Part One, Chapter 30


I.30 extends what we can call the Other Occupations theme that was established in I.28 (there, Van’s card-sharping while at Chose) and that acts as a repeated counterpoint to Van’s life with Ada. Although Van feels his life is empty and romantically desolate without her—he may make love with many other women, but never loves anyone but Ada—the Other Occupation theme also stresses the multifaceted brilliance of his life even without her, here as a kind of metaphysical acrobat and metaphysical psychologist.

The Other Occupations theme resumes with an unexpected blast in the sudden introduction of Van’s role as Mascodagama. Yet Van’s playing the stage part of a masked acrobat, though a surprise, has been prepared for in detail in the explanation and description of his handwalking at Ada’s twelfth birthday picnic in Ardis the First (81.18-83.05).

Van’s description of his Mascodagama performance stresses not its physical verve but its metaphysical reverberations, the eerie and disturbing quality of his act, its power to evoke the “primordial qualm” (183), presumably the fear of death. (The cadence of the final clause in the following sentence may be the best in Ada: “Van on the stage was performing organically what his figures of speech were to perform later in life—acrobatic wonders that had never been expected from them and which frightened children,” 185). Yet after evoking that qualm in his entrance as Mascodagama, Van then inverts it as he seems to flip over, then proves to be now standing right way up, and kicks away his false head.

Is this “magical reversal” that “‘made the house gasp’” (184) a kind of overcoming death, as implied in his “overcoming gravity” (185)? Nabokov’s comments elsewhere on death and gravity would certainly seem to support such implications: “Innermost in man is the spiritual pleasure derivable from the possibility of outtugging and outrunning gravity, of overcoming or re-enacting the earth’s pull” (SM 301); “the jumper versus gravitation, man versus the grave” (from unpublished lecture notes for Russian survey course, VNA); “Deep in the human mind, the concept of dying is synonymous with that of leaving the earth. To escape its gravity means to transcend the grave” (“Lance,” SoVN 636). Or as Van himself puts it, his Mascodagama role is “a triumph, in a sense, over the ardis of time” (185), over time’s arrow (ardis, the point of an arrow) pointing apparently inexorably onward and toward death. Just as Van as Mascodagama seems to deny the difference between up and down in space, he also seems to deny the difference between forward and back in time. Implicitly, the future need not point to loss or toward increasing distance from the past.


Throughout Ada, the Other Occupations theme serves to counterpoint with story of Van’s love for Ada, but within I.30 itself the research theme runs in counterpoint with the Mascodagama theme: Van’s work as a kind of philosophical psychologist to explore whether insanity offers any glimpse into immortality. Nabokov has sounded the theme himself in a fictional vein, in the insanity of Falter in the story “Ultima Thule,” and perhaps in Krug’s final madness in Bend Sinister, where Krug goes insane as he becomes able to see his own maker.

On Earth the Society for Psychical Research has engaged in attempts to explore connections between the psychological and the philosophical. The most important figure to straddle both philosophy and psychology, once it emerged as a discipline, has been William James (1842-1910), president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1894 and 1895, and in some ways a model for Nabokov’s invention of Van. For the members of the Society for Psychical Research the overlapping of psychology and metaphysics had no connection with cosmology, but on Antiterra, where belief in Terra seems connected with insanity, and religion, and the notion of a Next World (20.30), Van’s studies naturally include Terra. His dissertation is to be called “Terra: Eremitic Reality or Collective Dream?”; his earlier essay was “on Insanity and Eternal Life” (186), two topics closely linked in Terra; and his key research subjects are “three . . . cosmologists” (182).

In pursuing his research specialization Van clearly pays homage to the woman who brought him up as his mother, Aqua, who had been both frequently insane and an ardent believer in Terra (“her real destination was Terra the Fair and thither she trusted she would fly on libellula long wings when she died,” 20). In his role as Mascodagama, the other focus of I.30, Van owes as much to his father, Demon. It had been Demon’s wrestling master, King Wing, who imparted to Van the secrets of handwalking; the son who in his black burka overcomes gravity also owes something to the Demon of the black cape and “crumpled wings” (16) and “volitations” (171.12), who also tries to defeat the ardis of time in his own way by taking on a succession of ever younger mistresses.

