Part 1 Chapter 38


On the occasion of Emeritus Professor Stephen Jan Parker’s final issue as editor of The Nabokovian, I must pay tribute to his vision and energy in founding the journal in 1978 and to his regularity of publication in the 35 years since. He published five contributions from me in the inaugural issue of The Vladimir Nabokov Research Newsletter, an important break for a young graduate student, and he has been an understanding and accommodating host and prompter of these “Annotations to Ada” ever since I began compiling them twenty years ago. Begun the year after Vladimir Nabokov himself died, The Nabokovian has outlived Véra and Dmitri Nabokov. May Nabokovians still alive live long, and The Nabokovian even longer.


Part 1 Chapter 38, the longest chapter in Ada, is the first (and, as it will prove, the only) chapter with hero and heroine and their parents more or less together on stage. It makes the most of the resulting ironies. Marina and Demon think they harbor secrets from their children, for they cannot imagine Van and Ada know that they are their children, rather than Van’s being the son of Demon and Aqua, and Ada’s being the daughter of Dan and Marina. Nor can they imagine the secret that Van and Ada harbor—that they are lovers—or suspect or imagine that they could be so if they knew the “secret” of their siblinghood.

The ostensible conviviality of a family dinner, linking two officially distinct sets of parents and children, related both by cousinage (Marina is Demon’s cousin, and Van Ada’s) and by marriage (Marina’s is Demon’s sister-in-law), masks the tensions between them: between Marina and Demon, because their once passionate romance has forever died; and between Van and Ada, on the one hand, because their passionate romance remains as alive as ever, and, on the other, their parents, whom they know they must not let know of their love, at the risk of having it killed by parental fiat. Family reunions often swarm with secrets and amplify the differences complicating family resemblances. Here, in the only family reunion in this ironically subtitled Family Chronicle, Van as narrator notices the gulf between Marina and Demon, but the distance between them can easily be crossed by “the trivial patter” (258), while the weighty secrets and the danger involved in the very fact that they are all a family pervade every moment. Marina remains anxious to guard the secret of the children’s true parentage, while Demon, leering toward Ada and loosened by drink, almost seems to be about to give the game away.

Although operatic in itself, Marina and Demon’s romance, a rapid preplay of the story of Van and Ada, remained highly compressed in Part I Chapters 1-3, the overture to Ada’s main opera. Here in I.38 many of the thoughts Van imagines his mother and father entertaining as they face each other help to reestablish and expatiate on the story of the prequel, especially for readers who may not have been able to assimilate all its information at once.

But if that confirms for readers the comic note in the strain of Marina and Demon’s efforts to suppress a past Van and Ada have already discovered, it also adds to the comedy of the chapter’s close. The scene may have been tense, even as Demon wobbled on the brink of indiscretion, but Ada, wearing no panties throughout, shows how relaxed she and Van can be, in the face of their parents’ secret, when they start to make love again almost as soon as Demon leaves.

In its unusual family dynamics, this scene has no precedent in fiction. But families, or hosts and guests, are always sharing meals in life and in art. In one sense this is just another family dinner, a showcase of Russian household fare, a display of privilege. It echoes other novelistic dinner scenes, especially in Proust, with their rich food and snobbish air, their richer talk and memorial overlays. Ada is a novel about appetite, mostly sexual, but also literal, and this scene is the most expansive and sumptuous instance, in culinary terms, of the opulence and sensuality of the novel—not least in its comically phallic asparagus.


236.01-02: In mid-July Uncle Dan took Lucette to Kaluga . . . for five days: Signaled at 226.33-34: the children’s last Flavita game took place “shortly before Lucette’s visit to town where she spent a few days with her father in mid-July, 1888.” Nabokov wants the dinner with Demon to focus on the core of the incestuous family: Van and Ada and their biological parents.

236.01: Kaluga: [Kaluga] MOTIF: -uga.

236.02: Belle and French: Cf. 91.02: “ ‘And Belle’ (Lucette’s name for her governess). . . . ” Since Mlle Larivière is (Canady) French, there is a kind of doubling in “Belle and French,” although French is the surname of Marina’s maid (114.14).

236.02-03: The Lyaskan Ballet: Cf. 11.23-25: “a ballet company whose services Scotty had engaged, bringing the Russians all the way . . . from Belokonsk, Western Estoty” (from an Antiterran equivalent of Whitehorse, in the Yukon, and therefore almost Alaskan). MOTIF: Lyaska.

236.03: a German circus: Sounds reminiscent of the Wagnerian “thunderous German musical dramas with giants and magicians and a defecating white horse” (172.02-04).

236.03-05: and no child would want to miss the schoolgirls’ field-hockey and swimming matches which old Dan, a child at heart, attended religiously: “And no child would want to miss” seems to refer to Lucette, until we comically alight on “old Dan, a child at heart.” But Dan’s interest in the schoolgirls is hardly childish or religious: cf. Lucette’s later report on Dan: “He belonged to the silent-explorer type. Once he took me to a girls’ hockey match and I had to warn him I’d yell for help if he didn’t call off the search” (466.05-07).

236.06-07: a series of “tests” at the Tarus Hospital: The scare quotes around “tests” may reflect the fact that Russian tarusa means “nonsense.”

236.07: the Tarus Hospital: Cf. Aqua’s asylum or sanatorium, “a luxurious ‘sanastoria’ at Centaur, Arizona’ (26.28), “The astorium in St. Taurus, or whatever it was called” (27.19-20). MOTIF: centaur.

236.07-08: to settle what caused her weight and temperature to fluctuate so abnormally: Cf. her impending “delirium during a severe streptococcal ague in September, 1888” (223.15-16); on Van’s first glimpse of her at Ardis in 1884, “she had had pneumonia in spring and was still veiled by an odd air of remoteness that children . . . retain for some time after brushing through death”(36.27-30).

236.11: a Kaluga laywer: Referred to inexplicitly at 236.20 as “Miller,” and identified at 261.23-25 as Demon’s “old friend Norman Miller.” MOTIF: -uga.

236.13-14: the sale of some “blue” (peat-bog) land which belonged to both cousins: This may or may not be part of the “estate he had, up north on Lake Kitezh. . . . which he [Dan] owned jointly with his cousin [Demon]” (5.08-13), or could instead be “the Ladore pastures, which are utterly mucked up and should be got rid of gradually” (241.30-31). The proposed sale of peat-bog by the two Veen cousins plays on veen as Dutch for “peat, bog,” on the family ancestry from the Temnosiniy line, “a millennium-old name that meant in Russian ‘dark blue’” (9.17-18), and on Marina as “possessed” by both Dan and Demon at different times but no longer loved by either. MOTIF: peat, bog; Veen.

236.15-18: As usually happened with Dan’s most carefully worked-out plans, something misfired . . . aerogrammed: Cf. especially and pointedly, his plans for “a triple trip round the globe,” broken off by “an aerocable from Marina . . . telling him she would marry him upon his return to America” (5.24-33); and also 45.31-34, where he also plans to meet a professional at Ardis (an architect to discuss “an ‘artistic’ swimming pool”) but cannot because of a flu; 79.18-19, where Dan fails to turn up to Ada’s twelfth birthday picnic because he has missed the morning train from town; 84.10-29: Dan’s present for Ada. MOTIF: Dan’s plans.

236.18: aerogrammed: An Antiterran “aerocable” (see 5.29), not the blue-paper folding letter-envelope for airmail purposes known on Earth as an “aerogram.” MOTIF: technology.

236.20: Miller: the Kaluga lawyer: see 236.11 and n.

237.01-02: kontretan (Marina’s humorous term for a not necessarily nasty surprise): Darkbloom: “Russian mispronunciation of contretemps.” Rivers and Walker 284: “Contretemps means ‘mishap’ or ‘untoward event’ in French.” MOTIF: Marina’s Russian French.

237.11: Marina, in the late Eighteen-Nineties, in her miserable dotage: By this time she would be in her mid-fifties (she dies at 56 in 1900). Cf. 109.01-02: “in what Van called their dot-dot-dotage.”

237.13: about dead Demon’s “crimes”: In fact Demon does not die until 1905, after Marina. A mistake? A metaphor (“dead to her”?). Cf. Marina on “your father . . . , an irresistible and hateful man” (234.07-08).

237.14: his adoration for his father: Cf. Van, at the end of this scene, 263.22: “And yet I adore him.” MOTIF: adore.

237.16-19: No accursed generalizer . . . would be able to explain . . . the individual vagaries: Echoes VN’s frequent denunciations of generalizations: “let us not forget that hell is paved with glib generalizations: the unique feature defeats the would-be lumper” (“Faint Rose, or the Life of an Artist who Lived in an Ivory Tower,” review of John Rothenstein, Life and Death of Conder, New York Sun, January 21, 1941, p. 11); “the main delight of the creative mind is the sway accorded to a seemingly incongruous detail over a seemingly dominant generalization” (LL 374).

