Part 1 Chapter 43


Van had intended to stay at Ardis with Ada in 1888 until he headed to Paris with his father for a fortnight before returning to England in October to start the Michaelmas term at Chose. But the disclosure of Ada’s infidelity in I.41, Van’s flight from Ardis in pursuit of Rack and de Prey, and his duel and wound in Kalugano in I.42, mean he has a month to recuperate before flying off with his father. At Lakeview Hospital he had written a short letter to Cordula reporting his “little accident” and saying he “would be at her feet on Tuesday” (317), but she rushes to him on the Monday, they flee the hospital together, make love en route and now, in I.43, spend a month together in Manhattan in her flat.

This chapter seems a surprise, a hasty postscript to the Ardis that has dominated Part One, a precarious addendum, a flimsy little ledge extending beyond the main edifice of the vast Part that fills more than half of the novel. The Manhattan location, the penthouse in a high-rise, Van’s staying on as Cordula’s guest and lover, his taking her “to French restaurants, English movies, and Varangian tragedies” (322), all appear so unexpected: that his Arcadian life with Ada at Ardis can be knocked like a jigsaw off a table and that he can nevertheless put some of the pieces of his life together so easily at another level.
Other women and work have always stanched the wound of absence Van feels when he and Ada part. But unlike past surrogates—whores or short-term conquests—Cordula is a live-in-lover. As for work, even at Ardis Van had wrestled with the ideas of Rattner, in between rounds of lovemaking; now in Manhattan his research at the nearby Public Library fills his days. But despite the sustaining “sweet banality of [his] little ménage” with Cordula, pangs of despair pierce Van, even if Cordula senses “she should never mention Ada or Ardis” (324) and even though Van “severely restrict[s his] meditation” in an attempt to keep Ada away from his thoughts (325).

After his duel, Van discovers on Cordula’s terrace that he can no longer handwalk, an ability associated with his first day of triumph with Ada at her twelfth birthday picnic and with his Mascodagama triumph after Ardis the First, “a triumph, in a sense, over the ardis of time” (185) that had seemed borne out on his return to Ardis in 1888. But at Ada’s sixteenth birthday picnic Percy challenged him, almost to the point of duelling (“I’m told you like abnormal positions? . . . —that walking-on-your-hands trick,” 271), while the actual duel brought about by his fury at Ada’s infidelity leads to his permanent loss not only of his handwalking talent, but also of Ardis, and seemingly of Ada, and the confirmation of the inexorable ardis of time. (See I.42 Afternote, section: “Handwalking, Wrestling, Duel, and Wound.”)

The same day Van discovers he can no longer handwalk, he makes another discovery about Ada: the name of Vanda Broom, the lesbian at Brownhill, whom he fears Ada may have consoled herself with, after Van had “rasp[ed] the red rash” (334). Jealousy taints and recolors even the past.

But his work at the Public Library holds his despair at bay. He is somehow inspired by the idea of his first book, whose conception he is mysteriously “pregnant” with, as he leaves Manhattan for Lute (Paris), in the last line of Part One. Wherever we may have thought Ada was headed, surprises are in store.



322.01: a medicinal month in Cordula’s Manhattan flat: The month is like medicine for Van, in his recovery from his wound and in his escape from hospital. But does “medicinal” somehow link with the strange use of “sanitary” and “hygienic” in Lolita? “In my sanitary relations with women I was practical, ironical and brisk. While a college student, in London and Paris, paid ladies sufficed me” (Annotated Lolita, 1991 ed., 15); “At dinner with Dolly in town, Mr. Edgar H. Humbert was seen eating his steak in the continental knife-and-fork manner. Enjoying, in duplicate, a concert: two marble-faced, becalmed Frenchmen sitting side by side, with Monsieur H. H.’s musical little girl on her father’s right, and the musical little boy of Professor W. (father spending a hygienic evening in Providence) on Monsieur G. G.’s left” (Pt II Ch 8; Annotated Lolita, 189: Appel glosses “hygienic evening in Providence”: “at that time Providence, R.I., possessed a large redlight district”). Speaking of the 1972 Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky contest for the world chess championship in Iceland, Nabokov commented: "The farcical little scene of the wife being flown over from Russia was I thought especially gruesome but also rather hilarious as a desperate hygienic measure revealing the peculiar animal stupidity that is in a way a redeeming feature of the most elaborate dictatorship' (Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews, and Letters to the Editor, ed. Brian Boyd and Anastasia Tolstoy (New York: Knopf, 2019), 421).

If there is a connection—“hygienic” and perhaps “medicinal” referring to sexual release, perhaps especially with some surrogate?—it is a usage otherwise unfamiliar to me, but compare again Lucette’s report on her lovemaking with Ada: “Next moment they grappled and had such delicious fun that they knew they would be doing it always together, for hygienic purposes, when boyless and boiling” (375.18-19).

Note that when Van first meets Cordula (she has grown slenderer and more elegant since) “the dumpy little Countess resembled his first whorelet, and that sharpened the itch” (168.29-30); when he meets Cordula again by chance in Paris in 1901 and makes impatient love, she declares “it was fun—even though you’ve been speaking to me not as you would to a lady friend but as you probably do to little whores” (458.10-12).

