: pommette: French, “cheekbone; little knob.”

368.03: Degrasse: Eau de Grasse, “perfume,” after Grasse, the perfume center in France’s Alpes-Maritimes, the so-called perfume capital of the world (Zimmer 2010: 994). Cf. “Two unrelated gypsy courtesans, a wild girl in a gaudy lolita, poppy-mouthed and black-downed, picked up in a café between Grasse and Nice, and another, a part-time model” (393.29-31).

368.04: “paphish”: Paphian (W3), “Of or pertaining to Paphos, an ancient city of Cyprus with a famous temple of Aphrodite; hence, pertaining to love, esp. illicit love, or wantonness’; n. “A native or inhabitant of Paphos; also, a prostitute.” Cf. Homer, Odyssey trans. Richmond Lattimore (New York: Harper, 1967), 8.362-65: “she, Aphrodite lover of laughter, went back to Paphos / on Cyprus, where lies her sacred precinct and her smoky altar, /and there the Graces bathed her and anointed her with ambrosial / oil, such as abounds for the gods who are everlasting.” The Oxford Classical Dictionary notes: “Paphos, city-kingdom of SW Cyprus. (1) Palaepaphos (mod. Kouklia) built on a bluff near the coast, site of a famous sanctuary of Aphrodite, by tradition born nearby of sea-foam.” Lucette, one of the “Veens, the children of Venus” (410.10), drowns in “the black, foam-veined, complicated waters” of the Atlantic (495.07-08). Pun also on “fish,” especially given Mlle Larivière’s outburst on misappropriations of French in “an English novel of high repute in which a lady is given a perfume—an expensive perfume!—called ‘Ombre Chevalier,’ which is really nothing but a fish—a delicious fish, true, but hardly suitable for scenting one’s handkerchief with” (270.21-23).
 Cf. “Paphia’s ‘Hair and Beauty Salon’” (528.10) in Mont Roux.
MOTIF: whore

368.04-10: the flame of her Little Larousse . . . Its four burning ends. . . . the paired embers: Reprises the fire imagery of “infernal fires” (366.22), “emblazed trees” (366.24-25) and “embered embryo” (367.25), and still to come in “smoky” (368.15), “spontaneous combustion” (368.18), “You’ve got central heating; we girls have tiny fireplaces” (368.22-23), “had allayed your fire” (370.24-25), “into the burning slit” (372.06-07), “your burning face” (387.22). When Van actually sees Lucette’s “fully-fledged” pubic floss, in the débauche à trois scene, he identifies it as a “firebird” (418.24-25), and in his letter of apology to her after she escapes from the débauche in distress he calls her “darling firebird” (421.12).

368.04-06: the flame of her Little Larousse as he and the other said when they chose to emprison her in bath water: “Lucette had not escaped the delusive pubescence of red-haired little girls. Her armpits showed a slight stipple of bright floss and her chub was dusted with copper” (144.06-08).

368.04-05: her Little Larousse: Darkbloom: “pun: rousse, ‘redhair’ in French”; and on the Petit Larousse illustré, the popular French encyclopedic dictionary, published in scores of editions since 1906.

Cf. Cordula’s report on the French class she shares with Ada at Brownhill: “we are enrolled in the same Advanced French group, and the Advanced French group is assigned the same dormitory so that a dozen blondes, three brunettes and one redhead, la Rousse, can whisper French in their sleep” (165.28-32).

One of the first of Quilty’s teasing motel-register clues is “N. Petit, Larousse, Ill.” (Lolita II.23, 248).

MOTIF: dictionary; rousse.

368.05: he and the other: Van still tries to avoid naming Ada, even to himself.

368.06-07: Indian summer too sultry for furs: Cf. “the emblazed trees, that defied the season” (366.24-25).

368.07-10: The cross (krest) of the best-groomed redhead (rousse). Its four burning ends. Because one can’t stroke (as he did now) the upper copper without imagining at once the lower fox cub and the paired embers: Where will his desire lead? Cf. “cursed under his breath the condition in which the image of the four embers of a vixen’s cross had now solidly put him” (377.21-22); and Van to Lucette, after the Ursus dinner: “Please, little vixen! I’ll reward you with a very special kiss” (415.13). MOTIF: ember; fox; krestik; red hair; rousse.

368.08-09: one can’t stroke (as he now did) the upper copper: After the Flavita game in I.36, “Very gently Van stroked the silky top of her [Lucette’s] head” (229.21). MOTIF: copper

368.12: “This is where he lives”: Again, Lucette reveals a surface poise and adult assurance remarkably different from her previous childishness.

368.13: he helped her with wonder and sorrow: Why sorrow? That Lucette is not Ada? Cf. “In less complex circumstances, forty years hence, our lovers were to see again, with wonder and joy, the same insect and the same bladder-senna” (128.28-31).

368.14-15: (he liked furs): sea bear (kotik)? No, desman (vïhuhol'): For translators, Nabokov compiled a note, “Marina’s and Ada’s furs,” which was typed out for him, and which he corrected and clipped to p.391 of A1. It includes: "Lucette: Sea Bear is the Alaska Fur Seal, phoque d'Alaska, Callorhinus ursinus = kotik. And Desman is vyhuhol', Desmana moschata."

The habitat of Callorhinus ursinus, the Alaska fur seal, is the northern Pacific, from California to Alaska and around to northern Korea and Japan. It was harvested intensely for its fur from the late eighteenth century until the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911.

The desman (Desmana moschata) is (W2) “ A molelike, aquatic, insectivorous mammal, Desmana moschata of Russia.” It inhabits the Volga, Don and Ural river basins.

Cf. Ada’s arrival in Van’s Manhattan apartment the next morning: “her flowing hair blending with dark furs that were even richer than her sister’s” (390.31).

Van, in most matters no expert on natural taxonomy, has an expertise in fur-bearing animals: see 391.12-27, which also shows profligate Demon’s interest in purchasing and bestowing furs.

MOTIF: bear.

368.14: Assistant Van: Van is assisting Lucette with her fur; but he is an “assistant lecher” (377.17) or rather “assistant lecturer” (379.16).

368.15: the smoky fichu: “Smoky” is a color and texture term here, but note also the fire connotations listed in 368.04-10n.

368.16: her long white neck: In 1905 Van will register Ada’s newly bared neck as resembling Lucette’s: “Her still blacker hair was drawn back and up into a glossy chignon, and the Lucette line of her exposed neck, slender and straight, came as a heartrending surprise” (511.14-17).

368.18-19: in his charcoal suit, spontaneous combustion, in his bleak parlor, in the bleak house: In Dickens’s novel Bleak House (1853), Krook, a second-hand dealer in old bottles and papers, dies of spontaneous combustion. In his Cornell lectures on the novel, Nabokov dwelt on the scene at length: “Now we come to the marvelous pages in chapter 32 dealing with Krook’s marvelous death, a tangible symbol of the slow fire and fog of Chancery” (LL 78).
“In his bleak parlor, in the bleak house”: cf. “his rather dingy Chose-like rooms at Kingston” (366.08-09).
Cf. Aqua’s last asylum: “The astorium in St. Taurus . . . was, perhaps, more modern, with a more refined desertic view, than the Mondefroid bleak-house horsepittle. . . . ” (27.19-23 and n.).

Note again the fire imagery, the “charcoal” suit ignited by the “embers” (see 368.04-10n).

368.19: anglophilically named Voltemand Hall: Quirky, since Shakespeare’s character name “Voltemand” seems to derive from Valdemar, the name of two powerful kings of Denmark in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. “Anglophilic” in the sense of Shakespeare-loving: but why indeed, from the point of view of Antiterran “realism,” is the Hall named after such a minor character in what VN thought Shakespeare’s greatest play?

368.20: Kingston University, fall term 1892, around four p.m.: Cf. “the fall term of 1892 at Kingston University” (365.01). The repetition of the place and time, and the added precision of the hour, seems to indicate: now the scene really begins.

368.22-23: “You’ve got central heating; we girls have tiny fireplaces”: Lucette refers to the contrast between Voltemand Hall and her accommodation at Queenston College for Girls; but the fire-burning-embers imagery makes us think about Lucette’s loins (and Van’s “spontaneous combustion”).

368.25-26: She raised her arms to pass her fingers through her bright curls, and he saw the expected bright hollows: Cf. Van offering Lucette “a very special kiss” if she divulges the name of Ada’s near-fiancé: “‘Little vixen’s axilla, just that—unless’—(drawing back in mock uncertainty)—‘you shave there?’ ‘I stink worse when I do,” confided simple Lucette and obediently bared one shoulder. ‘Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!’ commanded Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow” (415.10-25).
Cf. Lolita I.5: “Another time a red-haired school girl hung over me in the métro, and a revelation of axillary russet I obtained remained in my blood for weeks” (20).

Cf. also, linking with “the lower fox cub” just above (368.10) and the later “little vixen’s axilla” (415.19), these phrases from “A Nursery Tale”: “the red tufts of her armpits,” “the Fox in the ale-house” (SoVN 167, 168).

368.27-32: “All three casements . . . . Terrible for a window not to be able to turn its paralyzed embrasure and see what’s on the other side of the house”: This spontaneous but showy image—perhaps itself seeded by his current work on dimension (365.04-05)—seems to prepare Van’s mind for his sudden delighted solution to the Kantian riddle of left- and right-handedness (373.17-23).

“Embrasure” continues the EMB pattern in “emblazed” (366.24), “embered embryo” (367.25) and “paired embers” (368.10), further continued in “the decisive embrace” (369.09), “pre-emblematized” (374.23), “embracing the found lamb” (375.11), “four embers of a vixen’s cross” (377.22). Johnson 2000: 177 notes “These ‘embers’ are the source of the sound sequence EMBR that is uniquely associated with Lucette: em­ber, embrace, remember, November, memory, membrane, and so on.” Most of these are concentrated in II.5, but a week later, Van will write Lucette a letter (a last letter, it turns out) that includes: “Remembrance, embers and membranes of beauty make artists and morons lose all self-control” (421.12-14).

368.27: pourtant: Darkbloom: “yet.”

368.28-29: that green yard down below . . . the evening sun’s praying rug: Greencloth Court (366.27).

368.33: Once a Veen, always a Veen: Cf. “The wit of the Veens (says Ada in a marginal note) knows no bounds” (224.12-13); “‘The Veen wit, the Veen wit,’ murmured Demon” (254.32), both in response to Van. MOTIF: Veen.

369.05: Van noticed a long, blue, violet-sealed envelope: Van’s thought returns to this (369.12-14, 369.23-24, 372.16-18) because he has recognized “it was Ada’s notepaper” (369.26). MOTIF: letters.

369.10: brandy: Cf. Demon’s “‘prebrandial’ brandy (an ancient quip)” (238.07). Lucette has three brandies almost immediately (370.16-17), and Van’s guests at the end of the scene, Bernard Rattner and other young scholars, also quaff freely (386.32-33).

369.12: the balled handkerchief of many an old romance: MOTIF: novel; romance.

369.13-14: Chows, too, have blue tongues: Van is thinking (side-thinking, again) of the long blue envelope in the unclosed bag (369.05, 369.12-13).

369.15: Mamma dwells in her private Samsara: W2, Samsara: “Transmigration; metempsychosis; hence, the world or universe in which the law of rebirth operates.” Marina becomes increasingly withdrawn into her Indian mysticism, already evident in 1884: “Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp)” (90.32-34).

369.15-16: Dad has had another stroke: Demon in 1888 refers in passing to Dan: “after that little stroke he had” (243.29-30).

369.16: Sis is revisiting Ardis: Cf. “During her dreary stay at Ardis” (396.01), where Kim Beauharnais brings Ada his blackmail photograph album.

369.17-19: “Sis! Cesse, Lucette! We don’t want any baby serpents around.” “This baby serpent . . . ”: Van does not want to hear mention of Ada; he multiplies the sibilants of Lucette’s coy “Sis” to suggest the serpents he wants to ban. MOTIF: snake.

369.17: Cesse: Darkbloom: “cease.”

369.20: Dr. V.V. Sector: A play on “V.V.” (Van Veen) and his cutting response (vivisector) to Lucette?; “Dr.” presumably not because Van already has a PhD, but because of his work in Terrapeutic clinical psychology: he has come back to America with the aim of “completing his medical studies at Kingston (which he found more congenial than good old Chose)” (345.10-12). Cf. another comic doctor’s name, “Doc Ecksreher” (202.11). MOTIF: V.

369.21-22: you look like a ghost in need of a shave without your summer Glanz: Lucette has previously seen Van only during his two summers at Ardis. Cf. her reporting to Van in 1901 of Ada’s marriage, where one of the shafers “looked momentarily . . . exactly like you, like a pale, ill-shaven twin” (480.31-481.01). In 1888 Van seethes with irritation that Percy de Prey has “that baby complexion, the smooth-skinned jaws of the easy shaver. I had begun to bleed every time, and was going to do so for seven decades” (273.28-30).

369.22: Glanz: Darkbloom: “Germ., luster.” Johnson 1985: 54 notes the pun on glans, highlighted in retrospect in Van’s summary of this scene: “Punning in an Ophelian frenzy on the feminine glans?” (394.17-18)

369.23: And summer Mädel: Darkbloom: “Germ., girl.” Note the hint of “Adelaida” (Ada’s formal name) or “Ada” in “Mädel.” The summer just gone, that of 1892, might have continued the four-year pattern of Van’s 1884 and 1888 summers with Ada at Ardis, had it not been for his 1888 discovery of Ada’s infidelities. MOTIF: Ada.

369.23-24: the letter, in its long blue envelope: Cf. 369.05n. MOTIF: letters.

369.25: rubbing his forehead: Perhaps the first indication of the “ripe pimple on his right temple” bothering Van at 380.29.

369.26: because it was Ada’s notepaper: See 369.05 and n.; cf. Ada’s own reference, in the first of her desperate VPL post-Ardis letters to Van, to “the blue snow of this notepaper” (332.17-18).

369.32: an appointment around six: At 6:30, in fact, as he admits at 370.04.

369.33-370.01: Two ideas were locked up in a slow dance, a mechanical menuet, with bows and curtseys: Cf. “Excluding each other, private swoons split him in two” (188.11-12).

370.01: menuet: W2: “Var. of minuet. Obs.” When Ada first shows Van around Ardis in 1884, they pass Lucette in the nursery: “a toy barrel organ invitingly went into action with a stumbling little minuet” (42.33-34).

370.04-25: Rattner at six-thirty. . . . Rattner on Terra! . . . Van is reading Rattner on Terra, Pet must never, never disturb him and me when we are reading Rattner. . . . Tell Rattner . . . allayed your fire: MOTIF: Rattner; Rattner on Terra.

370.04-05: Rattner at six-thirty: Cf. 373.23: “Bernard said six-thirty.”

370.06-07: Rattner on Terra: At Ardis in 1888 “Van lay reading Rattner on Terra, a difficult and depressing work” (230.04-05).

370.07: Pet must never, never disturb him and me: Cf. Van farewelling Lucette at the end of this scene: “Good-bye, pet” (387.22). MOTIF: pet.

370.11: She had told him before: Evidently, in her phone call earlier in the day; he mentions it at 366.15.

370.12: Of course. Tough course? No. Oh.: Nabokov is famous for the beauty, flow and patterning of his sentences, but he can also use ungainly abruptness and repetition to evoke awkwardness.

370.12-14: both kept glancing askance at the letter to see if it was behaving itself—not dangling its legs, not picking its nose. Return it sealed?: Perhaps relevant that in the early summer of 1884, when Van first sights Lucette, and thinks she must be “Ardelia,” the elder of his two cousins, she “was picking her nose and examining with dreamy satisfaction her finger before wiping it on the edge of the bench” (36.21-23). MOTIF: letters.

370.18-19: her pretty viper tongue)— (Viper? Lucette? My dead dear darling?): MOTIF: snake.

370.19: (Viper? Lucette? My dead dear darling?): MOTIF: Composition—Ada; Lucette—prolepsis.

370.23-24: had appeased your lust, had allayed your fire: More fire imagery: see 368.04-10n.

370.26: One remembers those little things much too clearly, Lucette: Note the impersonal and admonitory tone here, versus the personal and celebratory tone of Van and Ada’s refrain: “And do you remember, a tï pomnish’, et te souviens-tu” (109.11-12).

370.28-371.04: One remembers, Van . . . your caked algarroba!: Although this begins as Lucette’s dialogic response to Van, the bulk of the paragraph, in its control of style and reference, may, in the light of the suggestions by “Ed.” that Van has incorporated into the dialogue parts of Lucette’s long love-letter to Van (366.14, 374.32-34), derive from that letter. This likelihood appears stronger in the editorial note preceding her next “spoken” words: see 371.09-10 and n.

370.30-31: with the sun on the chairs and the floor: MOTIF: sun-Ardis

371.01-02: on Terra with Ada, with Rattner on Ada, with Ada on Antiterra in Ardis Forest: MOTIF: Ardis ; Rattner; Rattner on Terra; Terra.

371.02: Ardis Forest: The only time this phrase occurs in Ada. Perhaps a hint of the Forest of Arden, famous as the prime forest of Shakespeare’s native county, Warwickshire, and as the scene of the amatory pursuits of his romantic comedy As You Like It (1599).

371.04: and her catfood: Fish-smelling? Pun on “pussy”?

371.04: your caked algarroba: Algarroba (W2):“The carob; also, its edible beans or pods.” Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed, II: 579): “It has red flowers followed by flat, leathery pods 7.5-30 centimetres (3-12 inches) long.” Lucette’s botanical allusion here matches Ada’s mental style: “an extract of scarlet aril, the flesh of yew, just only yew. Je réalise . . . that I’m being coy and obscene” (334.19-22)

371.09-10: “Van, it will make you smile” [thus in the MS. Ed.]. “Van,” said Lucette, “it will make you smile”: Seems to indicate that what follows from Lucette has been transcribed from her 1891 letter to Van, and adds to the likelihood that her speech at 370.28-371.04 also derives from the letter. MOTIF: Composition—Editor; letters.

