In VN’s novel Lolita (1955) the number 342 reappears three times. 342 Lawn Street is the address of the Haze house in Ramsdale. 342 is Humbert Humbert's and Lolita's room in The Enchanted Hunters (a hotel in Briceland where they spend their first night together). According to Humbert Humbert, between July 5 and November 18, 1949, he registered (if not actually stayed) at 342 hotels, motels and tourist homes.
All the main characters in Lolita die in 1952. 1952 was a leap year. In his story The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade (1845) E. A. Poe says that the year in which Scheherazade began telling her stories was not a leap-year (but the year in which she finished her fables probably was):
Accordingly, and although we do not find it to be leap-year (which makes the sacrifice more meritorious), she deputes her father, the grand vizier, to make an offer to the king of her hand. This hand the king eagerly accepts -- (he had intended to take it at all events, and had put off the matter from day to day, only through fear of the vizier), -- but, in accepting it now, he gives all parties very distinctly to understand, that, grand vizier or no grand vizier, he has not the slightest design of giving up one iota of his vow or of his privileges. When, therefore, the fair Scheherazade insisted upon marrying the king, and did actually marry him despite her father's excellent advice not to do any thing of the kind -- when she would and did marry him, I say, will I, nill I, it was with her beautiful black eyes as thoroughly open as the nature of the case would allow.
342 × 3 = 1002 + 24 = 1002 + 366 – 342 = 1026
342 × 4 = 1002 + 366 = 1368
342 + 24 = 61 × 6 = 366
A leap year has 366 days. 342, 366, 1368, 1380 (the year the Russians defeated the Tartars in the battle of Kulikovo), 1492 (the year Columbus discovered America), 1572 (the year of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day), 1812 (the year of Napoleon's invasion of Russia), 1824 (the year of Byron's death), 1828 (the year of Tolstoy's birth), 1832 (the year of Goethe's death), 1836 (the last year of Pushkin's life) and 1924 (the year of Lenin's death, the last year of VN's bachelor life) were all leap years. Russian for "leap year," visokosnyi god comes from the Latin bissextus (bis, twice; sextus, sixth). When Humbert Humbert meets her in Ramsdale, Lolita is twelve (12 = 6 × 2). Lolita is a six-letter name. The pseudonym of the narrator and main character in Lolita is a so-called reduplication (when the name is repeated twice, bis). According to Humbert Humbert, among the pseudonyms he toyed with were Otto Otto, Mesmer Mesmer and Lamber Lamber. Mesmeric Revelation (1844) is a story by E. A. Poe.
In his poem "Wanted" (written in a Quebec sanatorium after Lolita's escape from the Elphinstone hospital) Humbert Humbert says that Lolita's age is "five thousand three hundred days." According to Humbert Humbert, Lolita was abducted from him on the Independence Day 1949. In a theological conversation with Shade (the poet in VN’s novel Pale Fire, 1962) Kinbote (Shade’s mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) mentions the thousand and second highway accident of those scheduled for Independence Day in Hades:
SHADE: There are rules in chess problems: interdiction of dual solutions, for instance.
KINBOTE: I had in mind diabolical rules likely to be broken by the other party as soon as we come to understand them. That is why goetic magic does not always work. The demons in their prismatic malice betray the agreement between us and them, and we are again in the chaos of chance. Even if we temper Chance with Necessity and allow godless determinism, the mechanism of cause and effect, to provide our souls after death with the dubious solace of metastatistics, we still have to reckon with the individual mishap, the thousand and second highway accident of those scheduled for Independence Day in Hades. No-no, if we want to be serious about the hereafter let us not begin by degrading it to the level of a science-fiction yarn or a spiritualistic case history. The ideal of one's soul plunging into limitless and chaotic afterlife with no Providence to direct her –
SHADE: There is always a psychopompos around the corner, isn't there? (note to Line 549)
In Greek mythology, psychopompos (guide of the souls) is a creature who escorts a newly deceased soul from Earth to the afterlife. Shade's psychopompos seems to be Vanessa atalanta, a butterfly that appears at the end of his poem, a few moments before the poet’s death:
But it's not bedtime yet. The sun attains
Old Dr. Sutton's last two windowpanes.