237.18-19: revenge for all the detractions my lifework has met with: The dismissals of his Letters from Terra, which he himself dismisses (338-45)? Reactions to his role as a “bellicose” “polemicist” (578) in the fields of psychology and philosophy? Cf. 579.01: “Ada, who resented the insufficiency of her brother’s fame. . . . ”

237.18-20: to explain . . . the individual vagaries evolved: Cf. Letters from Terra as “a compendium of certain inexplicably correlated vagaries observed by him in mental patients” (338.13-14).

237.23-30: When had Demon . . . April 23, 1884. . . . Twice in the summer of 1885. . . . A dinner in 1886. . . . In 1887 for a few days: Cf. the catechistic questions asked and exact answers provided in Chapter 17 (“Ithaca”) of Ulysses: “Had Bloom discussed similar subjects during nocturnal perambulations in the past? In 1884 with Owen Goldberg and Cecil Turnbull at night on public thoroughfares. . . . In 1885 with Percy Apjohn in the evenings. . . . In 1886 occasionally with casual acquaintances. . . . In 1888 frequently. . . ” Cf. also the differently structured question-and-answer lists at 82.32-83.05; later in this same chapter, at 253.25-31 and 258.01-05; 274.30-33; and 475.23-24.

237.23-24: April 23, 1884 (the day Van’s first summer stay there had been suggested . . . ): April 23 had been Demon’s wedding anniversary with Aqua, who had committed suicide the previous summer, writing to Van in her suicide note about “Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt” (29.11-12). The April 23 suggestion at Ardis that Van should come for the summer would therefore seem to be in part a commemoration of Aqua. MOTIF: April 23.

237.25-27: in the summer of 1885 (while Van was climbing mountains in the Western states, and the Veen girls were in Europe): Van had developed a taste for “the many-colored mountains” “in the West” in 1880 (171.04). The thousands of miles between Van and Ada explains why Van did not seek her out at Ardis in the summer following his ecstatic 1884 stay.

237.27-28: A dinner in 1886, in June or July (where was Van?): He was at Chose in England, until after sailing back across the Atlantic he reached his father’s Manhattan home on July 21st (178.01-08) and promptly met up with Ada for their brief Forest Fork tryst.

237.28-29: Ada was botanizing with a German woman in Estotia or California: The German woman is otherwise unidentified; Ada has botanized in California in February 1884 (8.24-26). MOTIF: Ada's botany.

237.29-30: Van was whoring in Chose: In his first experience as a member of the Villa Venus Club, “an Eden” (353.16) where he is attended by “Three Egyptian squaws” (353.17). MOTIF: whore.

237.32: long dallied with Ada in the comfortable nursery: Usually out of bounds for their dalliances, because of the watchful eyes of Lucette and Mlle Larivière; the only recorded instance of their love-making here, although this may be echoed at the end of the novel, in a stylized way, in the “little book in the Ardis Hall nursery . . . two people in one bed” (588.02-04).

238.06: wiping his monocle: Cf. 12.28: “Demon screwed in his monocle.” MOTIF: demon's monocle.

238.06-07: zamshinka (“shammy”): Cf. 149.20-23: “Van’s father . . . was a famous ‘camler’ (camel driver—shamoes having been imported recently? No, ‘gambler’).” Perhaps with a hint of “sham,” given his bluff at cards, his dyed hair, the “camouflage” of 238.12, and more.

238.07-08: his “prebrandial” brandy (an ancient quip): On “preprandial” drink: in other words, he will have at least two brandies before dinner. Cf. 4.27-28: Demon “also liked middle-aged puns.” See also 238.11-12 and n.

238.08-09: hair . . . raven black, . . . teeth . . . hound-white: The raven is often associated with death, and hounds with hell (“the hound of hell,” or at 438.23-24, “to the hell curs, k chertyam sobach’im”) MOTIF: black-white.

238.08: dyed a raven black: His society nickname is of course “Raven Veen” (4.24). In the previous chapter Van describes Ada (unnamed) as having “raven black hair” (233.26). Cf. Demon’s self-description a couple of minutes later at 240.10: “an aging man with shoe-shined hair.” MOTIF: Demon’s dye; Raven.

238.11-12: the radiant love which Van reciprocated, and which both vainly tried to camouflage with habitual pleasantry: In SM VN talks of his own bond with his father: “Our relationship was marked by that habitual exchange of homespun nonsense, comically garbled words, proposed imitations of supposed intonations, and all those private jokes which is the secret code of happy families” (SM 191).

238.15: Très Américain: Fr. “Very American.” Cf. Dan’s comment to Van, “Ménagez vos américanismes” (127.08), and Lucette’s curtseying “with the wicks of her sad mouth, à l’Américaine” (382.26-27).

238.15: Schoolyard: The inference that Demon and Van greeted each other thus on Demon’s visits to Riverlane is confirmed in Ardeur 200: “On est à Riverlane School” (“We are at Riverlane School”).

238.16: Always gloves: Even in high summer: “Demon pulled on his gloves and sped away” (263.07-08). Cf. Van with his “gloved hand” on his way to Ardis at 33.28.

238.16-17: no overcoat ever: But Demon does wear a raincloak in 1893, at 433.31.

238.17-18: “Want to go to the “bathroom,” Father? My land, sweet land: Van recalls the polite request he has been instructed to greet visitors with at Riverlane (238.23-24: “the immediate dutiful offer of the W.C.”). He also muses on the Americanism of “bathroom” (for “toilet”), via this echo of “God bless America, Land that I love . . . God bless America, My home sweet home” in the last verse of “God Bless America.”

238.21-22: “No thanks, I had my bath this morning.” (Quick sigh acknowledging the passage of time: Another recurrent joke from Demon in response to the echo of Van’s pro forma questions at Riverlane and their shared sense of the absurdity of “bathroom” as an American euphemism.

238.25: God save America: Comic fusion of the English national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” and the American, “God Bless America,” at this “public school,” Riverlane, situated in America but reminiscent of England (like, indeed, some of the private schools Dmitri Nabokov was sent to in the US). Cf. 238.30: “God save their poor little American tastebuds.”

238.26: titled Britisher and Greek grandee: Cf. at Riverlane, “foreign boys, mostly Greek and English, led by Cheshire, the rugby ace” (32.29-30) avail themselves of another boy and of the “fubsy pig-pink whorelet” Van has “after Cheshire and Zographos were though” (33.17, 14)—Cheshire being “the son of a thrifty lord” (33.04); Van later lists in his school anthology his profiles of “Cheschat, Zogdog, Fancytart, and Ada-like Van himself” (146.11). A “Greek and an Englishman” (464.15) are paired later, in another curious echo of the association of the Greeks, and English public schools, with homosexuality. MOTIF: Greek and English.

238.26-27: matching yachts, and yacs, and yoickfests: The matching spelling and mismatching pronunciation of “match” and “yacht” set up a discordancy compounded by its interlacement with the concord of “yachts, and yacs, and yoickfests.” Yack or, rarely, yac could mean “a watch” (Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 5th ed., 1961), while yack or very often yac could mean “to talk volubly and either idly or stupidly or both” (Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English,7th ed, 1970). Yoicks W2 defines: “Hunting. A cry of encouragement to foxhounds. Hence, a cry sometimes used as an exclamation of excitement or exultation.”

Ardeur 201: “yachts, cadyacs, et yoickfests” (“yachts, Cadillacs and yoickfests”: the natural French pronunciation of “Cadillac” is close to “cadyac”).

238.27: Bahamudas: Fuses two luxury tropical island retreats of the rich, the Bahamas and the Bermudas. MOTIF: place-names: additional syllable.

238.30: “God save their poor little American tastebuds”: Cf. 238.25: “God save America.” In a 1964 interview VN said: “"America is my home now. It is my country. The intellectual life suits me better there than any other country in the world. I have more friends there, more kindred souls than anywhere. I don't care for American food, mind you. Ice cream and milk are all right in their place. The American steak is a mistake, there's a pun for you.” Interview with Douglas M. Davis, “On the Banks of Lake Leman—Mr. Nabokov Reflects on ‘Lolita’ and ‘Onegin,’” National Observer, 29 June 1964, p. 17.

238.31: Your new car sounds wonderful: Cf. 237.34-238.01: “he heard the rich purr of his father’s motorcar.”

238.32: (Ask Van about . . . : As often in this chapter, Van as narrator reconstructs Demon’s thoughts from clues in his speech: Demon refers on the next page to a maid (Blanche) as a “a passing angel” (239.26-27), and later as “a remarkably pretty soubrette” (244.04). He is interested in her again at 255.09 and, according to Van, at 262.12-13.

238.32-33: that gornichon—Franco-Russian slang . . . cute kameristochka: Darkbloom: kameristochka: “Russ., a young chambermaid”; Proffer: “A combination of gornichnaia (maid) and kornishon (gherkin). A diminutive of kamerista (lady’s maid).” The kameristochka in question is Blanche. MOTIF: patois.

239.01-02: We waste life in separations! We are the fools of fate!: Demon himself will cause Van and Ada to waste a long stretch of their life in separation (from 1893 to 1922, in effect).

