Part 2 Chapter 6



Pt. 2 Ch. 6 presents Van and Ada’s first reunion since their future seemed forever doomed after Van’s bitter departure from Ardis the second.

In the opening chapter of Part 2, Van has refused to respond to a string of desperate letters from Ada, but at the end of that chapter, he announces that after a seventh letter he would break his resolution to remain aggrieved and aloof. That letter, brought by Lucette to Van at Kingston, and quoted in full near the end of Pt. 2 Ch. 5, has quickly fired him into action.

Pt. 2 Ch 6 picks up immediately from the end of the Kingston chapter. Yet despite Van’s impatience to join Ada, he and readers face an immediate delay, in the scholarly discussion of acrophobia and chronophobia he has to endure until midnight.

After trying to call Ada in vain for the rest of the night, Van drives swiftly to Manhattan, as Ada flies in from Ardis. She arrives, swathed in a princely fur, a first sign of her new adult self. Van falls at her knees, his “fit of grief, gratitude and regret” soon giving way to “another, physical frenzy” (391), but the mounting excitement pauses, as narrator Van then describes Ada’s fur and Demon’s role in bestowing it on her.

Action resumes, Van sweeps Ada couchward, but now she pauses his sexual eagerness: she “must first of all take her morning bath” (392). “This indeed, was a new Ada,” comments Van, recalling her indifferent hygiene in the past: an index even more striking than her attire of how much she has changed in four years.

But the pause soon flips to fast forward, to the old impetuosity, as Van takes Ada sexually while she bends over the bath taps—and Lucette, entering “with a perfunctory knuckle knock” (393), stands gaping at the lovers and especially at Van’s hairy rear and his wound.

In a flash, Ardis comes back to life in Manhattan, through both the vivid love-making and Lucette looking on just as it peaks. Yet all is changed too: Van and Ada are adults, they have their own private space, they need not retreat out of sight of family or household staff, and Lucette at sixteen—so thoroughly introduced to sex by Ada, and so aware for so long, as she has told Van at Kingston, that she knew, every time, “that you vsyo sdelali (had appeased your lust, had allayed your fire)” (370)—need no longer be a concern as witness.

Playful echoes of the past mix with painful twinges of old affronts, but overall “What laughs, what tears, what sticky kisses, what a tumult of multitudinous plans! And what safety, what freedom of love!” (393).



388.01: The matter of that important discussion: Almost a tease or a test for the reader. In the previous chapter Van has mentioned an appointment with Bernard Rattner—early (“I have to see Rattner at six-thirty,” 370.04), shortly thereafter (“Bernard said six-thirty but I may be a little late,” 373.23) and near the end (“five uncouth scholars, whom his idiot valet had ushered in. . . . Bernard Rattner . . . greeted Van with affable relief,” 385.23-28)—but very briefly each time, very much subordinate to the focus on Van and Lucette, and with no “discussion” ever mentioned. By the end of that previous chapter one focus still remains on Lucette and Van’s arousal by her, but another opens on Van and Ada’s impending reunion. Here at the start of this chapter, we and Van have to shift gears from amorous narrative drive to the handbrake of academic discursiveness.

388.02-03: a problem that Van was to try to resolve in another way many years later: The problem Van had been grappling with at Kingston was a revival of “one of his old projects, which turned on the Idea of Dimension & Dementia” (365.03-05). The problem that he tries to resolve many years later may be the separation of space and time, in his 1922 The Texture of Time, to judge by the next sentence here and Van’s attempt at Kingston to see if “cases of acrophobia . . . were combined with any traces or aspects of time-terror” (388.03-05). “In another way” here could therefore mean “philosophically rather than psychologically,” since the 1922 essay addresses the space-time relationship entirely in a philosophical mode.

388.03: acrophobia:  Fear of heights.

388.05: time-terror:  MOTIF: Terra.

388.06: Tests had yielded completely negative results: Cf., in The Texture of Time: “We reject without qualms the artificial concept of space-tainted, space-parasited time, the space-time of relativist literature” (541.06-08).

388.06: Tests had yielded: VN revised the first paragraph of this chapter much more at the typescript stage than is visible elsewhere: Ada 1968:<str> “Van’s and young Rattner’s tests</str> <insert>Tests<insert> had yielded. . . . ”

388.08: chronophobia: Fear of time: VN’s coinage; not in W2, W3, OED. VN uses the noun “chronophobiac” in the third sentence of his autobiography: “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and 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. He saw a world that was practically unchanged—the same house, the same people—and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence” (SM 19). “The Case of the Young Chronophobiac” is VN’s invention.

388.09: psychological stamp: Ada 1968: “psychological Schlund <insert> stamp <insert>.” Schlund (German) means “back of the throat, (gaping) mouth, abyss.” “Abyss” reinforces the particular psychological “stamp” of an acrophobe.

388.10: the touch of time’s texture: MOTIF: texture of time.

388.11-12: a great group of garrulous acrophobes: As if Van scorns them for being afraid of something so common as an aspect of space rather than the philosophically far more challenging and elusive dimension of time. 

388.12-13: readers who have been accusing Van of rashness and folly: More revisions in the TS, Ada 1968: “readers who have been<str> condemning</str> <insert>accusing<insert>Van <str> for his ‘volucrine frivolities’</str> <insert>of rashness and folly<insert>.” Volucrine means (W2) “Of or pertaining to birds.”

388.14-16: our young investigator did his best not to let Mr. T.T. (the chronophobe) be cured too hastily of his rare and important sickness: A satire on the callousness of some clinical psychologists, or a critique of Van in particular?

388.15-16: Mr. T.T. (the chronophobe): In context, “Mr. T.T” perhaps suggests “Time Terror” or “Texture of Time” or even “tick, tock.”  MOTIF: Terra; Texture of Time.

388.17-18: nothing to do with clocks or calendars, or any measurements or contents of time: Cf. Van at Kingston: “he had almost finished a difficult bit dealing with the divorce between time and the contents of time (such as action on matter, in space, and the nature of space itself)” (365.11-14); Van in The Texture of Time:“Pure Time, Perceptual Time, Tangible Time, Time free of content, context, and running commentary. . . . we shall presently dispose of ‘flowing’ time, water-clock time, water-closet time”” (539.21-28); “the miserable idea of measurement” (538.09).

388.19-20: a discoverer, pure and passionate, and profoundly inhuman: Cf. “very great and inhuman artists” (246.28). VN may in part be parodying assumptions about himself as an “inhuman” collector of butterflies, as expressed for instance (in this case later than the composition of Ada)in Joyce Carol Oates’s essay “A Personal View of Nabokov” (Saturday Review of the Arts, January 1973, 36-37, rpt. in Norman Page, ed., Nabokov: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, 233-36): “ultimately, he is not American, and his scorn for the democratic ideal is something as deep in him, as natural, as his genius for words, for chess, and for the capturing of butterflies” (236).

