The colorful account of Demon's affair with Marina, Demon's discovery of her infidelity, his duel with his rival, and their rapturous but reckless reconciliation, when "neither remembered to dupe procreation" (15), explains Van's conception. Demon's stipulation that Marina must drop her theatrical career if they are to marry, her angry flight, Aqua's taking over Marina's role as nurse to the wounded Demon, and (as we learn in I.3) his marrying her within two weeks, in accord with the extraordinary pace and panache he has shown throughout the chapter (in winning Marina, in wounding his rival), explain the conception of Aqua's child.
Note that for Nabokov's purposes Demon must marry Aqua within three weeks or so, before Marina discovers she is pregnant. Hence what Demon thinks his final break with Marina, in the bitter letter with which the chapter closes: "Adieu. Perhaps it is better thus," because the mental image of her infidelity would have haunted "whatever bliss might have attended our married life." Within four weeks of leaving Marina the perpetually headlong Demon has married Aqua "out of spite and pity."
I.1 introduces characters and incidents in quick succession, but its first part, its genealogical introduction, has more color than narrative flow. Its second part makes a sudden and bold leap forward to a new generation in the scene in the attic, only to settle into stasis: Van and Ada may deduce the complex story of their parentage rapidly, but as readers we can only slowly try to guess the story from the static evidence they find. Now in I.2 we witness in close-up rather than deduce from a distance the first stages of the "regular little melodrama" Van and Ada infer in the attic. This dizzyingly swift story, reflecting Demon's own headlong nature, is a triumph of narrative art. Story has rarely moved so fast, with such romantic sweep and intensity, and with such evocative scenic detail amid such pace.
Annotations10.01: Marina's affair with Demon Veen started on . . . January 5, 1868: it continues until December 15, 1871 (252.19-20 and 6.10).
10.01-02: his, her, and Daniel Veen's birthday, January 5: And therefore also Aqua Durmanov's birthday. Note how Aqua is overlooked here, as Lucette is in I.1. Nabokov compounds the twin motif by having twins Aqua and Marina marry their cousins Demon and Dan, respectively, who were both born on the same day as each other (though they are cousins, not twins) and six years to the day before their wives. In Nabokov's own life, January 5 was the birthday of both his sister Olga (1903-1978) and his wife, née Véra Slonim (1902-1991). MOTIFS: twin; relation; Nabokov.
10.02: January 5: "Epiphany Eve, or Twelfth Night, has a history of centuries of merry-making. Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night was specifically written for this celebration" (Ruth W. Gregory, Anniversaries and Holidays, 3rd.ed. [Chicago: American Library Assoc., 1975]).
10.04-12.22: a parody of the theater scene that became a set-piece of the novel during the nineteenth century. The theater could simply be evoked as a setting, as it is brilliantly in Eugene Onegin. It could become the backdrop for a passionate scene, as in Anna Karenin, where Anna, distracted by her position as an adultress, visits the opera in defiance of decorum only to suffer a humiliating public rebuff from the next box. Ardent glances could flash across the auditorium, as when Mr Guppy gapes hopelessly at the strange heroine of Bleak House (1852-1853), by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). A new passion could ignite into life at the theater, as when in Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869) Natasha at the opera succumbs to the attentions of Anatoly Kuragin. Perhaps the most famous example of all occurs in Madame Bovary (1857), by Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), when Emma, under the influence of the passions depicted on stage, finds herself ready to start an affair with Léon. Nabokov may also have known the story "Don Juan" (1812) by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), in which a man watching Don Giovanni senses the actress playing Donna Anna in the seat beside him even as the performance continues on stage. See also 12.12-13n.
Nabokov alludes wryly to the whole tradition in the story "Usta k ustam" ("Lips to Lips"), written 1931, pub. 1956. A hopelessly untalented writer concocts a scenario in his novel which fuses all the ingredients of the tradition: theatre, beginning of an affair, correspondence between performance and "real-life" amour. When he sends his work to the editors of a magazine who hope to lure him into providing much-needed financial support, he fails to detect their irony at his clichés: "Some of the descriptions, such as for example that of the theater, in the very beginning, compete with analogous images in the works of our classical writers. . . . " (Stories 314).
In a rarer kind of variant, the characters of the novel might not only be influenced by the action on stage, but might be the actors, so that their romantic connections mirror those within the play. In his Cornell lectures on Austen, Nabokov analysed with special fondness (LL 30-38) the staging of the play in Mansfield Park, and the emotional complications it unleashes: "The whole play theme in Mansfield Park is an extraordinary achievement. . . . Artistic fate is arranging things so that the true relations between the novel's characters are going to be revealed through the relations of the characters in the play" (LL 30, 35). MOTIFS: art-life; novel; actress.
10.04-11.01: For an analysis of this sentence, see Boyd 1985/2001: 36-38.
10.05-07: makes the skill of mimicry seem, at least while the show lasts . . . : for Van's low opinion of the theater, see 425.16-23.
10.05-07: makes the skill of mimicry seem . . . worth even more than the price of such footlights as insomnia, fancy, arrogant art: rather obscurely phrased, though the sense seems clear: "makes the skill of acting seem worth even more than the cost (not of the ticket, as one might expect, but) of the composition: the playwright's insomnia, creative imagination, and arrogant art." The last two words, with their alliteration and their attitude, seem to allude to the arrogance of the persona Nabokov cultivated in forewords and interviews in the 1960s, partly as a provocation, partly as protection against the intrusions of fame. Why "insomnia, fancy, arrogant art" should be "footlights," and why these "footlights" have a "price" that needs to be recouped, seem less than clear.
10.06: worth even more than the price of: cf. "well worth the price of" (449.08).
10.06: such footlights: "footlights" is a conventional synecdoche for the stage as a profession. Cf. "Turn off the footlights" (415.29)
10.08-13: la Durmanska . . . so dreamy, so lovely, so stirring: la Durmanska, Marina's stage name (from her surname, "Durmanov"), at least in "the great Scott's" publicity: reviewers still refer to her as "Durmanova" (427.22). She is playing the lead role, more or less Tatiana (though apparently misnamed "Lara": see 13.22-23 and n.) in an adaptation or misadaptation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (see 10.11-12.20 and n).
10.09: the great Scott, her impresario . . . seven thousand gold dollars: apart from another reference to him (as Scotty) on the next page (11.24), nothing is heard of him again. A bizarre personification of "great Scott," as a mild exclamation of surprise, apparently originating in honor of General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), the commanding general of the United States Army from 1841 to 1861, and a candidate for the US presidency in 1852. In 1848, in gratitude for his Mexican campaign of 1847, Congress ordered a gold medal to be struck in his honor.
Sir Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), alluded to at 552.33-553.01, became the basis for the opera Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), at a performance of which Emma Bovary is inspired to begin her affair with Léon in the famous scene in Madame Bovary that is very much on Nabokov's mind here (see 10.04-12.22n). Emma, who "se retrouvait dans les lectures de la jeunesse, en plein Walter Scott" ("found herself again in her youthful reading, deep in Walter Scott" [II.xxv]) is sighing and ready for passion even before Léon arrives.
Though he wrily annotated the translation of a sentence from his teaching copy of Madame Bovary ("With Walter Scott, later on, she fell in love with historical events, dreamed of old chests, guard-rooms and minstrels") with a marginal comment for his students ("I shall not insult you by insinuating that you do not remember Scott's 'Lay of the Last Minstrel,' " LL 137), Nabokov may have been aware that Sir Walter Scott's nickname was not "The Great Scott" but "The Great Unknown." Perhaps therefore there is a final concealed joke, that despite all the great Scott's extravagant publicity, Marina remains almost unknown as an actress.