239.02: let’s spend a month together in Paris: Demon repeats the invitation at 257.31-32: “I’m going to have Mascodagama round out his vacation in Paris.” He carries it out: “during a fortnight in Paris before the next term at Chose,” 324.26-27.

239.03: the Michaelmas term: W3: “the first or fall term of the academic year lasting from the beginning of October until Christmas—used at British universities.” Michaelmas itself is September 29.

239.04: Demon shed his monocle: MOTIF: Demon’s monocle.

239.05-06: the heart pocket of his dinner jacket: Van will shortly find “a slip of paper sticking out of the heart pocket of his dinner jacket,” 287.23-24.

239.08: quite satanically fit: Doubly appropriate given the hidden “demon” in the next sentence; see next note. MOTIF: Satanic.

239.09: fresh oeillet in your lapel eye: French oeillet means both “carnation” and “eyelet.” Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello notes (Nabokov-L, 20 August 2014) that according to the demonology of the French Dominican and inquisitor Sebastien Michailis (c. 1543-1618) and his fellow Dominican, François Doncieux, in their Histoire admirable de la possession d'une penitente (1613), there was a demon named Oeillet, “a prince of Dominions. He tempts men to break the vow of poverty and is opposed by St. Martin” (Wikipedia, “Classification of Demons,” accessed 20 August 2014). They learned the classification of demons, they report, from the demon Berith, when attempting to exorcize an Ursuline nun who claimed to have become possessed via her confessor, Father Louis Gaufridy, who had sexually enchanted her (English and French Wikipedia, “Sebastien Michaelis,” accessed 20 August 2014).
Cf. Demon’s recollection a few hours later: 262.10-11: “I recall the cold of this flower, which I took from a vase in passing.”

239.10: Manhattan . . . —where did you get its last syllable: I.e. that “tan” (cf. 238.09, “His smooth glossy brown face”). Cf. later “Tanned Man in a Hat” (530.14, referring back to Demon’s role in breaking up Van and Ada). MOTIF: Manhattan.

239.11: Homespun pun: Itself a near pun; and cf. “that habitual exchange of homespun nonsense” (SM 191, quoted in 238.11-12 and n.)

239.11: Veenish vein: Vena is also Latin for “vein.” MOTIF: Veen; V-n.

239.12: en effet: Darkbloom: “indeed.”

239.12: Akapulkovo: Acapulco, the resort city on Mexico’s Pacific coast; Pulkovo, the village south of St. Petersburg/Leningrad, the site of the Pulkovo observatory (founded in 1839, its 30-inch refractor telescope, acquired in 1889, was the largest of its time) and a name bestowed on the airport of St. Petersburg/Leningrad only in 1973, after the publication of Ada. MOTIF: place names: additional syllable.

239.13-14: needlessly and unwillingly recollecting (with that special concussion of instant detail that also plagued his children): Again Van as Narrator attributes memories and memorial powers to his father.

239.15: a violet-and-black-striped fish: The memory of Akapulkovo that Van bestows on his father appears to be inspired by the “lone convict cichlid” and other details in the Ardis music room (239.31), the “striped fish” of 248.12. A convict cichlid is indeed violet-and-black-striped
239.16-17: an onyx ashtray astray: Another detail from Ardis (249.24-25: “placed an onyx ashtray at the head of the table for Demon”) that Van appropriates for Demon’s memories of Akapulkovo.

239.18: Povesa (playboy) magazines: Russian povesa (accented on the second syllable), “rake, scapegrace”; after the Playboy magazine founded by Hugh Hefner (1926- ) in 1953. As the best-paying magazine in the 1960s, Playboy was able to feature many Nabokov stories and novel excerpts, and a 1964 interview with him. Ada itself would be excerpted for Playboy in 1969.

239.18: the jewels he had brought: For the Créole, presumably, as Van had brought his “rivière de diamants” to Ardis for Ada (187-90).

239.19-20: Petit nègre, au champ qui fleuronne: Darkbloom: “little Negro in the flowering field.” Kyoto Reading Circle: “In a story ‘Les Petits Souliers’ by Hégésippe Moreau (1810-1838) published in Journal des demoiselles no 2 (April 1836), Josephine, ex-empress to Napoleon, sings a love song by the title to a devoted seaman before his departure.

“Petit nègre, au champ qui fleurone”

Petit nègre, au champ qui fleuronne

Little Negro in the flowering field
Va moissonner pour ma couronne :
Go and reap for my crown:
La négresse fuyant aux bois,
The Negress fleeing to the woods,
M’a prédit la grandeur des rois
Predicted for me the grandeur of kings
Vingt fois.
Twenty times.

Petit nègre, va, qui t’arrête ?
Little Negro, go, what’s stopping you?
Serait-ce déjà la tempête
Would it be already the storm
Qui doit effleurer si souvent
Which must graze so often
Ma tête,
My head
Et jeter mon bonheur mouvant
And throw my moving happiness
Au vent ?
To the wind?

Las ! j’en pleure déjà la perte.
Alas! I’m already weeping for its loss
Adieu donc, pour la mer déserte,
Farewell then, for the empty sea,
La rivière des Trois-Ilets

The river of Trois-Ilets
Si verte,
So green,
Où dans ma barque aux blonds filets,
Where in my blond-streaked barque
J’allais !
I would go!

Adieu: les vents m’ont entraînée,
Farewell: the winds have dragged me off,
Ma patrie et ma sœur aînée !

My homeland and my elder sister!
La fleur veut mourir où la fleur
The flower wants to die where the flower
Est née,
Was born
Et j’étais si bien sur ton cœur,
And I was so good on your breast,
Ma sœur !
My sister!

. . . Josephine, née Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Les Trois-Ilets, Martinique, on 23 June 1763, to a wealthy white Créole family that owned a sugar plantation (Wikipedia).”

239.21: altogether adorable: MOTIF: adore.

239.26-28: a passing angel.” (Passing angel?): Blanche. MOTIF: angel.

239.29-31: pulled a green bell-cord which . . . caused the . . . aquarium . . . to bubble antiphonally: MOTIF: hydro; technology.

239.31: aquarium: MOTIF: -arium.

239.31: convict cichlid: A favorite aquarium fish, now known as Amatitliana (= Archocentrus, or Cichlasoma) nigrofasciatus, belonging to Cichlidae (W2), “A large family of fresh-water spiny-finned fishes (order Chromides), like the American sunfishes.” The nigrofasciatus (black-barred) in the species name seems to chime oddly with the “Petit nègre” (239.19) between the two references here to a convict cichlid, the “violet-and-black-striped fish” at 239.15 and the “lone convict cichlid” at 239.31, especially in conjunction with the “young Créole” Van imagines Demon possessing, and the emphasis on blackness coming soon (241.21-26: “‘That’s very black of you, Dad,’ said pleased Van, using a slang phrase he had learned from his tender young nurse, Ruby [Black], who was born in the Mississippi region where most . . . had the dark or darkish skin of their West-African ancestors”).

It may be of relevance that there exists a famous paper on the way cichlid fish learn the appearance of their offspring: Noble, G. Kingsley and Curtis, Brian (1939), “The social behavior of the jewel fish, Hemichromis bimaculatus Gill,” Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 76, 1-46.

239.32-34: an eerie, perhaps self-aerating reaction, which only Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy, understood: Diana Makhaldiani (email, April 28, 2022) suggests that VN evokes the necessity of bubbling air into the bleach tank used to develop color film: “It is necessary to bubble air into the bleach tank to maintain its effectiveness.”  See

239.33-34: which only Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy, understood: Beauharnais is “the name of a French noble family well-known in Orléanais from the fifteenth century and distinguished in European history from the Napoleonic period” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed.). The most famous Beauharnais is Josephine (1763-1814) (de Beauharnais by her first marriage), the wife and empress of Napoléon I (she married in 1796, was crowned in 1804, and divorced in 1810). As the note to “Petit nègre, au champ qui fleuronne” (239.19-20) records, “Josephine, née Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Les Trois-Ilets, Martinique, on 23 June 1763, to a wealthy white Créole family”: an odd link, therefore, in Kim Beauharnais’s name with her role in singing the romance (which refers to Trois-Ilets) and with Demon’s “adorable young Créole.”

239.34: “Should he ring her up after dinner,” wondered Demon: This odd indirect speech within the quotation marks indicating direct speech or thought draws attention to the fact of Van’s only imagining his father’s thoughts. The next two sentences skip the quotation marks but constitute free indirect speech.

240.01: bad for the heart: Demon is soon worried again about his heart in response to another female beauty, when he thinks of Blanche: “a remarkably pretty soubrette. . . . not for my poor eyes. Or poor ventricles. Do you like the type, Van” (244.04-08).

240.06-07: ce sera un diner à quatre: Darkbloom: “it will be a dinner for four.”253.22-27: “All this was mere scenery, easily packed, labeled ‘Hell’ and freighted away; and only very infrequently some reminder would come—say, in the trick-work closeup of two left hands belonging to different sexes—doing what? Marina could no longer recall (though only four years had elapsed!)—playing à quatre mains?”; 386.02-03: “katrakatra (quatre à quatre). Please, children, not katrakatra (Marina).”