371.10-11: “Van,” said Lucette, “it will make you smile” (it did not: that prediction is seldom fulfilled): But most of us as readers surely smile both at the editorial judder and at the dictum that the prediction is seldom fulfilled, when we have just smiled.

371.11-13: if you posed the famous Van Question, I would answer in the affirmative. What he had asked little Cordula: The question we first hear Van posing in September 1884 to fifteen-year-old Cordula de Prey: “Are you a virgin?” (165.24). Cf. “I have devised myself many a subtle test (one of which, the method of determining female virginity without physical examination, today bears my name)” (546.28-31). MOTIF: little Cordula; virgin.

371.13-16: In that bookshop behind the revolving paperbacks’ stand, The Gitanilla, Our Laddies, Clichy Clichés, Six Pricks, The Bible Unabridged, Mertvago Forever, The Gitanilla: In the 1884 scene referred to here, the revolving bookstand is not mentioned: “Van ran into Cordula in a bookshop” (164.16). Van’s memory eight years later is very exact.

Cf. Lucette, later in this 1892 scene at Kingston: “‘Look, I’ll borrow a book’ (scanning on the nearest bookshelf The Gitanilla, Clichy Clichés, Mertvago Forever, The Ugly New Englander)” (383.30-32).
MOTIF: book list .

371.14: The Gitanilla: Spanish, “the little gypsy” (female); a version of Lolita: see notes 27.32-28.03, 361.11-12. A1: “ = Lolita.”

Among the props in Lolita’s famous davenport scene are “Mexican knickknacks (the late Mr. Harold E. Haze—God bless the good man—had engendered my darling at the siesta hour in a blue-washed room, on a honeymoon trip to Vera Cruz, and mementoes, among these Dolores, were all over the place)” (I.13, 57). In this chapter, Humbert recites the words of the Carmen song supposedly popular at the time (after the gypsy girl of Mérimée’s story and Bizet’s opera) (I.13, 61-62); his last scene with Lolita before her disappearance at Elphinstone records this exchange:

“My Carmen,” I said (I used to call her that sometimes), “we shall leave this raw sore town as soon as you
get out of bed.”
            “Incidentally, I want all my clothes,” said the gitanilla, humping up her knees and turning to another page.
(Lolita II.22, 244)

MOTIF: gitanilla; Lolita

371.14: Our Laddies: A1: “girl-boys.” A version of the novel Notre-Dame des fleurs (Our Lady of the Flowers, 1944), by Jean Genet (1910-1986), in which the homosexual male characters are usually referred to as “she.” Ardeur 310 translates this title as “Nos Gars” (abbreviating garçon, “lad,” with a visual hint, despite the silent -s, of English “arse”?).

371.15: Clichy Clichés: An Antiterran edition of the short novel Quiet Days in Clichy (1965), by Henry Miller. Clichy is a northern industrial suburb of Paris; Miller, whose fiction is closely autobiographical, lived near Place Clichy in the early 1930s.

371.15: Six Pricks: Perhaps a fusion of Miller’s novels Sexus (1949), Plexus (1953), and Nexus (1959), known as The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, and the collection of stories More Pricks than Kicks (1934) by Samuel Beckett, two works by Anglophone writers (American and Irish, respectively) who lived in France? The title is ambiguous between the different senses of prick: puncture, penis, or the slang sense of “jerk, nuisance.” Ardeur 310 substitutes Les Vaincus (The Conquered), which, as Pléiade III.1467, n21 notes, also produces a punning ambiguity (on les vains/vingt culs, “vain/twenty arses”), and perhaps echoes the title of The Unvanquished (1938), a short story collection by William Faulkner.

371.15-16: Mertvago Forever: A1: “‘amber’ forever.” The title conflates two bestselling historical romances, Doctor Zhivago, on Antiterra Les Amours du docteur Mertvago (see 53.22-24 and n.), and Kathleen Winsor's steamy historical bodice-ripper For Ever Amber (New York: Macmillan, 1944), which also features obliquely and dismissively in Pale Fire (“Judging by the novels in Mrs. Goldsworth’s boudoir, her intellectual interests were fully developed, going as they did from Amber to Zen,” PF C.47-48, 83). Given that Mertvago means “of the dead [masculine/neuter, singular],” Mertvago Forever offers an eternal dismissal. In late 1958 Dr. Zhivago and Lolita were on the American best-seller lists at the same time: hence the conjunction of Mertvago Forever and The Gitanilla.

A1 also suggests: “Bonjour, Mertvago,” which indeed (Ardeur 310) became the equivalent of Mertvago Forever in the French translation: a play in this case on the best-selling French novel Bonjour, Tristesse (1954) by Françoise Sagan (1935-2004).

MOTIF: Mertvago.

371.16: The Gitanilla: The bookstand has revolved. In another sense, a measure of Lolita’s constant return into VN’s life and fiction. MOTIF: gitana; Lolita.

371.18-26: Oh, to be sure . . . in all my love: MOTIF: virgin

371.20-23: a youngster of fourteen or fifteen, an awfully precocious but terribly shy and neurotic young violinist, who reminded Marina of her brother: Marina’s brother is named Ivan, like Lucette’s half-brother, whom she is in love with.

371.26: male epithelia: Lips, in this case, but could be any part of the skin—such as the glans, pointedly not excluded. Cf. Van’s meeting Lucette in Paris, in 1901, and accepting his invitation to her suite: “firmly resolved to leave in a moment, he removed his glasses and pressed his mouth to her mouth, and she tasted exactly as Ada at Ardis, in the early afternoon, sweet saliva, salty epithelium, cherries, coffee. Had he not sported so well and so recently, he might not have withstood the temptation, the impardonable thrill” (466.33-467.04).

371.26: in all my love—I mean, life: Cf. “for the first time in my fire [thus in the manuscript, for ‘life.’ Ed.]” (421.29-30).

371.27: by—by William Shakespeare: Although Lucette guesses wrongly about the author of the imposing set on the bookshelf, Shakespeare, and especially Hamlet, pervades the chapter:in the name of Voltemand Hall, in the echoes Lucette, Van, and Ada make of Hamlet and his letter to Ophelia, and in Ophelia herself.

371.30-31: Collected Works of Falknermann, dumped by my predecessor: William Faulkner (whose family name had also been spelled “Falkner”), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, and Thomas Mann, (1875-1955) Nobel Laureate for 1929, neither of whom VN cared for as writers any more than did Van’s predecessor in his Voltemand Hall rooms. Cf. EO 3,192: “the crumbling Manns and Faulkners of our time.” In his Cornell lectures VN tore apart Mann’s story “The Railway Accident” (TWS 229-32); in PF he has another character express his distaste for Faulkner in terms of book ownership: John Shade feels obliged to host Faulkner, once his co-editor on a little review, but the day after the reception in his honor, Shade returns to the library a pile of books by Faulkner, described as “a world-famous old writer, bent under the incubus of literary honors and his own prolific mediocrity,” (PF C.181, 160-61).

371.32-34: Pah! . . . don’t use that expletive . . . oh, I know, oh, I shan’t: As Proffer 270 notes, Russian pakh means “groin.” MOTIF: pah

371.33: please, don’t use that expletive: Because it is a favorite of Ada’s, and indeed, as Alexey Sklyarenko notes (“Pollice verso . . . ,”, February 6, 2021) , the first word Van records Ada as uttering after his arrival at Ardis (38.21), in this case too, in response to a writer (Dostoevsky) no more popular with the Veens than with the VNs.

372.04: relanced: Darkbloom: “From Fr. relancer, to go after.” In view of the context of the sentence, and Lucette’s imminent sexual punning, is there a phallic pun on “lance”?

372.06: press the button: Ordinarily no double-entendre, but there may be one in this context: in the light of the next clause, and “Pressing the Spring” (372.25) a few lines later, and two pages later the “little organ, which turned out to be a yielding roundlet . . . under the felt you felt—I mean, under the felt you were feeling: it was a felted thumb spring” in the scrutoir (374.15-17).

372.06-07: into the burning slit: Of the letter slot in the door, its probably brass frame presumably catching the sinking sun; although the subordinate sexual interpretation of “burning slit” all but crowds out the ostensible referent. Note again the fire imagery.

372.07: cataract away: At the end of this scene Van “clattered, in Lucette’s wake, down the cataract of the narrow staircase” (386.01-02). MOTIF: cataract.

372.10-11: for a virgin . . . puella: MOTIF: virgin.

372.11: a kokotische virgin, half poule, half puella: A cocottish (Franco-German: “fashionable prostitute”) virgin, half poule (French, “tart”), half puella
( Latin, “maiden”). Pléiade III.1467, n24 suggests an additional pun on German kotisch, “fecal.” Lucette has certainly become as polylingual as her half-siblings. This was even more emphatic in Ada 1968: “polu-poule, polu-puella” (“half poule, half puella”) corrected by hand to final text.
MOTIF: whore

372.11: poule: Cf. “if Van or his poule”(330.28-29), Demon’s disparaging reference to Cordula.

372.12-16: mysterious matters that one should not discuss even with a vaginal brother. . . ” Uterine—but close enough. It certainly came from Lucette’s sister: Cf. Ada to Van early in the summer of 1888, after the strategy of getting Lucette to join in her and Van’s less compromising cuddles has been initiated: “I think she is criminally in love with you. I think I shall tell her you are her uterine brother and that it is illegal and altogether abominable to flirt with uterine brothers” (214.07-10). It seems as if Ada has gone ahead with telling Lucette that Van is also Marina’s child. Note that Lucette’s “vaginal,” which prompts Van’s “uterine” gloss, also occurs in a paragraph making explicit, in Lucette’s words, that she is “madly and miserably in love with you and that you can do anything you want with me” (372.04-05).
Ada plainly knows the word “uterine” (of course), but in explaining to Lucette the true family relationship, she seems to have used “vaginal” rather than “uterine” in order to make it darker and starker.
Cf., later in this scene, “observed Lucette, with something of her uterine sister’s knight move of specious response” (383.03-04); and nine years later, Van’s comment on Lucette’s looks and style on her last night alive: “Objectively speaking, her chic was keener than that of her ‘vaginal’ sister” (486.12-13).
MOTIF: family relationship

372.15-16: from Lucette’s sister: In keeping with his feelings at the time of this scene, Van as narrator here avoids referring to Ada by name.

372.16-18: “That shade of blue . . .” . . . Blue in the face from pleading rsvp: Van is thinking again of the blue envelope and Ada’s blue notepaper. MOTIF: letters

372.17: corny song on the Sonorola: Cf. Van in hospital: “Would he care to have a Sonorola by his bed?” (313.07); and, with an echo of this “corny,” perhaps, “The built-in ‘canoreo’ (an old-fashioned musical gadget . . . )” (470.33-34).

372.29: Grandmother’s scrutoir: Grandmother: apparently Dolly Durmanov (see 378.22-24), Marina’s mother, not Mary Veen (née Trumbell), Dan’s mother. Scrutoir: W2: “scrutoire. . . . An escritoire. Archaic”;“escritoire. A writing table, commonly with drawers, pigeonholes, etc.”

372.30: gueridon: Not in W2; W3, gueridon: “A small stand or table (as for a lamp or vase) usu. ornately carved and embellished.”

373.01-02: Dusty Tartary with Cinderella’s finger rubbing the place where the invader would fall: Cf. Van, drifting in and out of sleep while reading Rattner on Terra in the Ardis library, summer 1888: “As Bout passed by the globe he touched it and looked with disapproval at his smudged finger. ‘The world is dusty,’ he said. . . . . For a few moments the brief dim dream was so closely fused with the real event that even when he recalled Bout’s putting his finger on the rhomboid peninsula where the Allies had just landed (as proclaimed by the Ladore newspaper spread-eagled on the library table), he still clearly saw Blanche wiping Crimea clean with one of Ada’s lost handkerchiefs” (231.10-28). “Where the invader would fall” in Van’s Kingston memory of the event is ambiguous between “the Allies” in general and Percy de Prey (name avoided) in particular.
MOTIF: Cinderella; memory test

373.03-04: a kind of stand with golden dragons painted all over it: After the TORFYaNUYu Flavita game: “the lampshade’s parchment (a translucent lakescape with Japanese dragons)” (228.24-25). In England, an eighteenth-century and Regency fashion (cf. 350.34 and n.), as can be seen in Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817), chapter 21: “looked closely at the cabinet. It was not absolutely ebony and gold; but it was Japan, black and yellow Japan of the handsomest kind; and as she held her candle, the yellow had very much the effect of gold” (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), 173.

373.09: inscrutable: Even if Van does not know what a “scrutoir” is, he can pun on its name—and indeed he has probably inferred that it is a kind of table, yielding a double pun: in-scru-table. Perhaps prompted too, after “China or Japan,” by the old Western cliché of the “inscrutable Oriental.” Cf. “in the library portrait above her inscrutable” (378.23-24).

373.10-11: Almost as bad as the other with her Blemolopias and Molospermas: Van again suppresses Ada’s name. Cf. Van’s exasperation at Ada’s explanation of the name paulownia tree, before he has fallen in love with her: “I’m going to scream, thought Van” (43.21). Lucette has become as expert in her chosen field as Ada in hers.

MOTIF: Ada’s botany; Ada’s taxonomy

373.10: Blemolopias and Molospermas: Van’s memorial hybridization of Blennosperma (did VN write Blenno-, and his typist read Blemo-?), a genus of plants in the daisy family (Asteraceae), common name, “stickyseeds,” and Monolopia, another genus in the same family. All Monolopias and two of the four Blennospermas are endemic to California; all flowers in both genera are yellow.

373.14-17: the black divan . . . . as an orientator or as a right hand: MOTIF: divan.

373.17-33: or as a right hand . . . a philosopher’s orbitless eye . . . . whereupon, with Germanic grace, the free eye sails around the glass sign and sees a left hand shining through—that’s the solution! . . . as big as Kant’s eye: Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics that will be able to come forward as science (1783), sec. 13: “What indeed can be more similar to, and in all parts more equal to, my hand or my ear than its image in the mirror? And yet I cannot put such a hand as is seen in the mirror in the place of its original; for if the one was a right hand, then the other in the mirror is a left, and the image of the right ear is a left one, which can never take the place of the former. Now there are no inner differences here that any understanding could merely think; and yet the differences are inner as far as the senses teach; for the left hand cannot, after all, be enclosed in the same boundaries as the right (they cannot be made congruent), despite all reciprocal equality and similarity; one hand’s glove cannot be used on the other. What then is the solution?” (Theoretical Philosophy after 1781, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, ed. Henry Allison and Peter Heath, this text translated by Gary Hatfield, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, 81-82). See 368.27-32 and n. for a possible source for Van’s solution in what he has recently said.

VN may have found the solution in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), by Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951): “6.36111 The Kantian problem of the right and left hand which cannot be made to cover one another already exists in the plane, and even in one-dimensional space; where the two congruent figures a and b cannot be made to cover one another without

- - - o----------x—x----------o - - -
            a                  b

moving them out of this space. The right and left hand are in fact completely congruent. And the fact that they cannot be made to cover one another has nothing to do with it. // A right-hand glove could be put on a left hand if it could be turned round in four-dimensional space” (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C.K. Ogden, London: Routledge, 1922, 1996, p. 179). (The British (and Austrian-born) philosopher Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994), in an unpublished and undated note (c. 1980?), “A Note on the Tractatus 6.36111” (Karl Popper Archive, Hoover Institution, Stanford, Box 340, folder 13) proposes that something has gone wrong with Wittgenstein’s formulation, and offers one that might fit better what Wittgenstein wished to say.) If VN had drawn on Wittgenstein here, this would be the earliest indication that he had read him. In a 1966 interview, when Alfred Appel, Jr., suggested Nabokov’s “poet’s sense of the limitations of language is startlingly similar to Wittgenstein’s remark on the referential basis of language,” Nabokov declared “I am completely ignorant of Wittgenstein’s works” (SO  70). Perhaps Appel’s question prompted him to read or sample Wittgenstein, whom he certainly refers to in the next novel after Ada, in the riddling “‘Raining in Wittenberg, but not in Wittgenstein.’ An obscure joke in Tralatitions” (TT 91).  

Cf. also “He would uncurl out of an indefinitely lengthy trance, and note with wonder that the ship was going the other way or that the order of his left-hand fingers was reversed, now beginning, clockwise, with his thumb as on his right hand” (450.11-15).

373.18-19: a philosopher’s orbitless eye, a peeled hard-boiled egg cruising free: Orbit (W2): “1. Anat. The cavity of the skull in which the eye and its appendages are located; the eye socket.”There seems a not-quite-punning play on “orbitless” and “cruising free,” like a planet not quite in orbit.

Alexey Sklyarenko “Kant's eye & secret chuvstvilishche in Ada,”, 15 November 2020, notes that “In her memoir essay on Andrey Bely, Plennyi dukh (‘A Captive Spirit,’ 1934), Marina Tsvetaev describes her meeting with Bely in Berlin and says that Bely compared man’s eye to a peeled hard-boiled egg: ‘. . . i tyoplïy glaz, kak tol’ko chto ochishchennoe, obluplennoe podragivayushchee krutoe yaitso.’ [ ‘ . . . and a warm eye, like a just cleaned, peeled, quivering hard-boiled egg’] (II).”

373.23: Bernard said six-thirty but I may be a little late: See 370.04-05. In his excitement at this discovery Van anticipates writing it down before seeing Bernard Rattner (the nephew of the great Rattner). In view of the fact that the solution involves something like revolving a three-dimensional object in four-dimensional space, it seems relevant that H. G. Wells’s “The Plattner Story” (1896), about a chemistry teacher, Gottfried Plattner, “all of whose organs and features have been transposed from right to left and vice versa; his heart is on the right side of his body for instance, and the symmetry of his facial features is the opposite of what it appears to be in old photographs. The narrator suggests that this proves that Plattner ‘has moved out of our space into what is called the Fourth Dimension’” (“The Plattner Story,” Engole, accessed 5 June 2021) after an explosion of one of his chemicals, and is propelled back to our three-dimensional world after another explosion. Cf. Van’s project “on the Idea of Dimension & Dementia” and old Rattner’s “rattnerterological” response to it (365.04-08).

