Part Two, Chapter 6
Out of Ardis
In this chapter Van and Ada meet for the first time outside the paradise of Ardis. They meet for the first time as adults, he aged twenty-two, she twenty. And above all they meet for the first time since Van renounced Ada, as he thought, for ever, and for us as readers, for the first time after almost a sixth of the novel has passed without them together.
After reading Ada’s letter the previous afternoon, with its threat to marry an Arizonian Russian should he remain adamantly aloof, Van sets resentment aside and lets his immemorial longing for Ada flood back. With all his father’s impetuosity, he decides to resume his life with her again as soon as possible—the very next morning, in fact, at his apartment in Manhattan.
Despite the urgent flow of Van’s restored passion at the end of Pt. 2 Ch. 5, he and we have to face a series of delays at the start of Pt. 2 Ch.6. First, the unavoidable, unevadable discussion with young Rattner and other colleagues about acrophobia versus chronophobia, and therefore perhaps about space versus time. Colorful in the telling, the discussion nevertheless seems frustratingly irrelevant to Van’s revived desire. No wonder “he did not shine in the discussion which forever remained in his mind as a grisaille of inconclusive tedium” (389).
After farewelling his colleagues around midnight, Van frantically calls Ada at Ardis “intermittently till daybreak” (389), just to tell her he loves her, but the Ladore dorophones remain stubbornly out of order. Edmond drives him from Kingston toward Manhattan too slowly for impatient Van, who takes over the wheel and drives half as fast again. After reaching his apartment, he snatches an hour’s sleep. The sound of Ada’s small chartered monoplane draws him out onto the terrace and wrenches from him “a first sob,” only for the plane, unable to land nearby, to have to turn and “seek a perch elsewhere.” Veen that he is, Van rings for Rose, his sportive Negro maid, and watches “with unpardonable lust” as she puts the room in order, before she descends to Van’s lower-floor neighbor, Mr Dean, whom Van shares Rose with “in more ways than one” (390): Van soon hears their love-making creaking up through the pipes—and suddenly, Ada is there at his door.
Van falls at her feet, they weep, he goes through “his fit of grief, gratitude and regret,” but just as “another, physical frenzy” stirs in him (391), Van as narrator expatiates on the almost legendarily opulent new fur Ada wears over her nightdress, and its relation to other lauded but lesser furs, and its purchase for her by Demon, and the suspicion among those who know Demon too little that the interest in Ada this “bizarre enthusiast” now displays means that he “slept with his niece” (391), when in fact as he ages he pursues ever younger and younger girls.
Van writes that “Neither sibling ever could reconstruct . . . what they said, how they kissed, how they mastered their tears, how he swept her couch-ward, gallantly proud to manifest his immediate reaction” (392) to her being so scantily clad under her fur. But here yet another delay blocks both Van and the reader: Ada explains that “she must first of all take her morning bath (this, indeed, was a new Ada)” (392). A scene that has been mostly unspecific, at least in depicting the lovers’ first reunion after so long, suddenly becomes vividly visual, as Ada, bending over to turn on the bath’s “twin cock crosses,” stirs Van’s desire beyond all restraint, and he
steadied her lovely lyre and next moment was at the suede-soft root, was gripped, was deep
between the familiar, incomparable, crimson-lined lips. . . . and Van emitted a long groan of
deliverance, and now their four eyes were looking again into the azure brook of Pinedale,
and Lucette pushed the door open with a perfunctory knuckle knock and stopped, mesmerized
by the sight of Van’s hairy rear and the dreadful scar all along his left side. (392-93)
In a flash, in a sizzle of flashes, we are back at Ardis: Van and Ada’s unbridled sexual vigor, reaching perhaps its most immediate and erotic peak in the whole novel, and replaying a particular moment, their brookside coupling during the picnic for Ada’s sixteenth birthday (“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,” 267.11-14), and Lucette’s intrusion, such a constant comic feature of Ardis, and again replaying a particular moment, her stumble as she spies on them by the brook in the pine glade (“ . . . Van, at the last throb, saw the reflection of Ada’s gaze in the water flash a warning. Something of the sort had happened somewhere before: he did not have time to identify the recollection that, nonetheless, led him to identify at once the sound of the stumble behind him. Among the rugged rocks they found and consoled poor little Lucette, whose foot had slipped,” 267.14-19).