322.01-02: Cordula’s Manhattan flat on Alexis Avenue: After Cordula marries, Van in 1892 will buy “Cordula’s penthouse apartment between Manhattan’s Library and Park” (366.01-02), on “Alexis Avenue” (389.29).

“ Alexis Avenue” puns on the earthly Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue. In central and uptown Manhattan’s grid system, crosstown (east-west) streets are numbered from 1st northwards to 220th, and the uptown and downtown (north-south) avenues are mostly numbered from First Avenue in the east to Twelfth Avenue on the west. But after Third Avenue, through most of Manhattan, comes not Fourth Avenue (which runs from only 6th to 14th Streets) but instead, close together, Lexington Avenue, Park Avenue, and Madison Avenue, followed again by Fifth Avenue, the actual earthly location of the New York Public Library and much power shopping (and itself commemorated in I.17, 103.29-30: “Memory is a photo-studio de luxe on an infinite Fifth Power Avenue”).
Nabokov therefore puns on “Lexington” and (at 366) on “Park” (Park Avenue as one high-class Avenue, Fifth Avenue as another, and the New York Public Library’s location between Fifth Avenue and Bryant Park, three narrow blocks west of Lexington), but also, via the Greek lexis, “word,” as a word rather than a number avenue name. Counting westward on Earth’s Manhattan, as the avenues go, the first of the named rather than numbered avenues is Lexington.
Alternatively, the a- in “Alexis” can be construed in terms of the Greek prefix “a-,” “not”: Fifth Avenue is the only avenue whose name is a number rather than a word between the Avenue of the Americas (also known as Sixth Avenue)—which of course also begins with “a,” and lies on the other side of Bryant Park from the New York Public Library—and Lexington Avenue. (Adapted from BB post, Nabokv-L, 26 January 2004).
VN said in a 1963 interview, before beginning Ada: “I hope to return very soon to America—back to its library stacks and mountain passes. An ideal arrangement would be an absolutely soundproofed flat in New York, on a top floor . . . and a bungalow in the Southwest” (SO 28).
It seems unlikely but not impossible that VN would have in mind Alexis, the wanton shepherd in the play The Faithful Shepherdess (1608?) by Shakespeare’s sometime co-author and successor, John Fletcher (1579-1625). In a second storyline of the play, “the lustful shepherdess Cloe is seeking a lover. Any lover will do; as she declares, ‘It is impossible to ravish me, I am so willing.’ She first tries to seduce the modest shepherd Daphnis, but finds him too restrained for her taste. She then turns to the shepherd Alexis, who is eager to comply. They meet at night for their tryst, but are spied upon by the Sullen Shepherd, who suddenly lusts after Cloe himself. The Sullen Shepherd attacks Alexis, and Cloe runs off. The Satyr brings the wounded Alexis to [the cabin of Clorin, the faithful shepherdess of the title, devoted to chastity]. Clorin heals Alexis, and teaches him to abandon his lust. Cloe is also brought before Clorin, and purged of her unruly desire.” (Wikipedia, s.v. Faithful Shepherdess, accessed 4 June 2019)

322.02-03: She dutifully visited her mother . . . two or three times a week: Cf., of Marina, Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother, in her last years: “Van visited her less often than dutiful Lucette” (450. 33).

322.02-3: visited her mother at their Malbrook castle: Cf. Cordula’s “‘My mother rang me up from Malorukino’ (their country estate at Malbrook, Mayne)” (318.33-34). In Paris in 1901, after making love with Van, Cordula will tell him: “Here’s a top secret address where you can always . . . reach me . . . at Malbrook, Mayne, where I spend every August” (458.12-15). It is August now, in 1888. On Antiterra Mayne seems closer to Manhattan than Maine is to New York on Earth.
In Ada 1968, VN has: “at their Vermont  <inserted above “Vermont”> Malbrook castle, two or three times a week.”

MOTIF: Malbrook.

322.04-05: the numerous social “flits” she attended in town, being a frivolous fun-loving little thing: In this sense, “flit” seems VN’s coinage: a party one can drop into and easily flit away from? (Notice also the “flit . . . frivolous fun-loving little” consonance and rhyme.) In American slang from 1942, “flit” could mean a male homosexual or effeminate man (OED). Given Van’s suspicion of Cordula as Ada’s lesbian lover, and his tirade, via Proust, against her (I.27, 168-69), this sense could be relevant—although by now Van knows just how eagerly heterosexual Cordula is.

322.07-08: psychotechnician Dr. F. S. Fraser, a cousin of the late P. de P.’s fortunate fellow soldier: A cousin, that is, of the late Percy de Prey’s fellow soldier, Bill Fraser, fortunate because he escaped Percy’s fate of being shot by a Tartar (319.13-320.23). Note the “S.F.” in the initials of this “psychotechnician,” presumably a wry nod at psychologist Sigmund Freud; “F. S. F.” also matches the symmetrical initials of “P. de P.”

322.07: psychotechnician: Not VN’s coinage. W2: “One specializing in the practical application of psychology, as in the use of psychological tests, etc.” From the early twentieth century “psychotechnics” was a recognized term, especially in Europe, for the practical application of psychology to education, industry, and occupations (OED). Cf. Van on the physics in his Letters from Terra: “His knowledge of physics, mechanicalism and that sort of stuff had remained limited to the scratch of a prep-school blackboard” (338.19-339.01).