The man must be--what? Eighty? Eighty-two?
Was twice my age the year I married you.
Where are you? In the garden. I can see
Part of your shadow near the shagbark tree.
Somewhere horseshoes are being tossed. Click. Clunk.
(Leaning against its lamppost like a drunk.)
A dark Vanessa with crimson band
Wheels in the low sun, settles on the sand
And shows its ink-blue wingtips flecked with white.
And through the flowing shade and ebbing light
A man, unheedful of the butterfly--
Some neighbor's gardener, I guess--goes by
Trundling an empty barrow up the lane. (ll. 985-999)
At the beginning of E. A. Poe's story How to Write a Blackwood Article (1838) Psyche Zenobia (the narrator and main character) says that her name means in Greek "the soul" and sometimes "a butterfly:"
I presume everybody has heard of me. My name is the Signora Psyche Zenobia. This I know to be a fact. Nobody but my enemies ever calls me Suky Snobbs. I have been assured that Suky is but a vulgar corruption of Psyche, which is good Greek, and means “the soul” (that’s me, I’m all soul) and sometimes “a butterfly,” which latter meaning undoubtedly alludes to my appearance in my new crimson satin dress, with the sky-blue Arabian mantelet, and the trimmings of green agraffas, and the seven flounces of orange-colored auriculas.
The Vanessa butterfly in Shade’s poem brings to mind Vanessa van Ness, the maiden name of Annabel’s mother in Lolita. The name of Humbert Humbert’s childhood love, Annabel Leigh clearly hints at E. A. Poe’s poem Annabel Lee (1849). According to Humbert Humbert, Annabel died four months after their second and final attempt to thwart fate in the summer 1923:
Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly, lame gentleman, a Dr. Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk cafe. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat glacé, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting in her hair were about all that could be identified (as I remember that picture) amid the sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but I, sitting somewhat apart from the rest, came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness: a moody, beetle-browed boy in a dark sport shirt and well-tailored white shorts, his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of pretexts (this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered) we escaped from the cafe to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand, and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, had a brief session of avid caresses, with somebody’s lost pair of sunglasses for only witness. I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu. (1.3)
One is tempted to assume that Annabel died on Dec. 7, 1923, the 342th day of the year. Humbert Humbert meets Lolita in 1947, twenty-four years after his romance with Annabel:
I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder - I believe she stole it from her mother’s Spanish maid - a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing - and as we drew away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother’s voice calling her, with a rising frantic note - and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But that mimosa grove - the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honey-dew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since - until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another. (1.4)
When he met (on May 8, 1923) his future wife, Vera Slonim, VN (who was born on April 23, 1899) was twenty-four.
There are 52 complete weeks in a year (52 × 7 = 364). According to Clare Quilty, he is the author of fifty-two successful scenarios:
“My dear sir,” he said, “stop trifling with life and death. I am a playwright. I have written tragedies, comedies, fantasies. I have made private movies out of Justine and other eighteenth-century sexcapades. I’m the author of fifty-two successful scenarios. I know all the ropes. Let me handle this. There should be a poker somewhere, why don’t I fetch it, and then we’ll fish out your property.” (2.35).
In Canto Three of his poem Shade describes IPH (a lay Institute of Preparation for the Hereafter) where he "lectured on the Worm" (as President McAber wrote) and "tore apart the fantasies of Poe:"
I tore apart the fantasies of Poe,
And dealt with childhood memories of strange
Nacreous gleams beyond the adults' range. (ll. 632-634)
It seems that Shade has in mind Mr. Vankirk's words in Poe's Mesmeric Revelation:
V. There are two bodies - the rudimental and the complete, corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butterfly. What we call "death," is but the painful metamorphosis. Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary. Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is the full design.