Nabokov’s preparation and comic timing have never been better: we know from the end of the previous chapter that Lucette also plans to come to Manhattan, and wants Ada to bring her from Ardis her special pencils, but she has not been mentioned in this chapter thus far. We are so focused on Van and Ada, after these years apart and at this moment of voluptuous connection, this eye-catching tableau, that Lucette’s entry takes us as much by surprise as it does her passionate siblings. And while the interplay between the three Veens suddenly revives the tang of Ardis, it also marks four years on for the threesome. All three know Lucette is sexually active with Ada, and sexually aware, even sexually obsessed. She intrudes on her half-siblings in flagrante, and embarrassedly retreats, but it is a moment of no great moment: as Ada comments, “we shan’t be afraid of her witnessing our ébats” (395).
After making love, and a swift “repeat performance” (393), Van and Ada can settle down to exploring their new shared freedom and deploring their old foibles: the freedom of knowing that Van, being sterile, “could never hope for an offspring. How merrily little Ada clapped her hands!” (394); the freedom to travel together if they choose, or to stay in the apartment together; the recriminations and pangs when Van recalls Ada’s denials or downplaying of past infidelities: with Vanda, with Lucette, with Philip Rack, with Percy de Prey. Ada seems far more relaxed, and Van quite unconcerned, about his surrogate sexual outlets: with Cordula, who once owned this very apartment and accommodated eager Van here; with Rose, whom Ada does not yet know about; with the “unrelated gipsy courtesans” (393) who could somehow tell that he was sterile and whom he can allude to with utter insouciance. The sexual double standard remains as emphatic as on the morning Van stormed away in bitter jealousy from Ada and, after meeting Cordula by chance on the train taking him from Ardis, casually fondled her under the restaurant-car table.
Present, Past, and Future
Pt. 2 Ch. 6 has its own narrative arc, leading up to and down from that climactic, rivetingly visual and vibrantly multisensory sexual congress over the bath. But the chapter’s details also point outward to turning points or peaks in Van’s, Ada’s, and Lucette’s past and future. Let us follow now not the chapter’s own compact chronology, a few hours in November 1892, but the whole chronology of Van’s life with Ada, as reflected off facet after facet of the chapter’s text and texture.
Just as Lucette enters the apartment and glimpses Van’s hairy rear, “Ada’s hands stopped the water. Luggage was being dumped down all over the flat” (393)—another comic surprise, as they make love, but also artfully prepared (Ada had said she “expected her luggage would be brought up any moment now by the louts of the ‘Monaco’ lounge,” 392). The comedy of the compounded interruption echoes the comic or catastrophic theme of luggage at the beginning of Van’s Ardis the First visit, early summer 1884 (34-35: he arrives at the railway station with two suitcases, presumably loaded onto the hackney coach he boards, but after the coach metamorphoses into an old calèche, a sensitive runabout, and an old clockwork taxi, he arrives at Ardis on horseback, his suitcases somehow there nevertheless); at the end of Ardis the First, September 1884 (156-59: Van leaves with a black trunk and black suitcase and black king-size dumbbells, placed in the back of the family motorcar, but after his tryst with Ada at Forest Fork, he departs distraught on “Morio, his favorite black horse”); at the beginning of Ardis the Second, June 1888 (189: “‘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. I think I am dreaming.’ . . . His train had broken down in the fields between Ladoga and Ladore, he had walked twenty miles, God knows when they’d send up his bags”); at the end of Ardis the Second, late July 1888 (304: waving back to Cordula, Van steps backward into Captain Tapper stooping to pick up one of his bags and then, outraged by Tapper’s expostulation, challenges him to a duel); at the beginning of Mont Roux the First, 1905 (510: when he trips over a gaudy suitcase near the door of the Bellevue Hotel, and makes “his entrée at a ridiculous run”); and at Mont Roux the Second, 1922 (556-58: Ada’s trunks have been “stranded somewhere,” and she has to leave to “retrieve her things and maids”).