373.25: villous, Villaviciosa velour: MOTIF: V; Villa Venus.

373.25: villous: W2: “Covered with soft fine hairs, or a woolly substance; shaggy with soft hairs; nappy; specif., Bot., pubescent, with soft and not matted hair.”

373.25: Villaviciosa: The name (meaning “town of vices”) of three small towns in Spain, in Córdoba, Oviedo, and Madrid provinces. The last of these was the site of a 1710 battle in Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession. The name matters more than any specific referent.

373.28-29: at the heel end of the Vaniada divan—remember?: Lucette has in mind one of the times when she, Van and Ada play Flavita in the Ardis library: from the letters in her spektrik, forming “the amusing VANIADA,” she “extracted the very piece of furniture she was in the act of referring to in a peevish little voice: ‘But I, too, perhaps, would like to sit on the divan’” (227.24-27). Cf. also Lucette in Paris, 1901: “I’ll stretch out upon the divan like a martyr, remember?” (464.03-04). MOTIF: memory test.

373.28-29: the Vaniada divan: MOTIF: divan; Van; Vaniada.

373.29-33: the closet in which you two locked me up at least ten times.” “ . . . It had a keyless hole as big as Kant’s eye. Kant was famous for his cucumicolor iris”: Cf. “under the absurd pretext of a hide-and-seek game they locked up Lucette in a closet used for storing bound volumes of The Kaluga Waters and The Lugano Sun, and frantically made love, while the child knocked and called and kicked until the key fell out and the keyhole turned an angry green” (213.26-31). Lucette’s eyes are green (“prasine,” or leek-colored, at 367.03); Kant’s eyes are implied to be the darker green of a cucumber. Zimmer 2010:996: notes that Kant “impressed his contemporaries, among other things, by his eyes (not ‘cucumber green’ but blue). An admirer wrote: ‘Kant’s eye was as if made of heavenly ether, out of which the deep look of the soul, its fiery ray somewhat dimmed by light clouds, visibly shone forth. . . . To me it was always as if I was looking through this ethereal blue fire into Minerva’s inner shrine” (Reinhold Bernhard Jachmann, Ueber Immanuel Kant, Königsberg: Nicolovius, 1804, vol. II, p. 155).” As Sklyarenko shows (“Kant’s eye in Ada,” Nabokv-L, July 31, 2014), Nabokov would have known the color of Kant’s eyes, if not from other sources, then at least from the novel Chyortov most (The Devil’s Bridge, 1924) by his friend Mark Aldanov, in Part 1 Chapter 11 of which Aldanov describes Kant: “Iz glubokikh vpadin, pokrytykh sedymi brovyami, lili myagkiy svet golubye glaza” (“From deep hollows covered with gray eyebrows, light-blue eyes poured a soft light”).

373.31: Nu uzh i desyat’ (exaggeration): Something like “Ten? Come on.” Cf. Ada’s remark about Lucette’s behavior in this scene: “N’exagérons pas, tu sais” (394.19).

373.32: Kant’s eye: Bodenstein (App. 7.7.1) detects a pun on “cunt” here, especially in view of the clitoral focus of the pages to come (and, one might add, the “vaginal brother” on the preceding page). Pronounced in the German fashion, the name “Kant” is an exact homophone of the English obscenity.

374.02: her very chic patent-leather Glass shoe: Although Glass is the designer, not the material of the shoe, Lucette is at last explicitly associated with the Cinderella motif that had seemed to be reserved for Blanche. Blanche is a serving-girl, and the youngest of three sisters; but Lucette is also the youngest of three. Van and Ada can be seen as the ugly step-siblings, who are privileged and proud but nasty, and Lucette turns out to be in a way at the center of the story, with Nabokov as her fairy godmother.
Cf. Ada the next morning “in glossy black Glass slippers” (391.01); Mlle Larivière at Ada’s 1884 birthday picnic, “wearing a white satin dress (made by Vass of Manhattan for Marina . . . )” (78.22-23); at the party during which Van reaches Ardis in 1888, “Three young ladies in yellow-blue Vass frocks” (187.06-07). And for the “chic,” cf. Lucette on the Tobakoff:“Objectively speaking, her chic was keener than that of her ‘vaginal’ sister” (486.12-13).
Cf. EO 2.213: “a charming pair of feminine feet, crossed, . . . in pointed black patent-leather slippers.”

MOTIF: Cinderella; Glass; Vass.

374.04-11: top-secret drawer. . . . she had forgotten how to release the orgasm . . . . She and I challenged you to find the secret chuvstvilishche . . . and make it work: Cf. Ada “at eleven, despite trying numberless times to unlock with every key in the house the cabinet in which Walter Daniel Veen kept ‘Jap. & Ind. erot. prints’ as seen distinctly labeled through the glazed door (the key to which Van found for her in a twinkle—taped to the back of the pediment)” (111.01-05).
Cf. DB 64, where VN lists things of his distant past that he recalls with special fondness: “i to, chto vsegda tronesh’ prokhodya—pruzhinistoe krugloe mesto v golubom sukne kartochnogo stolika, kotoroe pri nazhatii bol’shogo pal’tsa s priyatnoy spazmoy mgnovenno vygonyaet tainïy yashchichek, gde lezhat krasnïe i zelyonïe fishki i kakoy-to klyuchik” (“and that you’d always touch as you passed a springy round place in the blue cloth of the card table, which if you pressed with your thumb would with a pleasing spasm instantly expel a secret little drawer, where lay red and green chips and some little key . . . ”).

374.05-06: our grandmother’s love letters, written when she was twelve or thirteen: “Dolly . . . married in 1840, at the tender and wayward age of fifteen, General Ivan Durmanov” (3.13-15).

374.06: our Ada: MOTIF: his [my, etc.] Ada.

374.08-380.02: the orgasm or whatever it is called . . . after teaching me simple exercises for one hand that I could practice alone: Cf. Van’s summary, the next morning, of Lucette’s “Punning in an Ophelian frenzy on the feminine glans? Raving about the delectations of clitorism?” (394.17-18).

374.07-08: how to release the orgasm: For “mechanism,” presumably, but Lucette’s mind is on different things. Or is it a mock double entendre, as in her “under the felt you felt—I mean, under the felt you were feeling” (374.16-17) in her next speech? Cf. “Something we used to call Pressing the Spring” (372.25).

374.10-11: chuvstvilishche (sensorium): Sensorium: W2: “a The brain regarded as the center for all the senses and for sensation. b The entire sensory apparatus, including sense organs and their nerve centers.”

Alexey Sklyarenko notes (“Kant's eye & secret chuvstvilishche in Ada,”, 15 November 2020) that “In his poem Evropa (‘Europe,’ 1919) included in Rossiya raspyataya (‘The Crucified Russia’) [Maximilian] Voloshin mentions Europe's maternie organy (maternal organs), her chuvstvilishche (sensorium) and pokhotnik (clitoris): ‘Zdes’ maternie organy Evropy, / . . . / V glubokikh vluminakh ukrytaia stikhia, / Chuvstvilishche i pokhotnik eya.’”

374.11-12: the summer Belle sprained her backside: “Mlle Larivière decided to stay in bed for five days: she had sprained her back on a merry-go-round at the Vintage Fair” (142.01-03).

374.12-13: we were left to our own devices, which had long lost the particule in your case and Ada’s: The word “devices” lost the particle “de,” that is, to become “vices.” Cf. “leaving Dan—to his devices and vices, inserted Van” (151.10); of Baron Klim Avidov: “how clever it was to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule” (224.03-04).

374.15: a yielding roundlet: W2: “1. A little circle or round object.” MOTIF: -let.

374.16: rosewood: Selected for its connection with “Eros, the rose and the sore” (367.11)? MOTIF: Eros, the sore and the rose.

374.20: a minuscule red pawn that high: Cf. Van, feigning incomprehension: “You mentioned just now a little red stud or pawn” (378.02-03).

374.21: barleycorn-size: W2, barleycorn, “2. a. An old measure of length equal to the average length of a grain of barley; the third part of an inch.”

374.23-25: the entire incident pre-emblematized . . . the depravation of your poor Lucette: In the red pawn, emblematic of the clitoris, and the pressing of the “little organ” (374.15) or spring, and the release. MOTIF: replay.

374.23: pre-emblematized: Neologism; echoes, earlier in the chapter, “emblazed trees” (366.24-25), “embered embryo” (367.25), “the paired embers” (368.10), “its paralyzed embrasure” (368.31); see 368.27-32n.

374.24-25: your poor Lucette: MOTIF: poor Lucette.

374.25: at fourteen: Therefore in 1890.

374.25: in Arizona: MOTIF: Arizona.

374.25: defigured The Doomed Children: Note “defigured” rather than “disfigured”: as if he had taken all the characters out of his film adaptation. For film director Vronsky’s previous misadaptation of Mlle Larivière’s story, see 197.01-201.33. MOTIF: Les Enfants Maudits.

374.26-27: her successor had eloped with Demon: Cf. Demon’s availing himself of another of the Ardis support staff: “an orphan he had adopted, he said, a lovely Irish wild rose in whom Marina at once recognized an impudent scullery maid who had briefly worked at Ardis Hall, and had been ravished by an unknown gentleman—who was now well-known” (150.25-29).

374.28-29: the maids joined their lovers at star-rise: The first star to show in the evening sky is of course Venus. Cf. Van in his hammock 1884: “Venus rose in the sky; Venus set in his flesh” (72.27); of the visit of “Ritcov or Vrotic” to a Villa Venus: “after the entire staff of his favorite floramor near Bath had worked in vain on him till an ironic Hesperus rose in a milkman’s humdrum sky” (355.25-27).

Shortly Lucette will elaborate on the primal scene of her sexual relationship with Ada: “So the day passed, and then the star rose . . . ” (376.11-12).

MOTIF: Venus.

374.30-31: I did not put out the pink night-light of porcelain with the transparency picture of a lost lamb: Cf. 375.09-11: “I took my pillow to Ada’s bedroom where a similar night-light transparency thing showed a blond-bearded faddist in a toweling robe embracing the found lamb.” Cf. also Ada in the souci d’eau scene: “Lucette, our darling copperhead who by now should be . . . . counting the little sheep on her ciel de lit” (64.26-31).

374.32: I was afraid of the cougars and snakes: Cf. on the next page: “We interweaved like serpents and sobbed like pumas” (375.21-22). MOTIF: snake.

374.32-34: the cougars and snakes . . . whose cries and rattlings Ada imitated admirably: Cf. Van, the following morning, to Ada: “‘Lucette affirmed,’ he said, that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions” (394.20-21).

374.32-34: [quite possibly, this is not remembered speech but an extract from her letter or letters. Ed.]: MOTIF: Composition—Editor; letters.

375.02-03: [here, it would seem, taped speech is re-turned-on]: Van has of course not used a tape recorder (a rare thing on Antiterra: see 147); what the Editor means is that the dialogue no longer draws from Lucette’s letter but from her words spoken at Kingston, as recorded in Van’s perhaps tape-recorder-like memory.

MOTIF: Composition—Editor.

375.04-15: Old Countess de Prey’s phrase in praise . . . pour cogner une fraise, touched with fraise: Oddly insistent rhymes in the first “phrase,” and yet the second “phrase” here seems new enough, with its own internal insistence, not to seem connected at first (and the French fraise is pronounced differently from the other instances). Amusing—but is there some additional reason for the intense patterning?

375.04-05: Old Countess de Prey’s phrase in praise of a lame mare in her stables in 1884: In 1884: “They had tea at a neighbor’s, Countess de Prey—who tried to sell them, unsuccessfully, a lame horse” (139.12-14); in 1888 Van noticed Ada “running after Percy who had put on his gray topper and was walking away across a lawn which his transit at once caused to overlap in Van’s mind with the fleeting memory of the paddock where he and Van had once happened to discuss a lame horse and Riverlane” (189.20-24).

375.06: to his girl who passed it on to her half-sister: Again Van avoids naming Ada and defines Ada bitterly as Percy’s girl. He is also explicit about her relationship to Lucette. MOTIF: family relationship.

375.09-11: a similar night-light transparency thing showed a blond-bearded faddist in a toweling robe embracing the found lamb: Cf. 374. 30-31: “the pink night-light of porcelain with the transparency picture of a lost lamb.” A stylized and trite image of Jesus Christ holding a lamb is often used for sentimental paintings or indeed nightlights. The parable of the sheep, from the Gospel of Matthew, 18.11-14: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more over that sheep than over the ninety and nine which went not away. Even so it is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Christ himself was associated with the lamb. From the Gospel of John, 1:29: “The next day John [the Baptist] seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” In this Christian interpretation, Christ’s sacrifice in the crucifixion was a version of the sacrificial lamb of the Passover ceremonies, although that lamb was a celebration of the Jewish deliverance from exile, and not an atonement for the sins of the world.

375.13-14: she was a dream of white and black beauty: MOTIF: black-white.

375.14-15: a dream of white and black beauty, pour cogner une fraise, touched with fraise: Cf. in Van’s lecture on dreams, “in a fraise-like frill or frilled phrase” ( 363.23).

375.14: pour cogner une fraise: Darkbloom: “pun (‘to coin a phrase’).”; Lucette’s phrase approximates “to coin a phrase” as closely as French sound and syntax allow, but semantically equates to “to thump a strawberry.”

375.15-16: touched with fraise in four places, a symmetrical queen of hearts: “Fraise”: Darkbloom: “strawberry red.” Cf. Edelnant 156: "This description is somewhat shocking, taken with Van's earlier envisioning of Lucette's red cross of hair [368.07-10], until the reader realizes that Lucette has switched landmarks and is noting the cross formed not by Ada's brunette hair, but the one composed of her mouth, nipples, and vagina"—and all distended by arousal and increased blood flow.
Cf. the VPL insignia: “the badge resembling an ace of hearts which J. J. displayed with pardonable pride” (330.07-08).
A queen of hearts in cards is top-bottom but not left-right symmetrical.

375.18-19: for hygienic purposes: Cf. Lolita: “the musical little boy of Professor W. (father spending a hygienic evening in Providence,” (II.8, 189). This (uniquely Nabokovian?) sense of “sexual release” (especially via prostitution) also features earlier in Lolita: “In my sanitary relations with women I was practical, ironical and brisk” (I.5, 15).

375.19: boyless and boiling: “Boylan with impatience”—especially with sexual impatience—becomes a motif surrounding Blazes Boylan in Ulysses, particularly before his rendez-vous with Molly Bloom: first, the booky Tom Rochford eager to get Boylan’s bet on the Ascot Gold Cup, to Lenehan: “Do, Tom Rochford said. Tell him I’m Boylan with impatience” (Chapter 10.486, 191); then, in Chapter 11, “With patience Lenehan waited for Boylan with impatience” (11.289, 216); “I’m off, said Boylan with impatience” (11.426, 219); “By Bachelor’s walk jogjaunty jingled Blazes Boylan, bachelor, in sun in heat, mare’s glossy rump atrot, with flick of whip, on bounding tyres: sprawled, warmseated, Boylan impatience, ardentbold” (11.524-26, 222); “Too slow for Boylan, blazes Boylan, impatience Boylan, joggled the mare” (11.765-66, 227) (chapter and line number of the Hans Gabler edition, followed by page number of Penguin Student Edition, Harmondsworth: Middlesex, 1986).

375.21-22: We interweaved like serpents and sobbed like pumas: Cf. “I was afraid of the cougars and snakes” (374.32). MOTIF: snake.

375.22: sobbed like pumas: Cf., at Van’s first visit to a Villa Venus: “The handmaids pounced upon them like pards and, having empasmed them with not unlesbian zest . . . ” (354.16-17).

375.22-23: We were Mongolian tumblers, monograms, anagrams, adalucindas: A deft tumbling of sound into related sound, one set of changes at a time. MOTIF: Ada; Andalusia; metamorphosis.

375.22: Mongolian tumblers: Cf. “The collection of Uncle Dan’s Oriental Erotica prints turned out to be artistically second-rate and inept calisthenically. In the most hilarious, and expensive, picture, a Mongolian woman with an inane oval face surmounted by a hideous hair-do was shown communicating sexually with six rather plump, blank-faced gymnasts in what looked like a display window jammed with screens, potted plants, silks, paper fans and crockery. . . . ” (137.01-07); “I can assure you, they were far more realistic than the scroll-painting by Mong Mong, very active in 888, a millennium before Ada said it illustrated Oriental calisthenics when I found it by chance in the corner of one of my ambuscades” (376.07-11).

375.23: krestik: Darkbloom: “Ango-Russian, little crest” (or in Russian alone, “little cross”). A1: “her little crest = clitoris.” The term in this sense is Lucette’s invention, but Nabokov derives it “from a pun on ‘crest,’ as the word is used in the Perfumed Garden: ‘Abou tertour (the crested one)’; by which, Burton notes, ‘the author wanted to designate . . . the clitoris’), The Perfumed Garden, trans. Sir Richard Burton, ed. Alan Hull Watson (St. Albans, Herts.: Panther 1964), p. 188. (This is the edition Nabokov used for Ada: see Ada 344[.15-16 and n]).” (Boyd 1985/2001, 330n11). More from The Perfumed Garden, as noted by Mason 166: “Abou tertour (the crested one). –It is the name given to a vulva with a red comb, like that of a cock which rises at the moment of enjoyment” (188); “There is no doubt that the author wanted to designate by comb that part of the sexual organs of woman which is called clitoris, from the Greek, kleitoris” (162). As Stephen Blackwell points out (private communication), the “little cross” in krestik links to the recurrent association of Lucette with martyrs. MOTIF: krestik; martyr.

375.24-25: Brigitte, a little chambermaid who blundered in with her candle: Cf. the maid Blanche blundering in on Van and Ada, on Van’s first night back at Ardis in 1888 (191.02-14); Lucette mentions to Van, years later: “I left Agavia minus my luggage in the middle of the night, with sobbing Brigitte” (462.24-25); in Kingston, a few minutes later, Van pictures the scene: “ . . . seen by Brigitte, a cute little number I imagine, with that candle flame flirting with her exposed nipples” (380.30-32).