322.09: on the dorophone: MOTIF: dorophone; technology.

322.09-10: an extensive study of Mexican spas and spices: One of the “spas” could be “Akapulkovo,” which Demon had visited a few weeks previously; shortly afterward, he “needlessly and unwillingly recollect[ed]” to Van “the admirable abdomen of a very expensive, and very faithless, and altogether adorable young Créole” (239.12-22). Again in 1893 Demon will be “in Mexico or Oxmice” (432.19-20). On his current 1888 trip Demon is most unlikely not to be studying the sexual spices in Mexico’s spas.

322.10: Mexican spas and spices: Ardeur 269: “casinos mexicains.”

322.11-12: He often took Cordula to French restaurants, English movies, and Varangian tragedies: Cf. “Demon took Van to the world-famous Opera House in Telluride in West Colorado and there he enjoyed (and sometimes detested) the greatest international shows—English blank-verse plays, French tragedies in rhymed couplets, thunderous German musical dramas with giants and magicians and a defecating white horse” (171.19-172.04).

322.12: Varangian: W2: “[ML. Varangus, Varingus, fr. MG Barangos, through Slav. fr. ON Væringi, a Varangian, a Scandinavian . . .] One of the Northmen who founded a dynasty in Russian in the 9th century (cf. Ros); also, one of the Northmen (or Anglo-Saxons) composing, at a later date, the imperial bodyguard at Constantinople (Varangian Guard).”In A1, VN glosses: “Scandinavia.” Cf. Demon in Van’s apartment in 1893: “He is—I mean Vinelander is—the scion, s, c, i, o, n, of one of those great Varangians who had conquered the Copper Tartars or Red Mongols” (437.28-30).

Cf. “Both lads were handsome, long-legged specimens of Varangian boyhood” (PF 123).

322.15: the azure-pure iris: Of Cordula, previously: “Her light blue iris” (165.06-07).

322.15-18: festively painted eyes to which indigo-black thick lashes, . . . upcurving at the outer canthus, added what fashion called the “harlequin slant”: In the harlequin’s eye-mask? The upturned edges of the harlequin’s hat, in some modes? Cf. “The Admiralty Spire”: “cornflower eyes. . . . You shaded them with the black fringe of lashes which . . . seemed longer toward the outer corners, giving her eyes a very special, though illusory, slant” (SoVN 350).

322.19-323.23: Cordula . . . bath . . .  ‘in the nude’ . . . ’phone . . . making big eyes at Van over the receiver. . . ‘There’s her picture here’: Cf. (as the Kyoto Reading Circle suggests, 323.02-03n) the Parmigianino drawing that recalls Marina coming out of her bath: “naked girl . . . Marina when, rung out of a hotel bathroom by the phone . . . muffled the receiver while asking her lover something that he could not make out because the bath’s voice drowned her whisper” (12.32-13.05).  

322.19-323.02: still lolling in her perfumed bath (a lovely, oddly unfamiliar sight, which he delighted in twice a day): For Ada, “morning baths” are “unknown under Mlle Larivière’s regime” (77.12-13); “at fifteen, she was an irritating and hopeless beauty; a rather unkempt one, too; only twelve hours ago . . . he had whispered a riddle in her ear: what begins with a ‘de’ and rhymes more or less with a Silesian river ant?” (198.31-34; answer: “deodorant”). Yet Ada will take baths, even twice a day, by the time she comes to join Van in Manhattan, in this very apartment, in 1892: “she must first of all take her morning bath (this, indeed, was a new Ada)” (392.18-19); late at night, “Ada, beyond their bedroom and sitting room, was running her bath” (414.24-25).

323.02-03: Van, “in the nude ” (as his new sweetheart drolly genteelized “naked”): “In the nude” is not regarded as a genteelizing of “naked” in OED, W2 or W3, but it is by VN: “in the (wrinkling his nose) nude, as you genteel Americans say” (LS 80); “the genteel adore endorsements and now use ‘colored man’ for ‘Negro’ as they do ‘nude’ for ‘naked’ or perspiration for ‘sweat’” (PF 217).

Ardeur 269: “Van ‘en académié (sa nouvelle amoureuse croyait de bon ton de substituer au mot ‘nu’ cette locution amusante” (“Van ‘in life study’ (his new lover thought it good taste to substitute this amusing locution for ‘naked’)”).

323.03-12: attempted for the first time after a month’s abstinence to walk on his hands. . . . the rare art: Van’s handwalking has been associated with his first excitements with Ada, on the day of her twelfth birthday picnic (81-83.05), with his triumphs at Chose, without Ada (181.01-185.29), and with Percy de Prey’s challenges to him, on the day of Ada’s sixteenth birthday picnic (271.19-26). Cf. “reversed Van nibbling at pine starworts. ‘That’s finished, said Van, a precious sinistral sinew has stopped functioning. . . . hand-walking is out’” (401.13-17).

MOTIF: handwalking.

Cf. the failure of a physical stunt because of an amatory setback, an infidelity, in the story “The Potato Elf”: “Shock’s hand stretched out—no doubt he intended to snip out a coin from Fred’s ear—but for the first time in years of masterly magic, the coin, not grasped by the palm muscles firmly enough, fell out the wrong way. He caught it up and rose” (SoVN 237).

323.06-07: sprawling on his back: As a result of his chest wound in the duel (311.01-03).