Van’s work as a psychologist of the insane will bear strange fruit in his novel, Letters from Terra (1891), which he completes at Chose instead of his dissertation (342.19-20). In writing it, the political aspect of Terra gave Van “the least trouble, presenting as it did a mosaic of painstakingly collated notes from his own reports on the ‘transcendental delirium’ of his patients” (340). Indeed although I.30 stresses the heterogeneity of Van’s life—even if, ultimately, Ada will prove to have provided the central pattern of his whole existence—in the striking disparity between Van as wildly successful variety artist and as researcher and star student, there have been strange convergences despite the chapter’s divergent directions. If “To escape [the earth’s—or Antiterra’s] gravity means to transcend the grave” (SoVN 636), Van’s “overcoming gravity” or effecting “a triumph, in a sense, over the ardis of time” (185) in a sense matches mad Aqua expecting to fly to Terra the Fair when she died. Moreover, Nabokov slyly hints at the link between the chapter’s two themes as he introduces the Mascodagama theme in the opening line of I.30 via “an unsigned editorial in The Ranter” (181). “Ranter,” apart from its comic value as the name for a newspaper, and an echo of Cambridge’s Granta, is an anagram of “Terran” and linked to the cosmologist “Rattner on Terra” (230). Van’s last attempt at handwalking, a failure (323) thanks to the wound he has sustained in his duel, will occur in the apartment where he first conceives of writing Letters from Terra (324). And Van’s worldwide fame as Mascodagama inverts itself in the almost total neglect of Letters from Terra on its first publication, then inverts itself again, like Van as Mascodagama, in the “few years of world fame” (582) he earns thanks to the world-wide success of the film version of Letters from Terra half a century later.

Van’s “triumph, in a sense, over the ardis of time” will seem to be reversed, reversed again right way up, and reversed again in Ardis the Second: reversed in Ardis the Second’s apparent assertion of the implacable advance of time (Van returning to Ardis to see Percy de Prey hold Ada’s hand after kissing it and then kissing it again, 189); re-reversed in the return from the picnic on Ada’s sixteenth birthday, with Van seated under twelve-year-old Lucette on the charabanc as he had been under twelve-year-old Ada in 1884, in “the golden flood of swelling joy . . . that moment of total unhappiness, the complete eclipse of the piercing and preying ache” (281); and ultimately reversed again, in the discovery of Ada’s infidelity that brings Ardis the Second to a catastrophic and irreversible close, and in Lucette’s later suicide that will cast an ironic reflection back on to Ardis the Second and that charabanc ride.

We first see Van handwalking at Ardis the First, during the picnic on Ada’s twelfth birthday. Ada bursts “into tears at the height of Van’s performance” (83.04-05) and on the return from the picnic the children enjoy their first sustained bodily contact; the next day, in Ada’s brusque dismissal of Greg Erminin, she gives the first clear signs that her heart is set on Van. Let me suggest a context for Van’s handwalking that remains highly relevant in his role as Mascodagama.

In many species males engage in displays of body or behavior to impress the females who select from the available suitors. The most famous case is the peacock, whose feathers Darwin explained through the principle of sexual selection (The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871), although birds of paradise (which feature later in Ada) are also extraordinary avian examples of sexual selection. The most famous male behavioral display is that of the bowerbird, which constructs immense architecturally elaborate nests to impress potential partners—perhaps not unlike Eric Veen’s adolescent Villa Venus fantasy and the architectural extravaganza of its fulfilment. Another remarkable group of sexually selected behaviors in birds are those, like grouse and some birds of paradise, that lek, that gather together to parade their desirability in dance or other display. At Ada’s twelfth-birthday picnic, Greg can do no better than “put on his sister’s blue skirt, hat and glasses, all of which transformed him into a very sick, mentally retarded Grace; and Van walked on his hands” (81). The contrast between the two boys then, and the next day, when Greg visits to offer Ada his pony, only to be spurned, confirms that Van’s walking on his hands has been a kind of male display of the sort that human males do indulge in more intensely as their testosterone levels rise in puberty. Ada has responded to Van’s display in a way akin to that of female grouse, birds of paradise or peahens. And in I.30, the connection between Van’s handwalking and a peacock-like sexual display becomes evident when Van records “Neither was the sheer physical pleasure of maniambulation a negligible factor, and the peacock blotches with which the carpet stained the palms of his hands during his gloveless dance routine seemed to be the reflections of a richly colored nether world that he had been the first to discover.” (185) The next sentence introduces Rita, the Crimean cabaret dancer to whom Van, all strutting male, proposes an assignation.