388.20: dread of heights: Revised in the TS, Ada 1968: “dread of heights<str> and hollows, open country and closed rooms.”</str>.

389.01-02: to depend mainly on the misestimation of distances: Revised in TS, Ada 1968: “to depend <str>on millimeters and miles</str> <insert>mainly on the misestimation of distances<insert>.”

389.02-03: Mr. Arshin, their best acrophobe: Revised in TS, Ada 1968: “their best acrophobe” is a late handwritten insert in the TS.

389.02: Arshin: Old Russian unit of length, equal to 28 inches or 71 centimeters.

389.05-06: the fire net spread fifty yards below was a mat one inch beneath him: Revised in TS, Ada 1968: “the <str>firemen’s blood-orange corolla spread</str> <insert>fire net fifty yards <insert> below was a <str>poppy<str/> <insert>mat<insert> one inch beneath <str>his confident toe</str> <insert> him <insert>.”

389.07-08: a gallon of Gallows Ale: Zimmer 2010, 1002 suggests this plays on Gallo Beer, a real beer brand from Guatemala; a 5% abv pale lager, produced by Cervecería Centro Americana in Guatemala City, the most famous beer in the country, brewed since 1886 and exported of late to Central and North America and France. There are now also a number of Gallows Ales, such as Gallows Ales, by Dungeon Brewery Company, London, or Gallows, a 4.5 abv pale ale by the Park Brewery in Hampshire, but presumably only after the proliferation of craft beers from around 2000. But why has the term “Gallows Ale” appealed to brewers more than once?

389.09-10: the discussion which forever remained in his mind as a grisaille of inconclusive tedium: Cf. the inconclusiveness of Van’s research on the case of blind Spencer Muldoon, who can sense colors by touch: “leaving the entire incident suspended in midair within a nimbus of bright irrelevancy” (470.10-11).

389.09: grisaille: W3: “a painting in monochrome usu. in shades of gray often as decoration to simulate sculptured relief or as underpainting for a glaze finish.”

389.13-15: had a structurally perfect stool (its cruciform symmetry reminding him of the morning before his duel): Cf. “had a structurally perfect stool” (309.32-310.01). MOTIF: cruciform symmetry; toilet.

389.18-19: Edmond had needed forty-five minutes instead of half an hour to cover one fourth of the way: Kingston, then, is three hours’ normal driving from Manhattan and two hours at Van’s headlong speed. At the end of Ardis the First, fourteen-year-old Van takes over from Bouteillan in driving the Veen motorcar to the local railway station, and drives fast: “Bouteillan put on a captain’s cap, too big for him, and grape-blue goggles; ‘remouvez votre bottom, I will drive,’ said Van—and the summer of 1884 was over. ‘She rolls sweetly, sir,’ remarked Bouteillan in his quaint old-fashioned English.  . . . youth drives fast . . . ’” (156.20-157.05).

389.20: dumb dorophone: “Dumb” in both senses: Van is irritated at the “stupid” dorophone, but it is also “dumb” in his not being able to say a word on it. MOTIF: dorophone.

389.21-22: three words in English . . . two in Russian . . . one and a half in Italian: “I love you . . . lyublyu tebya . . . ti amo.”

389.22: Ada was to maintain: As if her report can’t quite be trusted.

389.24-26: such a violent rhapsody of “eagre” that finally the basement boiler gave up and there was no hot water—no water at all, in fact: Cf. Ada’s instruction in her letter: “Try to ring me up tonight. Something is very wrong with the Ladore line, but I am assured that the trouble will be grappled with and eliminated before rivertide” (385.14-17). MOTIF: dorophone; hydro-; technology.

389.24: eagre: W2: “A bore; a tidal flood, or flow.” A1: “running water, tidal flow.” Pun in Van’s being so “eager” to say those few words to Ada.

389.25-26: no hot water—no water at all, in fact—when she got out of bed: Cf. “she must first of all take her morning bath” (392.18-19).

389.26-27: so she pulled on her warmest coat: Cf. “as scantily gowned (under her hot furs)” (392.13-14).

389.27: Bouteillan (discreetly rejoicing old Bouteillan): Bouteillan has known and approved of Van and Ada’s passion since 1884, as he discloses—too openly for Van, who unkindly deflects his implication—when he rides away with Van from the manor at the end of Ardis the First: “alas, there are many stones on the way, and youth drives fast. Monsieur should be prudent. The winds of the wilderness are indiscreet. . . . Tout simplement j’aime bien Monsieur et sa demoiselle” (157.04-12); at the end of Ardis the Second, Bouteillan is upset at Van’s irate departure from Ada: “Van shook hands with the distressed old butler” (298.26).

389.29: at Alexis Avenue: The location of the apartment (322.01-02) that Van has bought (365.20-366.01) from Cordula de Prey.

389.33: ironization: Not in W2, W3, OED. Ironize (W3): “to make ironic.”

390.03: inexhaustible fluids that stuffed his nose: Cf., of Ada and Lucette in 1884: “their noses were permanently stuffed” (104.06-07).

390.06-07A small monoplane (chartered, if one judged by its nacreous wings and illegal but abortive attempts to settle: As he dropped Lucette off the day before, Van “gave her the note he had written. It told Ada to charter a plane and be at his Manhattan flat any time tomorrow morning” (386.12-13).

390.06-09: its nacreous wings and illegal but abortive attempts to settle on the central green oval of the Park, after which it melted in the morning mist to seek a perch elsewhere: Cf. “a butterfly in the Park” (324.06), also Manhattan’s Park and, as here, an implied Antiterran equivalent of New York’s Central Park.

390.07-10: the central green oval of the Park . . . Van as he stood in his short “terry” on the roof terrace: Cf. “in a secluded corner of the Park whose central green he could see from the penthouse terrace where he fenced” (344.29-31). Manhattan’s Central Park is teasingly evoked but not quite named in the “central green oval of the Park,” as in the earlier “Park whose central green. . . . ”.

390.10: as he stood in his short “terry” on the roof terrace: Terry was the original term for what we have long called “terrycloth,” a word that now makes “terry” seem an abbreviation: terry, W2: “a The loop formed for the pile in weaving velvet, plush, etc. b Any fabric of this type, in which these loops are left uncut. c Specif., such a fabric in cotton;—called also terry cloth.” In view of the much greater currency of “terrycloth,” the “short ‘terry’” seems also to have shortened the word as if to match Van’s short bathrobe. Note too the play on “terrace.” Cf. unwell Ada in “a terrycloth robe” (179.32) awaiting Van at Forest Fork the Second in 1886.