323.10: to dance on his hands again: As he had especially in his Mascodagama routine, particularly with Rita, 185.10-29. “At ninety, he still danced on his hands—in a recurrent dream” (571.33-34).

323.10-12: King Wing . . . two or three months without practice . . . loss of the rare art: For King Wing’s early coaching of Van, see 81.24-27. For another of King Wing’s warnings, see 82.16-18, “King Wing warned him that Vekchelo, a Yukon professional, lost it by the time he was twenty-two,” closely echoed by Van in 1892: “King Wing says that the great Vekchelo turned back into an ordinary chelovek at the age I’m now, so everything is perfectly normal” (401.18-20).

323.11-12: two or three months without practice might result in an irretrievable loss of the rare art: Cf. VN on his tennis: “I . . . played strong effortless tennis well into my sixties when an accidental interruption grew into a permanent quit” (TWS 428).

323.13-14: the two nasty little incidents thus remained linked up in his mind forever: Both are associated with Van’s jealousy of Ada: the inability to handwalk, with Percy’s near-challenge to a duel at the 1888 picnic, and Van’s compensatory duel (and wound) just after (II.39-40, II.42), and Van’s jealous reactions to Ada’s hint at lesbian interest (at Forest Fork, in 1884, 158.30-33), his suspicion of Cordula (164.23-165.05, 168-69), and his high-strung reaction to Lucette’s disclosures about her lovemaking with Ada (380.02-382.10).

323.14: ’phone: MOTIF: telephone.

323.14-23: a deep hollow voice . . . Vanda Broom . . . Grace Erminin tells me Vanda used to make constant passes at her and at—at another girl: Presumably Vanda is the girl Ada had in mind when Van was taking his leave from her in 1884, and imploring her fidelity: “But, my love, my Van, I’m physical, horribly physical, I don’t know, I’m frank, qu’y puis-je? Oh dear, don’t ask me, there’s a girl in my school who is in love with me” (158.30-33).

323.19: It’s a gruesome girl: “It is, it is one of your gruesome girls” (483.10-11), Lucette says to Van, à propos of “Miss Condor” aboard the Tobakoff.

323.20-23: Vanda Broom . . . I learned only recently what I never suspected at school—she’s a regular tribadka—poor Grace Erminin tells me Vanda used to make constant passes at her and at—at another girl: Ada in 1892, the day she arrives in what had been Cordula’s flat: “And, by the way, Grace—yes, Grace—was Vanda’s real favorite, pas petite moi and my little crest” (394.24-25).

323.20: Vanda: Vanda is a genus of about 80 species of horticulturally important orchids, named by Jones in 1820 (see also Wikipedia, Vanda); Vandeae a large (1700-2000 species) tribe of orchids; and Vandoideae a subfamily, now known as the Higher Epidendroideae (see Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello posting, Nabokv-L, 16 January 2005). The orchid genus Ada belongs to the subfamily Vandoideae, or did when VN wrote Ada. This genus, named by John Lindley in 1853, consists of Ada aurantiaca and Ada lehmanii; since 2011, it has been now renamed (by Chase and Witten), to Brassia. “Cordula” too is an orchid taxon, a genus of slipper orchids now synonymous with Paphiopedilum

Cf. “even if Vaniada’s end is described in the epilogue we, writers and readers, should be unable to make out (myopic, myopic) who exactly survives, Dava or Vada, Anda or Vanda. // I had a schoolmate called Vanda” (584.27-31). MOTIF: Ada; orchids; Van.

323.20-22: Broom. . . . Grace Erminin: Greg Erminin mentions Grace, now married, and his own wife, whose “mother is a Brougham” (pronounced “Broom,” 454.01-09).

323.21: a regular tribadka: From “tribade” (W2), “a woman who practices homosexuality”  (“F., fr. L. tribas, -adis, fr. Gr. tribas, fr. tribein, to rub”), and a play on the adjective, “tribadic” (W3). Cf. Ada’s “‘I’ll be back in a rubby,’ she said (tribadic schoolgirl slang)” (416.07). “Tribadism” is specifically female genital-on-genital (clitoral-on-clitoral) rubbing. The Kyoto Reading Circle notes the “Ada” in “tribadka.” MOTIF: tribad-.

323.22-23: constant passes at her and at—at another girl: See the next page:Cordula . . . . instinctively realized very soon that she should never mention Ada or Ardis” (324.28-30).

323.23-29: There’s her picture here,” continued Cordula . . . producing a daintily bound and prettily printed graduation album of Spring, 1887, which Van had seen at Ardis, but in which he had not noticed the somber beetle-browed unhappy face of that particular girl . . . Cordula quickly popped the book back into a drawer: When Ada comes at Van’s invitation to this apartment, now his, in 1892, she agrees to his choice of staying there together rather than traveling: “Stay in this apartment? So, she liked it? Except some of Cordula’s stuff which should be ejected—as, for example, that conspicuous Brown Hill Alma Mater of Almehs left open on poor Vanda’s portrait. She had been shot dead by the girlfriend of a girlfriend on a starry night, in Ragusa of all places. It was, Van said, sad” (394.11-16).

323.25: album: MOTIF: album.