10.09-10: seven thousand gold dollars a week for publicity alone: a preposterous $364,000 a year, in 1868 dollars-worth how many millions today? MOTIF: gold dollars; riches.
10.10: for publicity alone: for Marina's desperate pursuit of publicity, by her own efforts if need be, see 427.20-24.
10.10: bonny bonus: "bonny" here because it is a fond Scotticism.
10.11-12.20: the start of the trashy ephemeron . . . based . . . on a famous Russian romance. . . : the description of the play makes it a parody of mistranslations and misadaptations of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (see 3.01-04n and 3.04n2), as will become apparent. In describing it as "an American play" Nabokov may have in mind the 1963 American translation of Eugene Onegin by Walter Arndt, which he attacked in a review in the New York Review of Books (April 30, 1964); in describing it as a "play" he has as his target Eugene Onegin's most notorious stage version, the 1879 opera by Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovsky (1840-1893), libretto by Chaikovsky and S. K. Shilovsky, which Nabokov, along with most literate Russians, regarded as a travesty of Pushkin's novel in verse: "Chaykovsky's hideous and insulting libretto is not saved by a music whose cloying banalities have pursued me ever since I was a curly-haired boy in a velvet box" (SO 266; cf. also DBDV 182-83). MOTIFS: adaptation; translation.
10.13-11.15: MOTIF: Demon-gambler.
10.13-15: Demon . . . made a bet with his orchestra-seat neighbor, Prince N.: "Demon bets Prince N. twenty-five rubles (a 'rose-red banknote,' [12:01]) that he can seduce Marina-Tatyana. In Pushkin 'Prince N.' is Tatyana's husband [EO VIII:xxi:6], so if we fuse the works Demon is betting the man whom he will enhorn" (Proffer 254). Cf. "the Prince Gremin of the preposterous libretto." (511.33-34 and n.) MOTIF: art-life;
10.13-14: Demon . . . made a bet: he is famous as a gambler: see 149.20-23, 588.12.
10.16: cabinet reculé: In his commentary to Eugene Onegin, Nabokov explains an allusion to Rousseau's sentimental novel Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (1761) by summarising the novel, noting at one point: "Saint-Preux, however, succumbs [to drink] again in Paris, where, not realizing that his companions have led him to a brothel (as he writes Julie in detail), he mistakes white wine for water and when he regains his senses is amazed to find himself 'dans un cabinet reculé, entre les bras d'une de ces créatures' " ("in a back room, in the arms of one of these creatures"; Pt.II, Letter xxvi, cited in EO II,340). Nabokov implicitly contrasts Saint-Preux's lack of responsibility for his predicament with Demon's knowing and savoring the situation he has so deliberately set up.
10.20: proceeded to possess her: The deliberateness continues at 11.14-15: "proceeded to win the wager."
10.20-11.12: between two scenes (Chapter Three and Four of the martyred novel) . . . : Chapter Three of Eugene Onegin shows romantically-inclined Tatiana obsessed--under the influence of her reading--with Eugene, whom she has met only once. Overnight, she composes an ardent letter to him, and we see her as dawn nears: "Her poor head shoulderward she has inclined; / her light chemise has slid down from her charming shoulder. / But now already the moonbeam's / radiance fades" (III.xxxii.5-9). She asks her nurse to take the letter to Eugene. The adaptation ends the scene here, and Demon takes advantage of the scene break to "possess" Marina.
Pushkin's Chapter Three concludes with Tatiana's alarm that evening as she hears Eugene's arrival, in response to receiving her letter, and her flight through the park, past the peasants maidens singing as they pick berries. When Eugene catches up with her, Pushkin playfully breaks off the scene, only to resume it in Chapter Four when Eugene, as Nabokov sums it up, "lectures poor Tatiana on youthful indiscretion and lack of self-control" (EO I, 38).
The division here therefore corresponds not to Pushkin but to Chaikovsky's opera, in which Act I Scene 2 is the letter scene and Act I Scene 3 opens with the berry-picking chorus and the meeting between Tatiana and Onegin. Demon conquers Marina before the first act is over.
11.01: martyred novel: MOTIF: martyr.
11.02-12: undressed . . . heaving breasts: As Proffer 254 points out, "The 'flimsy' nightgown comes from Nabokov's description of Tatyana in a 'flimsy shift' as he comments on Pushkin's drawing by a draft of [III:xxxii; EO II, 396] while the parodic violence and heaving breasts and quill pen are taken from Nabokov's contrasting description of a comical illustration of the same scene by Alexander Notbek." "Tat'iana pishet pis'mo" ("Tatiana writes a letter") drawn by Notbek, engraved by Zbruev, appeared in Nevskii Al'manakh, January 1829, and is reproduced in A.L. Slonimski, ed., A.S. Pushkin v izobrazitel'nom iskusstve (Leningrad: Orgiz-Izogiz, 1937), p. 65. Nabokov's verbal picture does not so much borrow from Notbek's atrociously inept image as deliberately outdo it (as at 460.01-461.09 Van explicitly tries to outdo a Toulouse-Lautrec poster that the scene before him evokes). Cf. also 11.07-08n, 11.12n. MOTIF: adaptation; art-life; woman in picture.
11.03-04: flimsy and fetching nightgown: Marina's light attire will make Demon's lovemaking all the easier. Cf. "that luminous frock nearly as flimsy as a nightgown. . . . she resembled the young soprano Maria Kuznetsova in the letter scene in Tschchaikow's opera Onegin and Olga." (158.03-06)
11.05: Baron d'O.: The name "d'O" belonged to a genuine French noble family from Normandy. Here "d'O." serves as another index of the garbling of Pushkin's "Onegin," yet it also echoes Tatiana's coyness to her nurse: "Well, send your grandson quietly / with this note to O . . . to that . . . / to the neighbor." (III.xxxiv.6-8) At the same time, it bizarrely prefigures the Baron d'Onsky who will feature later in the chapter (13.05) and will actually be referred to as "Baron d'O." (13.19). The "Baron d'O." of the play presumably kills his best friend in a duel, if the play follows even the broad outlines of Eugene Onegin; the Baron d'Onsky/d'O. of the novel will die from a wound inflicted in a duel by Demon (14.25-15.12); and the name absurdly evokes that of Baron d'Anthes (1812-1895), who in 1837 would kill Pushkin in a duel. Cf. also "the Don" (489.24, 500.25: Don Juan, with a dash of Don Quixote) of Don Juan's Last Fling.
In view of the pervasiveness of "water" in Ada, and its association with Lucette's death, and of the strong link between this theater scene and the cinema-hall scene on Lucette's last night, there is also a pun linking d'O and its homophone d'eau, "of water." See Brian Boyd, "d'O You Get the Joke?," Nabokovian 47 (Fall 2001): 9-14. MOTIF: d'O; water.
11.05-07: an old nurse in Eskimo boots. Upon the infinitely wise countrywoman's suggestion, she goose-penned: The Eskimo boots are a misguided attempt to costume Tatiana's nurse, a Russian. Nabokov here also burlesques the traditions that Pushkin's own nurse's tales prompted him to write some of his narrative verse (see EO II, 361-62, 452-53). As Alexey Sklyarenko also points out (Nabokv-L, 21 January 2010): “In Pushkin's novel Tatiana doesn't ask, of course, her nurse's advice and writes a love letter to Onegin of her own accord: ‘All at once in her mind a thought was born . . . / “Go, let me be alone. / Give me, nurse, a pen, paper, / and move up the table" (Chapter Three, XXI, 3-6). The adapter's mistake was probably prompted by the following lines in Pushkin's novel: "On the nurse's advice, Tatiana, / planning that night to conjure, / has on the quiet ordered in the bathhouse / a table to be laid for two." (Chapter Five, X, 1-4).”