390.10-11: the roof terrace (now embellished by shrubs of blue spiraea in invincible bloom): Spiraea (W2): “A large genus of shrubs (family Rosaceae), natives of temperate regions, with small perfect white or pink flowers, in dense racemes, corymbs, cymes, or panicles. The five pistils alternate with the persistent calyx lobes and ripen into follicles dehiscent along one suture.” The blue-bloomed commercial cultivar Blue Mist spiraea is a cross of caryopteris and clandonensis. The bloom is “invincible” because it has survived outdoors into November.

Cf. Van leaving Ada and Ardis in 1888, catching sight of “a black-haired girl of sixteen or so . . . standing on a third-floor balcony and signaling to him . . . telegraphically, with expansive linear gestures, indicating the cloudless sky (what a cloudless sky!), the jacaranda summit in bloom (blue! bloom!)” (295.25-30). MOTIF: blue bloom.

390.14-15: drank a bottle of champagne: Van is a prodigious quaffer of champagne: cf., a week later: “He too had had just about his ‘last straw’ of champagne, namely four out of half a dozen bottles minus a rizzom” (414.05-07).

390.15-16: rang for Rose, the sportive Negro maid: Cf. Van a week later, “in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose—no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion” (416.02-03). Demon has his own Rose, an Irish scullery maid: “a lovely Irish wild rose . . . an impudent scullery maid . . . Rose” (150.26-31). Cf. also, for the combination of Negress and reddish hue in household staff, Van’s being suckled “by a very young wet nurse, almost a child, Ruby Black, born Black” (20.13-14; for Ruby’s “dark or darkish skin,” see 241.21-27). MOTIF: black-red; Eros, the sore and the rose; flowers; rose.

390.16-17: the famous, recently decorated cryptogrammatist, Mr. Dean: “Mr. Dean” combines elements of the beginning and ending of the name “Demon Veen,” as well as Demon’s habit of availing himself of servant girls. Demon prides himself in his gift for deduction, and tries, though in vain, to decode the cryptic hydrogram Ada sends to Van in July 1886 (178); Van and Ada are cryptographers of sorts in their first, 1884-1888, separation (157, 160-62). “Recently decorated” in conjunction with “maid” almost seems for a moment to conjure up Mr. Dean as an interior space.

Cf. the “cryptogrammic paper chase” Clare Quilty leaves in motel and hotel registers to bamboozle Humbert Humbert (Lolita II.23, 250).

390.21-22: her lower lover could be heard through the radiator pipes humming to himself happily: Cf. “a radiator-relayed snore from downstairs, [rated] three hundred [distressibles]” (570.06-07).

390.22-24: he had decoded again a Tartar dorogram telling the Chinese where we planned to land next time!: Although vaguely reminiscent of the Allies just landing in the Crimea (231) during the Second Crimean War (itself perhaps reminiscent of Earth’s Korean War), this seems otherwise to have no connection with any sustained story of Antiterran geopolitics. MOTIF: doro.

390.25: the Pandean hum: Pandean (W2): “Of or pertaining to the god Pan.” Pandean pipes (W2) “ = panpipe.” Panpipe (W2): “A primitive wind instrument, said by the Greeks to have been invented by Pan, consisting of a series of short hollow reeds or pipes graduated in length according to a musical scale and bound together side by side, the lower ends being stopped, the upper ones open and level for playing on with the lips.”

390.28: dingled: Dingle (W2): “To ring; tinkle; jingle.” To the ding-dong of the doorbell, the verb may add something of the jingle of Mr. Dean’s bed a floor below.

390.29: redder-mouthed: Cf. Van’s “I abhor and reject your livid lipstick” (245.31-32).

390.30: her flowing hair: Cf. “he continued to fondle the flow of her hair” (117.18).

390.31: dark furs that were even richer than her sister’s: Cf. Van the previous day helping Lucette “with wonder and sorrow out of her soft, deep, dark coat, side-thinking (he liked furs): sea bear (kotik)? No, desman (vïhuhol’)” (368.12-14). See 391.13-27 and n.

390.32-34: 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”: Cf. Van on the eve of his duel, writing a farewell note to his father: “He carefully reread his letter—and carefully tore it up” (309.16); and after the duel, visiting the dying Philip Rack in his ward: “With a not unfamiliar gesture, Van tore up his prepared speech and said: . . . ” (315.24-25).

390.33-34: on libelulla wings: Libellulidae (W2) “[NL, fr. Libellula, type genus, perh. fr. L. libella level, with ref. to the horizontal extension of the wings.] Zool. A family of dragon flies, comprising in older classifications all the dragon flies, and coextensive with the order Odonata. Libellula . . . , a Linnaean genus which in old classifications included all the dragon flies, is the type.” Jansy Mello, Nabokv-L 9 April 2016, notes that “libellula” also specifically alludes to the Demoiselle, an elegant ultra-light monoplane designed by the early aviator, the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932): “L'élégant Demoiselle (libellule ou dragonfly en anglais) conçu par Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) peut être considéré comme le vrai ancêtre de tous les avions ultra légers,”, accessed 1 October 2021. Cf. Aqua, whose “real destination was Terra the Fair and thither she trusted she would fly on libellula long wings when she died” (20.06-08). Note that Van or VN has spelled the word correctly in I.2 but wrongly here. MOTIF: libellula; technology.

391.01: glossy black Glass slippers: Cf. Lucette’s “very chic patent-leather Glass shoe” (374.02) the previous day. They are glossy but not glassy: Glass is the designer, not the material. MOTIF: Cinderella; Glass; slipper.

391.03: denunciation of demoniac life: In what sense? Of life on Demonia, where “only a very cruel or very stupid person, or innocent infants, could be happy” (301.01-02), Van thinks, echoing Aqua, just after he has left Ada and Ardis in bitter despair? MOTIF: demon; Demonia.

391.05-06: every time he remembered her impossible semi-smile as she adjusted her shoulder blades to the trunk of the final tree: Cf. the final image Van has of Ada at Ardis: “He could swear he did not look back, could not—by any optical chance, or in any prism—have seen her physically as he walked away; and yet, with dreadful distinction, he retained forever a composite picture of her standing where he left her. . . . And perhaps, worst of all, that time when she stood fiddling with a bunch of wild flowers, a gentle half-smile hanging back quite neutrally in her eyes” (296.30-297.19).

391.06-07: An invisible stagehand now slipped a seat under her: Not only narrative elision and flourish, but also preparation for Ada as actress in II.9?

391.10-11: another, physical frenzy, that had been stirring his blood since the previous day: Both Van’s arousal at Lucette’s presence the previous day, and his anticipation of this reunion with Ada?