375.25-27: thought for a moment, though naughty herself, that we were giving birth simultaneously to baby girls: MOTIF: twins.

375.27: your Ada: Whereas Van avoids Ada’s name, and links her to Percy (see 375.06 and n.), Lucette mentions her freely and links her to Van. MOTIF: his[my, etc.] Ada.

375.27: une rousse: MOTIF: rousse.

375.28: une brune: Here, “girl with dark hair.”

375.29: Side-splitting: In the sense of “hilarious,” from unamused Van; but also punning on the splitting of their sides were Ada and Lucette in fact giving birth to each other as full-grown children.

375.30: Marina Ranch: Ada’s last VPL of those cited in the text is written in summer 1890, at Marina Ranch, Arizona (334.32, 336.09). MOTIF: Marina.

375.31: vanouissements: Darkbloom: “swooning in Van’s arms.” The French word évanouissement means “swooning.” Rivers and Walker 290: “A distortion of French évanouissements (‘swoons’), in order to pun on Van’s name. ‘Swooning’ in Darkbloom’s translation should be ‘swoonings,’ since the word is plural.” MOTIF: Van.

375.32-376.01: when she and I had the flow, which . . . took place at coincident dates: Believed to be a common phenomenon for girls or women in the same household, dormitory or school class, this was proposed as a scientific claim only in 1971, by Martha McClintock, based on results from a dormitory at Wellesley College, where, coincidentally, Nabokov had taught from 1941 to 1948 (MK McClintock (1971), "Menstrual synchrony and suppression," Nature 229 (5282): 244–5. doi:10.1038/229244a0). Subsequent studies appear to have disconfirmed theses results (e.g. Anna Ziomkiewicz (2006), “Menstrual synchrony: Fact or artifact?,” Human Nature,  17(4):419-32,  doi: 10.1007/s12110-006-1004-0).

375.34: “I can believe anything,” said Van: Cf. Van, again to Lucette, aboard the Tobakoff: “‘I can imagine anything,’ he insisted” (478.01-02).

376.02-03: she collecting cactuses: In her letter announcing she will marry if Van will not have her back, Ada mentions the proposal of marriage she has received from “an Arizonian Russian. . . . The only thing we have in common is a keen interest in many military-looking desert plants, especially various species of agave” (385.04-07). In damp Ardis, near Tourbière, Ada collects especially bog-plants, including bog orchids; in the Arizona deserts she collects cactuses and, especially, agaves.

376.03: Sterva: Invented place-name; Russian, “bitch” (as an equivalent of the English term of abuse). Cf. VN on “my fictional character, bitchy and lewd Ada” (SO 146).

376.04-05: I reading a lot, or copying beautiful erotic pictures from an album of Forbidden Masterpieces: Cf. Lucette’s copying flowers in 1888 (in imitation of Ada, who copied and combined flowers in 1884, 99-101), and her naïve confusions about plant and animal reproduction (288-89). MOTIF: album; Forbidden Masterpieces.

376.06: korsetov i khrestomatiy: Note that both words are close to containing krest or krestik. MOTIF: krestik.

376.07: chrestomathies: Chrestomathy (W2): “A selection of passages esp. with notes, etc., to be used in acquiring a language.” Presumably, in Larivière’s case, to help her pupils with French. MOTIF: krestik.

376.08-10: scroll-painting by Mong Mong, very active in 888, a millennium before Ada said it illustrated Oriental calisthenics: Cf. the prints Van and Ada discover in the Ardis library in 1884: “The collection of Uncle Dan’s Oriental Erotica prints turned out to be . . . inept calisthenically. In the most hilarious, and expensive, picture, a Mongolian woman with an inane oval face surmounted by a hideous hair-do was shown communicating sexually with six rather plump, blank-faced gymnasts. . . . ” (137.01-06). Cf. Ada after their last Flavita game, responding to Lucette’s “I know perfectly well why you want to get rid of me” (228.33-34) with this dismissal: “‘She thinks we are going to play Scrabble without her,’ said Ada, ‘or, go through those Oriental gymnastics which, you remember, Van, you began teaching me, as you remember’” (229.06-08).

376.09: Mong Mong: Invented; echoes “Mongolian” (137.03, the Oriental erotic prints in Dan’s collection; 375.22, Ada and Lucette making love like “Mongolian tumblers”) and the Chinese historical dynasties and therefore art-historical periods Song, Tang and Ming; perhaps also the rhyming name of “King Wing,” whom Van thinks of in terms of Ada’s “Oriental gymnastics” (“Oh, I remember! You remember I showed you what my teacher of athletics, you remember his name, King Wing, taught me,” 229.09-11), and whose wrestling techniques Percy refers to as “Oriental Skrotomoff or whatever the name may be” (276.31); and cf. “a Mingo-Bingo vase of immortelles,” (486.33-34).

376.09: very active in 888: Combines the “active in” a certain period, used especially of artists, of their most productive years, and a suggestion that Mong Mong was sexually active in the orgies he depicts.

376.09-10: a millennium before Ada said: Cf. “No it’s an elm. Half a millennium ago” (383.06).

376.11: in the corner of one of my ambuscades: In the corner of one of the places from where she was spying on Van and Ada making love.

376.12: and then the star rose: Venus, the evening star: see 374.28-29 and n. MOTIF: Venus.

376.12-13: tremendous moths walked on all sixes: Likely to be silk moths (Saturniidae) or hawkmoths (Sphingidae), of which there are scores of species in Arizona.

376.14-16: And that’s when I learnt—” concluded Lucette, closing her eyes and making Van squirm by reproducing with diabolical accuracy Ada’s demure little whimper of ultimate bliss: Cf. at the end of the scene: “I did my best. I imitated all her shtuchki (little stunts). I’m a better actress than she but that’s not enough, I know” (386.30-32). MOTIF: devil.

376.16: Ada’s demure little whimper of ultimate bliss: Cf. Ada at twelve “whimpering at the melting peak” (168.10), as Van imagines it, in lesbian engagement (his own misdirected horror-fantasy) with Cordula de Prey.

376.18: as in a well-constructed play: Rather than the usual term, “well-made play” (“now normally pejorative and refers to a neatly and economically c
onstructed play which works with mechanical efficiency,” J.A. Cuddon, The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, 3rd ed., London: Penguin, 1992, 1040). Note the “stage directions” in the next paragraph, from “Van (crossly)” onward (376.21-30). VN is thinking especially of the use of telephone conversations characters on stage have at the beginning of modern “well-made plays,” to disclose information rapidly for the benefit of the audience at the expense of conversational genuineness; cf. his dismissal of “the French ‘dusting the furniture’ exposition” in “The Tragedy of Tragedy” (MUSSR, 334), but he discusses it in numerous places. Here the “campophone” instructs Lucette and us about Van’s work. Cf. also the theatrical frame shortly evoked at 378.29 (“and read it aloud for the benefit of the audience”), 382.12-14 (“before a black pit with people dismally coughing here and there in the invisible and eternal audience”), 384.02 (“Pause (about fifteen minutes to go to the end of the act).”).

376.18-20: the brass campophone buzzed and not only did the radiators start to cluck but the uncapped soda water fizzed in sympathy: The soda water bottle has been opened for the brandy they are drinking (369.10, 370.16). MOTIF: hydro-; technology; telephone.

376.18: campophone: campus phone, with perhaps also (as Charles Nicol suggested at the Nabokov conference at Cornell in 1998) a hint of campanile, bell-tower, given the ringing of the phone. Late in the scene Van “campophoned for his car” (385.33-386.01).

376.19-20: the uncapped soda water fizzed in sympathy: Cf. Aqua’s sense of water communicating with her, 22-24.

376.22: L’adorée: The adored (woman). Van’s mishearing, or Polly’s mispronunciation, of “La durée” (376.25-26). MOTIF: adore; Ladore.

376.23-24: French child-word with two “p”s: Faire pipi, “to do a wee-wee.” Probably a pun also on the homophony of the English letter “p” and “pee,” a joke that goes at least back to Shakespeare: Malvolio reading the letter supposedly in Olivia’s hand, but actually by Maria, to trap him into thinking Olivia in love with him and into appealing to her by wearing yellow stockings and cross-garters, with a smile on his face: “By my life, it is my lady’s hand. These be her very c’s, her u’s, and her t’s, and thus makes she her great P’s” (Twelfth Night 2.5.84-86).

376.25: l’adorée: MOTIF: adore; Ladore.

376.25-26: la durée: Ordinarily “duration,” but as Van goes on to claim, philosopher Henri Bergson’s key term is not “[s]ynonymous with duration” (376.26-27, 377.05-07).

376.28-29: ‘cory door’ as they called the long second-floor passage at Ardis: A play on “corridor,” of course, and the doors off a corridor. Cf. also Van’s dream the morning before his duel: “Demon’s former valet explained to Van that the ‘dor’ in the name of an adored river equaled the corruption of hydro in ‘dorophone’” (309). Ardeur 314: “Il hurle dans la direction du ‘double-you-see,’ comme on appelait l’endroit à Ardis” (“He yells toward the “double-you-see,’ as they called the place at Ardis”: Veen family pun on “W.C.”). MOTIF: dore.

376.34: polliphone: Perhaps yet another Antiterran name for “telephone,” or Van’s mnemonic conflation (on the campophone with Polly), and a pun on “polyphony,” which this passage has been demonstrating: Van’s talk to Polly and yelling to Lucette, Polly’s off-stage speech parroting and distorting Van, Lucette’s whisper, the fizz of the soda water, the buzz of the campophone, Lucette’s knock. MOTIF: telephone.

377.03-11: La durée . . . . La durée. . . . dorée or durée? . . . durée: MOTIF: dorée.

377.05-14: La durée is not synonymous with duration, being saturated . . . with that particular philosopher’s thought. . . . Bergson: Philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) introduced the concept of la durée (subjective time, incommensurable with spatialized and measurable objective time) in his first book, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Essay on the immediate givens of consciousness, 1889), translated as Time and Free Will (1910).

377.08: D, U, R: There are two other occasions on which Van spells out three letters to a typist, “Oceanus Nox, n, o, x” (494.14) and “E, p, i—why ‘y,’ my dear? (578.28-29). “Dur” by itself in French, as Van spells it out, can mean “hard” or “difficult,” and also can refer to the hardness of an erection, like the awkwardly sizeable one which Van tries to hide in the next long paragraph (377.20-29 and nn.) and which is clearly pressing on his mind and body already.

377.10-16: trivial but always available blonde . . . this available rousse: Van could mean only that Polly is always available as a typist; but knowing him, and his reference to her blonde hair, he is likely also to mean sexually available, the meaning Lucette stresses. Violet Knox, the typist to whom Van dictates “n,o,x” (494.14) and “E, p, i” (578.28), is “an enchanting English blonde with doll eyes, a velvet carnation and a tweed-cupped little rump [. . . . .]; but such designs, alas, could no longer flesh my fancy” (576.03-05: brackets and ellipsis in original).

377.15-16: this available rousse: MOTIF: rousse.

377.17: Spotting Bergson: See 377.05-14n. Cf. “‘Veen’s Time’ (as the concept was now termed in one breath, one breeze, with ‘Bergson’s Duration,’ or ‘Whitehead’s Bright Fringe’)” (579.07-09).

377.17: assistant lecher: Cf. Van as “Assistant Van” (368.14: assisting Lucette to doff her fur) and “assistant lecturer” (379.16). Given his erection, described in the next paragraph, “lecher” is here le mot juste.

377.18: dans ton petit cas: French, “in your little case.” See “a gripping and palpitating little case history” (381.32-33n.) for a sexual quibble on French petit cas, and, still more explicit, “another case (with a quibble on cas) engaged his attention subverbally” (484.28-29). Both these cases involve Lucette.

377.18-19: a kiss on your krestik—whatever that is: Van feigns incomprehension of Lucette’s meaning, although as the ensuing pages indicate, he understands her perfectly clearly; indeed, he has already thought of her body, naked, in terms of a “cross (krest)”: “The cross (krest) of the best-groomed redhead (rousse). Its four burning ends. Because one can’t stroke (as he did now) the upper copper without imagining at once the lower fox cub and the paired embers” (368.07-10). MOTIF: krestik.

377.20-22: Wincing and rearranging his legs, our young Vandemonian cursed under his breath the condition in which the image of the four embers of a vixen’s cross had now solidly put him: See the redhead’s cross (368.07-10) cited in previous note; and note the “embers” repetition. The word “condition” here (Van’s erection) unleashes his digression on the mistranslated title of Pompier’s La Condition Humaine (“One of the synonyms of ‘condition’ is ‘state,’ . . . . the malheureux Pompier’s cheap novel La Condition Humaine,” 377.22-28). MOTIF: ember; fox.

377.20-27: Vandemonian . . . Vandemonian: W2: “n. [From Van Diemen’s Land, after Anton van Diemen (1593-1645), Dutch governor of Java.] A white inhabitant of Tasmania, formerly known as Van Diemen’s Land; esp., one penally transported there before 1853”; “adj. Of, pertaining to, or designating, a Vandemonian; hence, violent, ruffianly.” In the context of the rest of the paragraph, Van is very much Demon’s son. In view of the obscene gloss on “Vandemonian” at 377.28 (see n.), could there also be a subterranean pun on “penal” and “penile”? MOTIF: Demon; Demonia; Van.

377.22-28: One of the synonyms . . . hollandaise: In this sentence Darkbloom, usually careful to translate even straightforward foreign words and phrases, seems to have nodded off, or discreetly, strategically, reserved her silence. MOTIF: translation.

377.23-27: state . . . manly . . . the malheureux Pompier’s cheap novel La Condition Humaine: A1 (beside “state . . . manly”): “virile condition.” The Prix-Goncourt-winning novel La Condition humaine (1933), by André Malraux (1901-1976), has been translated by Haakon M. Chevalier as Man’s Fate (1934: New York: H. Smith and R. Haas) and by Alastair Macdonald as Storm in Shanghai (London: Methuen, 1934), reissued as Man’s Estate (London: Methuen, 1948). On Earth it was never translated as Manly State, but as Cancogni 296 comments, Man’s Estate is “equally inept.”

377.25: my dears: To whom is this addressed? To his dear readers? He calls Violet Knox, the typist of his manuscript for Ada, “my dear” (578.29) and discusses translation and mistranslation, it seems, with Ada and his secretary Mr. Oranger, in his last years (577.28-578.10).

377.25: Lowden: Portmanteau name for Robert Lowell (for the loose “translations” Lowell published as “imitations”: see 3.04n2 and 11.27n) and W. H. Auden (whose translations from the Russian VN thought little of and whose French he critiqued): see 127.32-33 and n.

377.26: malheureux: French: “unfortunate”; here, pun on and pointer to Malraux’s name, not given in text.

377.26: Pompier’s: The French noun pompier, literally, means “maker of pomps, ceremonies” (as Cancogni 296 notes, a judgement on Malraux), and “fireman,” hardly inappropriate to the overt sense and the obscene undertones of this paragraph and to the sexualized fire imagery throughout the chapter, not just “the four embers of a vixen’s cross” in the previous sentence, but especially the “four burning ends” of “The cross (krest) of the best-groomed redhead (rousse)” (368.07-08) and Van’s “spontaneous combustion” (368.18).

As an adjective, though, pompier is “Applied to ideas and works of art which are conventional and commonplace” (L. E. Kastner and J. Marks, A Glossary of Colloquial and Popular French,London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1929). Nabokov wrote to Edmund Wilson: “I am at a loss to understand your liking Malraux’s books. . . . He is quite a third-rate writer (but a good man, a very decent fellow). J’ai dressé a little list of questions [a printed page and a half in length] (regarding La Condition Humaine) which I suggest you answer. . . . 8. Do you really mean to say that you do not see that La Condition Humaine (as well as his Temps du Mépris) is one solid mass of clichés?” (letter of November 27, 1946, DBDV 202-03).

377.28: hilariously glossed as “Koulak . . . hollandaise”: Literally, “rich Tasmanian peasant of Dutch origin”; a koulak (French transliteration) or kulak (English transliteration) is a “rich Russian peasant.”

is hardly correct (few deported convicts would end up classed as “rich peasants”), and “of Dutch origin” is plain wrong: it should be “of British origin.” Nabokov in his letter to Wilson, cited in the previous note, mocks Malraux’s shallow knowledge of things Russian (and Chinese), despite his having a Russian Communist as one of his central characters. But the ordinary sense of kulak, “fist,” may not be irrelevant to what follows (although masturbation is not Van’s style at this phase of his life). Because the “hilariously glossed” signals much more than the literal sense of the French phrase: the kind of Russian knowledge, too, that Malraux might not have.

Gollandskiy” (“from Holland”) is a Russian adjective used as an obscene insult, with the implicit but usually unspoken khuy (“penis”), and the sense “you prick.” The omission of the khuy actually intensifies the insult, as Roman Jakobson notes: “A Russian may use the absurd epithets gollandskij (Dutch) or moržovyj (walruslike) as abusive modifiers of an object which has nothing to do with either Holland or walruses; the impact of his swearing is greatly heightened as a result” (“On Realism in Art,” 1923, in Language in Literature, ed. Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1987, 22). Used as swearwords, both adjectives allude to the walrus penis in Peter the Great’s Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg, a Wunderkammer he founded in 1714, and stocked with curiosities he brought back from his Dutch trips of 1697-98 and 1715-17, including what would become the most renowned exhibit in the collection, a walrus penis. Most male mammals, including our near relatives chimpanzees and bonobos, have a penis bone (os penis or baculum), but humans do not. Among the most formidable is the walrus, up to 56 cm (22 inches) long (and still longer in the past: a fossilized walrus penis attained 1.37m (54 inches). (See also the December 5, 2004 discussion on Nabokv-L, involving Alexander Dolinin, Don Barton Johnson, Alexey Sklyarenko, and BB, about the companion term morzhovïy, evoked at Ada 562.20-21.) Van’s whole paragraph has been about the uncomfortable size of the erection “solidly” aroused in him by “the image of the four embers of a vixen’s cross” (377.21-22). This clinches it.