11.06-07: goose-penned: wrote with a quill pen.
11.08: a love letter: Tatiana's letter to Onegin has a Nabokovian echo in Lolita, when Charlotte Haze writes a letter to Humbert declaring her love (I.16), and still closer echoes later in Ada, when “Tatiana, a remarkably pretty and proud young nurse” at the Lakeview Hospital in Kalugano, where Van is being tended for the wound incurred in his duel, after spurning his coarse advances there, “much later, . . . wrote him a charming and melancholy letter in red ink on pink paper” (312.25-26) and when Lucette sends Van “from California a rambling, indecent, crazy, almost savage declaration of love in a ten-page letter (366.12-13). MOTIF: letters.
11.07-08: from the edge of her bed, on a side table with cabriole legs: cabriole: W2: "A form of leg which curves outward from the structure which it supports, and then descends in a tapering reverse curve, terminating in an ornamental foot." In his illustration (cf. 11.02-12n), Notbek wrongly places Tatiana on a chair, to write at what Nabokov calls "a very formal-looking table" (EO II, 178) that looks too heavy for the ancient nurse to budge when Tatiana bids her "move up the table" (III.xxi.6).
11.12: heaving breasts: If Marina's voluptuousness is not quite Pushkin, it is far nearer the "charming shoulder" (III.xxxii.7) of Pushkin's Tatiana than is the bare breast that Notbek's torpid miss points straight at the viewer.
11.13: old Eskimo: so called because of her (inappropriate) boots (see 11.05-07n.). Cf. "Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimosoff" (430.04) in another Antiterran stage travesty of a Russian classic, "Chekhov's Four Sisters" (427.04), on Terra Three Sisters (1901) by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904).
11.17-21: the tropical moonlight . . . especially vulnerable to the tickle of Demon's moustache: Very similar to the effect, from the other side of the footlights, of the stage world on Emma Bovary's emotions in Madame Bovary, II.xv: "la poésie du rôle . . . l'envahissait. . . . -Est-ce que cela vous amuse? dit-il en se penchant sur elle de si près, que la pointe de sa moustache lui effleura la joue" ("the poetry of the role . . . was sweeping her away. . . . 'Are you enjoying this?' he said, leaning over her so close that the end of his moustache brushed her cheek").
11.23-25: ballet company . . . Russians . . . from Belokonsk: Cf. "The Lyaskan [Antiterran for Alaskan] ballet" (236.02-03).
11.25: Belokonsk, Western Estoty: Darkbloom: "the Russian twin of 'Whitehorse' (city in N.W. Canada)." Whitehorse is the capital of Yukon Territory; its name, translated literally into Russian, would be beliy kon', but Nabokov chooses the combinative form belo- and the adjective for horse, konskiy, to provide the name in the form such a town might have had in Russia. Cf. 22.04. MOTIF: Belokonsk; -konsk.
11.25-34: In a splendid orchard . . . howlers: not only burlesques the cheap, incongruous and irrelevant effects producers often take such pains to arrange ("bringing the Russians all the way in two sleeping cars from Belokonsk") but specifically parodies misadaptations, mistranslations and misproductions of Eugene Onegin and other Russian classics. See following nn.
11.26: several merry young gardeners . . . raspberries: In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin there are no men present during the peasant girls' berry-picking song. Nor are there in Chaikovsky's I.iii, but in the first scene of his opera, he takes the example of the berry-picking song as permission to introduce a gratuitous and jarringly out of place peasant song and dance. In this, men do take part; and the line "Tut i shol proshol detina / Slovno yagoda-malina" ("Along came a hefty lad, like a raspberry") offers a partial explanation for the gardeners in Marina's play "popping raspberries into their mouths." MOTIF: adaptation.
11.27: Georgian tribesmen . . . popping raspberries: Darkbloom: "Raspberries, ribbon [11.33]: allusions to ludicrous blunders in Lowell's versions of Mandelshtam's poems (in the N.Y. Review [of Books], 23 December 1965)." For Nabokov and Lowell, see 3.04n2. Lowell translated the last two lines of Mandelshtam's famous November 1933 anti-Stalin epigram ("My zhivem, pod soboiu ne chuia strany," "We live, feeling no land beneath us") for which the poet was arrested: "After each death, he is like a Georgian tribesman, / putting a raspberry into his mouth." The lines read: "Chto ni kazn' u nego, --to malina / I shirokaia grud' osetina." As is usual in Mandelshtam, the sense is highly compacted and elliptical, but the lines mean literally: "Whatever the execution, it’s a raspberry / And the broad chest of an Ossete." Stalin, a Georgian, admired Georgian folklore and here seems to be imagining the sweet raspberry taste of each execution and puffing out his chest as if it proves himself once again a Georgian hero. Alexey Sklyarenko points out (Nabokv-L, 29 July 2010) that malina can also mean “[to be] in clover,” and that here it suggests Stalin is “‘in clover’ regardless of the terror that surrounds him.” Sergey Soloviev, Nabokv-L, 29 July 2010, adds that in thieves’ jargon, malina is “a secure place (flat, house) where [thieves] come to relax and may celebrate the successful theft, robbery or killing” and suggests that Mandelshtam here intentionally associates malina “associated with bandits. . . . Stalin is [the] big boss of a gang.” He adds further: “Malina at this time was also a derisory generic name for several high decorations” like “red star” with a raspberry hue, implying “that for every execution Stalin decorated some of his hangmen.” Finally, he notes that the last line contains an additional insult, since it was rumored “that Stalin was in fact a bastard, and his real father was an Ossete” rather than a Georgian, these two peoples being traditional enemies. MOTIF: translation.
11.28-29: servant girls in sharovars (somebody had goofed-the word "samovars": sharovary are wide trousers; a samovar of course is the urn Russians use to boil water for tea, perhaps meant to be introduced for local color--it is a cliché of Russianness--despite its irrelevance to this scene, only for it to have been garbled into sharovary.
Nabokov's friend Iosif Gessen reports in his autobiography some of the gaffes in Berlin productions of Eugene Onegin: serf girls gathering berries in snow-white stockings and lacquered slippers (Gody izgnaniya [Paris: YMCA, 1981], p. 85).
Sharovary may also evoke the French "charivari" (discordant music), a word used in the opera chapter of Madame Bovary, and even another famous garbling, "Charbovari" (Charles Bovary's mumbled version of his name, taken up as a mocking chorus by his classmates in the opening chapter of Flaubert's novel).
11.30-31: plucking marshmallows and peanuts from the branches of fruit trees: ridicules the ignorance of or indifference to nature often displayed by translators. The marshmallow is a herb (Althaea officinalis), as well as the familiar confection which derives its name from it (and in an earlier form was made from the root of the marshmallow) and which here the muddledheadedness of the producer has transformed into a kind of fruit. Peanuts, of course, grow on bushes, but the nuts develop in pods underground.
For examples of Nabokov's care over the translation of natural terms, see EO III, 9-13; for his exasperation at the carelessness of others, see EO II, 286-87. In his critique of Walter Arndt's translation of Eugene Onegin, he points out that "Vishen'e is simply 'cherries' (with which the girls pelt the eavesdropper in their song in Chapter Three) and not 'cherry twigs' and 'branches' with which Arndt makes them beat away the intruder" (SO 237-38).
Notice that in this version the berry-picking song seems to have disappeared--as of course it does not in Chaikovsky. MOTIF: translation.