391.12-13: As if she had just escaped from a burning palace and a perishing kingdom, she wore over her rumpled nightdress: On the Night of the Burning Barn Ada wears a nightdress that Van rumples, and a metaphorical castle burns and collapses: “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” (117.18-22).

391.13-14: wore over her rumpled nightdress a deep-brown, hoar-glossed coat of sea-otter fur: Lucette on her visit to Van at Kingston the previous afternoon had also worn furs and provoked Van's reflections on them (367.17-368.14).

391.14-27: a deep-brown, hoar-glossed coat of sea-otter fur . . . a gift from Demon: In a typed 1970 note prepared for translators, paper-clipped into A1, at p. 391, and headed “Marina’s and Ada’s furs,” VN explains (I follow his inconsistent underlining for italics): “= Sea Otter = Enhydra lutris (syn. marina) = loutre de mer, loutre marine = morskaya vydra, also known as kamchatskiy bobr (Kamchatka ‘beaver’* ) = Sea Otter (b)

“*) The real beaver is Castor (old-world C. fiber and American C. canadensis). Its fur (as also that of the Common (or European) Otter, Lutra lutra) is the cheap nemetiskiy bobyor, castor (Fr.).]

Sea otter fur went to make the bobrovye shuby (‘beaver’ pelisses) of the Tsars. In 1965 a lady’s coat of sea otter cost $20,000. The Sea Otter was almost extinct but is now (1970) increasing in the North Pacific. Morphologically it is a transition between the land carnivores and the seals.

“Lucette {Sea Bear is the Alaska Fur Seal, phoque d’Alaska, Callorhinus ursinus = kotik. And Desman is vyhuhol’, Desmana maschata.

“Mink is vison in French and norka in Russian (Lutreola). Nutria is the fur of the coypu, S. America.”

MOTIF: furs; riches.

391.14-15: kamchatskiy bobr: Zimmer 2010, 1002: “the finest, densest and dearest of all animal pelts people have worn, that of the North Pacific sea otter (Enhydra lutris), which ranged in the 18C from the Kuriles, Kamchatka and the Aleutians to Alaska, Yukon and California. After Vitus Bering . . .  brought pelts back to Russia from his second Arctic Ocean expedition, in 1741, they were always prized in Russia and then in America; around 1900 a single one fetched up to $1000. Hunting nearly led to the extinction of the sea otter until an international agreement in 1911 brought it to an end. . . . The sea otter has no subcutaneous fat layer, so has an extremely dense fur, around 100,000 fine light brown hairs per square centimeter. . . . The original scientific name was Lutro marina.”

391.15-16: ‘lutromarina’ on the Lyaska coast: Invented, from Lutra marina, with playful interference from “ultramarine”; “Lyaska” because Lutra marina is a North Pacific species. MOTIF: Lyaska; Marina.

391.19: vison: W2: “The American mink”; A1: “mink.”

391.19: coypu: W2: “A South American aquatic rodent (Myocastor coypus), having webbed hind feet. Also, its fur or pelt—usually called nutria.” Nutria,W2: “The plucked fur or pelt of the coypu. It is a light-brown, occasionally black, durable fur and is blended to imitate beaver.” A1: “nutria.”

391.19-20: nemetskiy bobr: Russ., “German beaver.”

391.21: shuba: Darkbloom: “Russ., fur coat.”

391.24: nutria:  See 391.19n.

391.25-26: that “stuck-up actress”: MOTIF: actress.

391.27: Ada’s bobrï (princely plural of bobr) were a gift from Demon: See 391.14-27n. above. MOTIF: riches.

391.28-29: who as we know, had lately seen in the Western states considerably more of her: Cf. Ada’s 1889 letter to Van: “We are still at the candy-pink and pisang-green albergo where you once stayed with your father. He is awfully nice to me, by the way. I enjoy going places with him. He and I have gamed at Nevada” (333.02-05).

391.32-33: to make watchful fools suspect that old Demon “slept with his niece”: MOTIF: incest.

391.34-392.03: more and more occupied with Spanish girls who were getting more and more youthful every year . . . difficult nymphet of ten: Cf. Demon facing blackmail in 1900 from a “moppet of eight, black-veiled, and a kind of duenna” (523.09-10). The combination of older male-much younger female, “Spanish,” and “nymphet” evokes Lolita, whose heroine is conceived in Mexico and whom Humbert associates with the Spanish gipsy, Carmen, and defines as a “nymphet.”  Cf. also Demon’s great-grandfather Prince Vseslav Zemski, with his penchant for the “barely pubescent”: 43.05, 147.10-11, 233.30-31. MOTIF: Lolita; nymphet.

392.02-03: with hair dyed a midnight blue: MOTIF: Demon’s dye;

392.05: Cordula Tobak, born de Prey: MOTIF: de Prey; Tobak.

392.05-06: Grace Wellington, born Erminin:  Does Grace Erminin marry the “young drummer, her first boy friend” (267.30-31), or is the “Wellington” she has married someone else, perhaps, like the Duke of Wellington, another soldier (see 80.20-21n)?  Aleksey Sklyarenko, Nabokv-L, 4 Feb 2013, notes without firm warrant that Grace “marries a soldier named Wellington” (my emphasis), but adds that “Erminia was a nickname of E. M. Khitrovo, the daughter of Kutuzov. The field marshal Kutuzov opposed Napoleon in the 1812 Patriotic War. The Duke of Wellington (who was Irish) defeated Napoleon in the Pyrenees and in the Battle of Waterloo.” Grace is also the daughter of a soldier, Colonel Erminin.
Note that Grace Erminin is first mentioned by name in close conjunction with “Wellingtonias”: “Greg put on his sister’s blue skirt, hat and glasses, all of which transformed him into a very sick, mentally retarded Grace; and Van walked on his hands. Two years earlier, when about to begin his first prison term at the fashionable and brutal boarding school, to which other Veens had gone before him (as far back as the days ‘when Washingtonias were Wellingtonias,’), Van had resolved to study some striking stunt” (81.15-22). Why?

MOTIF: Wellington.

392.06-07: Demon Veen . . . as “Van’s successor”: MOTIF: family relationship.

392.06: Demon Veen, with his fashionable goatee: A goatee is also a standard visual attribute of Satan. MOTIF: demon.

392.08: Neither sibling could ever reconstruct: Cf. “We cannot reconstitute the exact wording of the message. . . ” (84.14). MOTIF: family relationship.

392.09: the sea-otter: MOTIF: furs.