The theme of male competition for females, and the variety of forms it takes, comes to the fore at the second picnic for Ada’s birthday that Van attends, in 1888, when Ada turns sixteen. Greg, arriving on a “splendid new black Silentium motorcycle” (268), seems more of a man this time, and this kind of display of engine power, and the male obsession with steeds and carriages, motorcycles and cars, can indeed be explained in terms of Darwinian sexual selection. Nevertheless, and despite his eagerness to serve her, Greg stirs as little interest in Ada as ever. But then a real rival for Van arrives, Percy de Prey, gliding in in his “steel-gray convertible” (270) which easily trumps Greg’s motorcycle: that mysterious group of “a dozen elderly townsmen” (268) even crowd close to admire the machine. Percy promptly offers a challenge to Van—and a vexation to Ada, who had hoped to keep these two lovers apart. Drunk and belligerently jealous of Ada’s relationship with Van, which he has heard about in graphic detail via Blanche’s sister Madelon (299.07-10),

Count Percy de Prey turned to Ivan Demianovich Veen:
“I’m told you like abnormal positions?”
The half-question was half-mockingly put. Van looked through his raised lunel at the honeyed sun.
“Meaning what?” he enquired.
“Well—that walking-on-your-hands trick. One of your aunt’s servants is the sister of one of our servants and two pretty gossips form a dangerous team” (laughing). “The legend has it that you do it all day long, in every corner, congratulations!” (bowing).
Van replied: “The legend makes too much of my specialty. Actually, I practice it for a few minutes every other night, don’t I, Ada?” (looking around for her). “May I give you, Count, some more of the mouse-and-cat—a poor pun, but mine.” (271)

Cat-and-mouse fashion, Percy all but lets Van know he knows of Van’s relations with Ada. Note that Percy’s provoking “abnormal positions” echoes “abnormal position” (82) in the description of Van’s handwalking at Ada’s twelfth-birthday party.

And note too that Van has learned how to handwalk from Demon’s wrestling master, King Wing. There are two forms of sexual selection: intersexual competition, where females choose males according to their attributes (plumage, their performance in a lekking dance, or perhaps accouterments like motorcycles or convertibles), and intrasexual competition, where males battle it out between themselves so that the victor can have access to the females—the explanation for the enormous growth of stags’ horns or stag beetles’ armature, or for the huge disparity in size between male and female sea-elephants, or, for that matter, even the much smaller disparity between human males and females, the greater bodily bulk and especially upper-body strength of males as opposed to females. (It is no accident that the sentence before Van’s first handwalking, at Ada’s twelfth-birthday picnic, draws attention to “the handsome boy’s abnormally developed deltoids,” 82.)

Van and Percy soon engage in direct combat (preceded just an instant earlier by Percy peeing mightily into the brook (274): pissing contests are another recognized, and of course rather absurd, form of indirect male-male competition that have indeed come to designate any pointless argument):

Percy was three years older, and a score of kilograms heavier than Van, but the latter had handled even burlier brutes with ease. Almost at once the Count’s bursting face was trapped in the crook of Van’s arm. The grunting Count toured the turf in a hunched-up stagger. He freed one scarlet ear, was re-trapped, was tripped and collapsed under Van, who instantly put him “on his omoplates,” na lopatki, as King Wing used to say in his carpet jargon. Percy lay panting like a dying gladiator, both shoulder blades pressed to the ground by his tormentor, whose thumbs now started to manipulate horribly that heaving thorax. Percy with a sudden bellow of pain intimated he had had enough. Van requested a more articulate expression of surrender, and got it. Greg, fearing Van had not caught the muttered plea for mercy, repeated it in the third person interpretative. Van released the unfortunate Count, whereupon he sat up, spitting, palpating his throat, rearranging the rumpled shirt around his husky torso and asking Greg in a husky voice to find a missing cufflink. (275)

The reference to King Wing, under whose tuition Van has learned his expert wrestling technique, confirms the link between the handwalking as a sexual display at the twelfth-birthday picnic and this fight between the two key rivals for Ada, with the comical contrast of Greg as the third, hopelessly-outclassed, would-be suitor.