11.33: kurva or "ribbon boule": see Darkbloom at 11.27n. Lowell translated Mandelshtam's phrase kurvu-Moskvu ("Moscow the Whore") as "Moscow's ribbon of boulevards" in his translation of the poem "Net, ne spriatat'sia mne ot velikoi mury" ("No, I won't hide behind the great nonsense") (written April 1931). Mandelshtam's "a ia ne risknu, / U kogo pod perchatkoi ne khvatit tepla, / Chtob ob'ekhat' vsiu kurvu-Moskvu" ("but I won't chance it, / There's not enough warmth inside my glove / To ride around the whole of Moscow the whore") becomes in Lowell's version: "I am not afraid-- / who has enough heat behind his gloves to hold the reins, / and ride around Moscow's ribbon of boulevards?" (New York Review of Books, 23 December 1965, p. 5).
As Andrei Babikov suggests (private communication), Nabokov appears to have in mind the whore, Boule de Suif, heroine of the famous story, “Boule de Suif” (1880), by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893).
MOTIF: translation, whore.
12.01: light-loined: note the chance echo of "light of my life, fire of my loins" in the first line of Lolita.
12.01: rose-red banknote: value, twenty-five rubles.
12.03-26: His heart . . . . determine his rival: For a discussion of this passage, see Boyd 1985/2001: 306-10.
12.04-07: as she ran . . . meeting with Baron O.: This follows EO III.xxxviii-xli (especially III.xl.6-7: "in her breast there's the same quivering, / nor ceases the glow of her cheeks") and IV.vii-xxiii, or in Chaikovsky's opera, the remainder of I.iii.
12.04: flushed and flustered: Cf. "Flushed and flustered" Lucette (267.20).
12.05: sitting ovation: a play on "standing ovation." The producer's prodigious labors have impressed no one.
12.06: transfigurants: MOTIF: trans-; transfigure.
12.07: Lyaska: Antiterra's Alaska (from the transliteration of the Russian, "Alyaska"), which Russia sold to the United States in 1867. Cf. 3.15n and SO 61, where Nabokov, asked what scenes he would like to have filmed, replied: "The Russians leaving Alaska, delighted with the deal. Shot of a seal applauding." MOTIF: Lyaska.
12.07: Iveria: Since the gardeners in the intermezzo ballet wear "the garb of Georgian tribesmen" (11.27), this refers most directly to Iberia, an ancient country in the Transcaucasia (the eastern part of present-day Georgia), with a dash of the French hiver (winter), and wintry Siberia as a counterpart to Alaska; but there is also a play on the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), since Spanish gives a v sound to the letter "b."
12.07: Baron O.: an authorial oversight; should read "Baron d'O." In A1, Nabokov miscorrects the next and final occurrence of the name (until it is bestowed once on Baron d'Onsky at 13.19), at 12.17, from "Baron d'O." to "Baron O." He had noticed the disparity between "Baron O." at 12.07 and "Baron d'O." at 12.17, and changed the second to match the first, forgetting that on the previous page (a recto, not visible on this verso) he had established the name as "Baron d'O." Nabokov's correction indicates that he did not wish one of the three occurrences of the name of the male lead role in Marina's play to be different from the other two; it should in all three cases, therefore, be "Baron d'O."--as is confirmed in Ada/Ardeur 10. MOTIF: d'O.
12.08: all spurs and green tails: Nabokov comments on EO III.xli.4-6, "straight before her, / eyes blazing, Eugene / stood, similar to some dread shade": "Tatiana sees Onegin as a demonic character in a Gothic novel or Byronic romance" (EO II, 410).
12.09-11: the wonder of that brief abyss of absolute reality between two bogus fulgurations of fabricated life: not inappropriate for Epiphany Eve, Demon's sense of wonder at the hyperreality of love will be echoed in himself at 251.09-13, by Van and Ada at 70.19-71.26 and 220.28-221.06, and by Greg Erminin at 454.29-30. For the contrast between the heightened reality of love and a banal backdrop, see also TT 30: "The commonplaces he and she had exchanged blazed with authenticity when placed for display against the forced guffaws in the bogus bar."
12.11: Without waiting for the end of the scene: like Onegin in EO I.xxii: "Still amors, devils, serpents / on the stage caper and make noise / . . . / and yet Onegin has already left."
12.12-13: the snowflakes star-spangling his top hat: evokes the poster and cartoon image of Uncle Sam, the United States personified, in top hat decorated with the stars and stripes (cf. 3.21) of the "star-spangled banner" (the United States flag). Curiously from here to the end of the paragraph the action seems much closer to a stylized St. Petersburg than its ostensible setting in Manhattan (the Antiterran name for New York). Cf. Onegin on the way to dinner and the theater in St. Petersburg: "With frostdust silvers / his beaver collar" (EO I.xvi.3-4).
Nevertheless, the date of the action, 1868, the location, New York, the snow and the evocation of Demon and Marina driving home through the snow seem to point to a deliberate echo of the opening of a novel that itself offers a late echo of the nineteenth-century theater scene: The Age of Innocence (1920), by Edith Wharton (1862-1937). In Wharton's opening chapter a production of Gounod's Faust at the Academy of Music in New York in the early 1870s--to which the audience has been "transported through the slippery snow streets in private broughams, in the spacious family landau, or in the humbler but more convenient 'Brown coupé' "--serves to introduce the novel's protagonists, including Countess Olenska, whose name may have given Nabokov a cue for the fusing of Onegin and Lensky in Baron d'O/Baron d'Onsky (see 13.05 and n.).
12.15-16: the last-act ballet of Caucasian generals and metamorphosed Cinderellas: Chapter 8, the last chapter of Eugene Onegin, features a ball. As the curtain rises for Act III of Chaikovsky's opera, a Polonaise begins, to mark the ball. It "is played through in its entirety with plenty of action but no singing, and a stage production requires presentation in something like ballet form" (Earl of Harewood, ed., Kobbé's Complete Opera Book [London: Bodley Head, 1987], p. 735). At the ball, Onegin meets Prince N., a general, whom he discovers to be Tatiana's husband. She therefore is the "metamorphosed Cinderella," the spurned provincial girl who has now become a princess and a star of St. Petersburg society.
As Marijeta Bozovic points out, “Nabokov had identified a Cinderella motif in Tatiana Larina’s transformation into a Petersburg beauty [where??], and here he underscores the resemblance.” “From Onegin to Ada: Nabokov and the Transnational Imperative,” in Brian Boyd and Marijeta Bozovic, eds.. Nabokov Upside-Down (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014).
MOTIF: Cinderella; fairy tale.
12.17: Baron d'O.: MOTIF: d'O.
12.19-20: holding the glass slipper that his fickle lady had left him when eluding his belated advances: The glass slipper continues the Cinderella image, but owes nothing to Pushkin. Or almost nothing: Onegin does indeed make "belated advances" to Tatiana, which she eludes, and he is as it were left holding the glass slipper. After condescendingly lecturing her when he receives her passionate letter, he barely thinks of her again until returning to St. Petersburg after three and a half years of travel. Only when he sees her transformed into a princess, a married woman, and coldly aloof, does Onegin now suddenly find the thought of Tatiana all-consuming. He sends her a letter as passionate as hers to him, and after months of gloom at receiving no reply, suddenly rushes to renew his suit. He falls at her feet. Tatiana, who has been rereading his letter when he bursts in, is hardly "fickle": she explains that she still loves him, but is married to another, and "to him I shall be faithful all my life." She leaves the room, Eugene stands in surprise, and Prince N. appears, at which point Pushkin breaks off his tale. In Chaikovsky's opera, this is Act 3 Scene 7. Cf. the discussion of Cinderella's glass slipper in Pnin 158. MOTIF: Cinderella; slipper; fairy tale.
12.22: slipped into Demon's arms and swan-sleigh: The "swan-sleigh" may suggest Chaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake" (1877). It certainly confirms the image of a stylized nineteenth-century St. Petersburg.