After the coupling over the bath and its “repeat performance,” Van and Ada in 1892 sit “down to a beautiful breakfast (Ardis’ crisp bacon! Ardis’ translucent honey!)” (393), their being alone together in their own space and having a breakfast with translucent honey recalling their first breakfast à deux at Ardis, in July 1884, such a significant stage in their ascent toward the peak of first love (75: “The classical beauty of clover honey, smooth, pale, translucent . . . ”).
Unable to take a bath at Ardis, thanks to Van’s vain dorophone calls disrupting the water flow, Ada in 1892 arrives in haste from Ardis wearing nothing more than her new fur thrown over her nightdress. She and Van are alone and free together, as they had been for the first time in late July 1884 on the Night of the Burning Barn, which Van’s description now evokes: “As if she had just escaped from a burning palace and a perishing kingdom, she wore over her rumpled nightdress a deep-brown, hoar-glossed coat of sea-otter fur” (391), the rumpled nightdress and the burning palace recalling their first night together: “he continued to fondle the flow of her hair, and to massage and rumple her nightdress, not daring yet to go under and up, daring, however, to mold her nates until, with a little hiss, she sat down on his hand and her heels, as the burning castle of cards collapsed” (117). After describing the fur she wears to Manhattan, after explaining that neither of them could later reconstruct their first words, kisses, and tears on being back together, Van can at least recall sweeping Ada “couch-ward, gallantly proud to manifest his immediate reaction to her being as scantily gowned (under her hot furs) as she had been when carrying her candle through that magic picture window” (392) on the Night of the Burning Barn.
In his eagerness to be ready to receive Ada in Manhattan, Van in 1892 takes over the car from Edmond soon after they leave Kingston and drives as fast as he can to their rendezvous. Leaving Ardis at the end of the summer of 1884, and eager for his farewell assignation with Ada at Forest Fork, Van had taken over the family motorcar from Bouteillan, who warns him in his quaint old-fashioned English: “youth drives fast. Monsieur should be prudent” (157). Van remarks drily: “Quite the old comedy retainer, aren’t you?,” to which Bouteillan answers: “Non, Monsieur. . . . Non. Tout simplement j’aime bien Monsieur et sa demoiselle” (157). Before their Manhattan rendezvous eight years later, Ada leaving Ardis has “Bouteillan (discreetly rejoicing old Bouteillan!) carry her valises down and drive her to the airport” (389).
Even the brief Forest Fork the Second, Van and Ada’s sole tryst between 1884 and 1888, finds its quick echo in their Manhattan meeting. In 1886 Ada is ill, and awaits him, in honor of their last coupling, at Forest Fork, in “a terrycloth robe and bedroom slippers” (179). In 1892, when Van steps out from his Manhattan apartment to the terrace to see Ada’s plane approaching, he is clad in a “short ‘terry’” (390).
Before Ada makes love with Van at Manhattan, she declares, having had no access to water at Ardis before she left, that “she must first of all take her morning bath” (392). Van, arriving at Ardis the Second in June 1888, “unexpected, unbidden, unneeded” (187) and hot and bothered after having to walk from somewhere near Ladore, asks for a tub to be sent up to his old room. But standing at the window, he sees Percy holding Ada’s hand as he kisses it in farewell, then kisses it again. Enraged, Van tears apart the diamond necklace he has brought for Ada, its hailstones falling at her feet as she bursts into his room. They quickly reconcile, and are about to make love when Ada “flinched with a murmur of reluctant denial, because the door had come alive: two small fists could be heard drumming upon it from the outside, in a rhythm both knew well. ‘Hi, Lucette!’ cried Van: ‘I’m changing, go away.’ ‘Hi, Van! They want Ada, not you” (190). That moment of comedy itself immediately revives amused memories of Lucette in Ardis the First, four years before. At Manhattan, 1892, four years after the start of Ardis the Second, Ada does not enter the bath she is about to take because Van enters her first, just as Lucette “pushed the door open with a perfunctory knuckle knock” (392-93), reanimating memories of both Ardis the First and the Second.
The Manhattan reunion not only commemorates the first hour of Van’s return to Ardis the Second but also the last hour before his departure from there. The roof terrace where Van stands looking at Ada’s rented monoplane approaching is “now embellished by shrubs of blue spiraea in invincible bloom” (390). The “blue . . . bloom” unmistakably recalls a summer scene four years earlier. After Van hears from Blanche, in the early morning of his last night at Ardis, about Ada’s affair with Rack, he packs to leave but encounters Ada standing on her balcony and signalling down to him “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!). Van, to his horror and shame, saw Van wait for her to come down” (295)—only to hear from her, thanks to a confusion of conversational referents, about her affair not with Rack but with Percy de Prey.
