Part I Chapter 42




After Van’s bitter dual discovery about Ada’s infidelities, his natural impulse is to duel both the men who, in his eyes, betrayed his love for Ada: Philip Rack and Percy de Prey. But Rack’s status makes him hardly duelable, and Percy de Prey, whom he has already fought with, and all but duelled, is serving in the Second Crimean War thousands of miles away. Kalugano, where Rack hails from, at least lies on the rail route out of Ardis. But what we expect from Van’s temperament, situation, mood, and location plays out most unpredictably, in multiple directions, while nevertheless providing him with a series of oddly satisfying resolutions.

Although we expect Van’s fury and despair after the disclosures of I.41, in I.42 Nabokov shows his “hero’s” quite uncontainable rage causing harm to no one but himself, while his targets are dispatched by others who have nothing to do with him. At the same time Nabokov juxtaposes Van’s ferocious jealousy of Ada and his insatiable sexual appetite for other women: Cordula, a Kalugano harlot, a nurse, Cordula again.

The opening paragraph of I.42 primes us for the intensity of tragedy, but the chapter proves more often comic than not: Van comically out of sorts; comically sexually opportunistic; and when about to descend into comically dismal Kalugano, flaring up at a comically irrelevant, because homosexual, foe, to the point of calling him out to a duel. Van is comically self-dramatizing, penning but tearing up a crisply histrionic “when-you-receive-this” note that night to his father. Despite his confidence in his superior marksmanship, he himself is wounded, but despite and because of the wound, fate proves comically eager on his behalf: the hospital where he finds himself alerts him to Rack’s already being on the brink of death in another ward, so that he need not lay a finger on him. The least Van can do is draft a comically malevolent philosophical—highly metaphysical and highly unethical—speech to Rack, to terrify a dying man, but again he tears this up, and finds himself speaking to Rack in bathetically normal human tones. Cordula, whom he writes to, had once been the object of his suspicions that she was a lesbian lover to Ada, but she proves comically sexually eager for Van—after first telling him of Percy de Prey’s death. Not only has fate been even more comically eager on his behalf, disposing now of his second and final foe, but it has set him up with a sexual replacement for Ada.



301.01-03: Aqua used to say . . . happy on Demonia, our splendid planet: Aqua was of course driven to her suicide by her anxieties about Demon’s infidelities and about whether she or her sister was the mother of Demon’s son Van, the boy she thought of, and raised as, her son too: see I.3.

301. 01: only a very cruel or very stupid person: Cf. Lucette: “Bergson is only for very young people or very unhappy people” (377.14-15).

301.02-04: on Demonia. . . evil world: Van’s mood makes him stress the “demonic” side of this world—our world?.

301.02-03: on Demonia our splendid planet: The first time this name has been used for Antiterra.

301.02-03: Demonia, our splendid planet. . . . this terrible Antiterra: Encapsulates the oscillating evaluations of this planet (or its Terra counterpart) as heavenly or hellish running throughout Ada, not least in the inset Letters from Terra. MOTIF: Demon; Demonia.

301.03: terrible Antiterra: Cf. “between Terra the Fair and our terrible Antiterra” (338.18-19). MOTIF: Terra.

301.04-07: he had to destroy . . . delay itself might impair his power of survival: Cf. Demon’s urgency on finding his rival for Marina and his immediate pursuit across the Atlantic for a duel, 14.06-15.10.

301.04.-05: he had to destroy, or at least maim for life, two men: Cf. Humbert Humbert’s sense of the absolute imperative of his killing his rival for Lolita, Lolita II.22-25.

301.07: The rapture of their destruction: “Rapture,” a word important in the positive phase of Van’s love for Ada (74.31; 100.32; 103.19; 220.28-221.01; 281.17) returns with an opposite orientation

301.09-10: two different spots . . . definite . . . identifiable: Van assumes Philip Rack is somewhere in Kalugano, Percy de Prey somewhere in the Crimea. Note the sound play.

301.10: an identifiable billet: In the context of Van’s wish to destroy or maim his rivals, evokes the saying “every bullet has its billet” (nothing happens by chance, every bullet will find its destined lodging-place).

301.11-14: He was not prepared for the comically exaggerated zeal Fate was to display . . . an over-cooperative agent: “Leading him on”: getting him involved in the duel and hospitalized afterward, then finding that Rack is in a nearby ward; “over-cooperative agent” in ensuring Rack’s and de Prey’s deaths. Cf. Van’s more explicit retrospective expression of the irony of the chapter’s events, 320.24-26. Cf. also the later episode of Van and Ada’s reunion at Mont Roux, with Andrey Vinelander out of the way because of a cold: 526.23-24: “At first everything seemed to proceed according to the instructions of some friendly genius.”

301.15-16: to Kalugano to settle accounts with Herr Rack: Cf. Rack: “He had to return to Kalugano with his Elsie, who Doc Ecksreher thought ‘would present him with driplets in dry weeks.’ He hated Kalugano, his and her home town,” 202.10-13. MOTIF: -uga.

301.17-18: crack express tearing north at a hundred miles per hour!: Cf. Cordula’s being driven from Manhattan toward Van in Kalugano “at a hundred kilometers an hour” (318.20-21). MOTIF: technology.

301.19: Ladoga: MOTIF: -uga.

302.01-03: one corridor after another . . . window-gazers who did not draw in their bottoms: The carriages are arranged as compartments, with the corridor flanked by one set of windows.

302.05: Cordula and her mother: Coming from or going to Malbrook, Mayne, where Cordula goes every August (458.15)? The conjunction of Cordula and her mother recalls I.27, where Van meets Cordula and her mother through Demon.

302.07: a stout, elderly gentleman: Identified at 302.33 as Dr. Platonov.

302.08: a bespectacled boy in a sailor suit: Identified at 319.03-04 as Russel, and as Dr. Platonov’s grandson, as is evident at 302.19.

302.10-11: moved by a sudden very bright thought: Of extracting Percy de Prey’s address from his cousin, Cordula, as he does at 303.08

302.11-12: Cordula’s mother did not recognize him at once, and the flurry of reintroductions: They were introduced in September 1884, at a large party at her home, and presumably have not met since.

302.13: prunella-shod: (W2) prunella: “A smooth woolen or mixed stuff, formerly used for clerical and scholastic gowns, and, in a heavier quality, for the uppers of shoes.” Softer than leather, so Van’s misstep hurts. Cf. Mlle Larivière at the 1884 picnic on Ada’s birthday: as she bends down to pee, her dress “now hid her prunella shoes” (80.20).

302.15-16: "Spare my gout (or "take care" or "look out"), young man!": MOTIF: [adjective] [young/old] man.

302.17-23: “I do not like . . . ,” in a completely uncalled-for, brutal burst of voice. . . . the better Van in him tugged at his sleeve, aghast and ashamed: Cf. “‘If so,’ answered Van . . . His reply was inept, and the whole episode had a faint paramnesic tang” (510.15-25).

302.17: I do not like being addressed as ‘young man’: Though Van is only 18. MOTIF:[adjective] [young/old] man

302.18: the invalid: A reference back to Dr. Platonov’s “Spare my gout”?

302.25-26: “Cordula,” said the old actress ( . . . in the middle of her best speech): Cf. the description of Cordula’s mother as “an overripe, overdressed, overpraised comedy actress” (164.05-06).

302.27: this angry young demon: Echoing (1) Van’s angry rejection of being called “young man,” and Van’s being recognizably like a young Demon (in his volatility, here), and (2) the phrase “angry young man,” much in the air from 1957: OED, angry, “3c: Dissatisfied with and outspoken against the prevailing state of affairs, current beliefs, etc.; esp. in phr. angry young man (abbrev. A.Y.M.). The expression ‘angry young man’ and variants of it became commonly used, esp. by journalists, after the production of J. Osborne's play Look Back in Anger (first performed 1956). The phrase did not occur in the play but was applied to Osborne by G. Fearon, a press reporter (see quot. 2 Oct. 1957 at sense 3c(b)), thence used particularly of young writers, usually of provincial and lower middle-class or working-class origin, who denounced or satirized the ‘Establishment’ (q.v.) and the abuses of the time; later applied by extension to any person, group, etc., in Britain and elsewhere who considered the times to be out of joint”; despite the anachronism, it is appropriate that a theatre actress introduces this term first resonant in the theatre; but also (3) “I’m a dirty young man,’ sighed Demon” (255.12); and (4) “by two angry old men,” 107.25-26.

MOTIF: [adjective] [young/old] man; Demon.

302.28: thirty-nine winks: thirty-nine winks: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: forty winks: “A colloquial term for a short nap or doze.” Presumably the Countess de Prey’s doze is even shorter than a short nap. Anyone who catches an echo of the famous adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), by the Scot, John Buchan (1875-1940), twice made into a film before Ada was written, is likely to find the distortion of the usual expression even funnier.

302.29-31: the very roomy and rococo “crumpeter,” as Kalugano College students used to call it: A1: “crumpet = teacake, toast.” Ardeur 252: “tarteloir,” another neologism, punning on French tarte or tartelette (“tart” or “little tart”) and the English slang tart, “prostitute,” “loose woman.”

“Crumpeter” can mean one who makes crumpets, but this is hardly an established usage; in the sense here, of a room where crumpets are offered, it is a neologism. Crumpet (OED 2): “A soft cake made of flour, beaten egg, milk, and barm or baking-powder, mixed into batter, and baked on an iron plate. (Royal Baker, 1890.) Now usually a soft, round, doughy cake made with flour and yeast, cooked on a griddle or the like and usually eaten toasted with butter.” Cf. “Lucette looked on, munching a crumpet” (89.03-04). A “crumpet-scramble” is old slang (since 1860) for a tea-party (Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 8th edition).

For this cant term for the tea-car, cf. “to scratch and scratch and scratch scrumptiously (canteen cant)” (107.07-08).

But the essential overtone here is the widespread slang sense of “crumpet,” recorded by the OED first in 1936: “Women regarded collectively as a means of sexual gratification; occasionally a woman; sexual intercourse. So a bit (or piece) of crumpet: a (desirable) woman; a ‘bit of fluff’”; according to Partridge, “Woman as sex; women viewed collectively as instruments of sexual pleasure: low: from ca. 1880.”

In about November 1884, after Ardis the First, Van met Ada, chaperoned by Cordula, at the railway station café near Brownhill College (167.27-170.23). Now he meets Cordula alone on a railway teacar after Ardis the Second, his attitude to her has changed.

MOTIF: college slang; crumpet.

302.33: Platonov: A real Russian surname, including that of Soviet writer Andrey Platonov (1899-1951); also the name commonly given in English to an early full-length play (1878) by Chekhov that he left unfinished and untitled. Three women are enamored of the married Platonov, a disillusioned provincial schoolmaster; one of the women shoots him on realizing she has no hope for a life with him.

303.01-02: the dear old man.": MOTIF: [adjective] [young/old] man.

303.04-05: you actually noticed me today. Two months ago you snubbed me: “A fourth maiden . . . stopped Van to inform him with a pretty pout that he did not remember her, which was true. . . . ‘No, I’m Cordula!’ she cried” (188.34-189.05).

303.07: Cordula is no longer a virgin!: Cf. Van’s first meeting with Cordula: “ ‘Are you a virgin?’ ‘I don’t date hoodlums,’ she replied calmly” (165.24-25).

303.10: your snoopy aunt: Praskovia or Prascovie de Prey, Percy’s mother: “‘she tells me her boy and Ada see a lot of each other, et cetera. Is that true?’ ‘Not really,” said Van. . . . There is no et cetera, that’s out of the question.’ ‘Good! . . .  Prascovie de Prey has the worst fault of a snob: overstatement” (242.10-16).

303.11: the Frasers: Cf. “‘Young Fraser . . . saw Percy killed.’ . . . Bill Fraser, the son of Judge Fraser, of Wellington, witnessed Lieutenant de Prey’s end” (319.06-14).

303.13: 5 Park Lane: This Manhattan address combines New York’s prestigious and expensive Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue and London’s prestigious and expensive Park Lane. MOTIF: riches.

303.14-15: Kalugano. . . . gruesome place: Cf. Rack “hated Kalugano” (202. 12); “dismal Kalugano” (272.24-25). MOTIF: Kalugano dismal.

303.15: gruesome place. Girl?: Cf. “gruesome girls” (483.10-11).

303.16-19: Kalugano?  . . . Concert hall? . . . Twice to a concert, in a pine forest: Perhaps a nod to the Tanglewood Festival, which has operated in the Berkshire Hills, western Massachusetts, since 1937, from 1938 partly in the Koussevitsky Music Shed. Through his parents, before the Russian Revolution, Nabokov knew Sergey Koussevitsky (1874-1951), the director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949, and director of Tanglewood from 1936 to 1949.