240.09: I don’t have to exaggerate compliments as some do: Demon refers back to Van’s “You look quite satanically fit, Dad” (239.08).

240.10: an aging man: Demon can call himself this, but objects when Van calls him “a dirty old man!”: “I’m a dirty young man” (255.10-12).

240.10: with shoe-shined hair: MOTIF: Demon’s dye.

240.11-12: very nice recognizing one’s old tailor in one’s son’s clothes: Not the last echo of paternal style in Van. Cf. also, perhaps, “that’s my hat, his is older, but we have the same London hatter” (13.28-29). MOTIF: family relationship.

240.12-18: like catching oneself repeating an ancestral mannerism . . . and you know who had it too—my aunt Kitty: MOTIF: family relationship.

240.13-17: wagging his left forefinger . . . Crêmlin on my bald spot: Darkbloom:wagging his left forefinger: that gene did not miss his daughter (see p. 178, where the name of the cream is also prefigured.” VN is referring to the pagination of the Penguin edition; here it is to 227.09-20: “ ‘Je ne peux rien faire,’ wailed Lucette, ‘ . . .with my idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM.’ ‘Look,’ whispered Van, ‘ . . . shift those two syllables and you get a fortress in ancient Muscovy.’ ‘Oh, no,’ said Ada, wagging her finger at the height of her temple in a way she had. . . . ‘Well,’ said Van, ‘you can always make a little cream, KREM or KREME—or even better—there’s KREMLI.’” It is extremely unusual for VN as Darkbloom to explain not a foreign phrase or a foregrounded allusion, but simply an internal connection. That Demon’s “gene” for this gesture is expressed in Ada is of course another marker that Ada is Demon’s child, not Dan’s, but is there something more behind Darkbloom’s urgency?

240.17: Crêmlin on my bald spot: The hair tonic Kreml was produced in the US from at least 1932 to the 1950s (Nabokov fuses its name with French crème, “cream”). Its prominent advertising (in, for instance, the New Yorker) promised not only to manage hair and dandruff but to ward off or delay premature baldness (“checks falling hair” “Dandruff: why it may be the beginning of baldness”) and to “correct your scalp” problems for those who were already bald. It was supposed to put a “speedy end to falling hair and dandruff” and to give the “scalp that ‘waked-up,’ fresh stimulated feeling.” Cf. also “one of those anti-dandruff color-photo ads” (224.19). MOTIF: Kremlin.

240.18-19: my aunt Kitty . . . married the banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy:  Proffer: “ ‘Kitty’ is one of the main characters in Anna Karenina. Her sister [Daria Aleksandrovna or Dolly, whose first name is also the name of the mother of Aqua and Marina, Demon’s cousins] is married to Oblonski (Bolensky echoes this and the real aristocratic name Obolenski). In his earlier years Tolstoy was a dreadful wencher, and there are many parallels between Kitty-Lyovin and real-life Sophia Tolstoy—so in a sense Kitty did get married to Tolstoy.” Aleksey Sklyarenko notes that Oblonski was also Anna Karenin’s maiden name and that Tolstoy’s daughter Maria (1871-1906) married N.L. Obolenksi (Nabokv-L, 11 December 2012 and 22 May, 2013). Cf. NG 43: “the sleek ‘Hollywood Russian’ pseudonyms Vronski, Oblonski, Bolkonski [War and Peace], etc. used by Tolstoy.”

The young Tolstoy was a dreadful wencher, as VN often notes, and famously showed his fiancée, Sofia Behrs, his diary, with its record of his amorous escapades, as Lyovin in Anna Karenin shows his diary to Kitty once they become engaged. The older Tolstoy by contrast was at times, at least in theory, against sex even within marriage. 
Anna Karenin, of course, famously divorces her husband.

240.19: Lyovka Tolstoy: Darkbloom: “Lyovka: derogative or folksy diminutive of Lyov (Leo).” Lev (Leo) Tolstoy’s name was pronounced Lyov (like the lion, lyov’).

240.21: Demon preferred Walter Scott to Dickens: Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), prolific Scottish poet and historical novelist, wildly popular in his time but in much lower critical esteem more recently. VN nevertheless echoes Scott’s narrative poem “The Lady of the Lake” (1810) in PF, and Ada alludes to his novel The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) at 552.33-553.01: “at the Lammermoor (not the best of his recent hotels).” VN did not care for Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), but may nevertheless be echoing Chapter 5: “Cranly smiled and said kindly: —The captain has only one love: sir Walter Scott. Isn't that so, captain? —What are you reading now, captain? Dixon asked. The Bride of Lammermoor? —I love old Scott, the flexible lips said, I think he writes something lovely. There is no writer can touch sir Walter Scott.”
VN himself greatly preferred Dickens. After lecturing on Scott’s contemporary Jane Austen, VN began his lectures on Dickens’s Bleak House: “We are now ready to tackle Dickens. We are now ready to embrace Dickens. We are now ready to bask in Dickens. . . . With Dickens we expand. . . . Modern authors still get drunk on his vintage” (LL 63). And unlike Van’s father, VN’s father was “an authority on Dickens” (SM 177) and invoked him in some of his legal articles.

240.21-22: and did not think highly of Russian novelists: VN, per contra, came to think Anna Karenin the greatest of novels, wrote a book on Gogol, lectured on Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, and Tolstoy at Cornell, and thought Andrey Bely’s Petersburg one of the four greatest novels of the first half of the twentieth century (SO 57).

240.22-23: As usual, Van considered it fit to make a corrective comment: A son-to-father practice, in this case, but also VN’s practice as much as Van’s.

240.24: A fantastically artistic writer, Dad: Cf. Van’s “an absolutely fantastically lovely nature morte,” 46.04.

240.26-28: sweet-water. . . . He pressed to his cheek Van’s strong shapely hand. Van kissed his father’s hairy fist which was already holding a not yet visible glass of liquor:  Cf. Demon’s greeting Ada: “enveloping Ada with one arm, holding his glass in the other hand, kissing the girl in the neck, in the hair, burrowing in her sweetness with more than an uncle’s fervor” (245.15-17).

240.26: sweet-water: W2, “a A dilute solution of glycerol. b a sugar solution.” Here, “sentimental.”

240.29: Irishness: MOTIF: Irish.

240.32-33: shaftment: W2: “A measure, the distance from the tip of the extended thumb across the breadth of the palm, about six inches. Archaic & Dial.” As in the terms in the next note, an obscene quibble on “shaft” (Van is proud of the length of his penis: cf. 411.25-27, 417.32, “his imposing deportment”)). To “shaft” is also low slang (since the 1940s) for “to have intercourse with” (a woman); for the obscene overtones persisting through these palmistry terms, see also next n.

240.34-241.01: Hump of Venus . . . Line of Life scarred but monstrously long: W2, s.v. palmistry: mounts are “considered to denote degrees of temperament or predominant traits”; Venus (the ball of the thumb) indicates “love, sense of harmony”; the line of life (the arced line around the ball of the thumb) is considered to reveal information about “vitality, duration of life.” Puns on “hump,” “to have sexual intercourse” (Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 8th ed.,), since 1760; on “mons Veneris” (mount of Venus), W2, “A rounded eminence of fatty tissue upon the pubic symphysis of the female.” Line of life: cf. Van’s misunderstanding about Lucette’s comment on his dueling scar: “and not only because of the physical red thing—your heart was almost ripped out, . . . it looked to me at least eight inches long—’ ‘Seven and a half,’ murmured modest Van, whose hearing the music impaired” (411.23-28). MOTIF: Venus.

241.01-10: Life scarred . . . strange condition . . . my scarred and strange life: Note pattern.

241.01-02: switching to a gipsy chant: MOTIF: gipsy.

241.02: You’ll live to reach Terra: MOTIF: Terra.

241.03-04: What puzzles me as a palmist is the strange condition of the Sister of your Life: Kyoto Reading Circle: “naturally suggests Ada. On the other hand, the term is used for the Sister Line, a fine line on the thumb side of the Life Line. The Sister Line is also known as the Line of Mars. From Richard Webster’s Palm Reading for Beginners (Llewellyn Publications, 2000), 51.”
The Kyoto Reading Circle also suggests an allusion to Boris Pasternak’s Sestra moya zhizn’ (My Sister Life, 1922).  Aleksey Sklyarenko (Nabokv-L, 20 December 2013) notes that Pasternak’s volume is “dedicated to Lermontov, the author of Prediction, 1830, Demon, 1829-39, and The Dream, 1841, all of them prophetic poems,” and that the first poem in Paternak’s collection is “Pamyati Demona,” “In Memory of Demon,” evoking the hero of Lermontov’s most famous poem and Demon Veen’s model.

241.06: Mascodagama: MOTIF: Mascodagama.

241.07: how blunt (dumb) of me: Demon is probably influenced by the Russian tupoy, “blunt; slow-witted.” Cf. Demon’s “How stupid of me!” (436.10).