For the moment, Van has proven victor, and on the return trip from the picnic site, with Lucette at twelve perched on his lap, as Ada at twelve had been on the return trip from the 1884 picnic, he can feel a sense of “triumph . . . over the ardis of time” (185) in “that moment of total happiness, the complete eclipse of the piercing and preying ache” (281). That feeling of blissful security, despite Percy’s rattling him earlier, proves an illusion, as he learns two days later when Blanche tells him Ada has been unfaithful first with Philip Rack and then with Percy. Because Percy has already set off to serve in the Crimean War, he manages to escape Van’s wrath, while Van himself sustains a wound in the duel that he provokes in the overflow of his anger toward Rack and de Prey. That wound, near his left armpit, makes it impossible for him to handwalk again (cf. Johnson 55-56 on the “Last Tango”: “It is Van’s last performance for he will soon be wounded in a duel and never again dance on his hands”), as if to confirm, despite his prowess as Mascodagama, that Ardis the Second has offered no triumph over the ardis of time, or as if to say that the youthful male ebullience of his role as Mascodagama role, based in part on the confidence his love for Ada has given him, will never return.


Van cannot chase after Percy because as soon as he has recovered from his duel with the incidental Captain Tapper, he hears that Percy has died in the war—after, as Van later learns, being “shot in the thigh during a skirmish with Khazar guerrillas in a ravine near Chew-Foot-Calais, as the American troops pronounced Chufutkale,’ the name of a fortified rock” (319). Van relishes recounting the details of Percy’s death, the nearest surrogate he can have for the pleasure of killing his rival in a duel. The scene of Percy’s death is itself anticipated at the end of I.30, in Rita, the Crimean cabaret dancer,a pretty Karaite from Chufut Kale, where, she nostalgically said, the Crimean cornel, kizil’, bloomed yellow among the arid rocks.” (185) The seemingly irrelevant reference to Chufut Kale in I.30 foreshadows Percy de Prey’s shattering Van’s happiness with Ada at Ardis the Second, and Van’s discovery that, unlike his Mascodagama role, his second summer with Ada will not prove a triumph over time and loss.

Why does Nabokov have Rita mention “the Crimean cornel, kizil’”? Because, surely, that plant’s botanical name is Cornus mascula, an ironic undercutting of the hypertrophied masculinity of Van’s Mascodagama routine. Van proposes an assignation with Rita, despite knowing she is married. This is the first occasion in Ada on which Van propositions a married woman; the last time in the novel he does so occurs when he meets his former lover Cordula de Prey (Percy de Prey’s cousin), now Cordula Tobak:

“Now look; it may sound silly and insolent but I have an urgent request. Will you cooperate with me in cornuting your husband? It’s a must!”
“Really, Van!” exclaimed angry Cordula. “You go a bit far. I’m a happy wife. My Tobachok adores me. We’d have ten children by now if I’d not been careful with him and others.” (456.29-457.01)

Despite the protest for form’s sake, Cordula, unlike Rita, soon agrees. Note too that she answers Van’s proposition by saying “My Tobachok adores me,” where Rita has answered him by saying “she adored her husband” (185). And note Van’s verb: cornute, “place horns on, cuckold.” Van has proposed to Rita, if not in so many words, that she cooperate with him in cornuting her husband, but the Cornus mascula Rita recalls blooming in Chufut Kale foreshadows Percy de Prey’s death in Chufut Kale after Percy has in effect cornuted Van and locked horns with him at the 1888 picnic.

Rita is Van’s partner in his last number on his last tour as Mascodagama. We do not hear of his handwalking again until Percy’s challenge (“I’m told you like abnormal positions. . . . that walking-on-your hands trick,” 271) and we hear of it only once more, when Van sprawls onto the floor as he attempts it again after his duel with Tapper, the substitute for the duel he would have had otherwise with Percy. Embedded in Van’s “triumph . . . over the ardis of time” as Mascodagama, in other words, are clear signals that Ardis the Second will ultimately affirm not triumph but time’s doomed directionality.

“Mascodagama” is such a striking pseudonym that the very name not only swiftly stirs a smile but also, just as swiftly, raises an eyebrow. Why has Nabokov chosen this name? Van may be masked in his role as Mascodagama, but why this echo, and yet this distortion, of “Vasco da Gama”?

I have suggested that Van’s handwalking is a kind of masculine display behavior, and the mention of Cornus mascula in association with Rita, and Van’s predatory maleness toward her, suggests that “masculine” is one intended overtone of the first syllable of Mascodagama. Cornus mascula looks as if it means “male horn”; in fact, cornus is the Latin for cornel tree, so-called by the Romans because its wood seemed as hard as horn (Latin cornu). Van as strutting Mascodagama seems all horny male; but as the anticipation of Percy de Prey suggests, he will himself prove to be a male enhorned.