From blue blooms to a much less pleasant detail: Van about to leave Kingston for Manhattan tries to ring “Ardis Hall—vainly, vainly. He kept it up intermittently till daybreak, gave up, had a structurally perfect stool (its cruciform symmetry reminding him of the morning before his duel)” (389). The phrase repeats exactly Van’s having “a structurally perfect stool” (309-10) on the morning before his duel—there, a sign that no anxiety has upset his bowels, as perhaps the later occurrence also signals his calm, despite his eagerness, as he looks to reunite with Ada after four years of the bitterness that first embroiled him in that duel. And in the later chapter, both Lucette and Ada catch sight of the consequence of the duel, “the dreadful scar all along his left side” (393).
The bath scene at Manhattan, as we have already seen, echoes Van and Ada’s embrace at Pinedale, on the day of Ada’s sixteenth birthday, and Lucette’s watching, so agog that she slips on a granite slab. But it surely also calls to mind Lucette’s first watching Van and Ada make love at Ardis the First, by a brook where Van strips off to retrieve a doll swept away (142-43), and their first ploy afterwards to divert her while they make love, trying to imprison her in the bath they have run for her while they couple around the corner of the L-shaped bathroom (144-45), and both of these scenes in turn anticipate Lucette being swept away and imprisoned by the waters of the Atlantic in 1901. Lucette takes her life, as it turns out, because of her inextricable entanglement in Van’s love for Ada. And the fur Ada wears to Manhattan foregrounds that intricate overlap between the sisters, since it evokes Lucette in her own fur visiting Van in Kingston, and bearing Ada’s letter, just the day before. Van was aroused then by Lucette’s new adult elegance, and by the thought of her own copper pubic fur under her clothes, but even though in farewelling her at Kingston he thrusts “his hands into the warm vulvas of her mole-soft sleeves” (386-87), even though he lets her, through her gloves, stroke his erection, in proof that his admiration for her is not “intangible” (387), he refuses her even the kiss she implores of him. But the next day in Manhattan Ada stands before Van in a more fabled fur, “famous” and “princely” and Demon’s gift: no matter how fetching Lucette is, she cannot match for Van Ada’s allure and élan.
After entering the apartment’s bathroom with a perfunctory knuckle knock, and seeing her siblings immediately post-climax, Lucette apologizes (“I’m not looking. . . . I only dropped in for my box”) and disappears without saying goodbye, but “leaving a curt note with her room number at the Winster Hotel for Young Ladies” (393). At the Ursus restaurant, a week later, Ada and Lucette will be dressed similarly and both will wear furs—“sinchilla mantillas” (413)—before they head back to Van’s apartment, where the débauche à trois takes place the next morning, and Lucette, after Van has climaxed, rushes out, scrawls a short note in eyeliner, and disappears without saying a word.
The lavish fur Ada has wrapped herself in for the journey to Manhattan comes from Demon, who has seen much more of her in the Western states than he had previously:
The bizarre enthusiast had developed the same tendresse for her as he had always had for Van.
Its new expression in regard to Ada looked sufficiently fervid to make watchful fools suspect
that old Demon “slept with his niece” (actually, he was getting more and more occupied with
Spanish girls who were getting more and more youthful every year until by the end of the century,
when he was sixty, with hair dyed a midnight blue, his flame had become a difficult nymphet
of ten). So little did the world realize the real state of affairs that even Cordula Tobak, born
de Prey, and Grace Wellington, born Erminin, spoke of Demon Veen, with his fashionable
goatee and frilled shirtfront, as “Van’s successor.” (391-9)
This emphasis on Demon shows Nabokov’s art of preparation again at work, in complex ways: his revival as a character in the reader’s mind, his strong paternal interest in not just Van but Ada too, his indulgent sexual morality and even the illusion of his incestuous relations with Ada all lead or mislead up to the surprise of his stumbling on Van and Ada in what had been Cordula’s apartment in February 1893, and the shock of his absolute opposition to their incest and his absolute edict against their seeing one another again. In dwelling on Demon this way the first chapter of Van and Ada’s reunion in Manhattan anticipates its abrupt end, and an even firmer severance between the two than at the end of Ardis the Second.