241.09-10: I adore it. . . for me the château que baignait la Dore: For literate French, the phrase (“the castle that the Dore bathes”) has become a byword for fond memorial attachment (see 5.07n.). Since the song is from Chateaubriand (see 138.01-139.04 and n.), and Chateaubriand’s writing and life have a whiff of incest, perhaps an indication from Van, which he knows his father cannot pick up, of his incestuous relation to Ada. MOTIF: adore; Chateaubriand; château que baignait la Dore; Dore.

241.12: I know Dan wants to leave it to Lucile: Although this seems surprising at this point, when Ardis appears so much Ada’s and Van’s, Marina apparently follows Dan’s wishes (Lucette, after all, is his one biological child) and does leave Ardis to Lucette (466.13-16).

241.14-15: When I was your age I thought that the sweetest word in the language rhymes with ‘billiard’: Cf. Byron, Don Juan, XIV.c:

But great things spring from little: —Would you think,
            That in our youth, as dangerous a passion
As ever brought Man and Woman to the brink
            Of ruin, rose from such a slight occasion,
As few could ever dream could form the link
            Of such a sentimental occasion?
You’ll never guess, I’ll bet you millions, milliards—
It all sprung from a harmless game at billiards.

William Leigin Goshalk, “Nabokov’s Byronic Ada: A Note,” Notes on Contemporary Literature 2:2 (1972), 2-4: “Byron wrote Lady Melbourne the details of his making love to Lady Frances Webster over a game of billiards.” MOTIF: Demon-gambler.

241.17-19: I can exert a certain pressure upon my Marina. She sighs like a hassock when you sit upon her, so to speak. Damn it, the servants here are not Mercuries: Cf. 232.11-12, when Marina has summoned Van to her boudoir to put pressure on him not to show such affection to his cousin Lucette: “Van . . . lowered himself on the ivanilich (a kind of sighing old hassock . . . ).” This (see 232.11-12n.) is of course an allusion to Tolstoy’s novella Death of Ivan Ilich, and its hassock, and Demon’s “the servants here are not Mercuries” inadvertently (on Demon’s part, if not on Van’s as narrator) alludes to “the Mercuries,” the ironic name for the Dedlock footmen in Bleak House. Despite not liking Dickens or the Russian novelists (240.21-22), Demon here unwittingly echoes them.

Cf. also Demon’s comment to Marina: “Your runaway maid . . . has been found by the police in a brothel here and will be shipped to you as soon as she is sufficiently stuffed with mercury” (16.23-25).

241.19-20: Pull that cord again: Cf. 239.29.

241.21-26: That’s very black of you . . . . Ruby. . . darkish skin of their West-African ancestors: The paragraphs strangely stresses “black” in various ways, explicit and implicit, including echoes of servant Ruby Black and the damage Demon seems to have caused her (20.13-14), perhaps in contrast to “Dark” Veen’s sudden, almost impatient, desire since arriving at Ardis for servant Blanche (whose name of course means “white”).  MOTIF: black.

241.21: That’s very black of you: A reversal (apparently Antiterra’s, not Van’s) of the slang sense of “white”: “Honourable, fair-dealing: US. s. (-1877), anglicised ca. 1885; by 1920, coll. Ex. the self-imputed characteristics of a white man.” (Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 5th ed.)

241.22-23: his tender young nurse, Ruby, who was born in the Mississippi region: Cf. 20.13-14: “and was still being suckled by a very young wet nurse, almost a child, Ruby Black, born Black.” The population of the state of Mississippi was for many years predominantly black: “Mississippi was part of the Black Belt, and had a majority-black population from the antebellum years until the 1930s, after which in the Great Migration, nearly 400,000 African Americans left the state for opportunities in the North, Midwest and West” (Wikipedia, s.v. Mississippi, accessed 12 October 2013). Cf. 417.33: “Mississippi Rose” (apparently a black maid and sexual partner).

241.23-26: the Mississippi region where most magistrates, public benefactors, high priests of various so-called “denominations,” and other honorable and generous men, had the dark or darkish skin of their West-African ancestors: An ironic reflection of the disempowerment and disenfranchisement of the black population in the American South since the beginnings of slavery and despite the American Civil War. VN was very conscious and supportive of the civil rights movement, which aimed to end segregation and discrimination especially in the South, in the late 1950s and the 19060s. “High priests of various so-called ‘denominations’” mocks the Protestant Bible-Belt bigotry of the region, and perhaps also hits at the white supremacist Klu Klux Klan—with their masks, robes, and crosses—who tried to resist racial integration.

241.26-27: their West-African ancestors, who had been the first navigators to reach the Gulf of Mexico: Ironic reflection of the fact that their ancestors had in fact been brought from West Africa to the New World in slave ships, not as free navigators. The “first [European] navigators to reach the Gulf of Mexico” included the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León (1474–1521), who led the first expedition to Florida in 1513, and Alonso Álvarez de Pineda (1494–1520), who mapped the Western Gulf of Mexico in expeditions of 1517 and 1519. MOTIF: explorer.

241.28-29: cost hardly more than a couple of millions minus what Cousin Dan owes me: Cf. 256.16-17: “half a million which Demon considered henceforth as a loan his cousin should certainly refund him.”

241.29-30: minus also the Ladore pastures: Cf. 236.13-15: “the sale of some ‘blue’ (peat-bog) land which belonged to both cousins and which both, for different reasons, were anxious to get rid of.”

241.34-242.01: Ladore Town has become very honky-tonky, and the gaming is not what it used to be: Cf. 261.10: “the first half of a gambling night in Ladore.” MOTIF: Demon-gambler.

242.02: honky-tonky: W2: honky tonk: “A low drinking resort. U.S.”

242.02-03: Poor Lord Erminin is practically insane: Cf. 267.33-34: Greg Erminin’s “very sick father.”

242.04: a woman I preyed upon years ago: Countess Praskovia de Prey, mother of Percy. See 242.16n for her name. A “very jolly and handsome woman” (90.14); to Demon, “the excellent widow of an obscure Major de Prey” (163.12). MOTIF: de Prey; prey.

242.04-05: oh long before Moses de Vere cuckolded her husband: Moses de Vere is itself an unusual combination, given the Jewish Moses and the hyper-aristocratic British de Vere name (see 200.07n for the resonances of the de Vere name). Moses as “cuckolder” plays on the tradition of Moses as “cuckold,” from the Vulgate version of Exodus 34:30-35 (“Videntes autem Aaron et filii Israël cornutam Moysi faciem. . . . Qui videbant faciem egredientis Moysi esse cornutam” [italics added], translated in the King James version as “And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone. . . . And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone”). The Interpreter’s Bible comments: “The verb translated shone occurs only twice in Hebrew literature: here and in Ps. 69:31, where it is used of a bullock displaying horns. The verb is derived from the noun ‘horn.’ The Vulg. translates it ‘horned,’ hence the representation by the old painters and Michelangelo of Moses with horns. In Job 3:4 ‘horns’ denotes rays of light or lightning flashes. So the translation in English is probably what was meant.” “Horns” are the traditional emblem of the cuckold; Van in 1901 chances on Cordula de Prey in Paris and asks her: “Will you cooperate with me in cornuting your husband?” (456.30-31). MOTIF: Vere.

242.04: long before Moses: Cf. “to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses,” 90.33-34 (noted by Aleksey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, 11 July 2012).

242.04-06: before Moses de Vere cuckolded her husband in my absence and shot him dead in my presence: in the duel on Boston Common: cf. Demon’s “It is given by the excellent widow of an obscure Major de Prey—obscurely related to our late neighbor, a fine shot but the light was bad on the Common, and a meddlesome garbage collector hollered at the wrong moment” (163. 12-15).  MOTIF: duel.

242.06-07: an epigram you’ve heard before, no doubt from these very lips: Cf. Demon’s love of “middle-aged puns,” 4.28.

242.10-11: she tells me her boy and Ada see a lot of each other, et cetera: “Her boy” is Percy de Prey. Snobbish Demon will return to this: he seems excited at the prospect of Ada, or for that matter others, pairing off with Boston aristocracy, like Count Percy de Prey or, later, Andrey Vinelander or Cordula de Prey’s husband Tobak: “‘Damn Cordula! Cordula is now Mrs. Tobak.’ ‘Oh, of course!’ cried Demon. ‘How stupid of me! I remember Ada’s fiancé [Andrey Vinelander] telling me—he and young Tobak worked for a while in the same Phoenix bank. Of course. Splendid broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, blond chap. Backbay Tobakovich!” (436.07-14).

242.11: et cetera: Cf. Demon, again: “Our territorial triumphs, et cetera” (330.17-18).

242.12-13: They meet now and then—at the usual parties: As at the party Van arrives at Ardis in the midst of, at the beginning of Ardis the Second (I.31), and at Ada’s sixteenth birthday party, in the next chapter (to which he has not been invited); as Van has met Cordula de Prey at another of “the usual parties,” on Demon’s invitation, at 163-64.