Just before Van meets Cordula and propositions her for the last time,

With a surge of delight he saw Cordula in a tight scarlet skirt bending with baby words of comfort over two unhappy poodlets attached to the waiting-post of a sausage shop. Van stroked her with his finger-tips, and as she straightened up indignantly and turned around (indignation instantly replaced by gay recognition), he quoted the stale but appropriate lines he had known since the days his schoolmates annoyed him with them:

The Veens speak only to Tobaks
But Tobaks speak only to dogs. (456)

The lines that Van recalls work as a rhyme only in Russian (s Tobakymi and s sobakimi), but actually echo a famous English ditty, “On the Aristocracy of Harvard,” by John Collins Bossidy (1860-1928):

And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.

Just as the lines Van recalls reverse “God” into “dog,” so Cordula’s married surname, Tobak, reverses the letters of “Cabot,” the surname of John Cabot (the anglicized form of Giovanni Caboto, c. 1450-c. 1498), widely credited as the first European to discover North America, despite the earlier claim of Leif Ericson.

Ada’s married surname will be Vinelander, after the name of “Vinland” given by Leif Ericson to what seems to have been the first European settlement on North America, about 1003. Nabokov plainly heard about the Vinland map, which stirred up widespread notice when it first surfaced in 1957 and received another round of publicity in a conference and a lavish book publication in 1965. Meanwhile, in 1960, archaeological evidence had uncovered the first signs of a Norse settlement in North America at L’Anse aux Meadows, on the northern tip of Newfoundland. Ada marries Andrey Vinelander at a place called Agony in Tierra del Fuego (481), as if in pointed rejoinder to her lurid invitation to travel with Van “to the burning tip of Patagonia, Captain Grant’s Horn, a Villa in Verna, my jewel, my agony” (334). Her overwrought letter links the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn with Jules Verne’s sailor-explorer Captain Grant (in Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, 1867-68) to amplify still more the explorer theme.

Van happily cornutes Andrey Vinelander, as he does Ivan Tobak. And as Mascodagama, he also propositions Rita, only to be turned down. But as we have seen Rita’s reminiscence of Chufut Kale also serves as an advance warning of Percy de Prey, who in a sense cornutes Van at Ardis the Second and decisively ensures that Van’s return to Ardis is no “triumph,” just as Andrey Vinelander, despite being cornuted by Van, has himself ousted Van from his expected role as Ada’s consort. And the story of the “Last Tango” to which Van dances with Rita on his last tour as Mascodagama—the story of a man betrayed by his seemingly perfect partner, and his murderously jealous response—anticipates Van’s return to Ardis, just a page later, only to see Percy de Prey repeatedly kissing Ada’s hand, and Van’s exit from Ardis, after wrestling fiercely with Percy, and his gleefully reporting Percy’s killing, as if by proxy, at “Chufutkale.”

I have suggested that Van’s role as Mascodagama is a kind of male display. Males indeed do display more than females in most species, because males stand to gain more (they can father many offspring if picked by many females) and lose more (they can fail to earn any offspring if they are not picked by any females), whereas females (especially mammalian females) tend to have a much narrower range of possible reproductive outcomes: they can, after all, be pregnant only so many times, whereas males can inseminate as many females as they can win over (in a species where males display to females) or as they can command (in a species where males can oust other males from access to their females). For the same reason, in humans, males are more disposed to display (in, for instance, artistic or sporting endeavors), and to fight one another (individually, or in warfare, for the chance of signal success in terms of spoils, access to women, or renown), and to travel widely (polygamous males are much more prone to roam territorially than monogamous males in the same genus). Explorers therefore are the very type of male sexual adventurousness. But Van as Mascodagama does not, after all, win over Rita, and Rita signals, via the first sounding of the name Chufut Kale, that Percy, “a crack Rugger player, a cracker of country girls” (273), who has displayed his silver-grey convertible, challenged and fought Van at the 1888 picnic, and sailed off to a remote war that leads to his death at Chufut Kale, has also roamed sexually enough to have cornuted Van.