377.28: tasmanien: Only in 1856 was Tasmania named after Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603-1659), the first European to discover the island, in 1642, on a trip commissioned by Van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies (hence Tasman’s initially naming it Anthony Van Diemen’s Land, shortened by the British to Van Diemen’s Land). In view of the explorer pattern (including Mascodagama, Vinelander, Tobak/Cabot, and Goodson) and the island-naming pattern (Tobakoff and the Tobakoff or Tobago Islands, 383.09, Gavaille, 480.14), this, although fleeting, may be part of the explorer motif. MOTIF: explorer.

377.32-33: an abominably cruel Vandemonian: How does Lucette within this scene know Van has been thinking of himself as a “young Vandemonian” (377.20), or at any rate that as narrator he will call himself that, many decades later? Or does Van as narrator refer to himself as “Vandemonian” in the knowledge that Lucette is about to call him that? But then how to explain the apropos digression on “manly state” and the hilarious gloss on “Vandemonian” in Pompier’s novel? MOTIF: demon; Demonia; Van.

378.01: it means ‘little cross’ in Russian: MOTIF: krestik.

378.02-03: You mentioned just now a little red stud or pawn: See 374.20.

378.04: chainlet: MOTIF: -let.

378.04-05: a small acorn of coral, the glandulella of vestals in ancient Rome: Latin glans, “acorn, glans penis”; glandula, “gland,” with diminutive ending; glandulella, as Zimmer 2010: 998 notes, is a diminutive of a diminutive. Pléiade III.1469, n.46 notes that although penis-shaped pendants were common in ancient Rome, there is a moth of the Eastern US and Canada, Blastobasis glandulella, called the acorn moth because its larva feed on acorns. Van thinks of vestals (vestal virgins) because of Lucette’s technical virginity.

378.08-09: just one of our sister’s ‘tender-turret’ words and I thought you were familiar with her vocabulary: Van is indeed familiar with Ada’s private vocabulary of “tower,” “bridge,” “fog,” “thing,” “ghost thing,” “real tower,” “real bridge” and the like (74.23-76.06), but not with krestik. He hears Ada refer to it the next day, however, albeit in English: “And, by the way, Grace—yes, Grace—was Vanda’s real favorite, pas petite moi and my little crest” (394.24-25).

378.08: our sister’s: Lucette’s saying this does not produce the narratorial explosion of a few pages later—“our (using, that day, that year, the unexpected, thronal, authorial, jocular, technically loose, forbidden, possessive plural in speaking of her to him) sister” (384.04-07)—although Van is about to explode at Lucette for her “only crime . . to be suffused with the phantasmata of the other’s innumerable lips” (378.12-13).

378:11-12: the redhaired scapegoatling: In the famous painting The Scapegoat (1854-56), by English painter William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), de picting the scapegoat prescribed in Leviticus 16.15-26, the scapegoat has a red crown (of wool) on its head, a little crest, indeed, just in front of the horns.In the Jewish ceremony the goat has its horns wrapped in red cloth on the Day of Atonement and is driven off. MOTIF: red hair.

378.13: the phantasmata of the other’s innumerable lips: Cf., in Van’s recurring sexual dreams, “In an intricate arrangement of thematic recollections and automatic phantasmata, Aqua impersonating Marina or Marina made-up to look like Aqua” (361.25-27). Note again Van avoiding naming Ada: “the other’s.” “Innumerable lips”: cf. the excursus on lips at 102.01-103.12, during Van and Ada’s kissing phase, with its definition “Either of a pair of fleshy folds surrounding an orifice” (102.01-02), which covers both the facial lips and the lower labia.

378.14-15: A foul taint in the singular can be a sacred mark in the plural: Stigma, singular; stigmata, plural.

378.16-18: the stigmata between the eyebrows of pure sickly young nuns whom priests had over-anointed there and elsewhere with cross-like strokes of the myrrherabol brush: Cf. in 1884, where Ada anointed Van’s “flushed forehead with her paintbrush in the semblance of an ancient Estotian ‘sign of the cross’” (101.13-15 and see n.). In the Morning service on a Sunday or festival, as that note explains, in “the most festive part – Polieley, in the end of which a Gospel is read by the priest (or bishop in a cathedral) standing in the centre of the church. After that (while the choir sings and the reader reads a Canon of the holiday) the priest remains in the centre with a sort of small brush and a cup of aromatic oil or myrrh. The congregation comes up to him one by one, first kissing the icon of the day or the Gospel placed on the analoy nearby, whereupon the priest dips the brush in myrrh and makes the sign of the cross on everyone's forehead” (Gennady Kreymer, email to BB, November 28, 2011). Kreymer notes that the “elsewhere” in Van’s “over-anointed there and elsewhere” “means that Van hints at yet another ceremony (or rather a sacrament) called the Anointing of the Sick, Eleosvyashchenie ili Soborovanie, which in the Russian Church takes place during Lent (or in sickness or on deathbed).” MOTIF: krestik.

378.18: myrrherabol: W2, myrrh: “1. A yellowish-brown to reddish-brown aromatic gum resin with a bitter, slightly pungent taste. True myrrh (called also herabol myrrh) is obtained from the tree Commiphora abyssinica . . . of West Africa and Arabia.” In Greek mythology, Myrrha falls in love with her father, tricks him into sexual intercourse in the dark, becomes pregnant by him, but is then pursued by him when he sees she is his daughter. She flees far, calls for the gods’ help, and is transformed into the myrrh tree, and weeps myrrh gum; in the form of a tree, she gives birth to Adonis, whom Venus falls in love with (see Ovid, Metamorphoses X, 298-532). Zimmer 2010: 998 notes that in antiquity myrrh was regarded as an aphrodisiac and sprinkled on the bed before sex.

378.19-21: Let’s go back to the library where you found that little thing still erect in its drawer: Cf. 374.01-22.

378.22: Z for Zemski. As I had hoped, you do resemble Dolly: Cf.367.04-06, 367.18-19 (“Yes—the Z gene had won”). Lucette’s prompting Van to think back to the library brings to his mind Dolly’s portrait, and his recognition on first seeing her today that Lucette takes after Dolly, sharpened by his new sense of physical attraction to her. But Van is also trying to divert her from her course.

378.23: pantelets: W2, pantalets: “In women’s and girls’ costume about 1830-50, long loose drawers with a frill or ruffle at the bottom of each leg; also, a detachable frill or ruffle showing below the skirt; humorously, women’s drawers, bloomers, or the like.” Cf. Ada in the shattal tree after Van has fallen on her naked crotch: “Mlle La Rivière de Diamants has nothing against a hysterical little girl’s not wearing pantalets” (95.13-14). VN would presumably have approved emendation here to “pantalets.”

378.23: holding a Flemish pink: A pink carnation was often held by the sitters in Flemish and Dutch portraits, as in “Portrait of a Man with a Pink” (1475, Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum) by Hans Memling (1430-1494) and Rembrandt’s “Portrait of a Woman with a Pink Carnation” (c.1660-69, Metropolitan Museum of Art).

378.24: above her inscrutable: As Van has already called the scrutoir, at 373.09.

378.25-27: No, no . . . at the other end, next to the closet, above a glazed bookcase: Lucette’s memory for interiors and furnishings seems better than

378.25: that indifferent oil: Lucette, the art historian, not only remembers the painting vividly but can evaluate it.

378.28-29: I can’t very well open the letter in front of her and read it aloud for the benefit of the audience: For curious and interested Lucette’s benefit, who could hear him if he reads aloud; or, more likely, for the audience, as in a play where the audience needs to know what is written on the note in the actor’s hands—carrying on the theme that the scene unfolds “as in a well-constructed play” (376.17), or later: “Pause (about fifteen minutes to go to the end of the act)” (384.02). MOTIF: letters.

378.30: I have not art to reckon my groans: Darkbloom: “Hamlet.” Rivers and Walker 290: “Hamlet, 2.2 121. The line occurs in Hamlet’s love letter to Ophelia, read to Gertrude and Claudius by Polonius.” MOTIF: letters.

378.31-32: “One day, in the library, kneeling on a yellow cushion placed on a Chippendale chair before an oval table on lion claws—”: Lucette the precise and memorious art historian is again in evidence.

378.32: Chippendale chair: Chippendale (W2): “Designating furniture made by or in the style of Thomas Chippendale [1718-1779], English cabinetmaker (fl. 1750-75). It was generally of graceful outline but often ornate, rococo ornamentation predominating. . . . In chairs, by which the style is esp. typified, the seat is usually wider at the front than at the back with sharp corners, and the back is nearly always widened toward the top with carvings, called ears, at the corners.” W2 has an illustration of a Chippendale chair.

378.33-34: [The epithetic tone strongly suggests that this speech has an epistolary source. Ed.]: The Editor seems rather proud to show that this scene is reconstructed by means of Lucette’s letter to Van—not a difficult inference given the “yours ever” at the end of the paragraph (379.14). But he is correct: the accumulation “yellow cushion . . . Chippendale chair . . . oval table . . . lion claws” would be improbable in spontaneous speech. MOTIF: letters.

379.01-02: got stuck with six Buchstaben in the last round of a Flavita game: Lucette here describes an 1884 Flavita game; but in 1888 she is stuck with seven letters in “the last game of Flavita that the three young Veens were ever to play together” (227.01-02) and complains, using the same German word (presumably learned from her music teacher, Philip Rack): “‘Je ne peux rien faire,’ wailed Lucette, ‘mais rien—with my idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM . . . ’” (227.09-10). MOTIF: Flavita.

379.01: Buchstaben: German, “letters” (of the alphabet). MOTIF: letters.

379.03-04: two Wunderkinder: Cf. “Neither had remained the brash Wunderkind of 1884” (218.28-29).

379.04: You examined and fingered my groove: Refers ostensibly to the groove for letter-blocks on the Flavita “spektrik (the little trough of japanned wood each player had before him)” (226.18-19), but Lucette is at least as interested in the sexual “secondary” sense. Johnson 2000: 177 notes the proximity of the rearranged letters of spektrik to krestik.

379.06: LIKROT or ROTIKL: She cannot remember the order of the letters, but she can recall that they spelled exactly the Russian for “clitoris.”

379.06-07: Ada flooded us both with her raven silks: Cf. Van’s “last visit to one last Villa Venus” (356.29): “flooded by the black hair of a much younger sister or cousin of the wretched florinda on the tumbled bed. . . . he had not the heart to remove the silky dear head” (357.17-24).

379.08-09: you and she came simultaneously, si je puis le mettre comme ça (Canady French), came falling: “Came simultaneously . . . came falling”: imitates the French construction venir tomber, where the French venir (“to come,” an innocent verb of motion) with a following infinitive has a mild intensive value; but Lucette’s “came simultaneously” without the complement again makes the sexual value (a simultaneous orgasm of laughter, as it were) more prominent than the nominal innocent sense.

379.08-09: si je puis le mettre comme ça (Canady French): Darkbloom: “If I may put it that way.” Antiterra’s Canady French is heavily Americanized or Anglicized; actual French would be more like “si l’on peut s’exprimer ainsi.”

379.10: a paroxysm of incomprehensible merriment: Since at eight Lucette does not understand that Van’s rearrangement of the letters to KLITOR forms a viable Russian word.

379.12: my own cheap initial: Although mostly wry and rueful self-deprecation, Lucette’s comment reflects the fact that L, worth one point in English Scrabble, is worth 2, still not much, in Russian.

379.13-14: la plus laide fille du monde peut donner beaucoup plus qu'elle n'a: Darkbloom: "the ugliest girl in the world can give much more than she has." (The Darkbloom note originally had “can give more”; DN emended to add the necessary “much.”) As Pléiade III.1469, n.56 notes, this inverts the French proverb “la plus belle fille du monde ne peut donner que ce qu’elle a” (“the most beautiful girl in the world can only give what she has”), itself transformed by the chanteuse Edith Piaf (1915-1963) in her song “Demain (il fera jour)” (“Tomorrow (it will be daylight),” 1951) to “la plus belle fille au monde peut toujours donner beaucoup plus qu’elle a” (“the most beautiful girl in the world can always give much more than she has”). Bodenstein suggests in laide (“ugly”) a pun on the American slang “laid” (from “lay,” “11. . . a woman regarded as a copulatory partner,” Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 8th ed).

379.13: du monde: corrected in A1 from 1969, "au monde."

379.14-16: adieu, yours ever.” “While the machine is to him,” murmured Van. “Hamlet”: The end of Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, as read out by Polonius to Claudius and Gertrude: “Adieu. Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him, Hamlet,” Hamlet 2.2.122-25. Lucette’s “Hamlet” might seem to be identifying the second part of the quotation, as uttered by Van (“Whilst this machine is to him”) but actually concludes the quotation (her “Hamlet” is not italicized, as it would be were she referring to the play, but roman, indicating Hamlet’s sign-off and the completion of the quotation).
Hamlet’s “this machine” as a way of referring to his body is already odd, as is Van’s near echo, “the machine.” Cf. Ada’s marginal note in red ink, at the end of the chapter following the Burning Barn: “I do recall definitely that by midsummer the machine which our forefathers called ‘sex’ was working as smoothly as later, in 1888, etc., darling” (129.28-30). MOTIF: letters.

379.16: the assistant lecturer’s brightest student: Cf. “the assistant lecher” (377.17). His “brightest student” because she can complete the quotation, not because she merely recognizes it (the assistant lecher at 377.17 gives her no special acclaim for “spotting Bergson”).

379.17: replied her and his tormentor: In what sense his own tormentor?

379.19-20: STIRCOIL . . . or CITROILS: Anagrams of course of English “clitoris,” and neither, despite Van’s definitions, legitimate English Scrabble words, showing he has never been in doubt about what Lucette meant by krestik. Oddly consonant with Lucette’s LINKREM, in their last ever game of Flavita, with which Van suggests she “can always make a little cream, KREM or KREME” (227.19-20). Is there a suggestion of vaginal lubrication in Van’s choices and pseudo-definitions?

379.22: Vandemonian: Cf. 377.20-33. MOTIF: Demon; Van.

379.22: Read her letter: MOTIF: letters.

379.25-27: I never imagined that a hand-reared scion of . . . Russian grand princes . . . could use the language of the proverbial gutter: Cf. Van to Lucette, in Paris in 1901: “My dear, as I’ve often reminded you, you belong to a princely family but you talk like the loosest Lucinda imaginable” (464.11-13).

379.25-26: a hand-reared scion of Scandinavian kings, Russian grand princes and Irish barons: Cf. Andrey Vinelander as “the scion, s, c, i, o, n, of one of those great Varangians who had conquered the Copper Tartars or Red Mongols . . . ” (437.28-30).

379.27: the proverbial gutter: Cf. “as ruddy as the proverbial fiddle” (355.24-25).

379.27-28: you’re right, you behave as a cocotte, Lucette: As she called herself earlier: “a kokotische virgin, half poule, half puella” (372.11). Cf. also the “cocotte from Toulouse” (169.27) at a bar who anticipates Lucette at a bar in Paris that decent women did not frequent alone, in the pose of a cocotte from a Toulouse-Lautrec poster (460-61). MOTIF: whore.

379.32-33: I’ve been suffering for these last four years from consanguineocanceroformia—a mysterious disease described by Coniglietto: Invented medical condition, “cancer of the blood-relation,” as it were. Listing the rabbit-doctor names in Ada, Darkbloom, glossing “Dr. Lapiner” at 7.25, adds: “Note also Coniglietto, the Italian cancer-of-the-blood specialist, p. 379.” MOTIF: family relationship.

379.34: Coniglietto: Italian, “little rabbit.” In this chapter, the choice of this particular “Dr. Rabbit” name surely puns on “cunny,” slang for “vulva.” Partridge, 8th ed.: “The pudendum muliebre: low coll; C. 17-20. Influenced by Latin cunnus, it is actually an † [= obsolete] form of cony, a rabbit.” MOTIF: Krolik.

379.34: Don’t put your little cold hand on my paw: Cf. Ada’s comment on the publishing details of Letters from Terra:“Had I happened to see a copy I would have recognized Chateaubriand’s lapochka and hence your little paw, at once” (342.31-32).

MOTIF: cold hand.

380.03: cruel Ada abandoned me: Lucette will reprise this a moment later, at 380.17.

380.05: ranchito: In the Western US, a small ranch or farm.

380.06: in the sleeping car tearing across the prairie: Cf. Van drifting into sleep on fantasies of traveling by American transcontinental trains: “the room moved as slowly as fifteen miles per hour but across desertorum or agricultural drearies it attained seventy, ninety-seven, night-nine, one hund, red dog— ” (346.04-07).

380.07: at sad, sad Ardis where I spent one night with her: Cf. Van’s report of what Ada tells him the next day: “During her dreary stay at Ardis . . . ” (396.01).

380.08-11: I love her hands, Van, because they have the same rodinka (small birthmark), because the fingers are so long, because, in fact, they are Van’s in a reducing mirror: A parody of the matching secret birthmark in romance stories? MOTIF: birthmark; like X; resemblance.

380.11: in tender diminutive, v laskatel’noy forme: The Russian means “in caressive (diminutive) form.”

380.12-16: the talk . . . speckled with Russian, an effect not too consistently reproduced in this chapter—the readers are restless tonight: Who makes this judgment, and when, and who are the readers “tonight”: Van and Ada rereading the manuscript, or us as we read the finished book? Perhaps it’s an editorial comment? MOTIF: Compositional—Editor.

380.12-15: the talk—as so often happened at emotional moments in the Veen-Zemski branch . . . was speckled with Russian: On the other hand they tend to speak “Canady” when drunk: “we always tend to talk Canady when haut” (414.31-32).

380.12-13: in the Veen-Zemski branch of that strange family: The Zemski line includes Aqua and Marina, the Veen line Demon and Dan, so the Veen-Zemski line includes the children of the marriages between the two lines: Van, Ada, Lucette.