242.13: Both like horses: Ada will go “on horseback to Ladore” (283.03-04): actually, to see Percy.

242.13-14: There is no et cetera, that is out of the question: Van desperately (or at this stage, confidently) wants to believe that there has been nothing more between Ada and Percy. Cf. Van’s imagined stream of consciousness for Percy just before his death: “say: I’m alive—who’s that?—civilian—sympathy—thirsty—daughter with pitcher—that’s my damned gun—don’t . . . et cetera or rather no cetera” (320.13-16). There will certainly be no et cetera between Percy and Ada after this scene of Percy’s death.

242.16: Prascovie de Prey has the worst fault of a snob: overstatement: Demon, a snob himself, will also show the same “fault of a snob,” in his eagerness to imagine Ada married into a distinguished family, as when he refers to Andrey Vinelander as “Ada’s fiancé” at 436.11. MOTIF: de Prey; prey.

242.16: Prascovie: French form of Praskovia (the form used at 257.16). Praskovia is “a common Russian feminine name” (EO 2:296); Nabokov had an “Aunt Praskovia” (SM 67-68), and there was a Tsaritsa Praskovia Fyodorovna (1664-1732) married in 1684 to Tsar Ivan V.
242.17: Bouteillan. You look as ruddy as your native vine: Bouteillan is the (rather obscure) name of a red wine in the Basses-Alpes (Littré). Demon’s knowing it indicates his connoisseurship.

242.18: we are not getting any younger, as the amerlocks say: Amerloque, French (now outdated) slang for “American, Yank.” In the novel Zazie dans le metro (1959), by Raymond Queneau (1903-1976), whose work, including Zazie, Nabokov admired, Queneau uses the form amerloquaine in ch. 5, a chapter where Zazie goes shopping for “bloudjinnzes"(see J.A. Rea, Nabokv-L, 28 March 1996).

242.19-23: that pretty messenger of mine must have been waylaid by some younger and more fortunate suitor . . . might offend a menial: The pretty messenger is Blanche. Bouteillan himself indeed lost Blanche to a younger and more fortunate suitor, his son Bout, late in Ardis the First.

242.24: to use a hoary narrational turn: MOTIF: novel.

242.24-25: the old Frenchman knew his former master too well: Cf. 35.32-36.01: “Bouteillan . . . had once been the valet of Van’s father.”

242.26-28: His hand still tingled nicely from slapping Blanche’s compact young bottom for having garbled Mr. Veen’s simple request and broken a flower vase: Demon has apparently asked her not only to get him a drink (239.25-27) but has also taken a carnation from her vase for his lapel—which adds a resonance to Van’s “You look quite satanically fit, Dad. Especially with that fresh oeillet in your lapel eye” (239.08-09): cf. 252.33-253.01, “Demon in much the same black jacket (minus perhaps the carnation he had evidently purloined from a vase Blanche had been told to bring from the gallery.” Cf. also Blanche’s confession that she was called “Cendrillon” “because she broke and mislaid things, and confused flowers” (49.04-06).

242.30-31: Was Monsieur’s health always good?: Bouteillan says “always” rather than “still” good through confusion with his native French, in which toujours means both “still” and “always.”

242.33-34: Château Latour d’Estoc: Château Latour is one of the great French wine estates, in Pauillac, in the Médoc region to the northwest of Burgundy. It was one of the first four vineyards to earn the Premier Cru (First Growth) designation in the first classification of Bordeaux wines in 1855. Hugh Johnson’s Modern Encyclopedia of Wine, 3rd ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991) compares it to the other great Pauillac premier cru, Château Lafite-Rothschild: “Lafite is a tenor; Latour a bass. Lafite is a lyric; Latour an epic. Lafite is a dance; Latour a parade” (60). Être de bon estoc: to be of good stock.

243.01-04: a crumpled little handkerchief from the piano top . . . : How do you get along with Ada? She’s . . . Very musical and romantic?: Demon, who prides himself on his powers of deduction, deduces that the handkerchief on the piano is Ada’s. (In Austen’s Emma (1815), Ch. 24, Emma, also priding herself on her quick powers of deduction, asks: “Mr Dixon is very musical, is he?”) A few days ago Van, awakening from a dream that had prefigured the Second Crimean War, “still clearly saw Blanche wiping Crimea clean with one of Ada’s lost handkerchiefs” (231.27-28). A few minutes after Demon’s comment, we see Ada rubbing “fiercely her lips with a tiny handkerchief produced from her bosom” (246.01-02).

Talking to Ada after the dinner, Van returns to Demon’s question: “I wonder if some inner sense in him smelled you in me, and me in you. He tried to ask me . . . ” (263.27-28).

243.07-08: We have really more things in common than, for instance, ordinary lovers or cousins or siblings: While trying to mislead Demon, Van speaks the truth: they are lovers and cousins and siblings. MOTIF: family relationship.

243.10: her granddad’s library: Ardelion’s.

243.10-11: She knows the names of all the flowers and finches in the neighborhood: An echo of the finch Van threw a cone at, in their first play together, 50.11-18. MOTIF: Ada's taxonomy.

243.13-15: “Van . . . ,” began Demon, but stopped—as he had begun and stopped a number of times before in the course of the last years: Presumably, to tell Van only that he, Demon, was Ada’s father, not also that Marina was Van’s mother: that would be enough to stop any dangerous interest of Van and Ada in each other, he would think. MOTIF: family relationship.

243.16: He inserted his monocle: MOTIF: Demon’s monocle

243.17-18: aperitifs . . . Lilletovka and that Illinois Brat: Lillet is an aperitif in white and red varieties, made of 85% Bordeaux wines and 15% macerated liqueurs, made by the Maison Lillet, founded in 1872. It was especially popular during the 1920s. The “-ovka” ending sounds playful and funny to a Russian ear, and recalls nalivka and nastoyka, a wine or vodka, respectively, infused with berries, etc. (cf. the Czech becherovka, an alcoholic herbal bitter drink) (Gennady Kreymer, private communication). “Illinois Brat” garbles Noilly Prat, the French vermouth, first formulated by Joseph Noilly in 1813; his son-in-law Claudius Prat joined to found the Noilly Prat Company in 1855. The names Demon juxtaposes pair two place names of French origin (Lille, Illinois), each with an –ill-.

243.19: antranou svadi, as Marina would say: Darkbloom: “Russ. mispronunciation of Fr. entre nous soit dit, between you and me.” Marina is more emphatically Russian than any other of the Veens, and tellingly unable, for an actress, to master another mode of speech. MOTIF: Marina’s Russian French.

243.20: solanders: W2, solander: “A box in the shape of a book, used for keeping pamphlets, papers, maps, illustrations, etc.” And liquor bottles.

243.20-22: a finer whisky than this usque ad Russkum . . . . unless you are a filius aquae: Multiple puns: usquebaugh (W2), “[Ir. & Gael. . . . lit, water of life . . ] Whisky, as made in Ireland or Scotland”; usque ad nauseam (W2): “ [L.] Even to nauseam; even so far as to disgust”; usque ad filum aquae (W2): “[L.] Law As far as the filum aquae (which see),” and filum aquae (W2), “[L.] Law. The middle line, or thread, of a stream.” Darkbloom glosses filius aqua [sic]: “‘son of water,’ bad pun on filum aquae, the middle way, ‘the thread of the stream.’” Demon is asking, at the end, then, “unless you are a son of water, that it, in this context, a teetotaler.” MOTIF: water.

243.22-23: unless you are a filius aquae?  (No pun intended, but one gets carried away and goofs.): Demon does intend the strained pun on filum aquae (see Darkbloom in previous note), but not the pun on the name of his wife, Aqua, Van’s ostensible but not actual mother. He does not intend to call into question Van’s being a son of Aqua—a rather dangerous admission, since it involves a baby-swap—but in the flow of his verbal exuberance, he does. MOTIF: Aqua; family relationship; water.

243.24-25: Latour later on. . . . no T-totaler: Note the play of letters and sounds.

243.28: tittery: W2: “Gin, the alcoholic liquor. Obs. Slang.” With, in this novel, a pun on “tit.” Cf. Demon’s comment on Dan to Marina: “he overdoes the juniper vodka stuff” (255.33-34). Gin derives most of its flavor from juniper berries.

243.29: Califrench: California has been a wine-growing area since the eighteenth century and has had a wine industry since the late nineteenth, not confined to French grape varieties.

243.29-30: after that little stroke he had: Cf. Lucette’s report to Van in 1892 that “Dad has had another stroke” (369.15-16).

243.30: near Mad Avenue: Presumably a version of Earth’s New York’s Madison Avenue, the celebrated center of American advertising, and from 34th to 90th Streets an upscale shopping street also rich in private art galleries; but on Antiterra, where the city is known only as Manhattan, its inhabitants were once “Madhatters” (222.16-17).