323.31-32: a clever pastiche by Ada Veen mimicking Tolstoy’s paragraph rhythm and chapter closings: The last two paragraphs that follow mimic both Tolstoy’s paragraph rhythm and chapter closings, and a particular Tolstoyan chapter close: see 324.10-325.09n and 325.08-09n.

Cf. the hint late in the story “The Vane Sisters” of the (acrostic) way to read the story’s last paragraph: “And I wish I could recollect that novel or short story (by some contemporary writer, I believe) in which, unknown to its author, the first letters of the words in its last paragraph formed, as deciphered by Cynthia, a message from his dead mother” (SoVN 626).

323.31: Ada Veen: First and last name, because she signed thus her contribution to the school album.

323.33-34: one of her characteristic jingles: Like the one in French at 92.05-09.

324.01-04: In the old manor, I've parodied / Every veranda and room, / And jacarandas at Arrowhead / In supernatural bloom: Surely puns on “In the old manner.” But where (especially, where in the Brownhill album?) does Ada “parody” the “old manor” of Ardis? Later, architect Eric van Veen will design “parodies of paradise” (350.21) to fulfil his grandson’s dying dream of Villa Venus clubs, which in one sense are also parodies of the paradise of Ardis. Ada does say of her translation of François Coppée’s “Matin d’octobre,” when Van mocks its accuracy, that it “is not meant to be a work of art or a brilliant parody” (128.03-04). The chapter on the library concludes” “That library had provided a raised stage for the unforgettable scene of the Burning Barn; . . . a touch of parody gave its theme the comic relief of life” (137.20-24).
Alexey Sklyarenko notes (Nabokv-L, 26 August 2014) that “The name Vanda Broom is secretly present in Ada's poem,” as we can highlight here:

In the old manor, I've parodied
Every veranda and room,
And jacarandas at Arrowhead
In supernatural bloom.

As the Kyoto Reading Circle notes (324.02), Ada’s lines also include “Van” and “Ada” as well as “Vanda Broom.” This creates an odd involution: Ada’s jingle in an 1887 Brownhill album seems to anticipate the incorporation of “Vanda Broom” as well as “Van” and her own name in this last, 1888, chapter of the Ardis sections of the novel.
“Veranda”: only one mentioned hitherto, when Van and Ada’s sexual energies at Ardis in 1884 have really begin to reach overdrive: “They made a last pause before reaching the darkness of Ardis Park. // By a kind of lyrical coincidence they found Marina and Mlle Larivière having evening tea in the seldom-used Russian-style glassed-in veranda” (154.24-28).
Jacarandas . . . In . . .  bloom”: mentioned only once before, after Van has learned from Blanche of Ada’s infidelity with Rack and de Prey, on his last morning at Ardis: Ada “signaled telegraphically, with expansive linear gestures, indicating the cloudless sky (what a cloudless sky!), the jacaranda summit in bloom (blue! bloom!) and her own bare foot raised high and placed on the parapet (have only to put on my sandals!)” (295.27-31).
“Arrowhead” has been mentioned only once before, as Van in hospital after the duel realizes that the tight and thick flannel around his chest “did not protect him any longer from the poisoned point of Ardis. Arrowhead Manor. Le Château de la Flèche, Flesh Hall” (318.05-07).  Note the “manor . . . Arrowhead” in Ada’s poem.
The Kyoto Reading Circle notes (324.03) that there is a Lake Arrowhead near Los Angeles (in the San Bernardino Mountains) and that VN, while he lived in the city, particularly admired its jacarandas: “I love Los Angeles, where we lived while I was writing the screenplay of Lolita. I had never seen jacaranda trees before, at least in bloom. Do you remember, darling? There was a whole street lined with jacarandas” (TWS 448).
Cf. “racemosa in bloom . . . Four Arrows of Love . . . marble-floored manors” (409.09-20, italics added) in another parody of Ardis.
Note the “veranda . . . jacaranda” medial rhyme in lines 2-3.
MOTIFS: Ada; Ardis . . . arrow; flowers; Van.

324.04: In supernatural bloom: Why this adjective? Ardeur 270: “Et la floraison cent fois agrandie” (“And the bloom enlarged a hundred times”).
When in November 1892 Ada flies to join Van at the Alexis Avenue apartment, the terrace is “now embellished by shrubs of blue spiraea in invincible bloom” (390.11).

324.05: Destroy and forget!: Ada says this of an earlier album, the herbarium in the attic (9.10-11). She has much more recently said it (290.09) of the warning note that proves to be from Blanche, “One must not berne you” (287.26-27). MOTIF: destroy and forget.

324.06: a butterfly in the Park, an orchid in a shop window: One might presume Central Park, if Antiterra’s Manhattan follows Earth’s (but it is not mentioned elsewhere); or it could just be Bryant Park, next to the “Public Library” in the next sentence (again, assuming Manhattan’s Public Library on Antiterra corresponds to the New York Public Library on Earth, as it seems to). “Central Park” seems both confirmed and denied by Van’s later looking out from this terrace to “the central green oval of the Park” (390.07-08): “central . . . Park” is there, but Earth’s Central Park is rectangular, and could not be seen from Lexington Avenue.

Cf: “butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance” (589.05-06). Oncidium is (or was: orchid names have been much revised in recent years) the name for the genus of butterfly orchids (W2); cf. “a Lurid Oncidium Orchid in an amethystine vaselet” (419.27-28) in the débauche à trois scene at the Manhattan apartment in 1892.