Rita also indicates by much more direct routes the other way Ardis the Second proves far from a triumph over the ardis of time, however much it seems so to Van with Lucette on his lap on the return journey from the Ardis the Second picnic. Rita occupies just over half a paragraph of Ada, but Nabokov connects her with Lucette in multiple ways, even apart from the explicit comment that she “bore an odd resemblance to Lucette as she was to look ten years later” (185). (Since this is 1887, when Lucette is aged eleven, that means Rita looks oddly like Lucette at twenty-one, her age at her suicide.) Rita is “fragile, red-haired”, like emphatically red-haired Lucette, whose “fragile shoulders” shake “unbearably” (369) as she sobs at the strain of her meeting with Van in 1892. Lucette, whose fate is first adumbrated through the yellow flower, the souci d’eau (as Carolyn Kunin notes, itself a play on “suicide”: Nabokv-L, 21 September 2003) in I.10 (“That yellow flower . . . souci d’eau . . . Flowers into bloomers,” 63-64), links again with Rita’s reminiscence of the “Crimean cornel” that “bloomed yellow among the arid rocks” (185). Rita’s attire as Van’s dancing partner, her “very short scintillating frock cut very low on the back” (185), also prefigures Lucette’s on her last night alive, her last attempt to win Van—“Lucette, looking even more naked in her short evening frock than she had in her ‘bickny’” (484)—and the consequence of her failure to win him over: “and tried to think up something amusing, harmless, and scintillating to say in a suicide note” (492: “scintillating” occurs nowhere else in Ada).

In Ardis the Second

Ada thought up a plan that was not simple, was not clever, and moreover worked the wrong way. Perhaps she did it on purpose. (Strike out, strike out, please, Van.) The idea was to have Van fool Lucette by petting her in Ada’s presence, while kissing Ada at the same time, and by caressing and kissing Lucette when Ada was away in the woods (“in the woods,” “botanizing”). This, Ada affirmed, would achieve two ends—assuage the pubescent child’s jealousy and act as an alibi in case she caught them in the middle of a more ambiguous romp.

The three of them cuddled and cosseted so frequently and so thoroughly. . . (213)

Van ends this chapter softly sighing: “This summer is so much sadder than the other” (214). He does not yet know how much sadder. In retrospect he and we can see “in the woods” and “botanizing” as Ada’s empty alibis while she is in fact away making love to Percy. Since Ada’s ploy also helps confuse Lucette’s sexual development and entrench her doting on Van, and therefore contributes to Lucette’s suicide, this passage encapsulates the two painful ways in which Ardis the Second proves anything but the “triumph . . . over the ardis of time” it seems at its best to Van. Lucette aboard the Tobakoff prepares “to ardis into the amber” of the shipboard swimming pool (479), and, Van notes, she is “a divine diver” (480). But in the course of that night, knowing she has failed to win him over, despite all her wiles, she fills herself with soporifics and dives from the Tobakoff into the Atlantic, making “hardly a splash through the wave that humped to meet her” (493), and drowns.


Van does not mention Ada once in I.30. His role as Mascodagama, interspersed with his research into insanity and eternity, seems to emphasize only how buoyant and bullish his life can be without Ada. In the final paragraph of the chapter, his college tutor has told Van “that if he insisted on becoming a variety artist he would be sent down” (186). The last sentence of the chapter responds: “Van was not quite sure yet what compromise pride and prudence might arrive at, when he left for America early in June, 1888.” That sentence prepares for the next, the first sentence of I.31 and of Ardis the Second (“Van revisited Ardis Hall in 1888”) without itself pointing to Ardis or Ada. But Van will never have to decide whether or not to continue as Mascodagama, for events at Ardis the Second, especially his discovery of Ada’s infidelity with Percy de Prey and Philip Rack, will precipitate his angry flight from Ardis, the duel with a stranger who merely happens to stand in the way of his anger, the wound in his chest that will mean he can never handwalk again, and the convalescence during which he will write, as a kind of ironic expression of his bitter distance from Ada, not his dissertation on Terra but his novel Letters from Terra.

I.30, in other words, while it leads up to but apparently not at all into Ardis the Second, actually anticipates the degree to which, unlike Van’s role as Mascodagama, Ardis revisited is not “a triumph . . . over the ardis of time.” In his male display as Mascodagama, Van has masculinized the name of a famous discoverer, but what he discovers about the other male who has competed with him over access to Ada makes the role of discovery far bitterer than in his moments of ebullience on stage.

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