303.19: in a pine forest: Where Van’s duel, not with Rack but with an incidental stranger, will shortly take place (310.16-17); and where Van, with the help of Jones, a former Ardis footman, will in 1893 burn Kim Beauharnais’s photographic files of Van and Ada’s amours “and most of Kalugano’s pine forest” (446.02-03). MOTIF: pine forest.

303.17-22: “My cousin’s music teacher?” . . . She had not been aware that Ada took music lessons. How was Ada? “Lucette,’ he said. “Lucette takes or took music lessons. Okay. Let’s dismiss Kalugano.”: Cf. Van’s again changing the subject, in 1901, when Cordula mentions Ada: “‘And where’s the other?’ ‘I think we’ll part here’” (458.06-07).

303.22-23: These crumpets are very poor relative of the Chose ones. MOTIF: crumpet.

303.23: j’ai des ennuis: Darkbloom: “I have worries.”

303.25: un petit topinambour: Darkbloom: “tuber of the girasole [Jerusalem artichoke]; pun on ‘pun’ (‘calembour’).” Topinambou is a loan word in English for the Jerusalem artichoke (W2).

303.25-26: as the Teuton said in the story: Presumably invented.

303.29: womenses: Menses, women’s “troubles” or menses.

303.31: half-a-bottle of cognac: Cf. Demon proposing cognac to Van at Ardis, 243.21-22. MOTIF: Van’s drink.

304.01-06: rather it got enmeshed . . . Quisana: Perhaps a parody of the pathetic fallacy, criticized in theory by Alain Robbe-Grillet (Pour un nouveau roman, 1963) and excised in his fictional practice; and a homage to Flaubert’s intercutting two strands of speech, private and public, in the agricultural fair chapter of Madame Bovary (Part II, Chapter 8), in the intermingling of the speech and the landscape flashing by here?

 Cf. also Blanche’s recent monologue, earlier in the morning as the landscape rushes past: “Only the other day from behind that row of thick firs, look there, to your right (but he did not look—sitting silent, both hands on the knob of his cane), she and her sister Madelon, with a bottle of wine between them, watched Monsieur le Comte courting the young lady on the moss, crushing her like a grunting bear as he also had crushed—many times!—Madelon . . . ” (299.05-10).

304.04-05: or a romantic stream running down a cliff and reflecting her brief bright affair: Cf. “As they crouched on the brink of one of the brook’s crystal shelves, where, before falling, it stopped to have its picture taken and take pictures itself, Van, at the last throb, saw the reflection of Ada’s gaze in the water” (267.11-13).

304.06: Marquis Quizz Quisana: The Quisisana was a restaurant in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg. Cf. the story “Sounds”: “arrested at the Quisisana Restaurant” (SoVN 18).

Note the contrast of the commonplace, generic and often equivalent and interchangeable “Jack” and “John” at 304.03-04 and the wildly idiosyncratic and improbable “Marquis Quizz Quisana.” “Quiz” originally meant “An odd or eccentric person; a person whose appearance is peculiar or ridiculous” (OED); by extension, “A person who ridicules or engages in banter; a wit; a mocker; a practical joker.” “Marquis Quiz Quisana,” with its triple “quis,” is something of a “quiz” in the old sense, and the Kvisisana a “quiz” in the modern sense,

304.07-09: A pine forest fizzled out and factory chimneys replaced it. . . . clattered past a roundhouse . . . groaning. A hideous station: The approach to Kalugano station confirms its comic unpleasantness.

MOTIF: Kalugano dismal.

304.07:  A pine forest fizzled out: As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, “fizzled” foreshadows Van’s burning down “most of Kalugano’s pine forest” (446.02-03).

MOTIF: pine forest.

304.10-12: “Good Lord,” cried Van, “that’s my stop.” He . . . made for the exit: A reprise of Van’s swift exit from the Brownhill railway station café, after his meeting with Ada and chaperone Cordula: “He glanced at his watch; glanced up at the clock on the wall. He said he was sorry—that was his train” (170.21-23) (cf. Boyd 2001: 162).

304.11-12: He put money on the table, kissed Cordula’s willing lips and made for the exit: He has no luggage, having dressed carefully for a possible duel but ordered the rest of his things to be sent from Ardis after him (295.04-11).

304.13-31: crashed into somebody who had stooped to pick up a bag. . . . Cubistic labels of remote and fabulous places color-blotted the newer of the valises: Cf. especially Van at the beginning of Mont Roux the First (“tripped over a gaudy suitcase, and made his entrée at a ridiculous run. . . . His reply was inept, and the whole episode had a faint paramnesic tang—and next instant Van was shot dead from behind,” 510.16-25); but also, more generally, the luggage problem at the beginning of Ardis the First (“descended with his two suitcases,” 34.01, “A servant in waiting took his horse,” 35.31), at the end of Ardis the First (“Van’s black trunk and black suitcase, and black king-size dumbbells, were heaved into the back of the family motor-car,” 156.18-19, “Morio, his favorite black horse, stood waiting for him. . . . He thanked the groom with a handful of stellas and galloped off,” 159.09-11); and at the beginning of Ardis the Second (“My horse caught a hoof in a hole in the rotting planks of Ladore Bridge and had to be shot. I have walked eight miles,” 189.02-04); at the beginning of their Manhattan stay (luggage is bumped down all over the flat while Van and Ada make love in the bathroom, 392-93); and at the beginning of Mont Roux the Second (“There had been trouble with her luggage. There still was,” 555.34).

304.14-15: “On n’est pas goujat à ce point”: Darkbloom: “what scurvy behaviour.” Cf. “‘on’ n’est pas bête à ce point’ (‘there are limits to stupidity,’ colloquial and rude)” (119.20-21).

304.16: staff captain’s: (W2) staff captain: “Formerly, in the British navy, an officer holding the rank of captain (or commander) in the navigating corps.” Although Tapper is British (306.16), this is an unfamiliar rank, meant to sound odd or wrong.

304.18-311.30: glove-slapped. . . . Lakeview (Lakeview!) Hospital: MOTIF: duel.

304.18: glove-slapped him smartly across the face: Cf. Demon accosting the Baron d’O: “back-slapped the astonished Baron across the face with a lavender glove. The challenge was accepted” (14.28-29); Van virtually challenging Percy de Prey after their fight and stand-off at Ada’s birthday picnic: “’Quand tu voudras, mon gars,’ said Van, slapping the fender and using the terrible second person singular of duelists in old France” (277.21-23).

304.19-20: white-faced, black-haired young fop: Van is usually tanned, especially this far into summer: white with anger? MOTIF: black-white.

304.23: with a light “piston blow” delivered by the left elbow: Ada 1968: “with a [korotom] 'piston blow' delivered by the left elbow” (and “light” inserted above the deleted “korotom.”  Cf. “Four years later Van could stun a man with one blow of either elbow” (82.07-08).

304.30-31: Cubistic labels of remote and fabulous places color-blotted: Refers especially to the phase of cubism known as synthetic cubism, from about 1912 to 1914, with its incorporation of real or collaged fragments of newspapers or other labels or patterned paper and its return to color after the period of almost monochromatic analytic cubism, from about 1909 to 1911. Key painters included Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Georges Braque, and Juan Gris (1887-1927). Picasso’s “The Guitar” (1913, Museum of Modern Art, New York) his “Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle” (1914, National Gallery, London) and "Still Life with Compote and Glass (1914-15, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio) and Braque’s “La musicienne” (1918, Kunstmuseum, Basel) and "Man with a Guitar" (1914, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris) are examples close to the descriptions of the valises. Cf. “bric-à-Braques” (17.12).

304.32: Captain Tapper: Rivers and Walker 286: “The name ‘Tapper’ alludes to another French term for a homosexual man: tapette.” It may or may not be relevant that there is a character Simon Tappertit in Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge (1841), an apprentice locksmith, captain of the secret society of “Prentice Knights,” who is found “burnt and bruised, and with a gun-shot wound in his body; and his legs . . .  crushed into shapeless ugliness” (ch. 71). Cf. also, perhaps, Mrs. Tapirov (31.14), whose daughter Van will shortly recall (307.08-11).

304.32-33: Wild Violet Lodge: Darkbloom: “‘Wild Violet,’ as well as ‘Birdfoot’ (p. 306), reflects the ‘pansy’ character of Van’s adversaries and of the two seconds.” A1: Lodge: “(manor) house). Ardeur 254: “Villa des Violettes.”

Rivers and Walker 286: “This passage is a cat’s cradle of allusions to homosexuality and is much more complex than Darkbloom’s note suggests. . . . Both ‘Wild Violet’ and ‘Birdfoot’ allude to ‘pansy’ and thence to homosexuality, since ‘pansy,’ in addition to being a slang term for a homosexual man, is a flower belonging to the violet family. ‘Wild Violet’ may contain a further allusion to one of homosexuality’s most famous exponents: Oscar Wilde.”

Pansy is a type of violet (W2): “A garden plant (Viola tricolor hortensis), derived from V. tricolor, the wild pansy of Europe, and other species,” (W3) “derived chiefly from the wild pansy of Europe by hybridizing the latter with other wild violets”) , and “pansy” a common pejorative slang term since ca. 1925 for “A very effeminate youth; a homosexual” (Partridge). Cf. “she was having her hair dressed by senile but still wonderworking Monsieur Violette of Lyon and Ladore” (285.20-21), hairdressing being an occupation commonly associated, in males, with homosexuality.

304.34: the Majestic: Cf. TT 4: “the Fantastic in Blur . . . the Majestic in Chur.”

304.34-305.01: if not, a note will be left for your second or seconds: He does stay at the Majestic, but leaves to buy the clothes he needs, and briefly forgets the seconds: “when he remembered with a start that he had not left any message for Tapper’s seconds” (306.01-02).

305.03-04: a twenty dollar piece from a palmful of gold: Cf., earlier that morning, “crammed a score of twenty-dollar gold coins into a chamois purse” (295.07-08). MOTIF: gold dollars.

305.05: Yellow cotton. . . Up each nostril: Perhaps, as Andrei Babkov suggests (personal communication), a play on the (now rare) idiom of cotton as a verb (W2): “2. To harmonize in action or association; to agree; also Colloq. to make friends; fraternize.”

305.10: the revolving door: Cf. the revolving door where Van trips on luggage in Mont Roux in 1905 (510.15-16).

305.13-14: The Majestic, a huge old pile, all grime outside, all leather inside: Grime from the “factory chimneys” (304.07), apparently. Cf. VN essay “On Generalities” (1926), “meanwhile let us savor our time like pagans and gods: with its marvellous machines and huge hotels, whose ruins the future will cherish, as we cherish the Parthenon; with its very comfortable leather armchairs, unknown to our ancestors” (VN, Think, Write, Speak, ed. and trans. Brian Boyd and Anastasia Tolstoy, New York: Knopf, 2019).

305.14-15: was told all were booked by a convention of contractors: Humbert Humbert, arriving at The Enchanted Hunters Hotel with Lolita, is told that a religious convention and a flower show mean the hotel room he reserved has no longer been kept for him (Lolita 118).

305.15-16: tipped the desk clerk in the invincible Veen manner: MOTIF: riches; Van’s tips and bribes.

305.18: a mechanical piano: Cf. “while the music continued to play on its own as if by some mechanical device” (208.01-02); “The grand piano in the otherwise bare hall seemed to be playing all by itself” (358.17-18).

305.23: lost person department: Versus the normal “lost property department.”

305.26-30: second walking stick: the Ardis Hall silver-knobbed one he had left behind in the Maidenhair station café. . . an alpenstockish point capable of gouging out translucent bulging eyes: An accumulating but false foreboding, since Van does not use the cane to beat Rack or anyone else. But he will use an alpenstock to blind Kim Beauharnais: “‘But, you know, there’s one thing I regret,’ she added: ‘Your use of an alpenstock to release a brute’s fury—not yours, not my Van’s” (445.30-32). MOTIF: cane; eye dissociated.

305.29-30: an alpenstockish point capable of gouging out translucent bulging eyes: Cf. “her blue trout which, to judge by its contorted shape and bulging eyes, had boiled alive, convulsed by awful agonies” (464.21-23).

305.30-33: got a suitcase . . . shirts, . . . slacks . . . slippers . . . envelope: Since he left Ardis without anything but what he was wearing, and asked “to have his things packed and forwarded to his father’s address” (295.10-11).

305.32-33: a pair of saffian bedroom slippers fetally folded in a leathern envelope: (W2) saffian: “A kind of leather mode of goatskins or sheepskins tanned with sumac and dyed with bright colors.” Cf. the “large folding board of saffian” (223.29) for the Flavita set given by Baron Klim Avidov (223.28-29). Cf. The Original of Laura 11 (card 6): “before the pair of morocco slippers could be located foetally folded in their zippered pouch.”