Demon's affair with Marina may also evoke another St. Petersburg romance. The poet Aleksandr Blok, an idol of Nabokov's youth, declared his love for the actress Natalia Volokhova after calling on her dressing room. "Blok made her his daemonic and unattainable Snow Maiden, transformed their romance into a masquerade of balls and parties and sleigh-rides, of fizzing wine and swirling snow" (Avril Pyman, ed., Alexander Blok: Selected Poems [Oxford: Pergamon, 1972], p. 33).
12.23: They reveled, and traveled, and they quarreled: Cf. "He traveled, he studied, he taught" (449.01, and see n. for Flaubert echoes).
12.24: By the following winter he began to suspect: By at least February 1869 (see 16.08). Cf. the slow growth of Van's suspicions at Ardis the Second, and their sudden confirmation (285-298).
12.28: Demon screwed in his monocle: Cf. 150.30: “Dan wore a monocle in gay-dog copy of his cousin, and this he screwed in to view Rose.” MOTIF: Demon’s monocle.
12.28-13.01: unclicked out of its special flat case . . . the additional appeal of recalling Marina: Cf. "Demon's twofold hobby was collecting old masters and young mistresses" (4.26-27).
12.30-13.05: an unknown product of Parmigianino's tender art . . . : Giralomo Francesco Maria Mazzuoli (1503-1540), known as Parmigianino. The "small pen-and-wash" that Demon has found fuses three genuine Parmigianino works, the frescoes of Adam and of Eve in the church of Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma, which Parmigianino worked on between 1531 and 1539, and especially a small (9 x 3.3cm) preparatory sketch for the figure of Adam, in pen and brown ink and wash, now in the Uffizi (inventory no. 1982F). Adam's posture in the sketch corresponds exactly to the position this passage describes: someone sitting sideways on a support, with a peach-like apple cupped in his hand, and with a strikingly raised shoulder, a posture uncannily congruent with that of a person "perched on the arm of a chair," muffling the mouthpiece of a telephone and talking to someone else.
Nabokov could have seen the Uffizi sketch of Adam and the Steccata frescoes of Adam and Eve together in Sydney J. Freeberg, Parmigianino: His Works in Painting, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1950, figures 108c, 100 and 101 respectively. For further information, see Boyd 1979:241-43. MOTIF: Adam; Eve; woman in picture.
12.32: peach-like apple: MOTIF: apple.
12.33: a convolvulus-garlanded support: this detail from a real Parmigianino sketch will be echoed by an imagined Italian Renaissance "Forbidden Masterpiece" painting at 141.10-11: "thus a tendril climber coils around a column. . . . " See also 13.06n, 13.06-07n.
13.01-14.05: recalling Marina . . . muffled the receiver . . . 'Eve on the Clepsydrophone': Proust pervades Ada, especially in connection with jealousy, and especially in this chapter (see forenote). In this Parmigianino sketch that is about to arouse Demon's jealousy, Nabokov pays a curious double tribute to Proust.
Demon's affair with Marina prefigures Van's love for Ada a generation later, as Swann's jealous love for Odette in Proust prefigures Marcel's tormented love for Albertine, also a generation later. Like Demon, Swann is an art connoisseur, and he sees Odette in terms of an Italian Renaissance fresco: "elle frappa Swann par sa ressemblance avec cette figure de Zéphora, la fille de Jéthro, qu'on voit dans une fresque de la chapelle Sixtine" ("she struck Swann by her resemblance to the face of Zephora, Jethro's daughter, seen in a fresco in the Sistine Chapel" (Pléiade ed., I, 222). The fresco is by Botticelli.
Behind the drawing and the way it brings to Demon's mind the image of Marina on the phone stands another passage from "La Prisonnière." Marcel tries to ring Andrée, but the line is busy: "En attendant qu'elle eût achevé sa communication, je me demandais comment, puisque tant de peintres cherchent à renouveler les portraits féminins du XVIIIe siècle où l'ingénieuse mise en scène est un prétexte aux expressions de l'attente, de la bouderie, de l'intérêt, de la rêverie, comment aucun de nos modernes Boucher . . . ne peignit, au lieu de 'La Lettre', du 'Clavecin' etc., cette scène qui pourrait s'appeler: 'Devant le téléphone', et où naîtrait si spontanément sur les lèvres de l'écouteuse un sourire d'autant plus vrai qu'il sait n'être pas vu" (III, 99-100: "Waiting for her to finish her call, I wondered why, since so many painters are trying to revive the female portraiture of the eighteenth century in which the ingenious setting is a pretext for expressions of waiting, sulking, interest, or revery, why none of our modern Bouchers . . . paints, instead of 'The Letter,' or 'The Harpsichord,' a scene that could be called: 'At the telephone,' where a smile would come to life on the lips of the woman listening that would be all the truer because unaware of being seen"). Nabokov gleefully appropriates Marcel's suggestion and executes his proposal, not by inventing a modern painting but by turning to an impeccably pre-telephonic old master. MOTIF: art-life; telephone.
13.04-05: the bath's voice drowned her whisper: Cf. "Bathwater (or shower) was too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly" (24.02-03). MOTIF: water-speech.
13.05: Baron d'Onsky: as D. Barton Johnson suggests, the name fuses the two heroes of Eugene Onegin, Onegin and Lensky ("Nabokov's Ada and Puškin's Eugene Onegin," Slavic and East European Journal, XV , 319). As Alexey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokov-L, May 12, 2013), d’Onsky’s name may also bring to mind “Dmitry Donskoy (1350-89), the Prince of Moscow and Grand Prince of Vladimir. His nickname alludes to his great victory against the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380) which took place on the Don River. But on Demonia (Antiterra's name before the L disaster) the Russians must have lost this battle to the victorious Khan Mamay and migrated, crossing the ha-ha of a doubled ocean, to America. Sklyarenko also notes (Nabokv-L, 4 May 2014): “Demon's adversary in a sword duel, Baron d'Onsky (nicknamed Skonky) seems to be a horse, Onegin's Don stallion (Two: V: 4).” At Onegin’s estate, “Obyknovenno podavali / Emu Donskogo zherebtsa” (“there was habitually brought / A Don stallion for him,” in Nabokov’s translation, EO 2.127).The adjective “Don” in the Russian, in the nominative case, is indeed donskoy, but the combination in the fictional “d’Onsky” of Pushkin’s Lensky and Onegin, the Baron d’O name in I.2’s travestied adaptation of Eugene Onegin, and the the later travestied adaptation of Don Quixote and Don Juan (the latter in in Pushkin’s The Stone Guest version) as Don Juan’s Last Fling in III.5 seem more relevant than this single reference, without consequence in Eugene Onegin. MOTIF: d'O.
13.06: that raised shoulder: cf. Ada's "raised ivory shoulder" (140.32) in the Forbidden Masterpiece painting referred to in 12.33n.
13.06-07: certain vermiculated effects of delicate vegetation: cf. "a crescent eaten out of a vine leaf by a sphingid larva" (141.13-14) in the same Forbidden Masterpiece.
13.11: velvety apple: MOTIF: apple.
13.14: Skonky: Cf. "Aunt Beloskunski-Belokonski. . . . a vulgar old skunk" (519-20). MOTIF: -konsk.
13.17: en connaissance de cause: Darkbloom: "knowing what it was all about (Fr.)." In other words, being able to savor the attribution of the sketch to Parmigianino.
13.19: d'O.: his name has become identical with that of the hero of Marina's play. MOTIF: d'O.; art-life.
13.20-25: wondered if the rather banal resemblance . . . should be, or would be, commented upon. It was not: but d'Onsky does comment on it to someone else: see 14.04-11.