The breakfast Van and Ada sit down to after twice making love recalls their first morning breakfast à deux at Ardis, but other details point forward to the end of their Manhattan sojourn, and their irate father’s expelling them forever from their paradise of pleasure. Their first breakfast together in November 1892 is “brought up in the lift by Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman, always ill-shaven and gloomy, but a dear old boy (he it was who, having procured neat Rose last June, was being paid to keep her strictly for Veen and Dean)” (393). Again, Nabokov prepares for what will come: the bribable, ginger-haired, breakfast-bringing, lift-using Roman plays a key role when in February 1893 Demon thinks he will find Van, whom he urgently needs to see, in the company, as he supposes, of Cordula. He catches “the lift which a ginger-haired waiter had just entered, with breakfast for two on a wiggle-wheel table and the Manhattan Times among the shining, ever so slightly scratched, silver cupolas. Was his son still living up there, automatically asked Demon, placing a piece of nobler metal among the domes. Si, conceded the grinning imbecile, he had lived there with his lady all winter” (434). Van and Ada at breakfast at the beginning of Mont Roux seem to recapture and magnify the savor of their first breakfast for just two in Ardis; but at the end of Ardis, there will be three at a breakfast no one will ever taste.
After Manhattan, Van and Ada do not see each other again until after Demon’s death in 1905, when they arrange an adulterous sojourn together in Mont Roux, where Ada is to stay at the Bellevue Hotel with her bland husband, Andrey Vinelander, and her odious sister-in-law, Dorothy. Their first night in Mont Roux the night before, in the company of Andrey, Dasha, and others, Van manages to tell Ada he will pick her up first thing next morning and they can be alone at his hotel on the pretext that they have family business in Luzon. But impatient Ada wakes even earlier next morning, finds her way to his hotel,
and, in a marvelous act of rehabilitation and link-up, the breakfast table clanked from the corridor across
the threshold of the adjacent room, and, already munching and honey-crumbed, Ada entered his bedchamber.
It was only a quarter to eight!
“Smart girl!” said Van; “but first of all I must go to the petit endroit (W.C.)”
That meeting, and the nine that followed, constituted the highest ridge of their twenty-one-year-old
love: its complicated, dangerous, ineffably radiant coming of age. (521)
Van’s immediate delight in Ada’s being already in his room will be compounded in retrospect by the breakfast table that compensates, as it were, for the breakfast table Valerio rolled in with Demon in 1893, and his disclosure to Demon that Van “had lived there with his lady all winter” (434), itself anticipated in another key by Valerio’s bringing “a beautiful breakfast (Ardis’ crisp bacon! Ardis’ translucent honey!)” (393) on their first morning together at Manhattan, November 1892, itself triumphantly recalling their first breakfast alone together at Ardis, July 1884. And Van’s 1905 “first of all I must go to the petit endroit (W.C.)” (521) matches Ada, that first 1892 morning at Manhattan, telling Van as he sweeps her couch-ward that “she must first of all take her morning bath” (392).
The Texture of Time
Perhaps the most surprising of all the connections between Pt. 2 Ch. 6 and the rest of the novel is the one that stretches furthest in time: from Manhattan in 1892 to Mont Roux the Second in 1922.
At the beginning of the chapter, before heading for his reunion with Ada in Manhattan, Van discusses the difference between time and space with his young Kingston colleagues, through the contrast between acrophobes and “the only available case of acute chronophobia,” which “differed by its very nature—metaphysical flavor, psychological stamp and so forth—from that of space-fear” (388). Van introduces the problem as one that he “was to try to resolve in another way many years later” (388): philosophically rather than by means of clinical psychology, in The Texture of Time, composed on his way to his 1922 reunion with Ada in Mont Roux, seventeen years after their snatched adulterous romps there, and with Andrey Vinelander finally consumed by his consumption. In this long essay, Van boldly separates space and time philosophically, as he drives rapidly through space and time toward an Ada he hopes will reconnect with him in the glory of their past love. Alas, time seems to have separated them too long, they are too much subject to sagging space, to the sheer weight of matter, to the signs of their own aging, and the lack of connection between them. Ada resolves to abandon the attempted reunion—only to abandon her flight instead, in the middle of the night, and return to Mont Roux. The next morning Van, in despair at the thought that he might have lost Ada forever, wonders should he jump from his hotel balcony to his death. Suddenly he catches sight of Ada on a balcony diagonally below, scratching herself voluptuously in a way that instantly brings back the dusks and desire they shared at Ardis. He rushes down to join her: together, they reanimate their old love, and time conquers space.