306.01-02: when he remembered with a start that he had not left any message for Tapper’s seconds: Cf. 304.34-305.01.

306.02-03: retraced his steps: The Kyoto Reading Circle notes: “With an oath and a sigh Hugh retraced his steps, which was once a trim metaphor” (TT 14).

306.07-09: Arwin Birdfoot . . . Johnny Rafin, Esq.: Links “Two famous orchidologists . . . Charles Darwin and  C.S. Rafinesque (who named the Cordula orchid (now named Paphiopedilum)) were both orchid experts” (Mason 92). Perhaps, as the Kyoto Reading Circle intimates, the name is Arwin Birdfoot because of Darwin’s interest in pigeons (he begins On the Origin of Species  with a discussion of the varieties of pigeons obtained by artificial—human—rather than natural selection). See next nn. for details.

306.07: Arwin Birdfoot: See 304.32-33n for Darkbloom explanation. Viola pedata, the birdfoot or birdsfoot violet, also known as mountain pansy, a violet of central and eastern North America. Rivers and Walker 286: “ ‘Birdfoot’ alludes to the Bird’s-Foot Violet, whose scientific name is Viola pedata. This scientific name yields a double allusion to homosexuality: (1) in Viola, since violet or lavender is a color traditionally associated with homosexuality and since the Viola pedata has large purple or blue flowers; (2) in pedata (Latin, “footed”), since this word suggests the French term pédéraste (“homosexual”) and its colloquial derivatives pédé, pédale, and pédéro. . . . Both ‘Wild Violet’ and ‘Birdfoot’ allude to ‘pansy’ and thence homosexuality, since ‘pansy,’ in addition to being a slang term for a homosexual man, is a flower belonging to the violet family. ‘Wild Violet’ may contain a further allusion to one of homosexuality’s most famous exponents: Oscar Wilde.”

Cf.  “an early-spring sanicle  . . . the Bear-Foot” (8.24-31).

306.09: Johnny Rafin, Esq.: Darkbloom: “pun on ‘Rafinesque,’ after whom a violet is named.” Viola rafinesquii Greene, common names Rafinesque’s violet, field pansy, wild pansy, or Johnny jump-up, “a native eastern North American species of the otherwise Old World section Melanium, the highly distinctive pansy section of the genus,” Jens Clausen, R. B. Channell and Uzi Nur, “Viola rafinesquii, The Only Melanium Violet Native to North America,” Rhodora, 66 (1964), 32-46, p. 44. It was named by Rafinesque in 1808 as Viola tenella. “Greene (1899) was the first to provide a valid, legitimate name for Rafinesque’s pansy, sensibly renaming it Viola rafinesquii, and this has been its name until fairly recently,” loc. cit. p. 36. Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840), French-American “naturalist and early theorizer about the evolution of species” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed.), who “believed that each variety of a species is a ‘deviant,’ which, through reproduction, may become a permanent species” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed.).

306.10: wore blue suede shoes with a dreadful tan suit: The Kyoto Reading Circle suggests, in this chapter rich in music allusions, a reference to the song “Blue Suede Shoes.” This seems likely.

According to Wikipedia “[Singer-songwriter Johnny] Cash [1932-2003] told [singer-songwriter Carl] Perkins [1932-1998] of a black airman, C. V. White, whom he had met when serving in the military in Germany, who had referred to his military regulation airmen’s shoes as ‘blue suede shoes.’ Cash suggested that Perkins write a song about the shoes. . . . When Perkins played a dance on December 4, 1955, he noticed a couple dancing near the stage. Between songs, he heard a stern, forceful voice say, ‘Uh-uh, don't step on my suedes!’ He looked down and noted that the boy was wearing blue suede shoes and one had a scuff mark. ‘Good gracious, a pretty little thing like that and all he can think about is his blue suede shoes,’ thought Perkins. That night Perkins began working on a song based on the incident.” (, accessed 3 October 2018). The song became a number one hit for Perkins and a rock standard, for Elvis Presley and many others. The lines “But don't you step on my blue suede shoes / You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes” form a key refrain in the song. The “blue suede shoes” that inspired the songs were military uniform; Arwin Birdfoot is “a lieutenant in the Guards” (306.07-08). Van has stepped on Dr. Platonov’s soft prunella shoes, triggering a cry and Van’s rude reply, before Van then bumps into Captain Tapper’s luggage, triggering a rude outburst and Van’s swift challenge to a duel, at which Lieutenant Birdfoot will be Captain Tapper’s second. The song’s insistence on not stepping on the “blue suede shoes” seems too pertinent to be irrelevant in this context. The “tan suit” may be a reference to the flamboyant attire of the pianist and singer Liberace (Władziu Valentino Liberace, 1919-1987), whose suits included tan and whose manner was extravagantly camp. Although he was homosexual, Liberace did not publicly admit it. But the Kyoto Reading Circle suggests Elvis Presley’s tan suits: see

306.13: his heart belonged to Van’s adversary: The Kyoto Reading Circle notes:This echoes the song, ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy,’ composed by Cole Porter [1891-1964] in 1938 for the musical Leave It to Me.”

306.15: and member of the Do-Re-La country club: Ada 1968 had had “and [belonged to a very select] country club” before Nabokov inserted “member of the Do-Re-La” above the deletion. Darkbloom: “ ‘Ladore’ musically jumbled.” In other words, playing with “Do Re La” on the sol-fah musical scale.

The name also evokes, surely, the famous American song “As I walked out in the streets of Laredo,” also known as “Cowboy’s Lament” (first published 1910, authorship uncertain), which here has a fatidic note, given that Van will be shot in the chest, especially in the line “For I'm shot in the chest, and today I must die.”

As I walked out in Laredo one day,
I spied a poor cowboy, all wrapped in white linen
All wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay.

"I see by your outfit, that you are a cowboy."
These words he did say as I slowly passed by.
"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,
For I'm shot in the chest, and today I must die."

"'Oh once in the saddle I used to go dashing,
'Oh once in the saddle I used to go gay.
First down to Rosie's, and then to the card-house,
Got shot through the body, and now here I lay."

"Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
And play the dead march as you carry me along;
Take me to the green valley, there lay the sod o'er me,
For I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong."

"Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,
Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall.
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin,
Roses to deaden the clods as they fall."

"Then swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly,
And give a wild whoop as you carry me along;
And in the grave throw me and roll the sod o'er me.
For I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong."

"Go bring me a cup, a cup of cold water.
To cool my parched lips", the cowboy then said.
Before I returned, his spirit had departed,
And gone to the round up – the cowboy was dead.

We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly,
And bitterly wept as we bore him along.
For we loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome,
We all loved our comrade, although he'd done wrong.

MOTIF: dore.

306.18: horticulture: Echoing Tapper’s Wild Violet Lodge, Birdfoot and Rafin, Esq., associations.

306.22: stick his pistol up his gracious anality: A mocking echo of Johnny Rafin’s “gracious finality” (306.20) turning the obsequiousness of that whole sentence to a barb especially calculated to offend homosexuals—as it does, in the next line.

306.25: a very refined person: An inadvertent echo by Johnny Rafin of his own name that will then become a deliberate and mocking echo in Van’s “Did he or the refined Captain know” (306.28).

306.29: with three babies (probably): Cf. Rack “had to return to Kalugano with his Elsie, who Doc Ecksreher thought would present him with driplets in dry weeks” (202.10-12). But Elsie Rack has “just had a complicated miscarriage” (313.22).

307.03: an army ‘bruger’: Play on the well-known Luger pistol, designed by the Austrian Georg Luger (1849-1923) and patented by him in 1898, manufactured in several countries between 1898 and 1948, and used by the German army in World War I and World War II.  “Bruger” also seems to allude to William B. Ruger (1916-2002), an American firearm designer who“praised the Luger's 145° (55° for Americans) grip angle and duplicated it in his .22 LR pistol” (, accessed 28 September 2018). “Bruger” perhaps, given the multiple jokes on homosexuality, may also be intended as a near-anagram of “bugger.” As a semi-automatic pistol a Luger or “Bruger” would be grotesquely inappropriate for a duel. A1: bruger: “automatic.”

307.05-09: the music shop . . . the harps and the guitars and the flowers in silver vases on consoles receding in the dusk of looking-glasses, and recalled the schoolgirl whom he had longed for so keenly half a dozen years ago—Rose? Roza? Was that her name?: In I.4, a Mrs. Tapirov “had a shop of objets d’art and more or less antique furniture. . . . Crystal vases with crimson roses and golden-brown asters were set here and there in the fore part of the shop—on a gilt-wood console, on a lacquered chest, on the shelf of a cabinet, or simply along the carpeted steps leading to the next floor where great wardrobes and flashy dressers semi-encircled a singular company of harps” (31.15-32.01). Van perhaps does not know or find out her daughter’s name, but naturally he associates it with roses: “He satisfied himself that those flowers were artificial. . . . When he called next day for the object . . . , it was not ready or had not been obtained. In passing, he touched a half-opened rose and was cheated of the sterile texture his fingertips had expected when cool life kissed them with pouting lips. ‘My daughter,’ said Mrs. Tapirov, who saw his surprise, ‘always puts a bunch of real ones among the fake pour attraper le client. You drew the joker.’ As he was leaving she came in, a schoolgirl in a gray coat with brown shoulder-length ringlets and a pretty face. On another occasion . . . he saw her curled up with her schoolbooks in an armchair—a domestic item among those for sale. He never spoke to her. He loved her madly. It must have lasted at least one term” (32.01-19). The Roza spelling is presumably an echo of Mrs. Tapirov’s Russian surname and accent.

MOTIF: flowers; rose.

307.07-08: receding in the dusk of looking-glasses: Cf. “As she began losing track of herself, she thought it proper to inform a series of receding Lucettes—telling them to pass it on and on in a trick-crystal regression” (494.17-19).

307.11: his pale fatal sister: Cf. “the pale fatal girl in another well-known melodrama. . . . In this one” (443.33-34). MOTIF: family relationship.

307.12-13: along Main Street—one of a million Main Streets: Cf. the town of Wace, in a Rocky Mountain state, where Lolita briefly disappears, Humbert looks for her, and describes it as he does, she turns up, he grills her: “The time was 9 a.m. mountain time. The street was Main Street.” (Lolita 224).

307.16: the burning bar: Cf. “a darkishly burning bar” (Lolita 258). MOTIF: Burning Barn.

307.16-22: a graceful harlot in black—tight bodice, wide skirt, long black gloves, black-velvet picture hat— . . . her russety blond beauty; he thought he might sample her later on, but when he glanced again she had gone: Cf. the semi-private tearoom of the railway station near Brownhill, late 1884: “empty, save for a slender lady in black velvet, wearing a beautiful black velvet picture hat, who sat with her back to them at a ‘tonic bar’ and never once turned her head, but the thought brushed him that she was a cocotte from Toulouse” (169.24-27); and Lucette in Ovenman’s bar, Paris, late May 1901: “headed for the bar, and as he was in the act of wiping the lenses of his black-framed spectacles, made out . . . the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then (much more distinctly!) ever since his pubescence, passing alone, drinking alone. . . . It was a queer feeling—as of something replayed by mistake, . . . a wrong turn of time. . . . There she was, against the aureate backcloth of a sakarama screen next to the bar. . . From under the wavy wide brim of her floppy hat . . . , a spiral of intentionally disarranged, expertly curled bright copper descends her flaming cheek, and the light of the bar’s ‘gem bulbs’ plays on her bouffant front hair, which, as seen laterally, convexes from beneath the extravagant brim of the picture hat right down to her long thin eyebrow” (460.05-461.02).  MOTIF: picture hat.

307.19-20: In the mirror behind the bar . . . he caught a blurred glimpse of her russety blond beauty: Cf. with the “blurred glimpse”:  He headed for the bar, and as he was in the act of wiping the lenses of his black-framed spectacles, made out, through the optical mist (Space’s recent revenge!), the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then (much more distinctly!) ever since his pubescence” (460.04-09). MOTIF: russet.

307.23: He ate, drank, schemed. He looked forward to the encounter: As Cancogni notes, this is both an echo of a Flaubertian intonation in L’Education sentimentale (1869) and a reversal of it. Flaubert uses what Gérard Genette calls récit itératif (iterative narrative) (Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, 1972, trans. Jane E. Lewin, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980, 116ff.), “narrating one time (or rather: at one time) what happened n times,” especially in L’Education sentimentale:


Il voyagea.
Il connut la mélancolie des paquebots, les froids réveils sous la tente,
l’étourdissement des paysages et des ruines, l’amertume des sympathies interrompues.
Il revint.
Il fréquenta le monde, et il eut d’autres amours encore. . . .  (III.6)

  (He travelled.
He knew the melancholy of steamships, cold wakings in a tent,
the stunnedness of landscapes and ruins, the bitterness of interrupted sympathies.
He returned.
He frequented society, and had still more love affairs. . . . )

Nabokov and French scholar Humbert Humbert parody this explicitly in Lolita II.1: “We came to know—nous connûmes, to use a Flaubertian intonation—the stone cottages under enormous Chateaubriandesque trees, the brick unit. . . . Nous connûmes (this is royal fun) the would-be enticements of their repetitious names—all those Sunset Motels . . . Nous connûmes the various types of motor court operators, the reformed criminal, the retired teacher. . . . ” (Lolita 145-46).