380.17: She abandoned me: Reprises her narrative from 380.03, “cruel Ada abandoned me.”

380.20: Johnny, a young star from Fuerteventura: His surname is “Starling” (430.05), a kind of “young star” in itself (Johnson 2000: 173n15 notes “As for Johnny, the most obvious feature of a starling's gestalt is its very short tail. The English name ‘starling’ is thought to mean ‘little star’ in reference to the silhouette of the bird in flight, i.e., tailless”). Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands: a Starling from the Canary Islands, and the theatrical role in which he meets Ada will be as Skvortsov in Chekhov’s Four Sisters, “whose name comes from skvorets, starling” (430.06-07). “Fuerteventura” happens to mean “powerful fortune,” “intense happiness” and the like: not quite borne out in Johnny’s fate at 381.24-27.

380.20-21: c’est dans la famille: French, “It’s in the family”: refers to Marina and her affairs with others in the acting world, especially Pedro, in 1888 (195.29-30 and 197.06-07), another Spanish-speaker.

380.21: coeval: Though it seems unlikely to be a significant link, Grace Erminin is said to be Ada’s “coeval” (80.02-03). This would make her twin Greg (79.13), another momentary rival for Van (see III.2), also Ada’s coeval. (But at 53.16-17 Ada tells Van they are his age, which would make them two years older than Ada.)

380.21-381.20: practically her twin in appearance, born the same year, the same day, the same instant— . . . No damned twin can do that. . . . ‘Simultaneous twins’ is a contradiction in terms” . . . “ . . . and people mistook them for twins. I did not say they were really twins”: MOTIF: twin.

380.29-381.11: No damned twin can do that. . . . ‘Simultaneous twins’ is a contradiction in terms: Another example of Van’s singular outbursts, in this case occasioned by his rage at hearing of a new lover of Ada’s (“As had been peculiar to his nature even in the days of his youth, Van was apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappointment by means of bombastic and arcane utterances which hurt like a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell,” 530.07-10).

380.27-29: how one would like to apply a boiling-water-soaked Wattebausch, as poor Rack used to call her limp arpeggiation, to that ripe pimple on his right temple: A puzzling aside-within-an-aside at a moment of emotional distress for Van, since the pimple has not been mentioned before, and bears no relation to his distress, and has no consequences, and seems to be seen as if from outside; and why should the boiling-water-soaked cotton wool be linked to Rack and to Lucette’s “limp arpeggiation”? Or is this a comic kind of instant cuckold’s horn? With the reminder of another who cuckolded him, Rack? And an instant desire to get rid of the fresh protuberance on his brow? Cf. Van’s insouciant and even gleeful “cornuting” of Cordula de Prey’s husband (456.31ff.) and his parting “Tell him to look out for low lintels. Antlers can be very sensitive when new” (458.03-04).
Re “limp”: although it refers to Lucette’s piano-playing, the adjective cannot help referring also to her piano teacher. Cf. Rack “making his farewells” of Van: “Mr. Rack shook Van’s hand with a deep sigh, looked up, looked down, tapped the banisters with his mysterious pink-paper tube, and went back to the music room, where Mozart had begun to falter. . . ‘I must wash my right hand before I touch you or anything,’ he said. . . . ‘I have never clasped a wetter, limper, nastier forelimb in all my life,’ said Van, and cursing (the music downstairs had stopped) went to the nursery W.C. where there was a tap” (208.10-26).

380.27-28: Wattebausch: Darkbloom:“Germ., piece of cotton wool.”

380.28-29: that ripe pimple on his right temple: An odd conjunction of appealing phonic patterning and unpleasant detail. “Pimple” and to a lesser extent “temple” also pick up on the “limp” in the previous phrase.

380.29-31: No damned twin can do that. Not even those seen by Brigitte, a cute little number I imagine, with that candle flame flirting with her exposed nipples: Cf. the chambermaid blundering in with a candle when Lucette and Ada are kissing each other’s krestik,375.23-27. Pléiade III.1470 n.62 suggests this is no dubt a reference to Brigitte Bardot (b. 1934), the French film actress, a sex symbol in the late 1950s and 1960s, famous for playing sexually liberated roles, and the subject of the 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome by Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986).

381.06-07: which in dynastic happy events—doubly happy events—with all Egypt agog: Pléiade III.1470, n.63, suggests an allusion to the birth of the twins Esau and Jacob to Rebekkah and Isaac, in Genesis 25.19-28, but this seems implausible. Two foetuses found with Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 were later (but not until 2008) shown to be likely to be Tutankhamun’s twin children (see for instance this report of Robert Connolly’s research).

381.09-10: à la queue-leu-leu: Darkbloom: “in Indian file.”

381.12-17:Nu uzh ne znayu (well, I don’t know), muttered Lucette (echoing faithfully her mother’s dreary intonation . . . corrective retort): Cf. “‘But they are practically brother and sister,’ ejaculated Marina, thinking as many stupid people do that ‘practically’ works both ways—reducing the truth of a statement and making a truism sound like the truth” (166.29-32). Note Lucette’s comment that started Van’s tirade, that Johnny is “practically [Ada’s] twin in appearance” (380.21-22)

381.19: Hispano-Irish boy, dark and pale: “Hispano-,” matching Ada as the wearer of a “Lolita” on her twelfth birthday (77.01-03), and as the gitana in Don Juan’s Last Fling (488-89); Irish, matching Ada’s descent from great-grandmother Mary Zemski, née O’Reilly; “dark and pale,” matching Ada’s combination of black hair and white skin.

381.21: Driblets? Driplets? Now who pronounced it that way? Who? Who?: Philip Rack, with his and his doctor’s German accents: “He had to return to Kalugano with his Elsie, who Doc Ecksreher thought ‘would present him with driplets in dry weeks’” (202.10-12).
Cf. Van referring back to this to Lucette at Kingston a few minutes later: “‘Driblets,’ said Van” (383.28).
Cf. Van to Demon, Ardis, 1888: “ça va seins durs. Now who, who, who, Dad, who said that for ‘sans dire’?” (245.05-06).
MOTIF: driplets; memory test.

381.22: A dripping ewes-dropper in a dream?: “Ewes-dropper” may call this to mind: Van in the library chapter writes “since nobody could be supposed to control judiciously orgies of indiscriminate inbreeding (somewhere in Tartary fifty generations of ever woolier and woolier sheep had recently ended abruptly in one hairless, five-legged, impotent little lamb)” (133.34-134.05). Or “Ewe” with a German accent may sound like “Eve” or “eave” and certainly links with the “leavesdropper”-eavesdropper motif (98.12, 247.19, and afternote to I.15).
Cf. Boyd 1985/2001: 169: “When Van after his duel with Tapper is wounded and taken to the Lakeview Hospital in Kalugano, he finds Rack there too because ‘a poison had seeped into his system . . . administered . . . by . . . his wife who . . . had just had a complicated miscarriage in the maternity ward. Yes, triplets—how did he guess?’ (313).” Elsie Rack, the “ewe” who “drops” the three babies, seems to have dripped the poison into Rack’s drink or food with the help of a dropper.
MOTIF: leavesdrop.

381.22-23: Did the orphans live?: No: Rack’s wife “had just had a complicated miscarriage in the maternity ward.” (313.22-23). Even asking the question this way emphasizes Rack’s death.

381.24-25: an old pederast kept him: Cf. Ada’s fudging confession: “I sort of flirted with him, but the strain and the split were too much for him—he had been, since pubescence, the puerulus of a fat ballet master, Dangleleaf” (430.10-13), an Antiterran avatar of ballet-impresario Sergey Diaghilev. VN reviewed Serge Diaghilev: An Intimate Biography (TWS 142-43), written by the successor to Vaslav Nijinsky in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Serge Lifar (1905-1986), who was a lover of Diaghilev’s.

381.25-27: she dismissed him, and he shot himself on a beach at high tide but surfers and surgeons saved him, and now his brain is damaged: Different from Ada’s report: “and he finally committed suicide” (430.13). Note that Ada dismisses Johnny because he is kept by an old pederast, despite her own lively lesbian romps with, at least, Lucette.

381.27-30: “he will never be able to speak.” “One can always fall back on mutes,” said Van gloomily. “He could act the speechless eunuch in ‘Stambul, my bulbul’ or the stable boy disguised as a kennel girl who brings a letter”: Van’s mordant response is on a par with his response to hearing that Blanche and her husband Trofim Fartukov have a blind child: “Love is blind” (408.23).
Ironically the role Johnny Starling has been cast for in Chekhov’s Four Sisters is that of Skvortsov (430.05-06), the second in Tuzenbakh’s duel, whose only role in the play is to shout from off-stage for Tuzenbakh—a role that is voice only, and does not need to be cast (since any spare stage-hand could make the call). Now Van suggests Johnny could be on stage but silent.

381.29: the speechless eunuch in ‘Stambul, my bulbul': Van invents a play or probably opera compounded of Orientalist clichés. 
Stambul is an old "exotic" name for Istanbul (in for instance the 1922 play The Rose of Stamboul). A bulbul (W2) is "A Persian songbird frequently mentioned in poetry. It is probably Luscinia golzii, a kind of nightingale."
[The next three paragraphs are in my preparatory notes for annotating Ada, but I do not remember penning them. Apologies if I have inadvertently quoted someone else.] In his poem "Stambul gyaury nynche slavyat" ("Now do the Giaours extol Stambul") (1830), Pushkin writes in the persona of a citizen of Arzrum (Erzerum). Deploring the decadence of Stambul, he sneers: "And they bring men into the harems / And the bribed eunuch sleeps." In uncorrupted Arzrum, by contrast, "We are as jealous as eagles of our wives, / Our harems, silent, / Stand impenetrable." Pushkin inserted a reworked version, playfully attributed to "the janizary Amin-Oglu," into what Nabokov calls his "beautiful" (EO 3,283) Puteshestvie v Arzrum (A Journey to Erzerum, pub. 1836), where the latter lines read: "Our harems are inaccessible, / Our eunuchs stern, unbribable, / And there our wives meekly sit." In The Gift Fyodor had been inspired in composing his account of his father's travels in Central Asia by "the transparent rhythm of ‘Arzrum’” (96).
Nabokov also comments on a canceled draft of Eugene Onegin: “the ‘bulbul,' a Persian species, of which Pushkin knew from the jejune and frigid adaptations and imitations of Oriental tales that were so popular in the eighteenth century" (EO 2.439).
The "speechless eunuch" in Van's outburst may also refer to a specific piece of eighteenth-century Orientalia, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio, 1782), where in Act III Scene v a mute guard summons Osmin, the overseer of the harem (neither of whom is a eunuch, however, despite protecting the harem), as Pedrillo and Belmonte try to fetch their women from the captivity into which they have been sold.
Pléiade III.1470, n66 suggests an echo of the British spy film Secret of Stamboul (1936, dir. Andrew Marton), adapted from the novel The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935) by Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977), in which the head of the secret police is a former palace eunuch hiding his past.
Cf. also Kim Beauharnais “resembling a janizary in some exotic opera, stomping in to announce an invasion or an execution” (396.06-08).

381.29-30: or the stable boy disguised as a kennel girl who brings a letter: Cf. Percy de Prey’s messenger, in late July 1888, transmitting a letter offering Van a duel should he wish it: “a messenger, a slender youth clad in black leather from neck to ankle, chestnut curls escaping from under a vizored cap. The strange child glanced around with an amateur thespian’s exaggeration of attitude, and handed a letter, marked ‘confidential,’ to Van. . . . the pretty messenger, who stood with one hand on the hip and one knee turned out like an extra. . . . ‘Un moment,’ added Van. ‘I would be interested to know—this could be decided in a jiffy behind that tree—what you are, stable boy or kennel girl?’ The messenger did not reply and was led away by the chuckling Bout” (283.06-284.12). Note that the unspeaking “stable boy disguised as a kennel girl” in this earlier scene is already highly theatrical (“with an amateur thespian’s exaggeration of attitude . . . like an extra”) before Van thinks of this as a role for speechless Johnny Starling; or is it precisely because this character seems theatrical that he or she comes to Van’s mind here? And Johnny, it turns out, has been cast as Svkortsov, the second (and therefore often the message-carrier) in Tuzenbach’s duel in Four Sisters. MOTIF: letters.

381.32-33: a gripping and palpitating little case history: A1: “ = vulva / petit cas.” As VN’s note indicates, Van is making a bitterly obscene joke on Ada’s overactive vulva, as he sees it, via the vulgar secondary meaning of the French petit cas, whose primary sense is simply “little case.” Cf. Van to Lucette, some minutes ago: “dans ton petit cas” (377.18).

381.34-382.02: Because that was really not bad: bringing down three in as many years—besides winging a fourth. Jolly good shot—Adiana!: Van is thinking of Percy, who flees to fight in the Crimean War to escape his entanglement with and ultimate rejection by Ada; Rack, who is poisoned by his wife, perhaps out of jealousy for his affair with Ada; and now Johnny Starling; she has also “winged” a fourth, in that, because of his fury at Ada, Van embroils himself in a duel with Captain Tapper, in which he is “winged,” grazed in the ribs, so that he can no longer perform the handwalking King Wing had once taught him.

Ada is half-ironically fused with Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting, Diana’s other chief attribute being her virginity.

Cf. Van, on hearing of Percy’s death: “What a strange coincidence! Either Ada’s lethal shafts were at work, or he, Van, had somehow managed to dispatch her two wretched lovers in a duel with a dummy” (320.24-26). Ada’s shafts are as lethal as those of Diana.

MOTIF: memory test.

382.04-05: between that poor guy and the next intruder: The next “intruder” we know of, or rather, learn of shortly, seems to be Andrey Vinelander—although Van will be back with Ada before marriage to Andrey becomes Ada’s best remaining option.

382.09-10: Had I not been a heterosexual male, I would have been a Lesbian: Cf. Van’s reaction to his supposition that Cordula is Ada’s lesbian lover at Brownhill: “Did he feel any Proustian pangs? None. On the contrary: a private picture of their fondling each other kept pricking him with perverse gratification. Before his inner bloodshot eye Ada was duplicated and enriched, twinned by entwinement, giving what he gave, taking what he took: Corada, Adula. . . . ‘ . . . My teacher contends that if the reader knows nothing about Proust’s perversion, the detailed description of a heterosexual male jealously watchful of a homosexual female is preposterous because a normal man would be only amused, tickled pink in fact, by his girl’s frolics with a female partner’” (168.24-169.11).

Yet despite Van’s show of unconcern, he is in fact hurt at Brownhill by what he assumes to be Ada’s infidelity with Cordula, as he is at Kingston by reports of her romps with Lucette.

382.12-14: caused Lucette to give up, to dry up, as it were, before a black pit with people dismally coughing here and there in the invisible and eternal audience: Cf. the theatrical frame also suggested at 376.17-18 (“At this point, as in a well-constructed play larded with comic relief”) and continued at 384.02 (“Pause (about fifteen minutes to go to the end of the act)”).

382.14-15: He glanced for the hundredth time at the blue envelope: MOTIF: letters.

382.18: The Slat Sign: A1: “see Webster 1960 p. 2360 a changing luminous advertisement.” Slat sign (W2): “Advertising. A sign consisting of a flat surface with numerous thin equidistant parallel slats set up on edge perpendicularly to it, the flat surface and the sides of the slats being so painted that three different complete pictures, advertisements, or the like, may be seen according as the sign is viewed from in front or at an angle from either side.” In the digital age, this kind of sign has been superseded and almost lost to memory; Internet searches for “slat signs” mostly deliver simple signs made of rough wooden slats, but Diana Makhakdiani managed to find this example: A year after Ada was published, VN writes of Herbert Gold’s account of their meetings: “Blending fact and fiction in a kind of slat-sign shimmer, Mr. Gold recalls our meetings in upstate New York and in a Swiss hotel” (SO 298).
The Slat Sign is “Van’s favorite novel” (382.18) and Lucette says with an exclamation that she adores it (383.34), but we learn nothing else about it. The title forms an anagram of The T Signals, which could make it a version or reflection of Van’s Letters from Terra, about the messages or signals Theresa first sends from Terra to Antiterra before beaming herself over—although Van at this point in time (1892) cares little for his novel and Lucette does not appear to know of it.
The Slat Sign, in the meaning of the term that supplies the title, could also be seen as an image of Ada as a novel, yielding different images according to three different positions—say, Van’s, Ada’s, and Lucette’s; or three different takes on the action, like the three panels of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights: a first paradisal panel; an overcrowded, even more sexually rampant but also much more ambiguous central panel; and a third, hellish panel; or perhaps as a match for Nabokov’s famous description of a chess problem that stands in for any of his best fiction, which can look very different from what he calls the thetic, the anithetic, and the synthetic levels of solving the central problem (SM 290-93).
Or it could be simpler. One of VN’s favorite novels in the decade before completing Ada was La Jalousie (1957), by Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008); it was also a favorite of Véra Nabokov’s. The title means both “jealousy” and a jalousie or louvre window, or Venetian blind or window shutter as used widely in windows in the south of France and its colonies, and plays on the jealousy of the novel’s “absent” narrator (in Robbe-Grillet’s description) spying through the “jalousie” on the wife he thinks is having an affair with their neighbor, Franck. La Jalousie has the advantage, in the riddle of The Slat Sign’s identity or significance within Ada, of having been published roughly at the same time as the Earthly originals of the other recent books Lucette sees on Van’s bookshelf (383.31-34). And the sentence that here precedes the naming of the novel—“He glanced for the hundredth time at the blue envelope, its near long edge not quite parallel to that of the glossy mahogany, its left upper corner half hidden behind the tray with the brandy and soda, its right lower corner pointing at Van’s favorite novel The Slat Sign that lay on the sideboard” (italics added)—has the obsessive physical and geometrical description of small physical details characteristic of the style of La Jalousie.