 MOTIF: butterflies; orchids.

324.08-09: research at the great granite-pillared Public Library, that admirable and formidable palace: Cf. VN’s gratitude for “many pleasant afternoons spent in the splendid libraries of Cornell, Harvard, and the City of New York” (EO I,x). In LATH Vadim bumps into Dolly van Borg, for the first time in many years, on the steps of New York’s “Public Library” (LATH 137), an encounter that distracts him from “what I had planned to look up in the library” (LATH 138); for his subsequent assignations with her “I kept up the pretext of having to complete the literary research I was supposed to be conducting in the Public Library” (LATH 142-43).

324.10-325.09: One is irresistibly tempted to compare the strange longings . . . accompanying the making of a young writer’s book with childbearing. . . . When in early September Van Veen left Manhattan for Lute, he was pregnant: With the clue of a clever pastiche by Ada Veen mimicking Tolstoy’s paragraph rhythm and chapter closings” (323.31-32) on the previous page, this seems in particular a parody of War and Peace Vol. I, Pt. III, Ch. xi, where a long clock metaphor is followed by a one-sentence paragraph (not a chapter close):

The concentrated movement which began that morning in the emperors’ headquarters and gave a push to all subsequent movement was like the first movement of the central wheel in a big tower clock. Slowly one wheel started, another turned, a third, and the wheels, pulleys, and gears were set turning more and more quickly, chimes began to ring, figures popped out, and the clock hands started their measured advance, showing the result of that movement.

As in the mechanism of a clock, so also in the mechanism of military action, the movement once given is just as irrepressible until the final results, and just as indifferently motionless are the parts of the mechanism not yet involved in the action even a moment before movement is transmitted to them. Wheels whizz on their axles, cogs catch, fast-spinning pulleys whirr, yet the neighbouring wheel is as calm and immobile as though it was ready to stand for a hundred years in that immobility; but a moment comes—the lever catches, and, obedient to its movement, the wheel creaks, turning, and merges into one movement with the whole, the result and purpose of which are incomprehensible to it.

As in a clock the result of the complex movement of numberless wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and measured movement of the hands pointing to the time, so also the result of all the complex human movements of these hundred and sixty thousand Russians and French—all the passions, desires, regrets, humiliations, sufferings, bursts of pride, fear, rapture—was merely the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called battle of the three emperors, that is, a slow movement of the world-historical hand on the clockface of human history.

Prince Andrei was on duty that day and constantly by the commander in chief.

(War and Peace, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky London: Vintage, 2009, 257-58)

VN uses that “irresistible” metaphor of authorship, book-bearing as childbearing, in RLSK 86: “He had been delivered of one book [his first] and was already feeling the throbs of the next one.” He also wrote to Frank Taylor, his editor at McGraw-Hill, after finishing Ada: “My little elephant was completed . . . on October 16th. . . . I feel very empty and fragile” (27 October 1968, VNA).

324.15: the sleeping car of messy defloration: MOTIF: deflower.

324.15-16: the first balcony of honeymoon breakfasts, with the first wasp: Cf. Van’s and Ada’s first breakfasts on the balcony à deux, early in the summer of 1884: “(When I kiss you here, he said to her years later, I always remember that blue morning on the balcony when you were eating a tartine au miel; so much better in French.) // The classical beauty of clover honey, smooth, pale, translucent, freely flowing from the spoon and soaking my love’s bread and butter in liquid brass. The crumb steeped in nectar. // ‘Real thing?’ he asked. // ‘Tower,’ she answered. // And the wasp” (75.10-18).

324.16-17: In no sense could Cordula be compared to a writer’s muse: Although the image of a “muse” is common in VN’s poetry and even in some of his prose, there is only one other reference in Ada: “In the professional dreams that especially obsessed me when I worked on my earliest fiction, and pleaded abjectly with a very frail muse” (360.06-07).

324.21-26: “Monaco,” . . . penthouse. . . . The sweet banality of their little ménage sustained him much more securely than the company of his constantly agitated and fiery father did at their rare meetings in town: Cf. “As Demon rushed (or, in terms of the pill, sauntered) by the Monaco, where he had often lunched, it occurred to him that his son . . .  might still be living with dull little Cordula de Prey in the penthouse apartment of that fine building” (434.04-09).

324.21-22: “Monaco,” a good restaurant in the entresol of the tall building crowned by her penthouse and its spacious terrace: Cf. Ada’s arrival at Van’s apartment in 1892: “she expected her luggage would be brought up any moment now by the louts of the ‘Monaco’ lounge (she had taken the wrong entrance . . . )” (392.19-22); Ada “trying to make her little sister decide whether she would like to try the Monaco’s pancakes with Potomac syrup, or, perhaps, their incomparable amber-and-ruby bacon” (417.28-31); “a Monaco ashtray” (419.26-27); “As Demon rushed . . . by the Monaco, . . . it occurred to him that his son . . .  might still be living with . . . Cordula de Prey in the penthouse apartment of that fine building” (434.04-09); “‘Then we are fellow travelers,’ said Demon inhaling not without gourmand anticipation the smell of Monaco’s coffee” (434.23-24). MOTIF: Monaco.