Cancogni 263 comments on the effect here at Ada 307: “Here, the form of the récit itératif does not condense time into tempo or tense, ten years or so per verb, but rather it expands a few minutes, or at most a few hours . . . into the prolonged echo of its notes. It is as if each gesture were caught in slow motion.”

307.27-28: Rack would no doubt accept a plain thrashing in lieu of combat: Cf. “or, still better, thrash him with a strong cane” (294.29).

307.28-34: Designing and redesigning various contingencies . . . into the orbits of dolls made by other criminals, cripples and madmen: Distinctly Boschean, even if no specific allusion is made, but with an added bite because of Van’s callously grotesque imagination here as narrator.

307.33: putting blue beads into the orbits of dolls: Cf. the image of Aqua as a blue-eyed doll: “Sly Aqua . . . opened her light-blue eyes” (28.17-18); “I, this eye-rolling toy” (29.06-07). MOTIF: eye dissociated.

308.03-04: all sorts of moral and legal complications: Legal complications, since Gamaliel wanted duels forbidden (though nothing came of his plans), 14.20-24? But they were forbidden in most countries where duelling was a practice.

308.04-07: He decided to do something artistic and tricky, such as shooting the pistol out of the fellow’s hand, or parting for him his thick brushy hair in the middle: Cf. VN on a duel involving the playwright Alexander Griboedov (1795-1829) and “Alexander Yakubovich (1792-1845), the celebrated daredevil (he had already dispatched a dozen brave men)” : “the great marksman [Yakubovich], knowing how much the great writer [Griboedov] liked to play the piano, neatly wounded him in the palm of his left hand, crippling the fifth digit” (EO, II.89); “Byron . . . could snuff out a candle with a pistol-shot at the distance of twenty paces” (EO III,8).

308.06-07: parting for him his thick brushy hair in the middle: Suggested apparently by his recollection of another person who crossed him in his irritated state on the train, Dr. Platonov, “a stout, elderly gentleman in an old-fashioned brown wig with a middle parting” (302.07-08).

308.08-16: On his way back to the gloomy Majestic he acquired . . . to have him called at five a.m.: Cf. Van’s similarly meticulous and distracting arrangements earlier this day, at 295.04-06 and 305.30-33. Cf. also Humbert Humbert fastidiously planning what he expects will be the shooting of Richard F. Schiller: “I resolved to make myself especially handsome and smart as I pressed home the nipple of my alarm clock before it exploded at the set hour of six A.M. Then, with the stern and romantic care of a gentleman about to fight a duel, I checked the arrangement of my papers, bathed and perfumed my delicate body, shaved my face and chest, selected a silk shirt and clean drawers, pulled on transparent taupe socks, and congratulated myself for having with me in my trunk some very exquisite clothes—a waistcoat with nacreous buttons, for instance, a pale cashmere tie and so on” (Lolita 268).

308.08: the gloomy Majestic: MOTIF: Kalugano dismal.

308.12: Skinner’s Balsam: A bottle for Skinner’s Balsam, a cough medicine, c. 1892, is in the collection of the Museum of Health Care, Kingston, Ontario,

257: “Baume de l’Écorcheur” (“Balsam of the Skinner”).

308.13-14: a pocket diary—what else?—yes, a small alarm clock: Cf. “crammed a score of twenty-dollar gold coins into a chamois purse, distributed handkerchief, checkbook, passport, what else? nothing else, over his rigid person” (295.07-09), when Van was already thinking forward to a duel or at least an assault on Rack and Percy de Prey.

308.13: pocket diary: A sign that he assumes he has more days to live.

308.20-22: this very morning, at dawn, a fey character . . . had spoken to him . . . in the toolroom of Ardis Hall: Cf. 292.09-294.07.

308.20: fey: (W2) “1 Fated or doomed to die; dying, also, enfeebled; delirious. Archaic & Scot. 2. Dead. Obs. . . . 3. Portending death; fatal; accursed; unlucky. Obs. 4. Having the air of one under a doom or spell; otherworldly; elfin; also, visionary.”

308.20-21: some Dormilona novel for servant maids: (W2) dormilona: “[Sp., fem., sleepyhead] The sensitive plant Mimosa pudica. Tropical Sp. Amer.” sensitive plant: “a A well-known tropical American irritomotile herb (Mimosa pudica) often cultivated in greenhouses. It has palmate leaves, the divisions of which are pinnate with many small leaflets. At a touch the leaf-stalk droops, and the pinnae and leaflets close tightly.” In the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, I propose: “The name suggests French dormir (to sleep) and therefore that such novels seem soporific to Van (and Nabokov), but also that Blanche has to ‘sleep alone’ after her would-be romantic disclosure to Van. The plant’s name in context is highly ironic: its species name, pudica, means ‘bashful’ or ‘shrinking,’ and another popular name is ‘the sensitive plant,’ because of the way its leaves fold in and droop when touched. Blanche is anything but sexually bashful, shrinking, or sensitive, but she is repeatedly infected with sexually transmitted diseases, first gonorrhea and then perhaps syphilis.”

308.22-25: He wondered if the other girl still stood . . . against the trunk of a murmuring tree: Cf. 296.30-298.09, especially “the time she stood with her back against a tree trunk . . . leaning her back now closer now less closely against the tree trunk.” MOTIF: against trunk.

308.22-23: Ardis Hall . . . arrow straight: MOTIF: Ardis . . . arrow.

308.23: the other girl: Even in imagination or memory Van now tries to avoid Ada’s name, as he did in conversation with Cordula at 303.20-21 (she mentions Ada, he can answer “Lucette” and change the subject).

308.23-24: adored and abhorred: The “abhorred” Ada against a tree-trunk here has an ironic echo with the leitmotiv “Ada, the ardors and arbors.” MOTIF: Ada, the arbors and ardors of Ardis; adore.

308.25-27: He wondered if . . . he should not prepare for her a when-you-receive-this note, flippant, cruel, sharp as an icicle: MOTIF: letters.

308.25-26: partie de plaisir: Darkbloom: “picnic.”

308.27-309.22: Better write to Demon. Dear Dad . . . Sorry! Van: MOTIF: letters.

308.33: in the woods: MOTIF: in the woods.

308.33-309.01: and am now no more: Cf. Lucette’s last letter to Van “mailed from Paris to his Kingston address on June 2, 1901, ‘just in case’” (146.15-16)—just in case she has committed suicide by the time it reaches Van, as indeed she has.

309.01-02: Though the manner of my end can be regarded as a kind of easy suicide: Cf. “the consecrated ground of a churchyard was denied the suicide a dead duelist was assumed to be by the Church,” EO III,61.

309.02-03: the ineffable Captain: (W2) ineffable: “Incapable of being expressed in words; unspeakable; unutterable; indescribable. . . . ”

309.03-04: the Sorrows of Young Veen: Allusion to the influential epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774; Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Werther, unable to bear the pain of his unrequited love for Charlotte, who is already engaged when he meets her and marries her fiancé, shoots himself. The hugely successful novel led to many cases of copycat suicides by disappointed lovers.

309.04-05: In 1884 . . . I seduced your daughter: Van here states point blank that he knows Demon is Ada’s father, not her uncle, and therefore that Ada is his sister. But because the note is torn up, after Van survives the duel, he does not let Demon know about the start of his affair with Ada until February 1893, after Demon has discovered them sharing a bedroom together, when again Van states point blank to Demon, almost in the same words, “I seduced her in the summer of eighteen eighty-four” (440.06-07).

309.05-06: Our torrid affair: Echoes Demon’s term for his latest sexual adventure (“I’m resting after my torrid affair,” 244.14), which itself echoes the title of a film Marina has starred in and the term Van appropriates to refer to their love affair: “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).

309.08: the greatest event in my life, and I have no regrets: Cf. “in the last nights of a life, which I do not regret, my love” (74.01-02).

309.13-14: the first Crimean War: On earth, the first and only “Crimean War” lasted from 16 October 1853 to 30 March 1856. Antiterra’s Second Crimean War has just broken out in 1888.

309.14: Lots of flowers, please!: MOTIF: letters.

309.16-17: He carefully reread his letter—and carefully tore it up. The note he finally placed in his coat pocket was much briefer: Anticipates Van’s long prepared speech for Rack and the very short speech he actually utters (“With a not unfamiliar gesture, Van tore up his prepared speech,” 315.24-25), 314.05-315.25.

In Turgenev’s Fathers and Children, ch. 24, having agreed to duel Pyotr Petrovich Kirsanov, “Bazarov began to write a letter to his father, but he tore it up and threw it under the table.”

309.23-26: roused by the night porter who put a cup of coffee with a local “eggbun” . . . resembled somewhat Bouteillan as the latter had been ten years ago: Cf. the first morning of Ardis the Second, “Bouteillan had appeared in the doorway . . . disappeared, promising to bring them their coffee. . . . The butler, now fully dressed, arrived with the coffee and toast” (195.16-29).

309.25: chervonetz: (W2) “[Russ, lit. ducat.] A gold monetary unit of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, established by a decree of 1922, equivalent to ten rubles, and worth about $5.15” at the time (1920s-1950s). MOTIF: gold dollars.

309.25-26: He resembled somewhat Bouteillan as the latter had been ten years ago: MOTIF: like . . .

309.25-30: resembled somewhat Bouteillan . . . as he had appeared in a dream, which Van now retrostructed . . . . Van often had word dreams: MOTIF: dream.

309.27: retrostructed: Neologism.

309.28-30: the “dor” in the name of an adored river equaled the corruption of hydro in “dorophone”: The “adored river” being, of course, the Ladore. MOTIF: adore; Ardis . . . adore; dore; hydro.

309.30: Van often had word dreams: Cf. “ninety-seven, night-nine, one hund, red dog” (346.06-07), as he drifts off into the Villa Venus dream and then his lecture analyzing but not psychoanalyzing dreams, and his own dreams, 359-64; and “a ‘verbal’ nightmare” (451.18-24).

309.31: He shaved, disposed of two blood-stained safety blades: Cf. “I think what I hated most about your handsome moon face was that baby complexion, the smooth-skinned jaws of the easy shaver. I had begun to bleed every time, and was going to do so for seven decades” (273.27-30).

309.32-310.01: a structurally perfect stool:  Van reports this “too much information” detail partly to show that he was not nervous before the duel, not inclined to diarrhoea or loose motions. There is still more detail than we want in the 1892 echo: “He kept it [ringing Ardis] up intermittently till daybreak, gave up, had a structurally perfect stool (its cruciform symmetry reminding him of the morning before his duel)” (389.13-15). See also Boyd 1985/2001, 197: “The ‘structurally perfect’ is a trap for the reviewers (such as Updike, “Van Loves Ada, Ada Loves Van,” p. 68) and critics (such as Fowler, Reading Nabokov, p. 177) who might disapprove of Nabokov’s fecal imagery without being able to see the structural perfection of which it forms part” (for which, see Boyd 1985/2001, 191-201)

310.03-04: into the latter’s Paradox, a cheap ‘semi-racer’: A paradox because a car that goes half as fast as a racer will be far from a racer. Perhaps with a shade of Zeno’s Paradox, in which the tortoise would run half as fast as Achilles but “in theory” could not be overtaken if given a head start?

310.05: the dismal bank of the lake: MOTIF: Kalugano dismal.

310.07-11: the tawny fumes of tremendous factories . . . along a suburban avenue . . . among laundry-linked pines: A comically inappropriate setting for a duel: American industrial suburbia. Cf. “A pine forest fizzled out and factory chimneys replaced it” (304.07).

310.12: Dorofey Road: Where the Racks used to live: “they used to rent a cottage way down Dorofey Road, near the forest” (313.12-13). The name sounds like “Dorothy” in English, and derives from a common Greek root (dōron theós, god’s gift), but in Russian is masculine (the feminine form is Dorofeya). Perhaps also a suggestion of “road” in Russian, doroga, and therefore a compounding of the dore/Ladore echo . MOTIF: dore.

310.13-14: “It abuts at the forest.” It abutted: Why is this so comical?

310.14-16: Van felt a faint twinge in his knee where he had it against a stone when attacked from behind a week ago, in another wood: MOTIF: knee.