13.21: that Edenic young girl: MOTIF: Eden.
13.21-24: actress . . . critic: MOTIF: actress.
13.22-23: "Eugene and Lara" or "Lenore Raven": "Eugene and Lara" seems to be the adaptation of Eugene Onegin that we have watched with Demon. "Lara" fuses the two Larina girls, Tatiana and her sister Olga (as "d'Onsky," on a different plane, fuses Onegin and Lensky), with a glance at Lara, the heroine of Dr. Zhivago (1958) by Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), a novel that will provide a major motif later in Ada. Cf. the equally absurd distortion of Pushkin's and Chaikovsky's title in "Tshchaikow's opera Onegin and Olga" (158.06). The confusion of two sisters (Aqua and Marina, Ada and Lucette) forms a major structural principle in Ada.
"Lenore Raven" blends two famous poems by Edgar Allan Poe, "Lenore" (1831) and "The Raven" (1845).
Works of art in Ada often reflect with an uncanny and comically cooperative zeal the unfolding plot of the novel itself. The title "Eugene and Lara," by highlighting the coupling of hero and heroine, indicates the amatory link Demon is about to discover between d'Onsky/d'O. and the Marina who played d'O.'s lover in her play. "Lenore Raven," on the other hand, seems to link Demon (known as "Raven Veen") with Marina playing the role of Lenore, the woman just lost in both of Poe's poems. MOTIF: art-life; Raven; sisters confused.
13.23-24: both painfully panned by a "disgustingly incorruptible" young critic: offered a bribe, undoubtedly, by Demon, who "bribed a series of green-room attendants" (10.15-16) for his first access to Marina, and generally likes to exercise the power of the purse (a trait Van shares). Later he will also try to "push" Ada's acting career (cf. 481.10-11).
13.25-29: such nymphs . . . hatter: syntax runs on and sense becomes too liquid here, because Demon is a little drunk, because he is obsessed with the image of Marina in the bath and the reflection of that mental image in Parmigianino's pen-and-wash, because that prefigures the entanglement of Marina and Aqua's fate in Demon's life ("the similarities of young bodies of water," perhaps with an undercurrent of the Russian expression "as alike as two drops of water"), and because the mirrors and the doubling of images multiply as Demon, musing over Marina and the Parmigianino, makes his way past "double-talk mirrors" to the cloakroom where he and d'Onsky nearly receive each other's hats. Demon always acts, talks and thinks at high speed, especially under the influence of drink or drugs (see 433.31-439.03). MOTIF: sisters confused; water; water-speech.
13.25: such nymphs: In view of the picture that for Demon conjures up first an image of Marina as a "nymph" called from her bath and then a little later a stab of jealousy at her infidelity, it seems relevant that in Chapter 4 of Ulysses, Bloom associates Molly with a picture of the Bath of the Nymph over their bed, just after the novel's first mention of Blazes Boylan, when Molly's casual disclosure that he will visit later in the day makes Bloom rightly suspect that Boylan may become Molly's lover. The Bath of the Nymph develops into a motif throughout Joyce's novel. Every year in his Cornell courses Nabokov would read the passage introducing both Boylan and the Bath of the Nymph:
"You will enjoy the wonderfully artistic pages, one of the greatest passages in all literature, when Bloom brings Molly her breakfast. How beautifully the man writes!13.26-27: the similarities of young bodies of water are but murmurs of natural innocence: In view of the picture of Eve which watery Marina echoes, there seems an allusion to the famous image of Eve's innocence in Paradise Lost, when she recounts first catching sight of her own reflection in water: "Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound / Of waters issued from a cave and spread / Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved / Pure as the expanse of heaven; I thither went / With unexperienced thought . . ./. . ./ As I bent down to look, just opposite, / A shape within the watery gleam appeared / Bending to look on me, I started back, / It started back, but pleased I soon returned. . . . " (IV.453-63).
'--Who was the letter from? he asked.
Bold hand. Marion.
--O, Boylan, she said. He's bringing the programme. . . .
The Bath of the Nymph over the bed. . . . Not unlike her with her hair down." (LL 306-07)
13.27: murmurs of natural innocence: a little later, Demon will recall to Marina what she had said to him when he rang her long distance and got her out of her bath: "you said you were in Eve's state, hold the line, let me put on a penyuar" (16.15-16).
13.27: bodies of water: cf. "body of water" (5.10-11). MOTIF: body of water.
13.28: double-talk: The "double-talk" reflects not only the mirrors but also Demon's suspicion that Marina may have been unfaithful. Cf. also "Mixed metaphors and double-talk became all three Veens, the children of Venus" (410.09-10, another occasion when Veens drink too much and become entangled).
13.28: that's my hat: that we have slipped into the stream of Demon's consciousness somewhere in the course of this sentence now becomes all but explicit.
13.28-29: we have the same London hatter: and, as it turns out, the same lover.
13.31: Bohemian lady: see 13.33n.
13.32: desired his recommendation for a job: she gets the job (15.11-12). Demon is used to the world of the "prof push" (164.02, and see also 13.23-24n.).
13.33: Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston museum: stylized version of the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, known as the Glass Flowers, at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology (where Nabokov was a researcher from 1941 to 1948). Bobbie Ann Mason notes: "The Glass Flowers are extraordinarily life-like glass models of flowering plants, principally orchids and tropical flowers. The models were created by a pair of Bohemian brothers, artists and naturalists of the nineteenth century-Leopold and Rudolph Blas[c]hka. Their skill in glass modelling remains a professional secret which died with them, and the glass models which they created are found only at Harvard. One of the prominent features of the collection is a group of models which illustrate the role of insects in the pollination of orchids" (Mason 87).
Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895), was the father, not the brother, of Rudolf Blaschka (1857-1939). Much of their early work was on marine animals, including sea slugs and hydroid jellyfish. In 1886 Professor George Lincoln Goodale of Harvard travelled to the Blaschka studio in Dresden and managed to persuade the Blaschkas to produce plant models for Harvard, for a collection financed by Elizabeth C. Ware and her daughter Mary Lee Ware. At first they created plant and animal models at the same time, but they soon concentrated on plants, and in 1890 decided to work exclusively for Harvard. By 1937 they had made 3000 models of over 164 plant families for Harvard. See http://www.urania-dresden.de/Blaschka_engl.html. MOTIF: artificial flowers.
14.03: furs: MOTIF: furs.
14.03: dackel: colloquial German for "dachshund." See the same animal, presumably, at 252.03. The Nabokovs' successive generations of dackels feature in SM. MOTIF: dackel.
14.04-15: Curious how that appalling actress resembles 'Eve . . . ' . . . confessed: The combination of a woman resembling Eve, jealousy and Demon may recall Anna Karenin's jealousy of Vronsky (an emotion she calls her d'iavol, her "demon" or "devil"): "A tebe dostavliaet udovol'stvie smotret' na Terezu v kostiume Evy . . . Opiat', op'iat' d'iavol!--skazal Vronskii" ("'But you enjoy seeing Thérèse dressed as Eve.' 'Again and again, that demon!' Vronsky said") (IV.iii).
14.04-05: Curious how that appalling actress resembles 'Eve on the Clepsydrophone' . . . : MOTIF: actress; woman in picture; Eve.
14.04: Eve: Cf. "you said you were in Eve's state, hold the line" (16.15-16).
14.05: Clepsydrophone: a "clepsydra" is a water clock; W2 explains its derivation from Greek kleptein (conceal) and hydor (water). In view of Marina's concealing the fact of her lover when Demon calls (16.15-16), the etymology seems pointed (nowhere else are "dorophones" called "clepsydrophones"). Cf. "we shall presently dispose of 'flowing' time, water-clock time, water-closet time" (539.27-28); "clepsydras" (544.08). MOTIF: dorophone, technology.