324.22: entresol: W2: “A low story between two higher ones, usually between the ground floor and the first story; mezzanine.”

324.25-27: the company of his. . .  father . . . during a fortnight in Paris before the next term at Chose: Demon to Van at Ardis, July 1888: “Oh let’s spend a month together in Paris or London before the Michaelmas term!” (239.02-03); “‘Ada, you’ll be jikkering alone soon,’ he continued, ‘I’m going to have Mascodagama round out his vacation in Paris’” (257.31-32).

324.25-27: father did at their rare meetings in town or was to do during a fortnight in Paris: In Ada 1968, VN adds “did at their rare meetings in town or” to the original text “father was to do during a fortnight in Paris.”

324.27-28: Except gossip—gossamer gossip—Cordula had no conversation: Cf. the effect of her gossip, like gossamer veiling the train window Van is looking out of, or the landscape he sees, 303.32-304.06. Ardeur 271: “Hors le papotage—le papillonnant papotage” (“Except for chatter—fluttering chatter”).

324.29-30: She had instinctively realized very soon that she should never mention Ada or Ardis:  See Cordula’s self-correction at 323.21-23. Van’s evasion of her question at 303.19-23, not many days ago, has given her one clue; so perhaps did their first conversation in September 1984, 164.17-165.22. When Cordula asks again about Ada in 1901, without mentioning her name, Van pointedly wriggles free: “‘And where’s the other [sister]?’ ‘I think we’ll part here. It’s twenty minutes to twelve. You’d better toddle along’” (458.06-08).
Cf. also: “not Ardis, not Ada, for that would mean . . . ” (359.20-360.01)

325.04: annotating his authors: While still in the Lakeview Hospital Van had been tackling “the great Rattner” (“Rattner on Terra, a difficult and depressing work” (230.04-05), when he was studying it at Ardis in early July) and preparing to demolish him (317.10-12), and had also been reading “a difficult essay by Ripley, ‘The Structure of Space.’ He had been wrestling with its phoney formulas and diagrams for several days now and saw he would not be able to assimilate it completely before his release” (317.28-31). The work of both authors feeds naturally into Letters from Terra (see II.2). 

325.05-07: severely restricted meditation . . . in the dawning abyss of the city: Cf.: “even if I locked up my brain by an act of self-hypnosis (plain will, or pill, could no longer help) within some other image or meditation—but not Ardis, not Ada, for that would mean drowning in a cataract of worse wakefulness, with rage and regret, desire and despair sweeping me into an abyss where sheer physical extenuation stunned me at last with sleep” (359.18-360.04).

325.05-06: under a haze of stars, in severely restricted meditation: At Ardis in 1884, filled with as yet unsatisfied desire for Ada, Van lay in the hammock outdoors, troubled by “the intense life of the star-haunted sky” (73.10) and early thoughts of Terra: “Van, who at the time had still not really tasted the Terror of Terra . . . even then, at fourteen, recognized that the old myths, which willed into helpful being a whirl of worlds . . . and situated them within the gray matter of the star-suffused heavens, contained, perhaps, a glowworm of strange truth. His nights in the hammock . . .  were now haunted not so much by the agony of his desire for Ada, as by that meaningless space overhead, underhead, everywhere, the demon counterpart of divine time, tingling about him and through him” (73.19-33). Although he now in Manhattan “severely restricts” his meditation, to exclude Ada, she comes repeatedly back into the novel, Letters from Terra, that he is about to conceive (325.09).

325.06-07: the first tramcar jangled and screeched in the dawning abyss of the city: VN had acute hearing and was very sensitive to traffic noise. Cf. his 1963 interview quoted above, about the possibility of returning to the US, and especially New York: “An ideal arrangement would be an absolutely soundproofed flat in New York, on a top floor” (SO 28).

325.08-09: When in early September Van Veen left Manhattan for Lute, he was pregnant: Darkbloom: “the last paragraph of Part One imitates, in significant brevity of intonation (as if spoken by an outside voice) a famous Tolstoyan ending, with Van in the role of Kitty Lyovin.” The outside voice is also manifest in “Van Veen,” a first-and-last name combination not usually employed by Van as narrator.

What Darkbloom indicates is the end of Anna Karenina, V.xx (“Doktor podtverdil svoi predlozheniya naschyot Kitti. Nezdorov’e eyo byla beremennost’,” “The doctor confirmed his suppositions about Kitty. Her indisposition was pregnancy”).

This links the end of Part One with the opening of Part One, and its distorted echo of the opening of Anna Karenina (see 3.01-05 and n).
What Darkbloom does not indicate is that this is an even closer ending of  Part 1 of Madame Bovary (“Quand on partit de Tostes, au mois de mars, Mme Bovary était enceinte,” “When in March they left Tostes, Mme Bovary was pregnant”). The doubled allusion matches the doubled allusion (to the opening of Anna Karenina and to the allusive opening of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin) in the opening sentence of Part One (see 3.01-04n).

The Flaubert allusion in this  short closing paragraph of Part One also links with the Flaubert allusion in the short opening paragraph at the start of Part Three (“He travelled, he studied, he taught. // He contemplated the pyramids of Ladorah . . . ,” 449.01-02), which echoes the famous, much-lauded opening paragraphs of the penultimate chapter of L’Éducation sentimentale (1869), “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 encores” (ed. Édouard Maynial, Paris: Garnier, 1964, 419); “He travelled.// He got to know the melancholy of steamboats, cold awakenings in tents, the stupor of landscapes and ruins, the bitterness of attractions interrupted. // He returned. He went into society, and he had other loves”).