310.16-19: At the moment his foot touched the pine-needle strewn earth of the forest road, a transparent white butterfly floated past, and with utter certainty Van knew that he had only a few minutes to live: Cf. the pale butterfly in a pine forest on Ada’s twelfth birthday picnic: “the picnic site, a picturesque glade in an old pinewood cut by ravishingly lovely ravines. A strange pale butterfly passed from the opposite side of the woods, along the Lugano dirt road” (79.08-11). Perhaps the same butterfly appears later in the picnic: “A pale diaphanous butterfly with a very black body followed then and Ada cried ‘Look!’ and explained it was closely related to a Japanese Parnassian. Mlle Larivière said suddenly she would use a pseudonym when publishing the story” (85.27-31).

The butterfly must belong to a (probably invented) species of the Parnassius genus. 

In Fathers and Children, ch. 24, the servant Pyotr, a witness of the duel (see 309.16-17n.), has an unpleasant foreboding.

MOTIF: butterflies; pine forest.

310.21-23: This stamped letter . . . Please post it once: MOTIF: letters.

310.24-25: a rather funerary-looking limousine: The ominous signs multiply, parodically.

310.25: accidentally slaughters me: Van cannot imagine that someone else would have his skill as marksman and duelist: he could be “slaughtered” only by accident.

310.26-29: the principals, pistol in hand, faced each other at a distance of some thirty paces, in the kind of single combat described by most Russian novelists and by practically all Russian novelists of gentle birth: Proffer 268: “Compare, in Speak, Memory: ‘No Russian writer of any repute failed to describe une rencontre, a hostile meeting, always of course of the duel à volonté type . . . ‘ (151).  Among the notable examples are: Pushkin (Onegin and Lensky) in Eugene Onegin, Lermontov (Pechorin and Grushnitsky) in A Hero of Our Time [both of these have been translated by Nabokov], Turgenev (Bazarov and Pavel Kirsanov) in Fathers and Children, Tolstoy (Pierre and Dolokhov) in War and Peace).” Another prominent example by a writer dear to Nabokov (and not of gentle birth) is the novella “The Duel” (1891), by Chekhov (Laevsky and von Koren); and by a writer Nabokov disliked, Dostoevsky, in The Demons (1871-72) (Gaganov and Stavrogin). Commenting on the Onegin-Lensky duel in Eugene Onegin, Nabokov provides a long summary of duelling protocol and an account of Pushkin’s own fatal duel, EO III.43-51. MOTIF: novel.

310.31-33: Van noticed a speckled movement on his right: two little spectators . . . with a basket of mushrooms between them: Cf. “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: bolete; fatidic distraction.

310.32-311.01: a boy in a sailorsuit, wearing glasses. . . . not the chocolate-muncher in Cordula’s compartment, but a boy very much like him: Cf. “a bespectacled boy in a sailor suit sitting next to Cordula, who was in the act of offering him one half of her chocolate bar” (302.08-10).

311.01-03: felt the jolt of the bullet ripping off, or so it felt, the entire left side of his torso: Cf., objectively “Dr. Fitzbishop congratulated him on having escaped with a superficial muscle wound, the bullet having lightly grooved or, if he might say so, grazed the greater serratus” (312.33-313.02); subjectively, from Lucette’s point of view: “your heart was almost ripped out, my poor dushen’ka (‘darling,’ more than ‘darling’), it looked to me at least eight inches long” (411.24-26). Demon also gets a wound in his side after his sword duel in the wake of his discovery of Marina’s infidelity with Baron d’O. (252.04-06).

311.09: dreaded losing consciousness, but, maybe, did faint briefly: In Fathers and Children, ch. 24, Pavel Kirsanov faints after he is wounded.

311.10-12: Johnny had relieved him of the letter . . . ‘Tear it up, you idiot’: MOTIF: letters.

311.15-19: “I bet you can’t wait—” began Van: he intended to say: “you can’t wait to have me slap you again,” but happened to laugh on “wait” and the muscles of mirth reacted so excruciatingly that he stopped in mid-sentence and bowed his sweating brow: Cf. Turgenev, Fathers and Children, ch. 24, where Pavel Kirsanov tries to speak but loses consciousness: “ ‘and . . have to’—but . . . he lost consciousness.”

311.21: Newspapers were dismembered: The Kyoto Reading Circle notes “a dismembered newspaper stirred on a bench” (SM 146).

311.26-27: the ancient and filthy macintosh on which a decrepit dear dog had once died on the way to the veterinary: Another false prolepsis.

311.29-30: in the general ward of Lakeview (Lakeview!) Hospital: Dismal Kalugano’s lake does not seem worth viewing: cf. “the dismal bank of the lake” (310.05). MOTIF: Kalugano dismal.

311.32-34: to demand . . .  that his suitcase and alpenstock be fetched from the Majestic: Cf., for the walking stick, with “an alpenstockish point,” 305.26-29; for the suitcase, 305.30.

311.33: to the best private palata in the place: Darkbloom: “Russ., ward.” Proffer 268:  “As in Chekhov’s ‘Ward No. 6’ (‘Palata no. 6’). On p. 313 Van learns Rack is in ‘Ward Five.’”

311.34: alpenstock: MOTIF: cane.

312.03: the sole reason of: A solecism, rather than the idiomatic “sole reason for.”

312.04: visit Kalugano (visit Kalugano!): MOTIF: Kalugano dismal.

312.04-05: His new quarters, where heartbroken kings had tossed in transit: Cf. Van’s note to Cordula that he “was in the suite for fallen princes in Lakeview Hospital, Kalugano” (317.04-05).

312.07: sparver: (W2) “1. The canopy or tester of a bed. Obs. 2. Her[aldry]. A tent, as borne by the Upholsterers’ Company.”

312.07-26: Tatiana . . . wrote him a charming and melancholy letter: A mock-obvious echo of Tatiana Larin, the heroine of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, who writes a letter to Onegin passionately declaring her love for him; after spurning her love, Onegin avoids the Larins, until Lensky persuades him against his will to visit the family; piqued when he gets there that it is a large gathering full of the country folk he has been trying to avoid, Onegin provokes Lensky by flirting with his fiancée, Tatiana’s sister Olga, and in a duel two days later Onegin kills Lensky. Also an echo of Marina, who is playing Tatiana in a travesty stage adaptation of Eugene Onegin when Demon first falls in love with her, during Tatiana’s letter-writing scene. Contrasting her stale and staid middle-age with her torrid youth, Demon, as imagined by Van, recalls Marina arriving “by the Orient Express with five trunks, Dack’s grandsire, and a maid, to Dr. Stella Ospenko’s ospedale where he was recovering from a scratch received in a sword duel (and still visible as a white weal under his eighth rib after a lapse of nearly seventeen years)” (252.02-06). MOTIF: letters.

312. 08-12: nurse, with black hair and diaphanous skin ( . . . that harmony between neck and eyes which is the special, scarcely yet investigated secret of feminine grace fantastically and agonizingly reminded him of Ada: Cf. in Ada “the mat white of her neck through the black bronze stream” of her hair (103.34-104.01). Cf. also Van’s impression of Ada dressed for swimming: “The silly girl had heaped her hair under a rubber cap, and this gave an unfamiliar, vaguely clinical look to her neck, with its odd dark wisps and strags, as if she had obtained a nurse’s job and would never dance again” (199.18-22).

Tatiana’s being a letter writer, and reminding Van of the Ada he seeks not to remember, anticipates the three women in his Letters from Terra: “In his struggle to keep the writer of the letters from Terra strictly separate from the image of Ada, he gilt and carmined Theresa until she became a paragon of banality. . . . When . . . one’s sympathy got focused on his enchanting, melancholy, betrayed wife (née Antilia Glems), our author found himself confronted with the distressful task of now stamping out in Antilia, a born brunette, all traces of Ada, thus reducing yet another character to a dummy with bleached hair. . . Flora, initially an ivory-pale, dark-haired funest beauty, whom the author transformed just in time into a third bromidic dummy with a dun bun” (339.34-340.11). MOTIF: like X.

312.13-14: Tatiana, a torturing angel in her own right: Contrast with Dan’s nurse Bess, a torturing demon (bes being Russian for “demon”), 435.18-25. MOTIF: angel.

312.14: her own right: Textual: the parenthesis that opened at 312.09, “(some of her attitudes and gestures . . . ,” would seem to need closing after “right.”

312.17: delegated the task to Dorofey, a beefy-handed male nurse: Why the echo of the already striking Dorofey Road (310.12)? MOTIF: doro.

312.25-27: much later, she wrote him a charming and melancholy letter in red ink on pink paper; but other emotions and events had intervened, and he never met her again: A reversal of Eugene Onegin, where it is Tatiana who makes the first advances, not her male counterpart, by letter; and Eugene who then “much later” responds to her, by letter, after “other emotions and events had intervened,” but, as William Woodin Rowe notes, “no affair ensues (also as in EO). The order of events is reversed, but not the emotions evoked” (Rowe, Nabokov’s Deceptive World, New York: New York University Press, 1971, 23).

312.28-31: the stick . . . ( . . . must be climbing nowadays Wellington Mountain, or, perhaps, helping a lady to go “brambling” in Oregon): Cf. “Bill Fraser, the son of Judge Fraser, of Wellington” (319.13). Mount Wellington (now known as kunanyi / Mount Wellington), 1271m, looms behind the city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; it has many walking tracks. John Nagamichi Cho suggests (private communication): “Perhaps the Antiterran equivalent of . . .  Mt. Washington, [N.H.,] the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. and a popular hiking destination, given the transatlantic doubling ‘when Washingtonias were Wellingtonias’ remark in 1.13” (81.20-21). Ada’s botanical walks, or at least her disappearance (to see Percy de Prey) under the pretext of such walks, are “‘brambles’ as she called her botanical rambles” (285.15). MOTIF: Wellington.

312.28-29: His suitcase promptly arrived from the hotel; the stick, however, could not be located: Cf. 311.32-24 for the demand for his things, and 305.26-30 for purchase of alpenstockish walking stick and suitcase. MOTIF: cane.

312.31-33: so the hospital supplied him with the Third Cane, a rather nice, knotty, cherry-dark thing with a crook and a solid black-rubber heel: MOTIF: cane.

312.34-313.02: escaped with a superficial muscle wound, the bullet having lightly grooved or . . . grazed the greater serratus:  Contrast with Van’s immediate sensation and impression: “he felt the jolt of the bullet ripping off, or so it felt, the entire left side of his torso” (311.01-03). Later too, the wound seems more severe than Dr Fitzbishop suggests: four years on, Van still has a red scar that looks eight inches long to Lucette, who also feels—at least in her drunken state—that it looks as if Van’s “heart was almost ripped out” (411.24). Vans scar;

313.01-02: the greater serratus: (W2) serratus: “Any of several muscles which arise from the ribs or vertebrae by separate slips or digitations, specif. a The serratus anterior, or magnus, arising chiefly from the eight upper ribs, and inserted into the vertebral border of the scapula.” Cf. The Eye: “the simple case of a light wound caused by an inaccurate bullet passing clean through the serratus” (31) (“passing clean through the serratus” is Nabokov’s addition in the 1965 translation; there is no corresponding passage in the Russian).

313.02-03: Van’s wonderful recuperational power: Cf. Ada in 1892, about a different kind of capacity for recovery in Van: “‘Oh, what a good sight! Orchids. I’ve never seen a man make such a speedy recovery.’ ‘Hundreds of whores and scores of cuties more experienced than the future Mrs. Vinelander have told me that’” (420.19-22).

313.06-09: Did Van like music? Sportsmen usually did, didn’t they? Would he care to have a Sonorola by his bed? No, he disliked music, but did the doctor, being a concert-goer, know perhaps where a musician called Rack could be found?: Van mocks the Doctor’s glib assumption about Van (since he has been injured by gunshot, he must be a sportsman), and his glib generalization about sportsmen and music, with his own glib mock-assumption (since the doctor recommends a Sonorola, he must be a concert-goer).

Nabokov did not like music and especially did not like inflicted music, above all in hospital situations. In an interview with Nurit Beretzky for Ma’ariv (1970), he listed what he hated, beginning with: “Background music, canned music, piped-in music, portable music, next-room music, inflicted music of any kind” (TWS). Cf. also Nabokov’s report to Edmund Wilson of hospitalization after a bout of food-poisoning: “In the meantime I had been transferred (in spite of my protests) to the general ward, where the radio kept emitting hot music, cigarette ads (in a juicy voice from the heart) and gags without interruption until (at 10 p.m.) I bellowed to have the bloody thing stopped” (DBDV 149).

313.07: a Sonorola: Cf. “ ‘That shade of blue, that shape of you’ (corny song on the Sonorola)” (372.16-17). Apparently invented by Nabokov, but plausible enough to have since been used as a trade name. Cf. “Radiola,” a brand of the French electronics company Radiotechnique (founded 1919) in use from 1922, transferred to Philips in 1931, remaining there until the brand was withdrawn in 2002, and, post-Ada, Sonos, an American electronics company founded in 2002.