P. But of the worm's metamorphosis we are palpably cognizant.
V. We, certainly - but not the worm. The matter of which our rudimental body is composed, is within the ken of the organs of that body; or, more distinctly, our rudimental organs are adapted to the matter of which is formed the rudimental body, but not to that of which the ultimate is composed. The ultimate body thus escapes our rudimental senses, and we perceive only the shell which falls, in decaying, from the inner form, not that inner form itself; but this inner form as well as the shell, is appreciable by those who have already acquired the ultimate life.
and the story's last paragraph:
As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble tone, I observed on his countenance a singular expression, which somewhat alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at once. No sooner had I done this than, with a bright smile irradiating all his features, he fell back upon his pillow and expired. I noticed that in less than a minute afterward his corpse had all the stern rigidity of stone. His brow was of the coldness of ice. Thus, ordinarily, should it have appeared, only after long pressure from Azrael's hand. Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out the regions of the shadows?
Shade's murderer, Gradus is a member of the Shadows (a regicidal organization). At the moment of his death Shade is sixty-one. Jakob Gradus is the son of Martin Gradus, a Protestant minister in Riga:
Jakob Gradus called himself variously Jack Degree or Jacques de Grey, or James de Gray, and also appears in police records as Ravus, Ravenstone, and d'Argus. Having a morbid affection for the ruddy Russia of the Soviet era, he contended that the real origin of his name should be sought in the Russian word for grape, vinograd, to which a Latin suffix had adhered, making in Vinogradus. His father, Martin Gradus, had been a Protestant minister in Riga, but except for him and a maternal uncle (Roman Tselovalnikov, police officer and part-time member of the Social-Revolutionary party), the whole clan seems to have been in the liquor business. Martin Gradus died in 1920, and his widow moved to Strasbourg where she soon died, too. (note to Line 17)
In Potestas clavium. Vlast’ klyuchey (“Power of the Keys,” 1923) Lev Shestov (a philosopher who was born in 1866 and whose name comes from shest', "six") quotes Martin Luther, a leader of the Protestant Reformation who mentions fidei summus gradus (the highest degree of faith) in De servo arbitrio (“On the Bondage of the Will,” 1525), Luther’s reply to Erasmus of Rotterdam (the author De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio, 1524):
Лютер опытом своей жизни был приведён к такому признанию, которое для нашего уха звучит, как кощунственный парадокс: "Hic est fidei summus gradus, credere illum esse clementem, qui tam paucos salvat, tam multos damnat, credere justum, qui sua voluntate nos necessario damnabiles facit, ut videatur, referente Erasmo, delectari cruciatibus miserorum et odio potius quam amore dignus. Si igitur ulla ratione comprehendere, quomodo is Deus sit misericors et justus, qui tantam iram et iniquitatem ostendit, non esset opus fide" (De servo arbitrio, Вейм. изд., т. XVIII, 633 стр.), т. е.: высшая степень веры - верить, что тот милосерд, кто столь немногих спасает и столь многих осуждает, что тот справедлив, кто, по своему решению, сделал нас преступными, так что, выражаясь словами Эразма, кажется, что он радуется мукам несчастных и скорей достоин ненависти, чем любви. Если бы своим разумом я мог бы понять, как такой Бог может быть справедливым и милосердным, не было бы нужды в вере. Я не могу здесь приводить дальнейших признаний Лютера, но тот, кто поймёт весь ужас человека, приведённого к таким признаниям, поймёт и смысл католического potestas clavium.