392.14-15: as she had been when carrying her candle through that magic picture window: On the Night of the Burning Barn, the night of their first lovemaking. Then, Ada did not of course carry her candle through the picture window, although to Van it seemed for a moment that she was on its other side: “Ada in her long nightgown passing by with a lighted candle in one hand and a shoe in the other as if stealing after the belated ignicolists. It was only her reflection in the glass” (116.28-31). Then, Van on the divan dared to “massage and rumple her nightdress” before going “under and up” (117.19-20); now, in Van’s apartment, she is wearing her fur “over her rumpled nightdress” (391.13).  The “picture window” (116.06) in the library is magic also because of Van’s first description of the window, on his first inspection of the manor, in terms that seem to reflect in advance the Night of the Burning Barn: “A pair of candlesticks, mere phantoms of metal and tallow, stood, or seemed to stand, on the broad window ledge” (41.16-18). Cf. also Ada’s memorial evocation: “Oh, Van, that night, that moment as we knelt side by side in the candlelight like Praying Children in a very bad picture” (117.34-118.01).

392.17: demented impatience: MOTIF: demon.

392.18-19: she must first of all take her morning bath: There had been “no hot water—no water at all, in fact—when she got out of bed” (389.25-26) at Ardis, because of Ardis’s dodgy dorophone line (385.14-15) and Van’s frantic dorophoning in the middle of the night.

Cf. Van’s “first of all I must go to the petit endroit (W.C.)” (521.13-14) at the moment when he and Ada are first alone together in Mont Roux in 1905.

392.18-19: her morning bath (this, indeed, was a new Ada): Cf. Van’s sense of her lax cleanliness in their Ardis encounters: “Neither hygiene, nor sophistication of taste, were, as Van kept observing, typical of the Ardis household” (78.09-11); “at fifteen, she was an irritating and hopeless beauty; a rather unkempt one, too; only twelve hours ago, in the dim toolroom 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).

392.19-22: she expected her luggage would be brought up any moment now by the louts of the “Monaco” lounge (she had taken the wrong entrance—yet Van had bribed Cordula’s devoted janitor to practically carry Ada upstairs): Cf. the luggage problem at the beginning (34-35) and end (156-59) of Ardis the First, at the beginning (189) and end (304) of Ardis the Second, and at the beginning of Mont Roux the First (510) and the Second (556).

392.21-22: the louts of the “Monaco” lounge (she had taken the wrong entrance: Cf. Van and Cordula sharing the apartment in 1888 and having “an elaborate repast sent up from ‘Monaco,’ a good restaurant in the entresol of the tall building crowned by her penthouse and its spacious terrace” (324.21-23). MOTIF: Monaco.

392.22-23: Van had bribed Cordula’s devoted janitor to practically carry Ada upstairs: MOTIF: Van’s tips and bribes.

392.23-24: said Ada, “da, da, Ada’ll be out of the foam: MOTIF: Ada.

392.24: Ada’ll be out of the foam: Like Aphrodite/Venus being born from the foam of the sea in classical legend and Renaissance painting. MOTIF: Venus.

392.24: in two secs!: Naturalistically colloquial, but here also a pun on “sex”—the sex Ada thinks she is about to enjoy after the bath, the sex she enjoys even before filling the bath.  

392.26: taps: corrected from 1969, "taps,".

392.27: to insert the bronze chained plug; it got sucked in by itself: In this charged context even this seems like an erotic act.

392.28: her lovely lyre: Cf. Ada in 1888, “whose haunches had grown more lyrate” (267.08-09), just before she and Van crouch on the brink of a brook where Lucette stumbles on their lovemaking.

392.30: lips: VN’s A1 glosses (as if there were any doubt) “labia.” Cf. “The hugest dictionary in the library said under Lip: ‘Either of a pair of fleshy folds surrounding an orifice’” (102.01-02); cf. also, of Ada: “the phantasmata of the other’s innumerable lips” (378.11).

392.30-31: the twin cock crosses: The old-fashioned faucet handles, with a comically naked pun on cock in the common slang sense of “penis.” MOTIF: krestik.

392.32-34: 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: In echo of their lovemaking at the brook before lunch at the picnic on Ada’s sixteenth birthday at “the traditional pine glade” (266.12), “Pineglen” (78.16): “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 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 . . . ” (267.11-19). The “Something of the sort had happened somewhere before” includes Lucette’s drumming at the door where Van and Ada are about to make love, in their first moment alone at Ardis the Second, after Van has ordered a rubber tub for a bath—but out of icy fury at seeing Percy de Prey below holding Ada’s hand after kissing it and before kissing it again, he tears apart the necklace he has brought Ada, only for the two of them to reconcile quickly and torridly (189.09-190.21). MOTIF: replay.

392.33-34: their four eyes were looking again into the azure brook of Pinedale: Cf. “Four pairs of eyes in paradise!” (584.01-02).

393.01: with a perfunctory knuckle knock: Sixteen-year-old Lucette’s knock is nicely differentiated from twelve-year-old Lucette’s banging at the door: “two small fists could be heard drumming upon it from the outside, in a rhythm both knew well” (190.19-21). Cf. also Lucette’s knock at Kingston, yesterday, after she has returned from the toilet: “Lucette knocked discreetly” (377.02).

393.01-03: mesmerized by the sight of Van’s hairy rear and the dreadful scar all along his left side: Cf. Lucette at the Ursus restaurant, a week later: “‘not only because of the physical red thing—your heart was almost ripped out, my poor dushen’ka (“darling,” more than “darling”), it looked to me at least eight inches long—’ ‘Seven and a half,’ murmured modest Van” (411.23-27). For the wound, see “the bullet ripping off, or so it felt, the entire left side of his torso” (311.02-03) in his duel with Captain Tapper; “the bullet having lightly grooved or, if he might say so, grazed the greater serratus” (312.34-313.02). MOTIF: Vans scar;

393.07: my box: Of Dutch crayons, which Lucette is mentioned at 386.23-24 as having requested.

393.08: “Please, tip them, pet,” said Van, a compulsive tipper—: Almost Van’s last word to Lucette at Kingston had been “Good-bye, pet” (387.22). MOTIF: pet; Van’s tips and bribes.

393.09: ancilla: W2: “A maidservant; handmaid. R[are].” This seems to refer to Lucette, who is also linked with “Ardelia” (36.24) and “ardilla” (98.12, see I.16 Afternote).