313.09-11: “Ward Five,” answered the doctor promptly. Van misunderstood this as the title of some piece of music: Rather than a near-miss on Doctor Chekhov’s 1892 story “Ward Six.” As if in compensation for the number loss here, Chekhov’s Three Sisters becomes Four Sisters on Antiterra (427.04).

313.10-11: Would he find Rack’s address at Harper’s music shop: He has already tried, but found it locked (307.05-06); the name “Harper’s” echoes the harps he sees in its windows, 307.06.

313.11: Harper’s music shop: The name of a music shop which itself reflects an aspect of music (“harp”) strikes an echoing chord with the name of the music shop where Rack gets Elsie pregnant before marrying her: “He hated Kalugano, his and her home town, where in a moment of “mutual aberration” stupid Elsie had given him her all on a park bench after a wonderful office party at Muzakovski’s Organs where the oversexed pitiful oaf had a good job” (202.15).

313.13: down Dorofey Road, near the forest: Near where the duel took place, then: “a suburban avenue with clapboard cottages among laundry-linked pines. ‘Dorofey Road,’ cried the driver above the din of the motor. ‘It abuts at the forest.’ It abutted.” (310.10-15).

313.13-26: Dorofey Road . . . as soon as he could be rolled to Ward Five in a wheelchair by Dorofey: The coincidence of the names is further heightened. As if Van, being rolled to Rack’s ward, is fighting the duel again?

313.14-15: Ward Five was where hopeless cases were kept. The poor guy had always had a bad liver and a very indifferent heart: In Chekhov’s story, Ward 6 is the insane asylum. Rak in Russian means “cancer.”

313.15-16: The poor guy had always had . . . a very indifferent heart: Cf. “a piano tuner, practically a servant, with an obscure heart ailment” (203.33-204.01).

313.16-21: on top of that a poison had seeped into his system . . . more likely the work of his wife: MOTIF: poison.

313.16-19: a poison had seeped into his system; the local “lab” could not identify it and they were now waiting for a report . . . from the Luga people: Cf. “Dr. Fitzbishop had said, rubbing his hands, that the Luga laboratory said it was the not always lethal ‘arethusoides’” (317.15-17). Cf. Lucette on “my poor, betrayed, poisoned, innocent teacher of music” (383.24-25). MOTIF: -uga.

313.19: frog-green faeces: The Kyoto Reading Circle notes the “description of Rack as amphibian as he comes out of the pool with ‘an amphibious heave’ (202.3). Also, note how Van, rather proudly, compares Rack’s ‘frog-green faeces’ with his own ‘perfect stool’ (310.01).”

313.21: more likely the work of his wife: Elsie (202.11). Confirmed in Ada’s report that “R. had also died—not through your intervention as I had thought for a moment, but through that of his wife” (332.30-32).

313.21-22: Hindu-Andean voodoo: An unusual combination, though both “Indian” in different senses, but hardly associated with voodoo.

313.23:Yes, triplets—how did he guess?: Cf. “He had to return to Kalugano with his Elsie, who Doc Ecksreher thought ‘would present him with driplets in dry weeks’” (202.10-12); cf. also 306.29. MOTIF: driplets.

313.26-27: so he’d better apply a bit of voodoo, ha-ha, on his own flesh and blood: Cf. Dr Fitzbishop’s “ha-ha” speech mannerism at “would be on Terra, ha-ha, in time for evensong” (317.19-20).

313.31-33: a metal-handled black lid propped against its wall and bits of holly and laurel here and there: Part of a coffin and its residue: this is the lift to Ward Five, for hopeless cases (313.14-15). Ardeur 261: “un funèbre couvercle noir à poignées de metal” (“a black funeral lid with metal handles).

313.33-34: Dorofey, like Onegin’s coachman, said priehali (“we have arrived”): Proffer 268: “In a variant to I, LII. See VN’s EO Commentary, II, 196.” There Nabokov translates “Priehali” as “Here we are!”

314.04: the Russian-language newspaper Golos (Logos): Golos means “voice” (and was used in the Russian version of the radio station Voice of America, Golos Ameriki, on which Nabokov was interviewed in 1958, and, notes the Kyoto Reading Circle, was also the name of a St. Petersburg newspaper operating from 1863 to 1885); Logos is the Greek for “word” (and Russian Orthodoxy as a religion is the same as Greek Orthodoxy, and Russia’s alphabet closely derived from Greek); a common name for Russian émigré newspapers is Slovo (“word”), as in the Paris Slovo of 1922-23, the Riga Slovo of 1925, several papers called Novoe slovo (“The New Word”) and the New York Novoe russkoe slovo (“The New Russian Word,” 1920-2010), to which Nabokov occasionally contributed.

314.06: somebody you have seen only twice: At the Ardis poolside, in I.32, when Rack tells Ada he has to return to Kalugano; and in I.33, when Rack asks Van where the others are, in order “to make his farewells” (208).

314.08-09: he be tvoyu mat’: Darkbloom, “tvoyu mat’: Russ., ‘Thy mother’: the end of a popular Russian oath.” Proffer 268: “ ‘Fuck your mother.’ The English ‘he be’ is a phonetic approximation of the Russian ‘yebee’ (ebi). Stanislav Shvabrin (email, 10-11 June 2021), writes: “tvoyu mat’”: the phrase is a common Russian expletive interjection, which is a shortened version of a more elaborate, but still incomplete, oath “fucked thy mother.” The subject of the singular masculine past tense imperfective verb form of ebat’ (“to fuck") — needed for this oath to become a complete sentence — is omitted and its identity is debated. It may be that it is a totemic epitome of foulness, such as a male dog. If this is the case, the entire phrase becomes a pointedly grave insult implying interspecific crossbreeding: “A dog fucked thy mother.” A rare recorded instance of Nabokov’s employment of a related Russian expletive (see DBDV 72: "Razyebi tvoyu dushu," something like "[May God/the Devil] fuck your soul to bits” ) suggests, however, that he, along with a sizable fraction of native speakers of Russian, construed this oath as an imperative roughly equivalent to the phrase “go fuck thy mother” (cf. English “fuck off,” “go fuck yourself”). This, in its turn, would suggest that the phrase “whatever he be tvoyu mat’ ” contains a translingual pun on “he be” and Russian ebi (“[go] fuck”; second person singular informal imperative) and can be read as ebi tvoyu mat’ (“[go] fuck thy mother”).

314.11: incurable case: Cf. “Ward Five was where hopeless cases were kept” (313.14-15).

314.11-12: a rotting rat in another: Cf. Van, referring back in 1892 to Rack dying in 1888: “the rat was rotting away in a hospital bed” (383.21-22).

314.13: the ‘agony of agony’: MOTIF: agony.

314.13: Professor Lamort’s: French la mort, “death.” Nabokov was fascinated by the name of a French master of martial arts in Hamlet (4.7.77), as in BS 115: “we all were Lamord’s pupils, if you know what I mean.”

314.14: pleonasm: (W2) “1. Gram. & Rhet. Redundancy or fullness of language in speaking or writing; the use of more words than are necessary to express the bare idea.”

314.16-17: The mind of man, by nature a monist: Cf. SO 85: “Philosophically, I am an indivisible monist.” Asked to elaborate, VN answered: “Monism, which implies a oneness of basic reality, is seen to be divisible when, say, ‘mind’ sneakily splits away from ‘matter’ in the reasoning of a muddled monist or half-hearted materialist” (SO 124). The Monist has been one of the leading philosophical journals in the Anglophone world since 1890 (with a hiatus between 1936 and 1962), partly because of the supposition, when it was founded, that monism is philosophically necessary.

314.17-33: cannot accept two nothings; he knows there has been one nothing, his biological inexistence in the infinite past, for his memory is utterly blank, and that nothingness, being, as it were, past, is not too hard to endure. But a second nothingness—which perhaps might not be so hard to bear either—is logically unacceptable . . . our awareness of being is not a dot in eternity, but a slit, a fissure, a chasm running along the entire breadth of metaphysical time, bisecting it and shining—no matter how narrowly—between the back panel and fore panel. Therefore, Mr. Rack, we can speak of past time, and in a vaguer, but familiar sense, of future time, but we simply cannot expect a second nothing, a second void, a second blank. Oblivion is a one-night performance; we have been to it once, there will be no repeat: Cf. the opening of Nabokov’s autobiography: “common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth” (SM 19).

314.17-20: cannot accept two nothings; he knows there has been one nothing, his biological inexistence in the infinite past, for his memory is utterly blank, and that nothingness, being, as it were, past, is not too hard to endure: : Cf. Van in The Texture of Time: “I also know that you, and, probably, I, were born, but that does not prove we went through the chronal phase called the Past: my Present, my brief span of consciousness, tells me I did, not the silent thunder of the infinite unconsciousness proper to my birth fifty-two years and 195 days ago. My first recollection goes back to mid-July, 1870, i.e., my seventh month of life (with most people, of course, retentive consciousness starts somewhat later, at three or four years of age) when, one morning, in our Riviera villa, a chunk of green plaster ornament, dislodged from the ceiling by an earthquake, crashed into my cradle. The 195 days preceding that event being indistinguishable from infinite unconsciousness, are not to be included in perceptual time” (535.13-536.05); BS 192-93: “can we work ourself into a state of abject panic by trying to imagine . . . the infinite past, which extends on the minus side of the day of our birth? We cannot. Why? For the simple reason that we have already gone through eternity, have already non-existed once and have discovered that this néant holds no terrors whatever. What we are now trying (unsuccessfully) to do is to fill the abyss we have safely crossed with terrors borrowed from the abyss in front, which abyss is borrowed itself from the infinite past. Thus we live in a stocking which is in the process of being turned inside out, without our ever knowing for sure to what phase of the process our moment of consciousness corresponds.” Cf. PF 37, ll. 122-24: “Infinite foretime and / Infinite aftertime: above your head / They close like giant wings, and you are dead.”

314.22-32: When speaking of space we can imagine a live speck in the limitless oneness of space; but there is no analogy in such a concept with our brief life in time, because however brief (a thirty-year span is really obscenely brief!), our awareness of being is not a dot in eternity, but a slit, a fissure, a chasm running along the entire breadth of metaphysical time, bisecting it and shining—no matter how narrowly—between the back panel and fore panel. Therefore, Mr. Rack, we can speak of past time, and in a vaguer, but familiar sense, of future time, but we simply cannot expect a second nothing, a second void, a second blank: Cf. Van in The Texture of Time: “nor do I believe that the future is transformed into a third panel of Time, even if we do anticipate something or other—a turn of the familiar road or the picturesque rise of two steep hills, one with a castle, the other with a church, for the more lucid the forevision the less prophetic it is apt to be” (550.10-15).

314.26-29: not a dot in eternity, but a slit, a fissure, a chasm running along the entire breadth of metaphysical time, bisecting it and shining—no matter how narrowly—between the back panel and fore panel: Cf. BS 174: “Certain mind pictures had become so adulterated by the concept of ‘time’ that we have come to believe in the actual existence of a permanently moving bright fissure (the point of perception) between our retrospective eternity which we cannot recall and the prospective one which we cannot know.”

314.32-33: Oblivion is a one-night performance; we have been to it once, there will be no repeat: Gift 11: “I fail to see at the verge of this dying-in-reverse anything that would correspond to the boundless terror that even a centenarian is said to experience when he faces the positive end.”

314.32-315.04: We must face therefore the possibility of some prolonged form of disorganized consciousness and this brings me to my main point, Mr. Rack. Eternal Rack, infinite ‘Rackness’ may not be much but one thing is certain: the only consciousness that persists in the hereafter is the consciousness of pain. The little Rack of today is the infinite rack of tomorrow: Cf. Humbert’s threat about the afterlife to the Quilty he is about to kill: “You are going to die in a moment. The hereafter for all we know may be an eternal state of excruciating insanity. You smoked your last cigarette yesterday. Concentrate. Try to understand what is happening to you” (Lolita 297).

315.04-16: The little Rack of today is the infinite rack of tomorrow. . . . tiny clusters of particles still retaining Rack’s personality . . . a web of Rack’s toothaches here, a bundle of Rack’s nightmares there . . . surviving cells of aging Rackness: “Rack” as the instrument of torture, and the likeness of the harp to an instrument of torture in the “Hell” panel of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, come to mind here.

315.05-06: ich bin ein unverbesserlicher Witzbold: Darkbloom: “Germ., I’m an incorrigible joker.”

315.13: nameless tortures in Tartar camps: Cf. Pnin 116: “medieval tortures in a Soviet jail.” MOTIF: Tartar; torture.