Luther's own experience forced him to that confession which resounds in our ears like a blasphemous paradox: Hic est fidei summus gradus, credere illum esse clementem, qui tam paucos salvat, tam multos damnat, credere justum, qui sua voluntate nos necessario damnabiles facit, ut videatur, referente Erasmo, delectari cruciatibus miserorum et odio potius quam amore dignus. Si igitur possem ulla ratione comprehendere, quomodo si Deus sit misericors et justus qui tantam iram et iniquitatem ostendit, non esset opus fide (De servo arbitrio, ed. Weimar, I, XVIII, p. 633). That is, "the highest degree of faith is to believe that He is merciful who saves so few and damns so many men, that He is righteous who by His own will has necessarily made us guilty so that, according to Erasmus, it seems that He rejoices in the suffering of the miserable and is more worthy of being hated than loved. If I could understand with my reason how such a God can be righteous and merciful, faith would not be necessary." I cannot here quote other confessions of Luther's, but he who has understood the horror that a man forced to such confessions must have felt will also understand the meaning of Catholicism's potestas clavium. (Part One, 4)
Humbert Humbert is a Protestant:
At this solitary stop for refreshments between Coalmont and Ramsdale (between innocent Dolly Schiller and jovial Uncle Ivor), I reviewed my case. With the utmost simplicity and clarity I now saw myself and my love. Previous attempts seemed out of focus in comparison. A couple of years before, under the guidance of an intelligent French-speaking confessor, to whom, in a moment of metaphysical curiosity, I had turned over a Protestant’s drab atheism for an old-fashioned popish cure, I had hoped to deduce from my sense of sin the existence of a Supreme Being. On those frosty mornings in rime-laced Quebec, the good priest worked on me with the finest tenderness and understanding. I am infinitely obliged to him and the great Institution he represented. Alas, I was unable to transcend the simple human fact that whatever spiritual solace I might find, whatever lithophanic eternities might be provided for me, nothing could make my Lolita forget the foul lust I had inflicted upon her. Unless it can be proven to me as I am now, today, with my heart and my beard, and my putrefaction that in the infinite run it does not matter a jot that a North American girl-child named Dolores Haze had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac, unless this can be proven (and if it can, then life is a joke), I see nothing for the treatment of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of articulate art. To quote an old poet:
The moral sense in mortals is the duty
We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty. (2.31)
Shestov’s "Power of the Keys" has a Preface entitled Tysyacha i odna noch’ (“A Thousand and One Nights”). Describing his first night with Lolita in The Enchanted Hunters, Humbert Humbert mentions key "342:"
Gentlewomen of the jury! Bear with me! Allow me to take just a tiny bit of your precious time. So this was le grand moment. I had left my Lolita still sitting on the edge of the abysmal bed, drowsily raising her foot, fumbling at the shoelaces and showing as she did so the nether side of her thigh up to the crotch of her pantiesshe had always been singularly absentminded, or shameless, or both, in matters of legshow. This, then, was the hermetic vision of her which I had locked inafter satisfying myself that the door carried no inside bolt. The key, with its numbered dangler of carved wood, became forthwith the weighty sesame to a rapturous and formidable future. It was mine, it was part of my hot hairy fist. In a few minutessay, twenty, say half-an-hour, sicher its sicher as my uncle Gustave used to say - I would let myself into that “342” and find my nymphet, my beauty and bride, imprisoned in her crystal sleep. Jurors! If my happiness could have talked, it would have filled that genteel hotel with a deafening roar. And my only regret today is that I did not quietly deposit key “342” at the office, and leave the town, the country, the continent, the hemisphere, - indeed, the globe - that very same night. (1.28)