The hotel at which Van and Ada cuckold Andrey Vinelander in 1905 has windows that are “slat-stayed” (521.02), and the hotel’s name is Les Trois Cygnes (The Three Swans). Cygne also happens to be a homophone of signe, the French for “sign”—so in another way we have a “slat sign”; perhaps another hint, through French homophony, of La Jalousie, with its double-sensed title?

382.21-22: yearning for the contents of the blue envelope: MOTIF: letters.

382.22-23: a flat I now have on Alex Avenue: the apartment he has bought off Cordula de Prey (365.20-366.02), although hers is said to be “on Alexis Avenue” (322.01-02); it is “Alexis” again at 389.29.

382.24: bergères and torchères and rocking chairs: Bergères: easy chairs. Torchère, W2, “A small, high, delicate candlestand used in the 18th century, usually having a tripod base.” The relative homophony of the final syllables of each item makes them sound like a matching trio, when the torchères clearly stand apart from the others (like Lucette, the little light, between Van and Ada?).

382.26: wicks: Wick (W2): “A corner, esp. of the eye or mouth; an angle. Now Dial.”

382.26: à l’Américaine: American-style. Cf. Uncle Dan, whom Van has described as “all wet”: “Ménagez vos americanismes” (127.07-08, “Go easy on your Americanisms”); and Van as narrator, on his and his father’s greeting (“Hullo, Dad.” “Oh, hullo, Van.”): “Très Américain” (238.13-15).

382.30: My notion of propriety may not be the same as yours: Lucette would no doubt think Van’s hands-on rather than hands-off treatment of her more “proper” to her needs.

382.32-33: Cordula is now Mrs. Ivan G. Tobak: Van here tells Lucette of the man Cordula has married, as Lucette, three chapters from now, will tell Van the name of the man who has proposed to Ada, whom Van correctly sees as “the future Mrs. Vinelander” (420.22).

382.33: Ivan G. Tobak: Who owns the transatlantic liner, the Admiral Tobakoff (383.07-08, 477.09-11). MOTIF: Tobak; Turkish tobacco; Van.

382.33: making follies: Darkbloom:“Fr. faire des folies, living it up.”

382.33-383.03: Florence. . . . postcard. Portrait of Vladimir Christian of Denmark. . . . Sustermans: Flemish portraitist Justus or Joost Sustermans (15 97-1681), in Italy from 1620, was court painter to Cosimo II de Medici, and was regarded as the finest portrait painter of his time active in Italy. He painted a portrait of Prince Waldemar Christian of Denmark (1622-1656) (Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence), son of Christian IV of Denmark; although Sustermans did not usually date his work, this is assigned to 1638-1640.
D. Barton Johnson (2006: 118) writes: “Lucette’s offhand remark refers to an obscure portrait by the Flemish painter Joost Sustermans (1597-1681) at the court of the Dukes of Tuscany. One suspects that the Nabokovs saw and perhaps purchased the picture postcard during their Florence visit” in late April 1966.

382.34-383.01: Vladimir Christian . . . the dead spit of her Ivan Giovanovich: Cf. “Norman Miller . . . physically bears a striking resemblance to Wilfrid Laurier” (261.25-27). MOTIF: like [X]

383.01: Ivan Giovanovich: The unexpected “Giovanovich” with Tobak’s name alludes to Giovanni Caboto (c. 1450-c. 1500), also known as Jean Cabot, or John Cabot, given that (a) “Cabot” is a palindrome of “Tobak,” as played with in the later lines “The Veens speak only to Tobaks / But Tobaks speak only to dogs,” which parody the well-known lines of John Collins Bossidy’s “On the Aristocracy of Harvard”: “Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots, / And the Cabots talk only to God” (see 456.17-18 and n.); (b) there is an “explorer” theme around Tobak’s ancestor Admiral Tobakoff (see 383.07-09 and n.) and Ada’s future husband Andrey Vinelander, and Cabot was the first European seafarer to explore northern coastal North America since the Vineland voyages.
Alexey Sklyarenko, “Blanche, Philip Rack, Percy de Prey, Goodson airport & Countess Alp in Ada,” Nabokv-L 15 June 2016, offers a different suggestion: “The ‘Italian’ patronymic of Cordula’s first husband, Ivan Giovanovich Tobak . . . seems to hint at Mozart’s Don Giovanni”—and one could add, especially, perhaps, given that the film Don Juan’s Last Fling will be seen by Van and Lucette on board shipping magnate Tobak’s Admiral Tobakoff, where the previous night Lucette sleeps in the bed in Ivan Tobak and Cordula’s cabin, wangled through Cordula (477.09-11). Given that Ivan or Van Veen is a Don Juan-Don Giovanni figure (not least in gleefully cuckolding Ivan Giovannovich Tobak, in III.2 (456-458, the scene where the “Veens speak only to Tobaks” lines appear)), Don Giovanni does seem intertwined with Giovanni Caboto in Tobak’s name.

383.03-06: “Who cares for Sustermans,” observed Lucette, with something of her uterine sister’s knight move of specious response. . . . No, it’s an elm: Cf. forlorn, doubly dismissed Greg Erminin: “‘Good-bye, Ada. I guess it’s your father under that oak, isn’t it?’ ‘No, it’s an elm,’ said Ada” (92.31-33).
MOTIF: memory test.

383.03: Who cares for Sustermans?: See 382.32-383.03n above.

383.04: uterine sister’s: Cf., earlier in this scene, “‘a vaginal brother. . . . ’ Uterine—but close enough” (372.13-15). Note again Van’s avoiding mention of Ada’s name.

383.04: knight move: Cf. “The windows in the black castle went out in rows, files, and knight moves” (72.23-24).

VN, a good chess player and an especially keen chess problemist, was fascinated by the knight move: hence the very title of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and the leaping and twisting of Sebastian’s thought; cf. also, in a 1941 review: “the brilliant break, the shattered sentence, the breathtaking swerve, the move of the Knight” (TWS 185); PF (C.949, 276): “the fanning out of additional squares which a chess knight (that skip-space piece), standing on a marginal file, ‘feels’ in phantom extensions beyond the board, but which have no effect whatever on his real moves”; in a 1967-68 interview: “The knight jumps a square. But if, for example, it is at one side of the chessboard, then one wonders why it can’t jump from the other side, in the space beyond the chessboard. I have myself thought up problems which incorporate the possibility of a knight who flies off and then who comes back from that space” (TWS 369).

383.05: rovesciata: A kick executed when the footballer receives the ball with his back to the goalmouth, and kicks it toward his shoulder while flipping backwards to get out of its path toward the goal. A1: “bicycle kick.”

383.06: Half a millennium ago: Cf. “so long ago, half a millennium” (383. 10) and perhaps “Mong Mong, very active in 888, a millennium before Ada said it illustrated Oriental calisthenics” (376.09-10). MOTIF: memory test.

383.07: famous or fameux: French fameux can also have the sense of “first-rate.”

383.08-10: Russian admiral who had an épée duel with Jean Nicot and after whom the Tobago Islands, or the Tobakoff Islands, are named: The invented Admiral Tobakoff (see also 383.01n. above); Jean Nicot (1530-1600), French ambassador in Lisbon, who introduced tobacco into France as a medicinal plant (Zimmer 2010: 1000), and in whose honor the plant genus Nicotiana was named. The “Tobakoff Islands” play on the fact that a number of islands in the Pacific are named after Russians (Andreanof, Baranof, Bogoslof, Chichagof, Chirikof, Delarof, Korovin, Krenitzin, Kupreanof, Pribilof, Shumagin, Wrangell, to name a few), and on the common Russian name Nikitin (and therefore nicotine). According to Don Barton Johnson on Nabokv-L, 2 July 2003, the name of the island that Robinson Crusoe was stranded on, Tobago (it was supposedly in that region, at least), “is thought to have been taken by the Spanish from the Taino Indian word for smoking and hence being the source of ‘tobacco’”; although another etymological legend has it that “The earliest known record of the use of the name Tabaco to refer to the island is a Spanish royal order issued in 1511. That name was inspired by the resemblance of the shape of the island to the fat cigars smoked by the Taíno inhabitants of the Greater Antilles” (, accessed June 24, 2021). Wikipedia, s.v. tobacco, notes that: “The English word tobacco originates from the Spanish and Portuguese word ‘tabaco’. The precise origin of this word is disputed, but it is generally thought to have derived, at least in part, from Taíno, the Arawakan language of the Caribbean. In Taíno, it was said to mean either a roll of tobacco leaves (according to Bartolomé de las Casas, 1552), or . . . tabago, a kind of L-shaped pipe used for sniffing tobacco smoke (according to Oviedo, with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba)” (, accessed June 24, 2021).
Cf. also, probably, “my great-grandfather Nikolay Aleksandrovich Nabokov, was a young naval officer in 1817, when he participated . . . in an expedition to map Nova Zembla (of all places) where ‘Nabokov’s River’ is named after my ancestor” (SM 52), an addition to his autobiography that VN made in 1965, shortly before beginning Ada. Nabokoff (in the nineteenth-century spelling) and Tobakoff seem almost two of a kind.
Note that not only the Tobago Islands, or the Tobakoff Islands, but also the ship, the Admiral Tobakoff, from which Lucette jumps to her death, will be named after Cordula’s husband’s ancestor. And note too that Cordula’s husband’s surname, Tobak, evokes exploration, a placename and tobacco; Ada’s eventual husband’s surname, Vinelander, will evoke exploration, a placename, and wine. (After Lucette informs Van of the name of Ada’s fiancé, as Van here informs Lucette of Cordula’s husband’s name, he dreams : “Had she cabled him? Canceled or Postponed? Mrs. Viner—no, Vingolfer, no, Vinelander—first Russki to taste the labruska grape. ‘Mne snitsa saPERnik SHCHASTLEEVOY!’ (Mihail Ivanovich arcating the sand with his cane, humped on his bench under the creamy racemes). ‘I dream of a fortunate rival!’” (417.04-10)) There is a duel in connection with Tobak’s lineage; Van seethes with jealous rivalry when he thinks of Ada’s possible fiancé, but there will be no duel with Vinelander because by the time Ada marries him she and Van have in any case been barred by Demon from seeing each other.
MOTIF: duel; explorer; tobacco.

383.11-12: I mentioned her only because an old sweetheart is easily annoyed by the wrong conclusions she jumps at like a cat: Lucette’s “her” is Cordula (at 382.30-31); “an old sweetheart” is Ada (for once Lucette avoids her name, as Van does consistently in this scene); “the wrong conclusions” are that Van is still sexually or romantically with Cordula, and living with her. Three chapters from now Ada herself, compared to a cat here, thinks of Cordula as “not simply a cat, but a polecat” (420.24), when she again jumps to the wrong conclusion that Van has learned Vinelander’s name from Cordula, although in fact he has bribed Lucette into giving up the name for a kiss (albeit on her armpit).

383.15-16: Who told you about that lewd cordelude—I mean, interlude: Van, thinking of “interlude with Cordula,” compresses—inadvertently or pointedly?—to “cordelude.” Bodenstein suggests: “only an interlude, a lewd delusion of his heart (Latin cor)”. Cordula, a virgin when Van first met and propositioned her, certainly becomes lewd and receptive to him, as we have seen in I.42 and will see again still more strikingly in III.2. Cf. Van’s dream of “Bad Ada and lewd Lucette” (362.01-02). Cf. also Demon’s warning to Van: “You’ll stick to Cordula de Prey, I, to Cordelia O’Leary” (164.02-03).

383.17: Your father, mon cher: Demon could inform Ada and Lucette of Van’s affair with Cordula—which Van would otherwise not have mentioned to his snobbish father—because he saw him “enlaced with your little Countess near the parking lot” of the Goodson airport (330.20-21).

383.18-19: that Tapper was an invented name—that you fought your duel with another person: Captain Tapper, the incidental and irrelevant homosexual at whom Van vents his jealous fury toward Ada’s lovers, thereby provoking a duel, in I.42. Ada, who has heard of Van’s being in the Kalugano Hospital after a duel there, assumes at first he has fought the duel with Rack, who hails from and hates Kalugano (202.10-13).

383.18-20: another person . . . the other person’s death: Lucette carefully avoids Rack’s name to avoid provoking Van’s ire.

383.21: Demon said you should have simply cudgelled him: As Van, thinking “him” refers to Rack, had intended to do: “The code, he reflected, did not allow to challenge a person who was not born a gentleman but exceptions might be made for artists, pianists, flutists, and if a coward refused, you could make his gums bleed with repeated slaps or, still better, thrash him with a strong cane—must not forget to choose one” (294.25-30); when he loses that, he purchases in Kalugano a “second walking stick. . . a rude, stout article with a convenient grip and an alpenstockish point capable of gouging out translucent bulging eyes” (305.26-30); that walking stick goes astray, “so the hospital supplied him with the Third Cane, a rather nice, knotty, cherry-dark thing with a crook and a solid black-rubber heel” (312.31-33).

383.22-23: the rat was rotting away in a hospital bed: As Van intended to say to Rack on his deathbed, “you are an incurable case in one lingo, a rotting rat in another” (314.11-12).

383.24: I meant the real Tapper: Lucette meant that Demon said Van should simply have cudgelled not Rack but Tapper.

383.25-28: “not my poor, betrayed, poisoned, innocent teacher of music, whom not even Ada, unless she fibs, could cure of his impotence.” “Driblets,” said Van: Cf. the “Driblets? Driplets?” just mentioned (381.21), Rack’s original mention of the triplets’ impending birth (202.11-12), and the news in the Kalugano hospital of their miscarriage (313.22-23).

383.25-26: not my poor, betrayed, poisoned, innocent teacher of music: Poor: in various senses, including his having to marry Elsie and being discarded by Ada; betrayed, by Blanche naming him to Van (293.20-294.02) and by his wife’s infidelity (383.29-30); poisoned, by Elsie (see 313.16-23).

383.26-27: whom not even Ada, unless she fibs, could cure of his impotence: Cf. Ada’s comment on Rack in her last quoted letter to Van: “He knew he would die young and was always, in fact, mostly corpse, never once, I swear, rising to the occasion, even when I showed openly my compassionate non-resistance” (335.01-03).

Cf. Van’s comment to Ada on their reunion the morning after this Kingston scene, reported obliquely: “She (Ada) had, hadn’t she, a way of always smoothing out the folds of the past—making the flutist practically impotent (except with his wife)” (394.25-27); and cf. 431.16-18: “To her past admirers Ada attributed all the features and faults we have already been informed of: incompetence of performance, inanity and nonentity.”

383.29-30: “Not necessarily his,” said Lucette. “His wife’s lover played the triple viol: Rack can be impotent even though his wife has given birth to triplets, if we posit (does Lucette invent rather than recollect?) a lover for Rack’s wife, a lover who in this musical love triangle, and as the father of triplets, can be imagined playing the “triple viol.” The triple viol, or triple contrabass viol, the largest of all stringed instruments (Zimmer 2010: 1000) stands over three meters tall and has to be played by a performer standing on a platform. This lover, if he exists, is not limp, as Van knows Rack is (208.24), and impotent, as Ada claims he is.

383.30-32: scanning on the nearest bookshelf The Gitanilla, Clichy Clichés, Mertvago Forever, The Ugly New Englander: Comically overlapping in part with the books on the revolving bookstand that Van recently recalled when Lucette mentioned “the famous Van Question” (371.11-16) that he had asked Cordula, behind the bookstand, in 1884: the first three items here in 1892 had been on that stand in 1884.

MOTIF: book list; gitana; Mertvago.

382.31: The Gitanilla: See 371.14 and n.

382.31: Mertvago Forever: See 371.15-16 and n.

383.32: The Ugly New Englander: Antiterran version of the 1958 political novel, The Ugly American, by William J. Lederer (1912-2009), an American navy captain, and Eugene Burdick (1918-1965), an American political scientist. The novel suggests that American policy in Southeast Asia was failing through its poor understanding of local culture (Zimmer 2010: 1000). The Ugly American was a bestseller in the year that Lolita and Doctor Zhivago (The Gitanilla and Mertvago Forever on Van’s bookshelf) also became American bestsellers.

320 substitutes Le Bruyant Bostonien (The Noisy Bostonian): VN here combines the foregrounded allusion in The Ugly American’s title to Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American (1955) with, probably, Henry James’s The Bostonians (1886), perhaps as an ironic comment on what Nabokov thought James’s too pallid, quiet, overqualified style. See, for instance, “the ink is very pale and there is very little of it in his inkpot” (DBDV 59); “that pale porpoise” (DBDV 308); “The words, the sentences have a dull gleam: precious baubles coated with dust. The poet is absolutely absent. We are indoors all the time” (unpublished note on stories in Lewis Melville and Reginald Hargreaves, eds., Great English Short Stories, LCNA).

383.32: komondi: Darkbloom: “Russian French: comme on dit, as they say.”

383.33: while you—: While you read Ada’s letter.

383.33-34: Oh, I adore The Slat Sign: For The Slat Sign, see 382.18 and n. MOTIF: adore.

384.01-03: “There’s no hurry,” said Van. Pause (about fifteen minutes to go to the end of the act). “At the age of ten,” said Lucette to say something: Cf. Van’s claim to be busy, and Lucette’s reaction, and Van’s sense of the slow dance of two ideas, “one was ‘We-have-so-much-to-say’; the other was ‘We have absolutely nothing to say’” (369.28-370.03).

384.02: Pause (about fifteen minutes to go to the end of the act): Cf. the toying with an implied theatrical frame at 376.17, 378.29, 382.12-14.

384.04: Vieux-Rose Stopchin: Darkbloom: “Ségur-Rostophchin’s books in the Bibliothèque Rose edition.” Cf. “A sort of hoary riddle (Les Sophismes de Sophie by Mlle Stopchin in the Bibliothèque Vieux Rose series),” 114.01-02 and n. There were 20 books in the series between 1859 and 1871.

384.04-07: our (using, that day, that year, the unexpected, thronal, authorial, jocular, technically loose, forbidden, possessive plural in speaking of her to him) sister had read at that age, in three languages, many more books than I did at twelve: Lucette has already referred to “our sister’s” (378.08), without a reaction like this. “Technically loose” because Lucette is a half-sister, Van a full brother.