393.11: scarlet ladder of sutures: An oblique echo of the title of the novel The Scarlet Letter (1850), by Nathanael Hawthorne (1804-1864), one of Nabokov's favorite American writers; Hester Prynne, the heroine, who, after having given birth while unmarried, has to wear an embroidered scarlet “A,” for “adulterer,” is a seamstress (cf. the “sutures”); Van, as it were, committed "adultery" with Cordula de Prey in this apartment just after escaping from the hospital where he had sutures to stitch together his wound. MOTIF: Vans scar;

393.15: Cranach crayons: In A1,VN glosses: “pastel.” Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472-1553) and his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586), German painters. Lucette wanted “Dutch crayons” (386.24); these painters are German (Deutsch). “Demon got them in Strassburg” (395.06), Ada reports. Johnson 2006: 126 notes: “Lucas Cranach [he appears to mean the Elder] had close connections with Strassburg and his surname suggests the Russian karandash (pencil), as well as Caran D’Ache coloured pencils. (The latter were made by a Swiss company that took its name . . .  from the pseudonym of the Russian-born French caricaturist Emmanuel Poiré (1858-1909).) Cranach did many variations of Eve and Venus. Almost all feature a slender young woman, often with reddish hair or head dress not unlike the Lucette figure in the Toulouse-Lautrec / Barton & Guestier wine advertisement.” The Cranachs worked mostly in oil painting, although Cranach the Elder did sometimes add chalk color to his drawings, mostly portraits of nobles; but perhaps the “Luc” common to the artists’ first names, and matching “Lucette,” was a reason additional to the Cranach-Caran d’Ache-karandash-pencil link in choosing this particular name from the history of Western art?

393.15: frightened frog-face: Puffed cheeks, big eyes? Cf. Ada on Van’s first morning at Ardis the Second making “what she called a warning frog face, because Bouteillan had appeared in the doorway” (195.15-16).

393.16-17: perfect pine-fragrant bliss . . . Pennsilvestris: Pinus silvestris is the Scots pine, also known as the European red pine or Baltic pine, widespread on Earth across Eurasia from Western Europe to Eastern Siberia and south to Anatolia, but perhaps on Antiterra growing in Pennsylvania. Artificial pine fragrances are of course often used domestically, especially in bathrooms; but this one also recalls Van and Ada’s 1888 lovemaking by the brook at Pinedale (Pinus silvestris means “forest pine”), and Lucette’s spying on them there; “Pennsilvestris” puns on “penis” (via Pinus, a homophone)and on “pencil” (Ada calls Lucette’s crayons “her special pencils,” 395.03). Cf. also the highly colored description of the débauche à trois a week later, with Lucette again present, which Van describes as “not so much a Casanovanic situation (that double-wencher had a definitely monochromatic pencil—in keeping with the memoirs of his dingy era) as a much earlier canvas, of the Venetian (sensu largo) school, reproduced (in ‘Forbidden Masterpieces’)” (418.27-31).

393.16-18: as she squeezed out spurts of gem-like liquid from a tube of Pennsilvestris lotion into the bath water: Another comically foregrounded double entendre, echoing the spurts of Van’s semen.

393.19: Lucette had gone (leaving a curt note with her room number: As Ada finds Lucette’s things “gone” and her brief “note” (420.32) left after she flees from the débauche à trois, a week hence. 

393.20: Winster Hotel: “Windsor” (a common hotel name) plus “Westminster” (doubling up on the English royal family, since it was at London’s Westminster Abbey that the future Queen Elizabeth II, of the House of Windsor, was married in 1947 and crowned queen in 1953), plus “spinster,” in echo of Lucette’s fate.

393.21: now weak-legged: After making love twice while standing. Cf. Van, after masturbating over the image of Ada, just before the Night of the Burning Barn: “with shaky loins and weak calves” (100.20).

393.21-22: a beautiful breakfast (Ardis’ crisp bacon! Ardis’ translucent honey!): Cf. Van and Ada’s first breakfast à deux at Ardis, “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 . . . ” (75.11-14). Ardis’s bacon receives no further mention. MOTIF: honey.

393.23-24: brought up in the lift by Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman: Once their routine at the apartment is established, Van will regularly “ring from the bathroom for their breakfast to be brought by Valerio” (417.15-16); in February 1893 Demon 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” (434.16-22).

393.25-26: was being paid to keep her strictly for Veen and Dean: Cf. “Rose, the sportive Negro maid whom he shared in more ways than one with . . . Mr. Dean” (390.15-17). Is there a play on “VD,” venereal disease, in the “Veen and Dean” combination: a precaution against venereal disease, by keeping sportive and flirty (390.25) Rose from spreading her sexual energy too widely? MOTIF: Van’s tips and bribes; Veen.

393.28: what safety, what freedom of love!: Because they do not have to hide their romps from the Ardis household, and because, as we are about to hear, they no longer need condoms, since Van has been medically identified as sterile (394.04-06).

393.29-30: Two unrelated gypsy courtesans, a wild girl in a gaudy lolita, poppy-mouthed and black-downed: Cf. Ada on the day of her twelfth birthday picnic: “the child was permitted to wear her lolita (thus dubbed after the little Andalusian gipsy of that name in Osberg’s novel . . . ), a rather long, but very airy and ample, black skirt, with red poppies” (77.02-06); on the day of her sixteenth birthday picnic, Ada is described as “the wild girl” (266.12); a week after this present scene, Ada will refer to herself as “a pale wild girl with gipsy hair in a deathless ballad” (416.15). MOTIF: black-red; gipsy; Lolita; relation.

393.31: Grasse: A town in France’s Alpes Maritimes department, 17 miles WSW of Nice, and a leading perfume center (see Lucette’s “Degrasse, smart, though decidedly ‘paphish’ perfume,” 368.03-04 and n., also at 384.30). MOTIF: Degrasse.

393.32: fondling a virile lipstick in Fellata ads: An obvious visual and verbal pun on “fellatio.” Fellata (W2) is a synonym for the African people also known as Fulah, Fulbe or Fulani, of the Sahel and West Africa. Who knows what a “Fellata ad” might be?

393.33: Swallowtail . . . Norfolk Broads floramor: The Swallowtail is the butterfly Papilio machaon, which although present in Europe from North Africa to North Cape is “in England now confined to Norfolk, very local in fens, formerly more widely distributed" (Lionel G. Higgins and Norman D. Riley, A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe, London: Collins, 1970, p. 35, or 5th ed., 1983, p. 17). In A1, VN notes: “translators may omit the complicated puns here: Swallowtail = il macaone (Papilio machaon) of which a local race is found in the Norfolk Broads (= fens), E. England. But ‘broad’ also means a prostitute, and there is a double entendre in ‘swallow’ (verb) and ‘tail’ (virile member).” Liana Ashenden, “Mimicry, mimesis and desire in Nabokov’s Ada,” unpub. MA thesis, University of Auckland, 2000, p. 50, notes: “The joke about oral sex has a biological corollary in the ‘tails’ on the hindwings of Swallowtail butterflies that deceive bird predators into attacking the wrong end of the butterfly.”