What Darkbloom also does not indicate is that his sentence also echoes André Maurois’s echo of Flaubert in his Byron (which VN knew and disliked, see 50.11-13n.), p. 222: “And when she left him at the beginning of September, she was pregnant.” (I am not sure this is my discovery, but cannot find who else made it: apologies to any unacknowledged discoverer.) (See also LATH  77: Basilevski “asked me what I thought of the new book he was telling Morozov (a monolinguist) about—namely Maurois’ ‘impressive work on Byron,’ and upon my answering that I had found it to be impressive trash, my austere critic muttered, ‘I don't think you have read it.’”)

There is still more. Van has recorded finding in the 1887 Brownhill album “a clever pastiche by Ada Veen mimicking Tolstoy’s paragraph rhythm and chapter closings” (323.31-32). That oddly anticipates the long metaphor of authorial pregnancy in the long next paragraph and the short closing paragraph of Part One (see 324.10-325.09n), but also, Alexey Sklyarenko points out (Nabokv-L, 25 October 2011), a specific metaphor by Tolstoy about his being pregnant with War and Peace:  “In a letter of April 4, 1866, to M. S. Bashilov Tolstoy confirms his earlier hypothesis that he was pregnant (with "War and Peace"): "Vy, kak vidno iz prislannogo vami, v khoroshchem dukhe rabotat’. I ya tozhe ne oshibsya, govorya vam, chto ya chuvstvuyu sebya ochen’ beremennym." ([You, as is clear from what you sent, are working in good spirits.] I didn't err either when I told you that I felt very pregnant.)”
Proffer 268-69 comments: “A parody of Tolstoy’s paragraph rhythm and chapter closings (a single sentence paragraph providing new news). For example, Chapter VI (Part V) of Anna Karenina ends: ‘After supper that same night the young couple left for the country.’ Part V, Chapter XXI ends: ‘The doctor confirmed their supposition about Kitty. Her illness was pregnancy.’ The ending of Part VII of War and Peace: ‘So the countess remained in the country and the count, taking Sonya and Natasha with him, went to Moscow at the end of January.’” Proffer’s first and third examples involve a shift of location, like Van’s final paragraph; and his first, with Kitty and Lyovin parting for the country, immediately after the long description of the wedding,  echoes Van in the previous paragraph elaborating the metaphor of authorial pregnancy: “Van had only reached the bridal stage; then, to develop the metaphor, would come the sleeping car of messy defloration; then the first balcony of honeymoon breakfasts” (324.13-16).
Another single-sentence paragraph closes the end of Part IV of Anna Karenina, the end of the first half of that novel, and another significant shift of location: “A month later Alexei Alexandrovich was left alone in his apartment with his son, and Anna went abroad with Vronsky without obtaining a divorce and resolutely abandoning the idea” (Anna Karenina, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, London: Penguin, 2001, IV.xxiii, p. 435).
Apart from its compound allusiveness, the closing paragraph of Van’s Part One is deceptive as a statement. Despite “the brilliant mirages, which had risen before him when he felt the first pangs of book-birth on Cordula’s terrace” (342.14-15), Van in one sense is not fully “pregnant” with Letters from Terra yet, while still at Cordula’s flat, but only “When in early September” he “left Manhattan for Lute”: in other words, after he reads the first post-Ardis letter from Ada, “which he read a few minutes later [after having been given it by James Jones of VPL] in the lavatory [of the Goodson Airport] before boarding the airliner” (330.14-16, and see 331.10-12).

MOTIF: novel.

325.08: early September: Matches the time of year of Van’s leaving Ardis the First: 156.01.

325.08: left Manhattan: With his father: see II.1. At the end of Part Two Van will be forced to leave Manhattan (and what had been Cordula’s apartment) and Ada at his father’s command.

325.09: Lute: Paris (see 173.18-20n). For Demon’s plans to take Van with him to Paris before his son returns to Chose, see 324.25-27n, which matches his spending time with Van in Ladoga, N.A., before the boy’s return to Riverlane, after Ardis the First (156.03-05). On leaving Ardis the Second, in pursuit of Rack and de Prey, Van had mentioned to Marina the “bit of business I had been putting off like a fool” (in other words, hunting down Rack and de Prey) “but now must attend to before going to Paris” (298.16-17).

325.09: he was pregnant: To VN’s horror, this was “corrected” by mistake to “she was pregnant” in Ada 1969 but was then restored in the next impression.
            Cf. VN’s 1964 criticism of Walter Arndt’s translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin: “the ‘surgings’ of a poet’s ‘heart’ (Four: xxxi) are gynandromorphosed into the ‘deep stirrings of [his] womb” (SO 237). This links the last sentence of Part One, and mistranslation, with its opening sentence, and its mistranslation of the opening sentence of Anna Karenina (3.01-18 and nn.).

325.09: pregnant: Van later judges that the “child” of his imagination was still-born. He introduces his first book thus: “Van’s Letters from Terra, ‘a philosophical novel,’ showed no sign of life whatsoever” (338.01-02)

Afternote to Part One, Chapter 43


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