Van pointedly indicates the connection between his Kingston discussion about time versus space and his much later Texture of Time in his description of the chronophobiac as “one patient maddened by the touch of time’s texture” (388). Both his Kingston discussion and the essay he composes in Switzerland begin after he and Ada have arranged to meet, after being separated in space for years of lost time, and both instances involve a breakneck drive by Van toward the rendezvous where he will await Ada, who flies to the reunion. In the 1892 case, the discussion only delays him and frustrates his eagerness to see Ada, so that he fails to shine, and it remains “in his mind as a grisaille of inconclusive tedium” (389). But the 1922 essay gains in imaginative energy from his driving at speed toward Ada and the hope he has for their reunion. Even the shock of the reunion’s apparent failure, when turned around into permanent success, becomes a triumphant example of one of the tenets of his treatise: the unforeseeability of the future, the unformedness of time to come, so different from space stretching solidly mapped out all around.
In The Texture of Time Van rejects our inclination to “build models of the past and then use them spatiologically to reify and measure Time” (544) and argues instead that “The Past, then, is a constant accumulation of images. It can be easily contemplated and listened to, tested and tasted at random, so that it ceases to mean the orderly alternation of linked events that it does in the large theoretical sense. It is now a generous chaos out of which the genius of total recall, summoned on this summer morning in 1922, can pick anything he pleases” (545). The whole of Pt. 2 Ch. 6, with its foreglimpse of the reunion of the final, durable reunion of 1922, and its constant echoes and prefigurations of all the major turning points in Van’s love for Ada, and even the fatal entanglement of Lucette within their love, shows in action what thirty years later Van will maintain in argument: that time’s texture cannot be reduced to chronological, quasi-spatial succession.
Spatially, the Manhattan apartment is one Van has shared with Cordula. Temporally, his reunion there with Ada reaches back and forth through all the rich weave of their life together, past and to come. In the first chapter of his autobiography Nabokov tells the story of General Kuropatkin visiting the Nabokov family home, and trying to entertain young Volodya by setting out matches in a horizontal line to represent the sea in calm weather, then tipping each pair up to turn them into a zigzag, a stormy sea. At the time the boy is disappointed at the match trick but he is amply recompensed much later, when, after the Bolshevik coup, and already a refugee in the Crimea, he learns that:
at a certain point of my father's flight from Bolshevik-held St. Petersburg to southern Russia he was
accosted while crossing a bridge, by an old man who looked like a gray-bearded peasant in his
sheepskin coat. He asked my father for a light. The next moment each recognized the other. I hope
old Kuropatkin, in his rustic disguise, managed to evade Soviet imprisonment, but that is not the
point. What pleases me is the evolution of the match theme: those magic ones he had shown me had
been trifled with and mislaid, and his armies had also vanished, and everything had fallen through,
like my toy trains that, in the winter of 1904–05, in Wiesbaden, I tried to run over the frozen puddles
in the grounds of the Hotel Oranien. The following of such thematic designs through one's life should
be, I think, the true purpose of autobiography. (SM 27)
Nabokov loves and reveres the present (TWS 470), but he is even more amazed by the munificence of the past, by the inexhaustible riches of accumulated experience that allow us to retrospect and discover endless new patterns in time. For a retentive memory they are complex and abundant enough in real life, but in fiction he can figure forth his sense of the abundance of time even more amply: patterns glimpsable by Van in memory, but even more visible to us who are beyond the time of his world; patterns woven into the texture of his time by an authorial imagination still freer of Van’s time, and yet able to allow Van and those around him all their freedom in the moment. Could something like that, Nabokov wonders, be what really lies behind the amplitude of time?
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