315.13-16: For an old man one special little torture must be to wait in a long queue before a remote urinal:  Cf. Van on dreams and “a very exact clock-time awareness, with all the pangs (possibly full-bladder pangs in disguise) of not getting anywhere in time” (362.19-21); cf. VN on Beckett’s trilogy, and especially Molloy: “Everything is so gray, so uncomfortable, you feel that he is in constant bladder discomfort, as old people sometimes are in their dreams” (SO 172). MOTIF: [adjective] [young/old] man; torture.

315.18: panic and pain: Cf. “mental panic and physical pain” (24.18-19). Cf. also “pain and panic” (Pnin 21). MOTIF: panic and pain.

315.18-22: contemporary novelistics . . . the jargon of English writers, that a ‘lower-middle-class’ piano tuner who falls in love with a fast ‘upper-class’ girl: MOTIF: novel.

315.20-21: a ‘lower-middle-class’ piano tuner: Cf. “‘Are you furious, because—’ began Ada upon overtaking him (she had prepared a sentence about her having to be polite after all to a piano tuner, practically a servant, with an obscure heart ailment . . . )” (203.30-204.01).

315.24-25: With a not unfamiliar gesture, Van tore up his prepared speech: Cf. “He carefully reread his letter—and tore it up. The note he finally placed in his coat pocket was much briefer” (309.16-17); “He had prepared one of those phrases that sound right in dreams but lame in lucid life: ‘I saw you circling above me on libelulla wings’; he broke down on ‘ . . . ulla,’ and fell at her feet” (390.32-391.01).

315.31: his mouth parts: As if he were an insect. Cf. Yuzhlik’s “handsome facial apparatus” (515.15-16).

315.32-33: oil-cloth-covered pillow (why oil-cloth?): Because of his repeated vomiting (316.21).

315.34-316.02: extended the end of his cane, which the weak hand took, and palpated politely, thinking it was a well-meant offer of support: MOTIF: cane.

316.05: ghost cells: As Andrei Babikov points out (personal communication), this can be a technical term: W2, ghost,  “10. Med. &. Physiol. A red blood cell that has lost its haemoglobin, and therefore appears colorless.”

316.06-11: Van drew in his useless weapon. . . . his paper . . . ‘The Crimean War: Tartar Guerillas Help Chinese Troops’: Fate seems to be synchronizing Rack’s near-death and Percy’s, in the Crimean War.

316.08-11: paper . . . “A Clever Piggy (from the memoirs of an animal trainer),” or else “The Crimean War: Tartar Guerillas Help Chinese Troops”: The first, in view of the implication of the Korean War in the second, may be an allusion to George Orwell’s 1946 novella Animal Farm, with its pigs that train other animals to read and write, and its strongly anti-Stalinist satire, focused on Napoleon, the pig who declares himself leader and purges his enemies.

The second reflects the fact that there are many Tartars in the Crimea, ever since the invasions of the thirteenth century. In the mid-nineteenth century the population of Crimea was still mostly Tartar. But here on Antiterra, Tartary refers mostly to the Soviet Union, and the Tartar help to Chinese troops echoes the war on another peninsula, Korea, and Stalin’s support for Mao Tse Tung and Korea in their war (1950-1953) against the US and allies.

The association of the newspaper headline references to “Piggy” and “The Crimean War” links the porcine elements of Percy de Prey’s name, returned to in the start of Part 2: “a newspaper that said in reversed characters ‘Crimea Capitulates.’ At the same moment a raincoated man with a pleasant, somewhat porcine, pink face accosted Van” (329. 04-06).

316.16: Have they all gone to Hollywood already?: As Marina has declared they will: “After that we shall go to Houssaie, Gollivud-tozh . . . yes, we shall all go, the author, and the children, and Van—if he wishes” (273.04-06).

316.17: Baron von Wien: A1: “Germ. pronunciation = Veen.” This spelling would make Van also the Baron of Vienna. Cf. Dr. Lena Wien (573.18) and David and Eric van Veen (347). MOTIF: Veen.

316.20-21: my last flute melody, and a letter for all the family:  Presumably this is what Rack wished to give Ada in person on the farewell Van denied him in I.33: “Philip Rack was trudging up, Adam’s apple bobbing, ill-shaven, livid, gums exposed, one hand on his chest, the other clutching a roll of pink paper . . . Mr. Rack shook Van’s hand with a deep sigh, looked up, looked down, tapped the banisters with his mysterious pink-paper tube, and went back to the music room” (207.18-208.13). Rack emphasizes “for all the family” to throw the weight of his attention to Ada, whom the flute melody was presumably intended for.

Cf. Van imagining Percy’s last thoughts, as a “kind of suite for flute” (320.12-13).

316.32-33: this tower of strength: Cf. Cordula’s comment days later: “You look a tower of health” (319.01). Ardeur 264: “Regardez cette ‘solide tour’” (“Look at this ‘solid tower’”). MOTIF: tower.

317.03-05: He wrote Cordula a short letter . . . would be at her feet on Tuesday: MOTIF: letters.

317.04-05: in the suite for fallen princes in Lakeview Hospital, Kalugano: Cf. “His new quarters, where heartbroken kings had tossed in transit” (312.04-05). Cf. also: “Cordulenka’s princessdom” (415.33). MOTIF: fairy-tale.

317.05-09: He also wrote an even shorter letter to Marina . . . to the Pisang Palace Hotel in Los Angeles:  MOTIF: letters.

317.08: to send from Manhattan: Because Ada would at once know why he had been in Kalugano, if the note bore a Kalugano postmark?

317.08-09: to the Pisang Palace Hotel in Los Angeles: Van knows the hotel as a standard Hollywood locale for the Veen clan: cf. Ada’s letter to Manhattan from the Pisang Palace Hotel: “We are still at the candy-pink and pisang-green albergo where you once stayed with your father” (333.02-03). Presumably the Beverly Hills Hotel, affectionately known as “the Pink Palace,” in one of whose bungalows the Nabokovs stayed in February and March 1960, while Nabokov was preparing to write the Lolita screenplay. The twelve acres of tropical grounds of the hotel include many palm and banana trees, planted in the 1930s. A Martinique banana leaf wallpaper designed for the hotel in 1949 has become one of the hotel’s most celebrated icons. ( [near bottom] accessed 5 July 2019).

A1: Pisang: “kind of banana.” (W2) pisang “[Malay pisan.] The plantain Musa paradisiaca, the leaves of which yield a wax, pisang wax.”  (W2) plaintaina. A kind of banana (musa paradisiaca) sometimes treated as a variety of the common M. sapientum, b. The fruit of this plant, which, when cooked, is a staple article of food throughout the tropics.” Introduced perhaps not only because of the gardens and wallpaper of the Beverly Hills Hotel, but also because paradisiaca echoes “ardis” and the “paradise” around it.

MOTIF: Palace Hotel.

317.09-12: A third letter he addressed to Bernard Rattner . . . " . . . to demolish him soon.": MOTIF: letters.

317.09-10: Bernard Rattner . . . the great Rattner’s nephew: MOTIF: Rattner.

317.10-11: Your uncle has most honest standards: Darkbloom: “‘my uncle has most honest principles’ (Eug. Onegin: One: I:1).”

317.16-17: the Luga laboratory said it was the not always lethal “arethusoides”: The Luga laboratory’s analysis of Rack’s “curiously frog-green faeces” (313.18-19).

317.17: arethusoides: Presumably derived from an orchid resembling in appearance (hence the -oides suffix) arethusa (W2): “2 Bot. a A genus of handsome bog orchids consisting of two species, A. bulbosa of North America and A. japonica of Japan [now renamed Eleorchis japonica]. They have small bulbs with a single linear leaf and a solitary, handsome, purple, fringed flower appearing in late spring.” The common name for A. bulbosa is “Dragon’s Mouth.”

 Sergey Karpukhin alerted me (private communication) to an article by Augusta Schenck Kalbfleisch, “Some of Our Wild Flowers,” Meehan’s Monthly Magazine (June 1899), 84-86: “When the Marsh Marigolds have faded, we may look for the orchis, Arethusa, more rare than the Cypripediums and considered by some, much more beautiful. The flowers appear singly, on a stem from six to eight inches high, bracted and bearing a many-veined leaf which does not disclose itself until after the flower has perished. The flower is about one inch long; in color, a dull magenta with the protruding lip heavily bearded and crested with yellow and white. It grows in wet, shady situations, often dangerously near the Poison Sumac. The Arethusa is particularly interesting as being the sole representative, in this country, of its genus, only two known varieties existing, the one here, Arethusa bulbosa, and the other a native of Japan” (85-86). Note particularly, given the poison that appears to be derived from Arethusa bulbosa in Ada, its often growing “dangerously near the Poison Sumac,” considered by some botanists “the most toxic plant species in the United States (Frankel, 1991)” (, accessed 15 October 2018).

The orchid Pogonia ophioglossoides (the snake-mouth orchid) and Arethusa bulbosa (the dragon-mouth orchid) are both American bog orchids, both bearded (cf. the invented “red-bearded pogonia, with indecent details of structure, a plant peculiar to the Ladoga bogs,” 288.31-33, which certainly resembles the red-bearded ophioglossoides), and both seen as similar, to judge by their common names.

W2’s first sense for Arethusa is this: “1 Class. Myth a A wood nymph of Elis, in Greece, who, pursued by the river god Alpheus, was changed by Artemis into a stream which ran under the sea until its waters rose again in the fountain of Arethusa in the island of Ortygia, at Syracuse.”

To expand: Arethusa is the name of a nymph who bathes in a stream, not knowing it is the river god Alpheus. She tries to escape his attentions, but, perspiring profusely from fear, finds herself transformed into a stream. With the help of the goddess Artemis, she flows under the sea bed to emerge as a spring on the island of Ortygia—where, nevertheless, Alpheus joins his waters with her (Ovid, Metamorphoses V.572-641).

MOTIF: orchids.

317.18: the unfortunate music teacher, and composer: Cf. the description of Rack on his last day at Ardis: “the unfortunate fellow” (208.04).

317.19: on Demonia: MOTIF: Demon; Demonia.

317.19-20: on Terra, ha-ha: Cf. “on Terra the name of a country, transferred as if by some sleight of land across the ha-ha of a doubled ocean” (17.20-18.01). MOTIF: Terra.

317.20: in time for evensong: Stated thus because Rack is a musician. Cf. also “sweet Terra . . . with rearrangement for melodeon of all the cacophonies of all the divinities” (21.05-07).

317.20-21: what Russians call a poshlyak (“pretentious vulgarian”): Nabokov first introduced the notion of poshlost’ (pretentious vulgarity, philistinism) to English-speaking audiences in 1944 in his Nikolay Gogol (ch. 3, sec. 2, 63-74), and also discussed it in his Cornell lectures, LRL 313-14.

317.25-29: a shelf holding a medley of medical manuals, tattered mystery tales, . . . a difficult essay by Ripley, “The Structure of Space”: Nabokov was fascinated by the mix of selectivity and heterogeneity in hospital and prison libraries: cf. Humbert’s prison library, in Lolita I.8: “not very likely that a prison library will harbor such erudite works. The one to which I am restricted these days, despite my lawyer’s favors, is a good example of the inane eclecticism governing the selection of books in prison libraries” (31); “those sanctimonious handpicked libraries found in prisons and correctional facilities for the enlightenment and pacification of inmates” (“The Triumph of Virtue,” 1930, in TWS.).

317.26-27: Rivière de Diamants collection of Monparnasse stories: MOTIF: Monparnasse; Rivière de Diamants.

317.28-29: a difficult essay by Ripley, “The Structure of Space” . . . wrestling with its phoney formulas: Robert LeRoy Ripley (1893-1949), creator of the very popular and widely syndicated “Believe It or Not” newspaper cartoons, first appearing in 1918, and later expanded into other media, including radio, television, comics, and museums, all before Nabokov wrote Ada.
The association of Ripley’s name, and its implicit “Believe It or Not,” with “The Structure of Space” suggests Nabokov’s, and Van’s, skeptical approach to Einstein’s view of space as a fourth dimension of space-time and of time as curved. Cf. Van in The Texture of Time: “‘Space-Time’—that hideous hybrid whose very hyphen looks phoney. One can be a hater of Space, and a lover of Time. . . . At this point, I suspect, I should say something about my attitude to ‘Relativity.’ It is not sympathetic. . . . The body of the astonished person moving in Space is shortened in the direction of motion and shrinks catastrophically as the velocity nears the speed beyond which, by the fiat of a fishy formula, no speed can be” (543.04-15: italics added to emphasize the echo of 317.29’s “phoney formulas”). Cf. VN: “in the mysterious way which Western geneticists are as disinclined to elucidate as are professional physicists to discuss the outside of the inside, the whereabouts of the curvature” (SM 301).