"The Key" is the first novel of Aldanov's trilogy Klyuch ("The Key," 1929), Begstvo ("The Escape," 1932), Peshchera ("The Cave," 1936). It begins with the murder of Fisher, the banker who loves little girls. In the Russian version (1967) of Lolita Sheriff Buller becomes sherif Fisher:
With Lo’s knowledge and assent, the two post offices given to the Beardsley postmaster as forwarding addresses were P. O. Wace and P. O. Elphinstone. Next morning we visited the former and had to wait in a short but slow queue. Serene Lo studied the rogues’ gallery. Handsome Bryan Bryanski, alias Anthony Bryan, alias Tony Brown, eyes hazel, complexion fair, was wanted for kidnapping. A sad-eyed old gentleman’s faux-pas was mail fraud, and, as if that were not enough, he was cursed with deformed arches. Sullen Sullivan came with a caution: Is believed armed, and should be considered extremely dangerous. If you want to make a movie out of my book, have one of these faces gently melt into my own, while I look. And moreover there was a smudgy snapshot of a Missing Girl, age fourteen, wearing brown shoes when last seen, rhymes. Please notify Sheriff Buller. (2.19)
С Лолитиного ведома и одобрения я перед отьездом велел бердслейскому почтмейстеру посылать наши письма до востребования сначала в Уэйс, а после пятнадцатого июня в Эльфинстон. На другое утро мы посетили Уэйский почтамт, где нам пришлось ждать в коротком, но медленном хвосте. Безмятежная Лолита стала изучать фотографии мошенников, выставленные в простенке. Красавец Анатолий Брянский, он же Антони Бриан, он же Тони Браун, глаза - карие, цвет лица - бледный, разыскивался полицией по обвинению в похищении дитяти. Faux pas пожилого господина с грустными глазами состояло в том, что он обжулил почтовое ведомство, а кроме того - точно этого не было достаточно, - он страдал неизлечимой деформацией ступней. Насупленный Сулливан подавался с предупреждением: вероятно, вооружен и должен считаться чрезвычайно опасным. Если вы хотите сделать из моей книги фильм, предлагаю такой трюк: пока я рассматриваю эти физиономии, одна из них тихонько превращается в моё лицо. А еще был залапанный снимок Пропавшей Девочки: четырнадцать лет, юбка в клетку и, в рифму, берет, обращаться к шерифу Фишеру, Фишерифу, Фишерифму.
The characters in Aldanov's trilogy include Braun (a celebrated chemist) and Don Pedro, a newspaper reporter who becomes a movie man in emigration and who eventually leaves for Hollywood. In VN's novel Ada (1969) Pedro is a young Latin actor whom Marina (Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother) had brought from Mexico and was keeping at a hotel in Ladore (1.32). At the family dinner in "Ardis the Second" Marina asks Demon (Van's and Ada's father) if his room number at the hotel is not 222 by any chance:
‘I had hoped you’d sleep here,’ said Marina (not really caring one way or another). ‘What is your room number at the hotel — not 222 by any chance?’
She liked romantic coincidences. Demon consulted the tag on his key: 221 — which was good enough, fatidically and anecdotically speaking. Naughty Ada, of course, stole a glance at Van, who tensed up the wings of his nose in a grimace that mimicked the slant of Pedro’s narrow, beautiful nostrils.
‘They make fun of an old woman,’ said Marina, not without coquetry, and in the Russian manner kissed her guest on his inclined brow as he lifted her hand to his lips: ‘You’ll forgive me,’ she added, ‘for not going out on the terrace, I’ve grown allergic to damp and darkness; I’m sure my temperature has already gone up to thirty-seven and seven, at least.’ (1.38)
221b Baker Street is Sherlock Holmes' address in the Conan Doyle stories. As he speaks to Braun, Fedosiev (in Aldanov's trilogy the head of the Tsarist political police) mentions Sherlock Holmes and Porfiriy Petrovich (the investigator in Dostoevski's "Crime and Punishment," 1867):
– Как вы сегодня иносказательно выражаетесь!