393.34-394.01: had both given our hero exactly the same reason, unmentionable in a family chronicle: A parody of the coyness of nineteenth-century family chronicles and novels in general, and their frequent vagueness about medical detail. VN writes in his 1941 essay “The Art of Translation”: “Perhaps the most charming example of Victorian modesty that has ever come my way was in an early translation of Anna Karenin. Vronski had asked Anna what was the matter with her. ‘I am beremenna’ (the translator’s italics), replied Anna, making the foreign reader wonder what strange and wonderful Oriental disease that was; all because the translator thought that ‘I am pregnant’ might shock some pure soul, and that a good idea would be to leave the Russian just as it stood” (V&V 5). Indeed, since the removal of the risk of pregnancy is at issue in this paragraph, VN may even have had this example in mind. The coy “unmentionable” sounds particularly ironic after the multiple doubles entendres earlier in the sentence. MOTIF: family chronicle.

394.02: Hecatean: W2: “Of or pertaining to Hecate; magical.” Hecate (W2): “Gr. Relig. A goddess combining the characters of moon goddess, earth goddess, and underworld goddess. . . . In her later conception she is more thought of as the dark goddess of magic and witchcraft.”

394.06: How merrily little Ada clapped her hands!: A parodic echo of nineteenth-century storytelling intonations, perhaps Dickens in sentimental mode, or the Comtesse de Ségur.

394.10: Patagonia: MOTIF: agony.

394.10-11: Gululu in the New Zealand mountains: Invented, and comically inapposite, since Māori has neither g as a separate phoneme (although it does have ng) nor l. Ngururu would be a possible Māori name, and there is a Ngunguru, a bay far from “the New Zealand mountains” (which refers, presumably, to New Zealand’s Southern Alps). Cf. the story “Perfection”: “and black parakeets flew above the eternal snows of the New Zealand mountains” (SoVN 347).

394.13-14: that conspicuous Brown Hill Alma Mater of Almehs left open on poor Vanda’s portrait: Cf. Cordula after cradling the receiver: “‘Her name is Vanda Broom, and 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. There’s her picture here,’ continued Cordula with a quick change of tone, 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, and now it did not matter any more, and Cordula quickly popped the book back into a drawer” (323.20-29). The “Alma Mater” is, therefore, this graduation album of Ada’s “Alma Mater” (her high school, at least). MOTIF: album; brown.

394.13: Almehs: Almeh (W2): “An Egyptian singing and dancing girl.”

394.14: left open on Vanda’s portrait: For this formal portrait Vanda is presumably wearing her black hockey blazer; it is Vanda’s blazer that Ada is wearing when Van first sees her at Ardis, as revealed in the first item in a very different album, Kim Beauharnais’s blackmail photograph album: “Ada in a black hockey blazer—belonging really to Vanda” (398.22-23); Van remembers his first glimpse of Ada at Ardis, wearing “a black jacket” (37.14-15) which she retrospectively denies she could have worn: “she never had one like that, never could have put on a dark blazer on such a hot day, but he stuck to his initial image of her to the last” (37.18-20)—an image apparently corroborated, against Ada, by Kim’s album.

394.15-16: in Ragusa of all places: Could be either the city in Sicily or the seaport city of Dubrovnik (Italian name, Ragusa) on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, in present-day Croatia, but at the time of Ada’s composition part of Yugoslavia.

394.16-17: Little Lucette no doubt had told him about a later escapade?: The topic flow from Vanda to Lucette and “a later escapade” suggests that Ada was also sexually involved with Vanda, despite her denial or deflection. For Lucette’s telling Van about her sexual romps with Ada, see 372-82. MOTIF: little Lucette.

394.17-18: Punning in an Ophelian frenzy on the feminine glans?: Innocent Ophelia is compulsively bawdy in her mad scene, Hamlet IV.v. For Lucette’s sexual punning see again 372-82, and for the Ophelia echoes, see 379.13-16 and Ada’s related Ophelia notes, 384.31-32 and 385.16-17. Lucette of course will commit suicide by drowning, as Ophelia is suspected of having done.

394.19: N’exagérons pas, tu sais: “Let’s not exaggerate, you know.” Cf. in the Kingston scene: “‘the closet in which you two locked me up at least ten times.’ ‘Nu uzh i desyat’ (exaggeration). Once—and never more’” (373.29-31).

394.19-20: patting the air down with both palms: In context, a finely described gesture, worth imagining vividly.

394.20-21: “Lucette affirmed,” he said, “that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions”: Cf. “the cougars and snakes . . . whose cries and rattlings Ada imitated admirably, and, I think, designedly” (374.32-375.01).

394.22: omniscient. Better say, omni-incest: Both think of Ada, at her twelfth birthday picnic, playing anagrams with Grace: “insect. . . Scient. . . .  Dr. Entsic was scient in insects. . . . Nicest! . . . Incest” (85.08-19).

394.23: the other total-recaller: Cf., from The Texture of Time: “a generous chaos out of which the genius of total recall, summoned on this summer morning in 1922, can pick anything he pleases” (545.27-29).

394.24-25: Grace—yes, Grace—was Vanda’s real favorite, pas petite moi  and my little crest: Cf. Van’s farewell from Ada after Ardis the First, at Forest Fork: “‘That’s not the point,’ cried Van, ‘the point, the point, the point is—will you be faithful, will you be faithful to me?’ ‘ . . . I shall never love anybody in my life as I adore you. . . . But! 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, I don’t know what I’m saying—'” (158.24-33), and Cordula after finishing her phone call: “‘It’s a gruesome girl!’ she cried after the melodious adieux. ‘Her name is Vanda Broom, and 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’” (323.19-23). Both Ada’s declaration here to Van and the other references to Vanda make clear that Vanda has come on to Ada sexually as well as to Grace. We can infer that “horribly physical” Ada responded, and that she passed some of the sexual technique she learned on to Lucette.

394.25: pas petite moi: French version of the English “not little me.”

394.25: and my little crest: MOTIF: krestik.

394.25-29: She (Ada) had, hadn’t she, a way of always smoothing out the folds of the past—making the flutist practically impotent (except with his wife) and allowing the gentleman farmer only one embrace, with a premature eyakulyatsiya: Cf. “To her past admirers Ada attributed all the features and faults we have already been informed of: incompetence of performance, inanity and nonentity, and to her own self nothing beyond easy feminine compassion and such considerations of hygiene and sanity as hurt Van more than would a defiant avowal of passionate betrayal” (431.15-21).           

An interesting example of free indirect speech. “She (Ada)” replaces what would have been the unambiguous “You” in direct speech, and the pronoun blurs Ada, for a moment, before the parenthetical disambiguation, with Vanda and Grace. “She (Ada)” also picks up bizarrely on Van’s direct speech just before, indirectly reporting Lucette: “Lucette affirmed . . . that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions” (394.20-21). The free indirect speech continues to “for ever and ever” at 395.02, with other odd distancing effects.