317.28-29: “The Structure of Space”: The title presumably influences Van’s choice in 1922 of the title of his treatise, The Texture of Time.

317.32: on the morrow: MOTIF: on the morrow.

318.06-07: the poisoned point of Ardis. Arrowhead Manor. Le Château de la Flèche, Flesh Hall: “Le Château de la Flèche” means “castle of the arrow” but sounds like “château of the flesh.” Cf. “lest she lose her only true love, the head of the arrow, the point of the pain” (192.24-25). Cf. also “the beautiful ARDIS which her governess had told her meant ‘the point of an arrow’—but only in Greek, alas” (225.17-19). MOTIF: Ardis; Ardis . . . arrow; poison.  

318.08-09: MOTIF: Goodson.

318.13-14: on the point of returning to his deckchair when a smart, pale-gray four-door sedan glided in: Cf. Percy de Prey arriving at Ada’s 1888 picnic: “steel-gray convertible glided into the glade. . . Percy de Prey . . . strode up to Marina’s deckchair” (270.32-271.04).

318.15-16: an elderly man in tunic and breeches: Edmond (321.03).

318.19: through her black silk dress: Similar to (inspired by?) the dress Ada had been wearing on Van’s return to Ardis in 1888: “the black of her smart silk dress” (187.15-16). Cordula, unrecognized on that occasion, has been wearing a Vass dress, “the Canadian couturier’s corn-and-bluet summer ‘creation’” (188.33-34).

318.20-21: at a hundred kilometres an hour: As opposed to the “crack express” Van and Cordula had both been on, heading toward Kalugano “at a hundred miles per hour” (301.18).

318.23-30: “Idea!” he cried. . . . if the Countess wished him to stop: Echoes an incident in Nabokov’s own life, when he escaped from hospital soon after a food-poisoning incident on 6 June 1944: “when Mrs. Karpovich arrived during visiting hours he outlined in conspiratorial Russian a plan of escape. She returned to the car, he strolled casually to an open side door, and, clad in his dressing gown, ran to the getaway vehicle with two staff members in frantic and unsuccessful pursuit” (VNAY 76).

318.27: a good sport: Cf. Van narratorially and hostilely addressing Percy, and pre-announcing his death: “Percy, you were to die very soon—and not from that pellet in your fat leg, on the turf of a Crimean ravine, but a couple of minutes later . . . ; but that July day . . . you reveled in the spicy situation, old sport, chin-chin, and no wonder” (273.15-24).

318.33-34: from Malorukino” (their country estate at Malbrook, Mayne): Ada 1968: “from Pashino (their country estate)” with “at Malbrook, Mayne” inserted before the closing parenthesis.

Cf. Cordula, while Van stays with her in Manhattan, who “dutifully visited her mother at their Malbrook castle two or three times a week: (322.02-03); and in Paris, in 1901, “reach me . . . at Malbrook, Mayne, where I spend every August” (458.13-15). MOTIF: Malbrook.

319.01: You look a tower of health: Cf. Van displaying himself a couple of days earlier to nurse Tatiana: “Look at this tower of strength!” (316.32-33).

319.02-03: little Russel, Dr. Platonov’s grandson—remember? saw you from his side of the train beating up an officer on the station platform: Cf. the “bespectacled boy in a sailor suit” (302.07) who addresses Dr. Platonov as “Grandpa” (302.19).

319.05: net, pozhaluysta, on nas vidit: In Russian so as not to be understood by the chauffeur, Edmond, who is French.

319.06-07: Young Fraser, who has just been flown back from Yalta, saw Percy killed: Nabokov heard the report of the death of his cousin, the closest friend of his youth, Baron Yuri Rausch von Traubenberg, and “saw him dead in Yalta, the whole front of his skull pushed back by the impact of several bullets” (SM 200). The close echo here makes clear why Nabokov thought of the Second Crimean War: he was part of a second Crimean War himself, in a sense, during the battle for the Crimea between the Whites and the Reds between 1917 and 1921.

319.06: Young Fraser: Cf. Cordula’s response to Van’s request for Percy’s address: “I daresay the Frasers have it” (303.11).

319.08-09: less than a week after they had left Goodson airport: Cf. the start of Part 2: “At the Goodson Airport . . . Van glimpsed the silk hat of his father  . . . behind a newspaper that said in reversed characters: ‘Crimea Capitulates.’” MOTIF: Goodson.

319.13: Bill Fraser: From whom Van later gets a more elaborate report (320.22-23).

319.13: Judge Fraser: Not mentioned elsewhere.

319.13: Wellington: Wellington, New Zealand? Or part of the confusion between Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington and another capital named after a famous general and statesman, George Washington (“as far back as the days ‘when Washingtonias were Wellingtonias,’” 81.20-21 and n.)? What connection is there with the second cane, which “must be climbing nowadays Wellington Mountain” (312.28) MOTIF: Wellington.

319.14: Lieutenant de Prey’s: the only reference to his military rank.

319.14: blessed ditch: Since it saves him, Bill Fraser. Cf. Ardeur 266: “un fossé providential” (“a providential ditch”).

319.15: cornel: Cf. “the Crimean cornel, kizil’, bloomed yellow” (185.25).

319.15: medlar: Cf. “the poet Max Mispel (another botanical name—‘medlar’ in English)” (344.05-06). (W2) medlar: “A small European tree (Mespilus germanica), widely cultivated, esp. in Europe. Also, the fruit of this tree, which resembles a crab apple, and is much used for preserves.” The tree is indigenous to Persia and the Black Sea area. Nabokov would have known it from his own time in the Crimea, 1917-1919.

319.19-20: Khazar guerrillas: The Khazars “were a semi-nomadic Turkic people with a confederation of Turkic-speaking tribes that in the late 6th century CE established a major commercial empire covering the southeastern section of modern European Russia” (, accessed 2 October 2018).

319.20-21: in a ravine near Chew-Foot-Calais, as the American troops pronounced “Chufutkale,” the name of a fortified rock: Chufut Kale, “a medieval city-fortress in the Crimean Mountains that now lies in ruins. It is a national monument of Crimean Karaites culture just 3 km (1.9 mi) east of Bakhchisaray” (, accessed 2 October 2018). The Crimean Karaites “are an ethnic group derived from Turkic-speaking adherents of Karaite Judaism in Central and Eastern Europe” (, accessed 2 October 2018). Their origin is in dispute, but thought by some to derive from Khazar converts to Karaite Judaism. Nabokov hunted butterflies near Bakhchisaray in 1918.

319.22-23: He had immediately assured himself, with the odd relief of the doomed, that he had got away with a flesh wound: Cf. “Percy, you were to die very soon—and not from that pellet in your fat leg, on the turf of a Crimean ravine, but a couple of minutes later when you opened your eyes and felt relieved and secure in the shelter of the macchie; you were to die very soon, Percy” (273.15-19).

319.23-24: Loss of blood caused him to faint, as we fainted too: Cf. Van after being shot in the duel: “He dreaded losing consciousness, but, maybe, did faint briefly” (311.08-09). But Ardeur 266 has for “as we fainted too”: “(comme Fraser le fit lui aussi)” (“(as Fraser did too)“).

319.26: where another casualty was resting comfortably: Presumably Bill Fraser, who has broken his arm (320.16).

319.27-28: When a couple of minutes later, Percy—still Count Percy de Prey—regained consciousness: Cf. “but a couple of minutes later when you opened your eyes and felt relieved” (273.16-17).

319.29: A smiling old Tartar: Like the “merry, always laughing” Abdul-Murat in Tolstoy’s story.

319.29: smiling old Tartar: Some of the details that follow pointedly echo Tolstoy’s 1872 story “Kavkazskiy plennik” (“The Prisoner of the Caucasus”), where two Russians, Zhilin and Kostylin, serving in the Wars of the Caucasus, are taken captive by the Tartars and held for ransom. The story focuses on Zhilin, the first to be caught. Dina, the attractive thirteen-year-old daughter of the rich Tartar Abdul-Murat, brings him a pitcher with water, gradually befriends him and eventually helps him escape. MOTIF: Tartar.

319.29-31: incongruously but somehow assuagingly wearing American blue-jeans with his beshmet: But perhaps taken from another victim? MOTIF: technology.

319.31: beshmet: A kind of quilted coat. Both Kazi-Muhamet and Abdul-Murat in “The Prisoner of the Caucasus” are wearing beshmets.

319.33-34: Percy answered in his equally primitive Russian: Note that Cordula’s Russian seems fine, earlier on the page: 319.05.

320.01: “Karasho, karasho ne bol’no”: Approximately “Goot, goot no hurt.” As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes, Abdul-Murat in Tolstoy’s story says to Zhilin, “Korosho urus, korosho urus” (“Good urus, good urus”: most of the Tartars know minimal Russian).

320.01-02: the kindly old man: MOTIF: [adjective] [young/old] man.

320.06-07: in some vast library of microfilmed last thoughts: Cf. “an invaluable detail in that strip of thought” (320.18).

320.12-13: a kind of suite for flute: Cf. Rack saying “I sent my last flute melody” (316.20) to Marina and family. Van’s deliberate linking of Percy and Rack.

320.13-15: I’m alive—who’s that?—civilian—sympathy—thirsty—daughter with pitcher—that’s my damned gun—don’t: In Tolstoy’s story, Zhilin, after being imprisoned all night without refreshment, signals his thirst; Abdul-Murat calls for his daughter Dina; she brings Zhilin a pitcher of water and watches with fascination as he drinks. 

320.15-16: et cetera or rather no cetera: Cf. Demon’s question to Van after having talked to Percy de Prey’s mother: “Well, she tells me her boy and Ada see a lot of each other, et cetera. Is that true?” and Van’s response: “There is no et cetera, that’s out of the question.” (242.10-14). This “et cetera or rather no cetera” is a kind of narratorial repayment by Van for the irony against him a few weeks earlier.

320.16: Broken-Arm Bill prayed his Roman deity: Bill Fraser. His Roman deity? KRC suggests “By Jove,” “By Jupiter.”

320.18: that strip of thought: Cf. “in some vast library of microfilmed last thoughts” (320.06-07).

320.19-20: perhaps, next to the pitcher peri—a glint, a shadow, a stab of Ardis: Since “ardis” derives from and echoes “paradise,” probably an allusion to “Paradise and the peri,” a “catchphrase for ‘so near to paradise and yet prevented,’” from Lalla Rookh (Don Gifford, Ulysses Annotated, rev ed., Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988, 87). Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, s.v. “Paradise and the Peri”: “The second tale in Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh (1817). The Peri laments her expulsion from heaven, and is told she will be readmitted if she brings to the gate of heaven the ‘gift most dear to the Almighty.’ After a number of unavailing offerings, she brought a guilty old man, who wept with repentance and knelt to pray. The Peri offered the ‘Repentant Tear,’ and the gates flew open.”

320.19: peri: (W2) “1. Persian Myth. An imaginary being, male or female, like an elf or fairy, descended from fallen angels, excluded from paradise till penance is accomplished. They were originally regarded as evil, but later as benevolent and beautiful. 2. A fairylike or elflike creature; hence, by extension, a very beautiful person, esp. a woman.” Here referring to the Tartar’s daughter with the pitcher. But as KRC notes, Marima imagines Demon has thought of her as his mistress and his wife Aqua as peris, and that their being twin sisters must add to his sexual frissons: “he fondled, and savored, and delicately parted and defiled, in unmentionable but fascinating ways, flesh (une chair) that was both that of his wife and that of his mistress, the blended and brightened charms of twin peris, an Aquamarina both single and double, a mirage in an emirate, a geminate gem” (19.17-22).

320.24-26: What a strange coincidence! Either Ada’s lethal shafts were at work, or he, Van, had somehow managed to dispatch her two wretched lovers in a duel with a dummy: Or as if Van’s participation in the duel caused the Tartar to pull his trigger. MOTIF: Ardis ... arrow; duel.

320.32: satanically: MOTIF: devil.

321.03: Edmond: Not coincidentally a near-anagram of “Demon.”

321.03-04: Arrêtez près de . . . le store pour messieurs: Stop near . . . the men’s store.

321.04: Albion: MOTIF: Albany.

321.13-15: he transferred Cordula to his lap and had her very comfortably, with such howls of enjoyment that she felt touched and flattered: An echo of the picnic rides from Ardis’s twelfth and sixteenth birthdays, with Ada then Lucette in his lap, and sexual thoughts alive but dangerous with these still innocent girls?

321.17: will probably mean another abortion: Since, as Cordula says later, “I’d cause a mule to foal by just looking on” (457.04-05).

321.17-18: encore un petit enfantôme: Darkbloom: “one more ‘baby ghost’ (pun).” Rivers and Walker 286: “The crucial word here, enfantôme, is a telescoping of enfant (‘child’) and fantôme (‘ghost’).”


Afternote to Part One, Chapter 42


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