14.06-11: It is anything but famous. . . . friend of his?: Since d'Onsky was the first to confirm the attribution of the sketch, it must have been he who saw the resemblance between Parmigianino's naked Eve and Marina "on the clepsydrophone" on the very occasion Demon now recalls. This is not a particularly difficult inference, but rapid deductive skill runs in the family (cf. 8.15-9.05).
14.12: Friend of his: the Bohemian lady may well be lying: she marries d'Onsky this same year (see 15.10-12).
14.15-16: a physical wreck: Marina is definitely lying: see 14.25.
14.16: a spiritual Samurai: amusing, but why, and what does it mean? Amusing because of the discrepancy between "a physical wreck and a spiritual X" (one might expect something like "saint," in contrast with "wreck," or "penitent," in parallel, but "Samurai" seems so specific and so unexpected it shatters the symmetry). A samurai was a member of Japan's feudal warrior elite, and "was expected to have such virtues as spiritual nobility, . . . stoicism and a sense of honor. [Japanese] often refer to their ideal virtues in [their] daily speech [in stock phrases such as] 'A samurai never breaks his word' " (Michiyo Maruyama, private communication, 1994). Marina's lie seems based on the presupposition that Demon will not bother to chase d'Onsky all the way to Japan, especially if he has renounced women (if that is an implication of "spiritual Samurai") and has become an expert swordsman (an implication, if it is one, that Demon soon puts to the test). Ada/Ardeur 10 has "au moral un vrai samouraï": the suggestion seems to be of self-discipline, self-abnegation, probity.
14.18-19: Vatican, a Roman spa: the Vatican City, a source of holy water on earth, becomes a spa, a source of healing waters, on Antiterra.
14.18: Aardvark, Massa: Darkbloom: "apparently, a university town in New England." Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachussetts. Calling Harvard "Aardvaark" is "a very old joke" (Rivers & Walker, 264) (though does Nabokov compound the joke to make his phrase sound like a slave's "Hard work, master"?)
14.21-23: decrepit but indestructible Gamaliel . . . idealistic President's: Darkbloom: "Gamaliel: a much more fortunate statesman than our W. G. Harding."
According to (mistaken) tradition, the biblical Gamaliel was president of the Sanhedrin. He was certainly one of its leaders and as a "doctor of the law, held in reputation among all the people," he advised his fellow-members not to put to death St. Peter and the Apostles (Acts 5.34-41).
Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923), President of the United States 1921-1923, had the end of his administration marred by the Teapot Dome oil reserve scandal. Though not personally implicated, he had appointed men who were. The discovery of their corruption broke his spirit, and unlike Antiterra's "indestructible" Gamaliel," he died after only two years in office.
Harding was in fact voted to the presidency on a wave of reaction against the idealism of his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924, president 1913-21), who as a professor of jurisprudence resembled Gamaliel much more than Harding did in everything but name.
14.21-24: doing his best to forbid duels in the Western Hemisphere--a canard or an idealistic President's instant-coffee caprice, for nothing was to come of it . . . : Though Woodrow Wilson had been a prime shaper of the Covenant of the League of Nations, Harding led the United States to reject signing the League Covenant. He did however call an international conference on arms limitation that met in Washington in 1921-1922. An "instant-coffee caprice": one that takes no longer to prepare, and is no more genuine than, instant coffee? An echo of the Teapot Dome scandal (14.21-23n.)? Ada/Ardeur 13: "caprice fugitif." MOTIF: duel.
14.24: petroloplane: In his autobiography Nabokov recalls that his favorite tutor, "Lenski" (Filip Zelenski), who tried to make his fortune buying up inventions, purchased "the blueprint of what he called an 'electroplane,' which looked like an old Blériot but had--and here I quote him again--a 'voltaic' motor" (SM 169). On Antiterra, with electricity banned (see 17.01-10 and n.), airplanes would of course need to be "petroloplanes."
Since a "Laputa" is a "freight airplane" (556.02), and since la puta is Spanish for "the whore" (as well as providing the name of the flying island Gulliver encounters: see 556.02n), the near-"trollop" in "petroloplane" may not be entirely accidental. Leo Tolstoy wrote to Turgenev in 1857 that "the railroad is to travel as the whore is to love," an attitude reflected in Anna Karenin (see Gary R. Jahn, "The Image of the Railroad in Anna Karenina," Slavic and East European Journal, 25 , 1-10). Nabokov, who had had one unhappy flight in 1920, had not flown since, at the time of writing Ada; feeling little better about airplanes than Tolstoy about railroads, he had crossed the Atlantic several times in the last decade by ocean liner. He overcame his aversion to flying somewhat in the 1970s. MOTIF: technology.
14.25: looking very fit: see 14.15-16.
14.26-27: Gunter's Bookshop . . . English shopkeeper: writing to Edmund Wilson from Nice in 1961, Nabokov reported: "I speak French with a cornbelt accent and buy daily the New York Herald at Gunn's bookshop" (February 27, 1961, VNA).
14.28-15.07: back-slapped . . . groin: MOTIF: duel.
14.31-32: a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish--a kind of American "Gory Mary" in barroom parlance): "good blood" rather than the "bad blood" (in the sense of "antagonism") expected in this context, because of Baron d'Onsky's and Baron (588.11) Demon Veen's aristocratic heritage. D'Onsky turns out to be Polish; Demon is "of ancient Anglo-Irish ancestry" (4.17). "Gory Mary": a Bloody Mary (vodka and tomato juice), "gory" (bloody) because of the duel, "Mary" because both Poland and Ireland are Roman Catholic? Demon receives a wound that will leave a scar for decades (252.04-05) and d'Onsky comes off still worse. Cf. TT 100: "a Bloody Ivan (vodka and tomato juice)."
14.34-15.01: an amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement: The New York Times verdict on Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) in The Three Musketeers (1921), directed by Fred Niblo (1874-1948), was this: "He never fences one man if there are six to fence instead, he never leaves a room by the door if there is a window or a roof handy, he never walks around any object (including human beings) if he can jump over them; he scales walls at a bound, carries prostrate damsels over roofs, hurls men one upon another, rides no horse save at a gallop, responds to the call of gallantry at the drop of a hat, and in general makes himself an incomparable D'Artagnan" (August 29, 1921).
Cf. the duel Van imagines with Andrey Vinelander: "He insulted Van on the mauve-painted porch of a Douglas hotel. . . . the duel. . . . Both fell" (531.18-25).
15.02-03: charming Monsieur de Pastrouil: Signficance unknown.
15.03: Colonel St. Alin, a scoundrel: a play on the name of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), whose name does not usually suggest saintliness. Whether or not Stalin exists on Antiterra is a moot point: see 582.19-20. As Alexey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokv-L, May 12, 2013), Stalin also features in “Khan Sosso and his ruthless Sovietnamur Khanate, a super Russia” (341.15-16) and “Uncle Joe” (581.20).
15.04-06: not "of his wounds" . . . but of a gangrenous afterthought . . . : Cf. RLSK 6-7: "Nor is it exact . . . that his father was killed in the duel. . . . he was steadily recovering from the bullet-wound in his chest, when--a full month later--he contracted a cold with which his half-healed lung could not cope."
15.06-07: the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin: Given Demon's attempt to castrate him (16.18-19), the "self-inflicted" seems to be Van's partisan slur.
15.10: married in 1869: as Demon himself will do: see 19.09-11.
15.11-12: now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum: Demon has influence (cf. 13.31-32). Despite her husband's wound (or because of her infidelity?) she manages to give d'Onsky a son: see 523.02-04.