394.27: making the flutist practically impotent (except with his wife): Ada’s fifth letter to Van offers this excuse about Philip Rack: “Mere pity, a Russian girl’s zhalost’, drew me to R. (whom musical critics have now ‘discovered’). He knew he would die young and was always, in fact, mostly corpse, never once, I swear, rising to the occasion, even when I showed openly my compassionate non-resistance” (334.33-335.04). Lucette at Kingston recalls Rack with a different kind of compassion: “my poor, betrayed, poisoned, innocent teacher of music, whom not even Ada, unless she fibs, could cure of his impotence.” Van counters with “Driblets” (Elsie Rack’s giving birth to triplets), to which Lucette responds: “Not necessarily his. . . . His wife’s lover played the triple viol” (383.25-30).

394.28-29: allowing the gentleman farmer only one embrace, with a premature eyakulyatsiya: Cf. Ada’s fifth letter to Van offers this excuse about Percy de Prey: “I can swear, however, solemn Ada can swear that in the course of our ‘sylvan trysts’ I successfully evaded if not pollution, at least possession before and after your return to Ardis—except for one messy occasion when he half-took me by force—the over-eager dead man” (336.03-08).

394.28-31: a premature eyakulyatsiya, one of those hideous Russian loan-words? Yes, wasn’t it hideous, but she’d love to play Scrabble again when they’d settled down for good: “A premature ejaculation.” Van’s scornful aside seems to offer Ada a chance to sidetrack completely, to evade the touchy subject of her infidelities, by her mentioning Scrabble, arguably apropos because in playing that game they have discussed the inappropriateness of loan words, as when Ada objects to Van’s suggestion that Lucette can use her “idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM” to form the word for “a fortress in ancient Muscovy”: “Oh, no. That pretty word does not exist in Russian. A Frenchman invented it. There is no second syllable” (227.10-16). For the reader and Van, although not for Ada, this in turn evokes Lucette’s recalling at Kingston getting “stuck with six Buchstaben in the last round of a Flavita game . . . LIKROT or ROTIKL” (379.01-10), in other words with the letters for Russian KLITOR, another loan-word, this time from Greek kleitoris. Ada’s attempted detour therefore in fact leads back once more to the subject of her sexual “infidelities,” in this case with Lucette.

395.03: Here are her special pencils: The “Dutch crayons Lucette wanted her to bring if she came” (386.24), the “damned Cranach crayons” (393.14) that Ada is not sure, a few minutes earlier, that she did bring.

395.03-04: It was very considerate and altogether charming of you to invite her next weekend: Cf. Van’s invitation to Lucette at Kingston: “Let’s have dinner at Ursus next weekend” (386.28-29).

395.05-06: I think she’s even more madly in love with you than with me, the poor pet: As we know, of course, from the report of Lucette’s “rambling, indecent, crazy, almost savage declaration of love in a ten-page letter” (366.12-13) in 1891, and from the account of her visit to Van at Kingston the day before. In fact although Lucette enjoys her sexual romps with Ada there seems little to suggest that she is “madly in love with” her.

395.06: the poor pet: MOTIF: pet.

395.06: Strassburg: emended in error to “Strasburg” by DN from Ada 1969’s “Strassburg.” An error, because VN used the correct German spelling, while the French, with one medial s, would require a change in the final vowel: "Strasbourg." And since the Cranachs were German, they would have thought of the city in terms of German orthography.

395.07: demi-vierge: “Semi-virgin.” Cf. Lucette at Kingston the previous day: “if you posed the famous Van Question” (“Are you a virgin?”) “I would answer in the affirmative” (371.11-12).  In Paris in 1901 Van asks: “Are you still half-a-martyr—I mean half-a-virgin?” and Lucette answers “A quarter. . . . Oh, try me, Van!” (464.05-07).

395.07-08: (“I hear you and Dad—” began Van, but the introduction of a new subject was swamped): Presumably he would have said something like “are seeing a lot of one another,” or “are getting very close” (cf. 391.27-30). Ironic that Ada does not let Van introduce a new subject when she has just successfully done so herself at 394.30.

395.09-11: ébats . . . à la russe: Ébats: Darkbloom: “frolics.” See 314.08-09n for a discussion of the verb ebat’ and mat, Russian colloquial obscenity. The “first vowel à la Russe” would be pronounce with something like a “y” before the “e” (as in “yes”). With the final consonants also sounded, the word would sound out the Russian for “fuck.” As William Woodin Rowe notes (Nabokov’s Deceptive World, New York: New York Univ. Press, 1971,94), the French euphemism for sexual activity becomes a stark obscenity in Russian, in Ada’s pronunciation.

395.10-11: with triumphant hooliganism, for which my prose, too, is praised: Cf. Van’s own later recognition that his books are above all “buoyant and bellicose exercises in literary style” (578.18-19).

395.12: You do the puma: Cf. Lucette’s reminiscence: “I was afraid of the cougars and snakes . . . whose cries and rattlings Ada imitated admirably” (374.32-34) and Van’s recent “Lucette affirmed . . . that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions” (394.20-21). Note that each time VN uses a different synonym: cougar, mountain lion, puma—to make the memory test slightly harder?

395.12-13: she does—to perfection!—my favorite viola sordina: Cf. “‘and we tangled until we fell asleep. And that’s when I learnt—’ concluded Lucette, closing her eyes and making Van squirm by reproducing with diabolical accuracy Ada’s demure little whimper of ultimate bliss” (376.14-16).

395.13: viola sordina: A muted viola—muted by a small clamp that fits on the instrument’s bridge.  Cf. in The Texture of Time: “The streets [of Mont Roux] had been considerably quieter in the sourdine Past” (554.25-26).

395.13-14: She’s a wonderful imitatrix, by the way, and if you are even better—”: Cf. Lucette at the end of her Kingston scene: “I imitated all her shtuchki (little stunts). I’m a better actress than she but that’s not enough, I know” (386.30-31).

395.15: “We’ll speak about my talents and tricks some other time”: Cf. Ada’s “shtuchki (little stunts)” (386.31). She will discuss her acting at length in Pt. 2 Ch. 9.

395.16: It’s a painful subject: Presumably because her part in The Young and the Doomed, the film version of Mlle Larivière’s Enfants Maudits, has been completely cut, except perhaps for a shadow of her elbow (424-25).

395.16-17: Now let’s look at these snapshots: Cf. Ada, as they settle a few minutes later, in the next chapter, to look through Kim Beauharnais’s blackmailing photograph album: “Now let’s look at those snapshots” (398.12).



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Afternote to Part Two, Chapter 6