384.04-05: our ( . . . authorial . . . ): Cf. “When our lovers (you like the authorial possessive, don’t you, Van”)” (212.31-32).

384.04-05: that day, that year: Cf. the Night of the Burning Barn: “Oh, Van, that night, that moment as we knelt side by side” (117.34).

384.08-10: However! After an appalling illness in California, I recouped myself: Cf. “Lucette would later recall how her sister’s triumphs in doubling, tripling, and even nonupling (when passing through two red squares) the numerical value of words evolved monstrous forms in her delirium during a severe streptococcal ague in September, 1888, in California” (223.12-16). As the note to that passage indicates, VN as a child also had delirium with monstrous numbers, in his case, rather than letters (SM 36-37), and he too may have (it seems not quite clear) felt a major mental change after illness.

384.09-10: the Pioneers vanquished the Pyogenes: A1: “my American genes vanquished the microbes” (the illness caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, which as Zimmer 2010: 1001 notes, can include scarlet fever—but also streptococcal pharyngitis, and rheumatic fever).

384.10-11: Pyogenes. . . . Herodas: The Greek word seems to trigger off a recollection of the Greek writer.

384.11-14: Herodas . . . Blinding blend of subtility and brilliant coarseness: A Greek poet probably of the mid 3rd century BCE, author of seven surviving poems and a fragment of an eighth, short comic scenes combining the learned with the lewd, with titles like The Procuress, The Brothel-Keeper, The Jealous Woman (“A mistress threatens terrible punishment upon the slave who has been her lover because he has slept with another woman”) and Women Visiting for a Chat (in this case about a wonderful leather dildo). See Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth, 3rd rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 695.

384.11-13: Herodas. . . . ribald contemporary of Justinus: In fact Herodas (or Herondas or Herodes) dates from the third century BCE and Justinus from the third century CE.

384.13: Justinus, the Roman scholar: “Justin (Marcus Junianus Justinus) (probably 3rd century A.D.), Roman historian. . . . Of Justin’s personal history nothing is known” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed., s.v. Justinus, 13:163).

384.15: the literal French translation with the Greek en regard: Herondas, Mimes, ed. J. Arbuthnot Nairn, trans. Louis Laloy (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1928; 2nd ed. 1960), part of the Budé series. Nabokov preferred to r ead classical texts in Budé editions, because he had little Latin and less Greek and distrusted translation alone, especially of verse; because the French generally do not try to render verse as verse, as most English-language translations do; because the Budé editions do not translate into antiquated prose, as the English equivalents, the Loeb editions, did for many years.

384.15: the Greek en regard: Cf. “Ada, who amused herself by translating (for the Oranger editions en regard) Griboyedov into French and English, Baudelaire into English and Russian, and John Shade into Russian and French” (577.28-31).

384.16-17: a scrap of newfound text: This scene is set in 1892; on Earth, Herodas was discovered in manuscript only in 1890 and published by F.G. Kenyon in 1891 (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed., s.v. Herodas); eleven new fragments were indeed found in 1892 (Laloy, introduction to Mimes, p.4). The story of brother and sister is of course VN’s invention.

384.17-19: about two children, a brother and sister, who did it so often that they finally died in each other’s limbs: Cf. the end of Ada: “the hero and heroine should get so close to each other by the time the horror begins, so organically close, that they overlap, intergrade, interache, and even if Vaniada’s end is described in the epilogue we, writers and readers, should be unable to make out (myopic, myopic) who exactly survives, Dava or Vada, Anda or Vanda” (584.25-30); “if our time-racked, flat-lying couple ever intended to die they would die, as it were, into the finished book, into Eden or Hades, into the prose of the book or the poetry of its blurb” (587.24-27).

384.24-26: “But Van, why are you—” “Hay fever, hay fever!” cried Van: Cf. “her mother’s heavy make-up had started to thaw under a sudden flood of tears (maybe some allergy to flat dry old flowers, an attack of hay fever . . . )” (65.28-30).

384.29-30: the farthest room: Bathroom/toilet.

384.29-30: redolent of her Degrasse: Cf. “He could not help inhaling briefly her Degrasse” (368.02-03); “a wild girl in a gaudy lolita, poppy-mouthed and black-downed, picked up in a café between Grasse and Nice” (393.29-31).

384.31-385.17: O dear Van. . . . (thine). A: MOTIF: letters.

384.31: O dear Van . . . document in madness . . . herb of repentance . . . maid at your window: A1: “Letters in Hamlet begin that way (ref. to Ophelia).”

384.31: O dear Van: “O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers” (Hamlet 2.2.120). Despite Darkbloom’s note, this is not quite the beginning of Hamlet’s letter, which begins “To the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia” (2.2.110-11).

384.32: a document in madness: Laertes’s comment on the behaviour of his sister Ophelia, as she distributes herbs and flowers (Hamlet 4.5.178-79).

384.32: the herb of repentance: Ophelia responds to Laertes: “There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me” (Hamlet 4.5.180-81). Herb of repentance (W2): “The common rue.”

385.01-03: If you scorn the maid at your window I will aerogram my immediate acceptance of a proposal of marriage that has been made to your poor Ada a month ago in Valentine State: Cf. Ophelia’s song, slightly earlier in Hamlet 4.5:

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
    All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
     To be your Valentine.

Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
    And dupped the chamber door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
    Never departed more. (Hamlet 4.5.47-54)

The second quatrain has a strong ironic relation, of course unknown to Ada, to Lucette’s plight here and at the end of her life.
Cf. Pnin: “This is an offer of marriage that I have received. I shall wait till midnight. If I don’t hear from you, I shall accept it.” (182).

385.03: your poor Ada: MOTIF: his [my, etc.] Ada.

385.03: Valentine State: W2: “Arizona; —a nickname, so called because it was admitted to the Union on Feb. 14, 1912.” MOTIF: Arizona; Valentine.

385.03-04: He is an Arizonian Russian: Name, Andrey Vinelander, at 415.31 identified for Van by Lucette (knowing Van’s violent jealousy, Ada does not disclose the name).

385.04: not overbright: Also of Andrey Vinelander: “A stubborn, independent, not overbright optimist” (527.21-22).

385.05-07: The only thing we have in common is a keen interest in many military-looking desert plants, especially various species of agave: Cf. Lucette: “we were just ordinary sisters, exchanging routine nothings, having little in common, she collecting cactuses or running through her lines for the next audition in Sterva, and I reading a lot” (376.01-04).

385.06: many military-looking desert plants: In the Wikipedia description of agave: “The succulent leaves of most Agave species have sharp marginal teeth, an extremely sharp terminal spine, and are very fibrous inside” (, accessed June 24, 2021). Cactuses (cf. 376.03) are even more military-looking: cf. also “witnessed the duel in the company of a few tall yuccas and short cactuses” (531.22-23).

385.06-07: various species of agave: Agave (W2) “2. [NL] Bot. a A large and important genus of plants of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), occurring in tropical America and the southwestern United States. The common fleshy-leaved century plant, or American aloe (A. americana), shows the habit of most of the species, though some have a woody trunk or caudex. The leaves are frequently spiny-margined, and sharp-pointed; the flowers, with a 6-parted perianth, are borne in a tall candelabralike panicle.” W2 has an illustration of the American aloe.
Ada will eventually marry Andrey Vinelander and settle with him at Agavia Ranch (437.28, 462.24, 503.01, 523.26, 532.05).
MOTIF: Agavia.

385.07: hosts of the larvae: Cf. Ada’s larvarium and passion for lepidopteral larvae, 54.08-57.20.

385.08: Giant Skippers: “The giant skippers are butterflies in the disputed subfamily Megathyminae, which is part of the skipper family. Some authorities treat this as a distinct and separate subfamily, but more modern classifications tend to place them within the subfamily Hesperiinae. However, some works, such as the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, still treat it as a valid subfamily. The giant skippers include two tribes, Aegialini and Megathymini. There are three genera and about eighteen species in this subfamily. These butterflies typically live in the southwest United States and Mexico in desert areas. The giant skippers are larger than the other members of the family Hesperiidae, but are medium-sized butterflies with thick bodies. They tend to be brown with yellow markings. . . . The caterpillars of the giant skippers bury themselves into the leaf or stem of a plant and feed from within the silk-lined tunnels they create” (, accessed June 24, 2021). MOTIF: butterflies.

385.08: Krolik, you see, is burrowing again: For Krolik as a resource and guide for Ada’s larvarium, see 55.24-26, 57.02-20. “Burrowing” because his name is Russian for “rabbit.” MOTIF: Krolik.

385.09: Cubistic pictures: Nabokov thought little of Cubism as an artistic movement. Cf. Valeria, Humbert’s first wife: “his daughter watched me from behind her easel, and inserted eyes or knuckles borrowed from me into the cubistic trash that accomplished misses then painted instead of lilacs and lambs” (Lolita 25).

385.10: our father in hell who: Demon; parody of the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, who art in heaven. . . . ,” Matthew 6.9ff, Luke 11.2ff). MOTIF: hell.

385.12: my patient Valentinian: Arizonian: Andrey Vinelander, who given his description (“decent and gentle, not overbright and not fashionable,” 385.04-05) seems far from a Valentino (iconically romantic screen actor Rudolph Valentino, 1895-1926), or even an ordinary Valentine. Cf., for the combination of Va____ian, placename, and inhabitant thereof, “Vandemonian” (377.20-33). MOTIF: Valentine.

385.14-16: Something is very wrong with the Ladore line, but I am assured that the trouble will be grappled with and eliminated before rivertide: Curious, since Ardis does not seem near a coast and the Ladore is therefore unlikely to be tidal at that point. MOTIF: hydro-, Ladore, telephone.

385.17: thine: In view of Ada’s earlier echo of Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, this echoes the farewell flourish of Hamlet’s letter—“Adieu. Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him, Hamlet” (Hamlet 2.2.122-25)—echoed more comprehensively in the end of Lucette’s letter, “adieu, yours ever,” followed by Van’s spoken “While the machine is to him,” and her own “Hamlet” (379.14-16).

385.18-22: Van took a clean handkerchief from a tidy pile in a drawer, an action he analogized at once by plucking a leaf from a writing pad. It is wonderful how helpful such repetitive rhythms on the part of coincidental (white, rectangular) objects can be at such chaotic moments: He did not find the handkerchief he was looking for in his pockets (384.25-26); now he observes and reflects on this “repetitive rhythm” with a kind of manic objectivity as a distraction to keep at bay the chaos of his feelings.

385.25-26: the bland graceful modelling of the coming winter’s fashions: Lucette is chic, stylish like Ada (a week later, “Both young ladies wore the very short and open evening gowns that Vass ‘miraged’ that season—in the phrase of that season,” 410.03-05), although “Objectively speaking, her chic was keener than that of her ‘vaginal’ sister” (486.12-13).

385.27: black-haired, red-cheeked: MOTIF: black-red.

385.29: Good Log!: Cf. “correctly, thank Log!” (33.33). MOTIF: Log.

385.31: centrifuged: Not a coinage; as a verb, features in W2.

385.32-33: “It’s a twenty minute’s walk; don’t accompany me”: Queenston College for Girls is indeed “nearby” (366.16)!

385.33: campophoned: Cf. “the brass campophone” (376.18). MOTIF: telephone.

386.01-02: down the cataract of the narrow staircase, katrakatra (quatre à quatre): French, “four by four,” in Marina’s Russian accent. Cf. Van’s first night at Ardis: “Presently, as Marina had promised, the two children went upstairs. ‘Why do stairs creak so desperately, when two children go upstairs,’ she thought, looking up at the balustrade along which two left hands progressed with strikingly similar flips and glides like siblings taking their first dancing lesson. ‘After all, we were twin sisters; everybody knows that.’ The same slow heave, she in front, he behind, took them over the last two steps, and the staircase was silent again. ‘Old-fashioned qualms,’ said Marina” (39.31-40.06); and foggy Marina trying to recall this in 1888: “Marina could no longer recall (though only four years had elapsed!)—playing à quatre mains?—no, neither took piano lessons—casting bunny-shadows on a wall?—closer, warmer, but still wrong; measuring something? But what? Climbing a tree? The polished trunk of a tree? But where, when?” (253.26-31).
Cf. also “but not Ardis, not Ada, for that would mean drowning in a cataract of worse wakefulness” (359.20-360.02); and Lucette’s “if I didn’t simply press the button and slip that note into the burning slit and cataract away” (372.05-07).

MOTIF: cataract.

386.02-03: children, not: corrected from 1969, "children not."

386.04-07: “I also know,” said Lucette as if continuing their recent exchange, “who he is.” She pointed to the inscription “Voltemand Hall” on the brow of the building from which they now emerged. Van gave her a quick glance—but she simply meant the courtier in Hamlet: In other words Lucette does not know Van’s nom de plume as author of Letters from Terra, as Van wonders for a moment; she merely recognizes the letter-carrier from Hamlet whose role she is about to fulfil now in the opposite direction, when she takes Van’s note for Ada. MOTIF: letters; Voltemand.

386.06: the inscription “Voltemand Hall”: Cf. “the bleak house anglophilically named Voltemand Hall” (368.19).

386.12-25: the note he had written. It told Ada to charter a plane and be in his Manhattan flat any time tomorrow morning. . . . she would have ample time to pack, find the box of Dutch crayons Lucette wanted her to bring if she came, and be in time for breakfast in Cordula’s recent bedroom: A dream-fast trip, or Demonian haste: Lucette has to get back to Queenston College, post the aerogram, which has to be sorted but flies that night to Ladore, and from there arrives at sunrise by postmaster’s nag; Ada then has to charter a plane once she reads the aerogram at that hour, pack, and fly to Manhattan in time for breakfast.

386.15: the Ladore dorophone: MOTIF: dorophone; Ladore.

386.16: Le château que baignait le Dorophone: A nonsense echo-variant, “The castle bathed by the Dorophone,” of the refrains at 138.04-06. MOTIF: château que baignait; dorophone; Ladore.

386.18-19: Mont-Dore—sorry, Ladore: Mont-Dore, or Le Mont-Dore, Puy-de-Dôme department, central France, a thermal spring used since Roman days, and now a ski resort, in the Massif Central, on the highest range of the Auvergne Mountains and near the source of the Dordogne River. MOTIF: Ladore.

386.20-22: galloping east on the postmaster’s fleabitten nag, because on Sundays you could not use motorcycles: A comic mix of technologies and restrictions: horse-back riding to deliver aerograms; and a rare shift of the bans on Antiterra from those surrounding the “L disaster” and the use of electricity to one reflecting the weakening hold of Christianity. MOTIF: technology.

386.22: l’ivresse de la vitesse, conceptions dominicales: Darkbloom: “the intoxication of speed, conceptions on Sundays.”

386.24-25: find the box of Dutch crayons Lucette wanted her to bring if she came: “‘I’m not sure I did bring her damned Cranach crayons,’ said Ada a moment later” (393.14-15); “I’m a good, good girl. Here are her special pencils” (395.03).

386.25-26: Neither half-sibling was at her or his best that day: Cf. “It should be observed that nobody, not even the reader, not even Bouteillan (who crumbled, alas, a precious cork), was at his or her best at that particular party” (250.11-14). MOTIF: family relationship.

386.28-29: Let’s have dinner at Ursus next weekend: This is a Saturday (see 386.20-22); the three Veen siblings go to Ursus the following Saturday (410.01-414.15).

386:30: all her shtuchki (little stunts): Such as her vocabulary, for instance (“vaginal,” 372.13-16; “krestik,” 378.08-09); her “demure little whimper of ultimate bliss” in orgasm (376.16); her display of polylingualism and arcane knowledge; “her uterine sister’s knight move of specious response” (383.04); and, although Lucette does not know it (and the letter was written a year earlier, even if incorporated into the dialogue only now), echoes of Hamlet in Ada’s letter.

386.34-387.01: He thrust his hands into the warm vulvas of her mole-soft sleeves: Nabokov’s former colleague Robert Martin Adams nicely described “warm vulvas” here as “counter-euphemism” (Afterjoyce,New York: Oxford University Press, 1977). Van as narrator is paying homage to Lucette’s sexually loaded language.

387.03: Un baiser, un seul!: Darkbloom: “one single kiss.”

387.09-10: I could not live through another disaster, another sister, even one-half of a sister: MOTIF: family relationship.

387.11: Takoe otchayanie (such despair)!: VN begins his Foreword to Despair: “The Russian text of Despair (Otchayanie—a far more sonorous howl) . . . ” (Despair 7). Cf. Van’s thoughts as he leaves Ardis for the last time: “Úzhas, otcháyanie: horror, despair” (300.17).

387.14-15: that I expect only torture from her return: MOTIF: torture.

387.15: That I regard you as a bird of paradise: Johnson 2000: 169 notes: “It is Lucette who has the strongest avian associations. She is closely identifiedwith two birds: the Bird of Paradise [Paradiseae] and the Great Crested Grebe [Podiceps cristatus].” See also from Van’s (last) letter to Lucette: “We wished to admire and amuse you, BOP (bird of paradise)” (421.17-18), and from The Texture of Time: “Only a novelist’s fancy could be caught by this small oval box, once containing Duvet de Ninon (a face powder, with a bird of paradise on the lid), . . . it had been Lucette, now a mermaid in the groves of Atlantis (and not Ada, now a stranger somewhere near Morges in a black limousine) who had favored that powder” (559.07-18).

Does Lucette deliberately dress up “in a ‘surprised bird-of-paradise’ style” (410.08) for the Ursus excursus because of this? Probably not: Ada too seems to have that style, which is “as fashionable in Los as in Lute” (410.09).

MOTIF: bird of paradise; paradise.

387.19: You goose: Quite a come-down from “bird of paradise.”

387.22: Not even your burning face: The final return of the chapter’s fire-desire imagery.

387.22: Goodbye, pet: MOTIF: pet.

387.22: Tell Edmond: Van has taken over not only Cordula’s apartment, but also her obliging chauffeur (321.03-12).


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Afternote to Part Two, Chapter 5