15.13-15: a few days after the duel . . . neither remembered to dupe procreation: Marina arrives in late March 1869. A late March-early April conception means that she is exactly on term with Van, born January 1 1870.
15.14: villa Armina: cf. 8.02. MOTIF: Marina; villa.
15.16: interesnoe polozhenie ("interesting condition"): The literal translation is accurate, but the idiomatic sense is glossed in Darkbloom: "family way."
15.19-23: (Van, I trust your taste . . . . crossed out lightly in her latest wavering hand.): The first explicit evidence of Van as the book's narrator, and of a terminus a quo for his and Ada's deaths. We know now he must live to be at least 95, and she to be 93. We can presume that Ada at least will live slightly longer, since her writing hand has weakened since the first 1965 marginalium. For the final details, see 567.01-03 and 587.03-588.04. We also discover the process of successive revisions explained further at 587.18-23. MOTIF: COMPOSITION: Ada.
15.19-20: are we quite sure we should keep reverting so zestfully to that wicked world which after all may have existed only oneirologically: Presumably, Terra (see Pt. 1 Ch. 3)? Ada has her own private set of values, but where is the allusion to "that wicked world" that has upset her? Is it simply the word "anguished" in "these anguished notes" (15.17)?
15.25: He adored her: MOTIF: adore.
15.26-28: on the condition she dropped her theatrical "career" . . . . He denounced the mediocrity of her gift: Van will have a similar distaste for Ada's acting (425.14-16). MOTIF: actress.
15.29-30: By April 10 it was Aqua who was nursing him: they will marry on April 23 (4.14-16); Demon always hurtles through life.
Alexey Sklyarenko (Nabokv-L, 5 January 2014) notes:
Aqua and her twin sister Marina . . . seem to be linked to Lyubinka and Anninka, the twin sisters in [the] novel Gospoda Golovlyovy ("The Golovlyovs," 1875-80) [by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, 1826-1889]. A niece of Iudushka (“little Judas”) Golovlyov, Anninka is a provincial actress, who leads a dream-like existence. She “undressed in La belle Hélène, appeared drunk in La Prichole, sang all kind of shameless things in the scenes from La grande duchesse de Gerolstein and even regretted that it wasn’t accepted to act on stage ‘la chose’ and ‘l’amour,’ imagining how seductively she would have jerked her waist and how splendidly she would have twirled the tail of her dress.” The reader of Shchedrin’s novel is supposed to know this; still, men in the audience devour with their eyes the curve of Anninka’s naked body hoping that she would explain to them what exactly “la chose” is.// Like Shchedrin’s Anninka, Marina Durmanov is an actress devoid of talent.
15.31-32: "Lucile" . . . Ladore: perhaps named after Chateaubriand's beloved sister Lucile, especially in view of the Chateaubriandesque resonances of Ladore: "My sister, do you still recall / The blue Ladore and Ardis Hall? // Don't you remember any more / That castle bathed by the Ladore? // Ma soeur, te souvient-il encore / Du château que baignait la Dore?" (138.01-06) The entanglement of the two sisters' fates seems to implicate Chateaubriand for the first time. MOTIF: actress; Chateaubriand; Ladore.
15.33-16.25: MOTIF: letters.
15.33: Adieu. Perhaps it is better thus: in fact Marina's and Demon's affair will resume and continue until 1871: see 4.18-19, 25.32-26.25 and 252.19-20.
16.01-04: whatever bliss might have attended our married life . . . one image I shall not forget and will not forgive: Having decided for this reason that he can never marry Marina, he quickly marries Aqua (a week after this letter) "out of spite and pity" (19.12).
16.03-23: one image I shall not forget . . . image repeated in two men's minds: Van too will be obsessed by an image--like this, an imagined, rather than a remembered, visual image--of Ada, after he storms away from Ada and Ardis in a jealous rage (296.30-298.09).
16.05: gone to Boston to see an old aunt--a cliché, but the truth for the nonce: Cf. a similar cliché in Lolita 27: "In the summer of 1939 mon oncle d'Amérique died bequeathing me an annual income of a few thousand dollars. . . . "
16.07: my aunt's ranch near Lolita, Texas: The implication is that in this case the cliché is not the truth; and if anything it may be closer to the Duk Duk Ranch in the Rockies to which Clare Quilty takes Lolita, as Lolita later tells Humbert. Humber reports her explanation:
I just could not imagine (I, Humbert, could not imagine!) what they all did at Duk Duk Ranch. She refused to take part because she loved him [Quilty], and he threw her out.16.07: Lolita, Texas: Darkbloom: "this town exists, or, rather, existed, for it has been renamed, I believe, after the appearance of the notorious novel." In fact the little town of Lolita, Jackson County, half-way between Corpus Christi and Houston, still exists under that name.
"Oh, weird, filthy, fancy things. I mean, he had two girls and two boys, and three or four men, and the idea was for all of us to tangle in the nude while an old woman took movie pictures." (Lolita 276)
The consequence of Demon's discovery of Marina's infidelity will be his marriage to Aqua; the consequence of Aqua's discovery of Demon's repeated infidelities will be her madness and suicide, which she prepares for by accumulating pills, as Humbert had accumulated pills for Lolita. Cf. "a plump purple pill reminding her, she had to laugh, of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale (dear to Ladore schoolgirls) puts to sleep all the sportsmen and their bloodhounds at the opening of the hunting season" (27.32-28.03 and n.). MOTIF: Lolita.
16.08: Early one February morning: Cf. "By the following winter he began to suspect" (12.24).
16.11: I, Demon: cf. "I, Van." (567.01)
16.11: Demon, rattling my crumpled wings: Demon remains more human than his namesake in Lermontov's poem, who really does have wings, and whom Demon evokes here. MOTIF: Demon's wings.
16.12: dorophone: the Antiterran equivalent of the telephone, a hydraulic telephone. Cf. 309.29-30. MOTIF: dorophone; telephone.
16.15: in Eve's state: naked. Cf. "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" (14.04-05). Demon's phrasing echoes what amounts to Marina's first quoted speech in the novel, and shows Marina is not exaggerating when she says "I loved to identify myself with famous women" (38.08-09). MOTIF: Eve.
16.16: penyuar: Darkbloom: "Russ., peignoir."
16.17-19: the man . . . castrate him): d'Onsky. MOTIF: duel.
16.19-21: Now that is the sketch made by a young artist . . . : MOTIF: woman in picture.
16.20-21: young artist in Parma, in the sixteenth century, for the fresco: Parmigianino: see 12.30-13.05n. The finished Adam and Eve are in fact in monochrome fresco. MOTIF: painting location.
16.22: the apple of terrible knowledge: the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God forbids Adam and Eve to eat, but which first Eve, then Adam, eats, ushering in the Fall of Man (Genesis 2.16-3.24). The fruit is conventionally thought of and depicted as an apple. MOTIF: apple; tree of knowledge.
16.22-23: image repeated in two men's minds: Demon's, d'Onsky's (cf. 13.07-27).
16.23-25: Your runaway maid . . . in a brothel . . . mercury: She has been found, presumably, by Demon, a great frequenter of brothels. Blanche, the maid at Ardis, over whom Demon casts his appraising eye, will also "run away" (292, 298) on the day Van leaves Ada and Ardis after a similar unforgettable image imprinted by jealousy, and she too will be found to have venereal disease. For Demon's relations with female domestic staff, see 150.27-29, 374.27. MOTIF: brothel; Demon-female servant; runaway maid; venereal disease; whore.
16.25: mercury: used in the treatment of syphilis until 1909. Cf. 132.11 (where mercury is recommended for the virginal Verger's psoriasis), and 241.19, where Demon complains that the Ardis servants "are not Mercuries." MOTIF: mercury.
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 2