243.31-34: saw him walking toward me quite normally, but . . . the clockwork began slowing down. . . . hardly normal: Cf. Demon’s more elaborate report on a similar incident to Marina, 255.33-256.10, where the “clockwork” here becomes not a metaphor for Dan’s body but  the “mechanism” of his two-seater town car. Cf. also Demon’s report to Van of Dan’s death, 435-38. MOTIF: technology.

243.34: Let our sweethearts never meet: Kyoto Reading Circle: “A toast common in the British Royal Navy: ‘To our sweethearts and wives. May they never meet.’” Ironic, given Demon’s fateful discovery that Ada is Van’s sweetheart, just after Demon’s disclosure of Dan’s death (438).

244.01: as we used to say, up at Chose: Cf. 173.17: “Chose . . . where his fathers had gone.”

244.01-02: Only Yukonians think cognac is bad for the liver, because they have nothing but vodka: Cf. EO 2:226: “The implication is presumably that Onegin prefers a beaker of foreign wine to a jigger of national, right-thinking vodka.”

244.04: I ran into a remarkably pretty soubrette: Blanche. W2, soubrette: “Theat. originally, in comedies, a lady’s maid who acts the part of an intrigante; a coquettish maidservant or frivolous young woman; by extension, an actress who plays such a part.” Cf. Demon’s recollection a few hours later: 262.10-11: “‘I recall the cold of this flower, which I took from a vase in passing. . . . ’ He now threw it away, discarding with it the shadow of his furtive urge to plunge both hands in a soft bosom.” Cf. Van’s first one-on-one encounter with Blanche: “She wore what his father termed with a semi-assumed leer ‘soubret black’” (48.22-23). Cf. also “Pretty Blanche” (226.05); “she had become wonderfully pretty” (191.10-11).

244.07-08: the stab of a sunset, especially from under a thunderhead: Cf. a little earlier, “the sun-dusted music room” (238.05-06) and “certicle storms” (258.06: electrical storms, although they prove to be only Kim Beauharnais’s photographic flashes).

244.08: Or poor ventricles: Cf. Demon’s thought, 240.01: “bad for the heart.” Perhaps to be linked with the impending “certicle storms” (258.06).

244.12: the youngest Venutian: W2: “An imaginary inhabitant of the planet Venus”; here, a member of the Villa Venus Club. Van owes his membership to Dick C., who offers him at eighteen this “ticket to paradise” in payment of a gambling debt (176.14-18). MOTIF: family resemblance; Venus; Villa Venus.

244.14: my torrid affair: Cf. Marina’s recollections of “her three-year-long period of hectically spaced love-meetings with Demon, A Torrid Affair (the title of her only cinema hit)” (253.14-16). MOTIF: torrid affair.

244.15: my tango-partner: “Rita” from Chufut Kale (185.23), who in fact spurned his advances (185.30-32).

244.17: Curious, your calling it that: For the reason this is curious to Demon, see 244.14n, or 253.14-16. Cf. 397.21, Ada to Van: “Odd, your saying that.” MOTIF: family resemblance; your saying that;

244.19-21: a subtle question which only the ineptitude of a kindred conjecture had crowded out of Marina’s mind: Presumably the conjecture would have been: does Van (or Ada) know about our (Demon’s and Marina’s) affair? Pun on “kindred,” since the conjecture is one about the children’s knowledge of their kinship. MOTIF: family relationship
244.21-22: granted it could have entered by some back door: If, that is, it could have entered a mind so focused on her theatrical world and her amorous present.

244.22: ineptitude is always synonymous with multitude: An aphorism consonant with Nabokov’s own sense that talent is individual, not communal or collective. On the production of plays as collaborations: “collaboration will certainly never produce anything as permanent as can be the work of one man because however much talent the collaborators may individually possess the final result will unavoidably be a compromise between talents, a certain average, a trimming and clipping” (MUSSR 323-34); unpublished interview with Jacob Bronowski, 1963, from TS in VNA: “The real unreality is the conventional and the common.”

244.23: and nothing is fuller than an empty mind: Cf. 294.16-18: “This created a vacuum into which rushed a multitude of trivial reflections. A pantomime of rational thought.” Aleksey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokv-L, 11 Sept 2012): “In his memoir essay About S. A. Tolstoy (1924), . . . Gorky quotes an entry in Leo Tolstoy's diary” for 22 March, 1852: “Mysley osobenno mnogo mozhet vmeshchats’ya v pustoy golove” “(An empty mind is particularly prone to be overcrowded with thoughts.)”

244.25: a restful summer in the country: Ironic, given Van and Ada’s sexual exertions.

244.28-29: a fourth shallow: Not in W2, W3, OED as a noun in this sense.

244.32: that lovely Erminin girl: Grace.

244.33: une petite juive très aristocratique: Darkbloom: “a very aristocratic little Jewess.” Demon seems to keep tabs on aristocratic pairings.

244.34-245.01: the de Prey woman tells me her son has enlisted:  Cf. 231.32-34: Van “decided that Blanche or rather Marina probably wished to know if he had been serious when he said the other day he would enlist at nineteen.” He never does enlist; the wound he will sustain in the duel in I.42 may well have made him ineligible, and in any case the Second Crimean War has ended by early September 1888, before he has turned nineteen (329.04-5: “a newspaper that said in reversed characters ‘Crimea Capitulates’”). MOTIF: de Prey; prey.

245.01-02: that deplorable business abroad: The Second Crimean War.

245.02-05: “I wonder if he leaves any rivals behind?” “Goodness no,” replied honest Van. “Ada is a serious young lady. She has no beaux—except me”: Unable even to have anyone think Percy de Prey has some kind of emotional claim on Ada, or some acknowledged position as her beau, Van has to deny Demon’s implication. He is “honest” here because he genuinely does not think Percy has been entertained by Ada, despite the evidence in I.31 of Percy’s interest in her. He is also “honest” in proclaiming that Ada has no beaux except him—assuming that this way of stating the case will throw Demon off any scent.

245.05: ça va: Darkbloom: “it goes.”

245.05: seins durs: Darkbloom: “mispronunciation of sans dire,‘without saying.’” The mispronunciation turns sans dire into seins durs, French for “hard breasts.”

245.07: King Wing!: Mention of him here, amid the possibility raised and dismissed of Percy as Ada’s beau and as having a rival, foreshadows Van’s wrestling match with Percy in the next chapter, where Percy’s presence is tantamount to a claim on Ada’s affections, and where Van defeats him using King Wing’s techniques (275.11).

245.07-08: When I wanted to know how he liked his French wife: As if it goes without saying that the wife of a wrestler like King Wing would have hard breasts.

245.08-09: She likes horses, you say?: Cf. 242.13: “Both like horses” (both Ada and Percy): Demon reverts to this, as if unable to get Percy out of his mind in connection with Ada.

245.10: what all our belles like—balls: With an implicit Ada as “belle of the ball.” Commenting on a photograph she shows later, Ada says “It’s like the Beast and the Belle at the ball where Cinderella loses her garter and the Prince his beautiful codpiece of glass” (401.24-26), in part an inadevertent reminiscence of Percy as Beast, in Van’s eyes, at the “big party” (187.05) at whose end Van arrives at Ardis, and where Ada is the obvious belle.
245.10: balls, orchids: Highlights the sexual quibble on “balls” as being what “belles” like, since “orchid” comes from the Greek for “testicle” (because of the shape of the bulb). MOTIF: orchids.

245.10-11: orchids, and The Cherry Orchard: For The Cherry Orchard, see 115.16-18 and n. As an aspiring actress, Ada will soon become particularly interested in Chekhov, acting in his Four Sisters (427-30), in a play the discussion of which introduces another of Van’s rivals (380.19-23).
It may be relevant that there is a Cherry Orchid, Mediocalcar uniflorum (sepikanum).

245.14: Demon, iridescent wings humped: Proffer: “The iridescent wings allude to Lermontov’s Demon again. In the poem the Demon does not swoop down on Tamara’s castle—he visits her at night in a monastery, there implanting a satanic kiss on her labia, which makes her die.” The iridescence makes Demon’s wings here particularly reminiscent of Vrubel’s paintings of Lermontov’s Demon. MOTIF: Demon’s wings.

245.17: with more than an uncle’s fervor: Since he is her father, though he does not know she knows this. MOTIF: family relationship.

245.21-22: Swooping down on Tamara’s castle: Kyoto Reading Circle: “Based on Lermontov’s poem, ‘The Demon,’ Anton Rubinstein [1829-1894] created an opera by the same name [written 1871, with libretto by Pavel Viskatov, premiered 1875], in which the Demon falls in love with Tamara, a princess who is to wed a prince. The Demon promises the whole world’s submission to her if she will be his. She is both horrified and attracted and locks herself up in her castle. The prince’s procession is stopped by a landslide, the prince killed by Tartars. His body is brought to the castle which had been prepared for the wedding. Tamara flees to a convent but the Demon pursues her inside and she can no longer resist him. The angel appears and shows him the ghost of the dead prince. Tamara falls dead.”

245.23: Lermontov paraphrased by Lowden: For Lowden, see 127.32n. MOTIF: translation.

245.24: The last time I enjoyed you: Not meant in a sexual sense, just Demon’s extravagant compliment; but it cannot help having such an overtone, in this novel, and involving these characters (especially given Demon’s attraction to younger and younger women); all the more ironic, given Demon’s horror when he discovers the incestuous relationship between Ada and Van. MOTIF: family relationship; incest.

245.24-26: in April when you wore a raincoat . . . and simply reeked of some arsenic stuff: Reminiscent of Van’s much earlier (1884) meeting with Ada, 167.15-21, in a raincoat, with her breath smelling of ether.

245.25: white and black scarf: MOTIF:  black-white.

245.26: seeing your dentist:  In 1884 Ada visits the family dentist in Kaluga, 139.10-12. Van asks Cordula as he takes the train to Kalugano: “Do you know Kalugano? Dentist? Best hotel?” (303.16).

245.27: Dr Pearlman: For another comically-named dentist, see Lolita’s Dr. Molnar (Lolita 293).

245.27-28: married his receptionist, you’ll be glad to know: Once again, Demon seems obsessed with others’ pairings, even if not in the beau monde.

245.28-29: your dress” (the sleeveless black sheath): The dress she was wearing when Van arrived back at Ardis in 1888: “the black of her smart silk dress with no sleeves, no ornaments, no memories” (187.15-16). By now it has memories for Van: of his watching Ada’s hand being held by Percy de Prey between kisses.

245.29-32: I tolerate . . . I abhor and reject: Presumptuous judgements in a rarely-seen uncle. Demon almost seems to forget his ostensible relationship to Ada. Preparation, in a sense, for his judgement on Van and Ada in II.10-11. MOTIF: family relationship.

245.31: Beau Masque: Fr., handsome mask/face. Cf. earlier on the page, “She has no beaux—except me” (245.05); and 401.07-24: “black masks . . . for masked balls (bals-masqués) . . . like the Beast and the Belle at the ball.”

245.31: passe encore: Darkbloom: “may still pass muster.”

245.31: my precious: As Marina also calls Ada, at 62.01, 62.14.

245.33-34: Ladore. . . . London.” “Ladno: a curious interplay of sounds across two speakers and a shift of thought.

245.34-246.01: fiercely rubbed: emended by DN from 1969, "rubbed fiercely." (An unnecessary emendation.)

246.03: That’s also provincial. You should: Demon has a strong sense of the socially acceptable, if not of ordinary morality.

246.04-05: what a diviner I am: your dream is to be a concert pianist: Demon has wrongly inferred this, after seeing Ada using her handkerchief now and recalling having seen the crumpled handkerchief Bouteillan has removed en passant from the piano top, 242.34-243.01. Ada’s Uncle Ivan “had been a famous violinist at eighteen” (65.26-27), but Ada’s own professional dreams will be of drama (in her “Dreams of Drama” letter to Van in 1891, 336.21). Demon’s deduction is wrong, but the gift of deduction, and pride in it, have passed on to both his son and his daughter, as we know from the attic scene in I.1. MOTIF: family resemblance.

246.04: what a diviner I am: Cf. 73.32: “the demon counterpart of divine time.”

246.07: She can’t play a note!: Cf. 253.27-28: “playing à quatre mains?­—no, neither took piano lessons.”

246.08-09: Observation is not always the mother of deduction: Play on the aphorism “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Also links neatly with the 1884 scene in the attic, where Van and Ada’s observations about their mother and her relationships led to such swift deductions.

246.09-11: nothing improper about a hanky dumped on a Bechstein. You don’t have, my love, to blush so warmly: Has Ada been with Rack? But he seems to have been discarded, and has not been at Ardis since the poolside scene in I.32. Why then is she blushing? MOTIF: Ada’s blushes.

246.10: Bechstein: From the C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik, founded in 1853 by Carl Bechstein. By 1870 its pianos had become standard (along with Steinway and Blüthner pianos) in concert halls and elegant private homes.

246.12-14: Let me quote for comic relief “Lorsque son fi-ancé . . . : Darkbloom: “When her fiancé had gone to war, the unfortunate and noble maiden closed her piano, sold her elephant.” Rivers and Walker 284-86: “The lines here translated are a comical distortion of the opening lines of the sentimental narrative poem ‘La Veillée’ (‘The Vigil’) by François Coppée. The poem appeared in the collection Les Récits et les élégies (Narratives and Elegies; 1878) and is one of Coppée’s so-called récits épiques (‘epic narratives’). In the poem Roger, the fiancé of Irène de Grandfief, goes to war. While Irène waits anxiously for news of him, there is a skirmish near her castle. Irène takes one of the enemy wounded and promises the doctor she will watch over him all night. Alas! She discovers that this very man has killed her fiancé. Should she take revenge by stabbing the man in his sleep? Should she withhold the medicine the doctor has left and allow the man to die? She turns her eyes to an image of Christ hanging over the bed and there finds the strength to put her wicked thoughts behind her and minister to her fiancé’s killer. When the doctor arrives in the morning, he finds Irène still caring for the wounded man and sees that during the trials of the night her hair has turned white. The poem’s opening lines are:

Dès que son fiancé fut parti pour la guerre,
Sans larmes dans les yeux ni désespoir vulgaire,
Irène de Grandfief, la noble et pure enfant,
Revêtit les habits qu’elle avait au couvent,
La robe noire avec l’étroite pèlerine
Et la petite croix d’argent sur la poitrine.
Elle ôta ses bijoux, ferma son piano,
Et, gardant seulement à son doigt cet anneau,
Seul souvenir du soir de printemps où, ravie,
Au vicomte Roger elle engagea sa vie.
Aveugle à ce qu’on fait et sourde à ce qu’on dit,
Près du foyer, stoïque et pale, elle attendit.

The moment her fiancé had left for the war,
Without tears in her eyes or vulgar despair,
Irène de Grandfief, the pure and noble child,
Put on again the clothes she wore in the convent,
The black dress with the narrow cloak
And the little silver cross upon her breast.
She took off her jewels, closed her piano,
And keeping only that ring on her finger,
Sole reminder of the spring evening when, enraptured,
She pledged her life to the Vicomte Roger,
Blind to what people do and deaf to what they say,
Near the hearth, stoic and pale, she waited.

. . . Ada shares Irène’s pale skin and preference for black dresses. But there is ironic humor in the equation of Ada (“Ada de Grandfief “[p. 246]) with the chaste and patient Irène, since Ada, unlike Irène, is neither chaste nor particularly patient in matters of love.”
            D. Barton Johnson notes: “As with the song ‘Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre,’ Ada is cast as the abandoned fiancée and Percy’s death [in the Crimean war] is forecast” (“Ada and Percy: Bereft Maidens and Dead Officers,” The Nabokovian, 30 (Spring 1993), 55-57, p. 56). MOTIF: Percy’s fiancée.

246.13: Irène de Grandfief, la pauvre et noble enfant: Later Ada reports on her theatrical role, “myself as [Chekhov’s] Irina, la pauvre et noble enfant” (427.32), Irina Prozorov, the youngest of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, or Four Sisters as it becomes on Antiterra. As D. Barton Johnson notes, the link is that Chekhov’s Irina has become engaged to Baron Tuzenbakh; “As the regiment departs on the eve of her wedding, Lt. Tuzenbakh is killed in a duel by a friend, a disappointed suitor” (loc. cit, 57).

246.13-15: la pauvre et noble enfant . . . vendit son elephant.  “The gobble enfant is genuine, but the elephant is mine: Rivers and Walker 285: “Demon’s ‘gobble enfant’ (p. 246) is a mocking distortion of the phrase ‘noble enfant,’ the sound of which it approximates. But ‘gobble enfant’ is not, in fact, ‘genuine,’ as Demon claims, for Coppée’s phrase ‘la noble et pure enfant’ has been changed in the text to ‘la pauvre et noble enfant,’ thus making Demon’s pun possible.” The distortion in “la pauvre et noble enfant” is probably Nabokov’s memory lapse (such minor lapses were common in his recollection of verse lines), as is indicated by the recurrence of the phrase in this form at 427.32 (see previous n.).

246.17-247.26: Our great Coppée . . . one very fetching little piece which Ada de Grandfief here has twisted into English . . . trouvaille: Cf. 127.25-128.06 and nn. MOTIF: translation.

246.20: Ada with unusual archness:  MOTIF: Ada—arch.

246.24-28: The neat interplay . . . all this is easier described than imagined. “Old storytelling devices,” said Van, “may be parodied only by very great and inhuman artists: The paragraph ostensibly written by Van the narrator in the 1960s, seems, as it were, to have been foreseen by Van the character in 1888, in the midst of this scene: the character seems to know the future account of his life. Or less fantastically, playful Van as narrator slips his young self this spurious line of dialogue. MOTIF: novel.

246.26: all this is easier described than imagined: Cf. 79.33-34: “all this is more readily imagined than described.” (Noted by Cancogni, 76-77.)

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Afternote to Part One, Chapter 38


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