– Наша профессиональная черта, – пояснил, улыбаясь, Федосьев. – Ведь в каждом из нас сидят Шерлок Холмс и Порфирий Петрович… Кстати, по поводу Порфирия Петровича, не думаете ли вы, что Достоевский очень упростил задачу своего следователя? Он взвалил убийство вместе с большой философской проблемой на плечи мальчишки‑неврастеника. Немудрено, что преступление очень быстро кончилось наказанием. Да и свою собственную задачу Достоевский тоже немного упростил: мальчишка убил ради денег. Интереснее было бы взять богатого Раскольникова. ("The Key," chapter XIV)
The characters in Lolita include Shirley Holmes (the headmistress of Camp Q) and her son Charlie (Lolita's first lover). When Humbert Humbert revisits Ramsdale in September 1952, Mrs. Chatfield tells him that Charlie Holmes has been just killed in Korea:
Feeling I was losing my time, I drove energetically to the downtown hotel where I had arrived with a new bag more than five years before. I took a room, made two appointments by telephone, shaved, bathed, put on black clothes and went down for a drink in the bar. Nothing had changed. The barroom was suffused with the same dim, impossible garnet-red light that in Europe years ago went with low haunts, but here meant a bit of atmosphere in a family hotel. I sat at the same little table where at the very start of my stay, immediately after becoming Charlotte’s lodger, I had thought fit to celebrate the occasion by suavely sharing with her half a bottle of champagne, which had fatally conquered her poor brimming heart. As then, a moon-faced waiter was arranging with stellar care fifty sherries on a round tray for a wedding party. Murphy-Fantasia, this time. It was eight minutes to three. As I walked though the lobby, I had to skirt a group of ladies who with mille grâces were taking leave of each other after a luncheon party. With a harsh cry of recognition, one pounced upon me. She was a stout, short woman in pearl-gray, with a long, gray, slim plume to her small hat. It was Mrs. Chatfield. She attacked me with a fake smile, all aglow with evil curiosity. (Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Laselle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done o eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?) Very soon I had that avid glee well under control. She thought I was in California. How was - ? With exquisite pleasure I informed her that my stepdaughter had just married a brilliant young mining engineer with a hush-hush job in the Northwest. She said she disapproved of such early marriages, she would never let her Phillys, who was now eighteen -
“Oh yes, of course,” I said quietly. “I remember Phyllis. Phyllis and Camp Q. Yes, of course. By the way, did she ever tell you how Charlie Holmes debauched there his mother’s little charges?”
Mrs. Chatfield’s already broken smile now disintegrated completely.
“For shame,” she cried, “for shame, Mr. Humbert! The poor boy has just been killed in Korea.”
I said didn’t she think “vient de,” with the infinitive, expressed recent events so much more neatly than the English “just,” with the past? But I had to be trotting off, I said. (2.33)
In the Russian Lolita Gumbert Gumbert's sarcasm is much more venomous:
"В самом деле", сказал я (пользуясь дивной свободою, свойственной сновидениям). "Вот так судьба! Бедный мальчик пробивал нежнейшие, невосстановимейшие перепоночки, прыскал гадючьим ядом - и ничего, жил превесело, да ещё получил посмертный орденок. Впрочем, извините меня, мне пора к адвокату".
Stella Fantasia (Lolita’s classmate who marries Murphy) brings to mind Fet’s poem Quasi una fantasia (1889). A son of Afanasiy Shenshin and Charlotte Becker, Afanasiy Fet (1820-92) was married to Maria Botkin. Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus's "real" name seems to be Botkin. The maiden name of Lolita's mother is Charlotte Becker.
In Aldanov's novel Fisher was poisoned with an alkaloid of the belladonna type:
– Очень трудно случайно проглотить порцию белладонны. Экспертиза ясно констатировала отравление ядом рода белладонны.
– Да, мне это говорил Яценко. Именно эти слова мне и показали сразу, что экспертизе грош цена. Белладонна есть понятие ботаническое, а не химическое. Это растение из семейства пасленовых. В его листьях и ягодах содержится не менее шести алкалоидов. Из них хорошо изучен атропин, на него есть чувствительные реакции. Атропин, однако, действует не слишком быстро. Смерть обычно наступает далеко не сразу, лишь через несколько часов… Другие же алкалоиды белладонны… Тёмная эта материя, – сказал Браун, махнув рукой. – А что такое яд рода белладонны , это остается секретом эксперта. ("The Key," chapter XV)
A photograph of Marina and Ada appeared in Belladonna (a movie magazine):
Van had seen the picture [the Hollywood version of Chekhov's Four Sisters] and had liked it. An Irish girl, the infinitely graceful and melancholy Lenore Colline -
Oh! qui me rendra ma colline
Et le grand chêne and my colleen!
- harrowingly resembled Ada Ardis as photographed with her mother in Belladonna, a movie magazine which Greg Erminin had sent him, thinking it would delight him to see aunt and cousin, together, on a California patio just before the film was released. (2.9)
Onboard Admiral Tobakoff Lucette mentions a man from Belladonna who took pictures at Ada's wedding:
‘Your father,’ added Lucette, ‘paid a man from Belladonna to take pictures — but of course, real fame begins only when one’s name appears in that cine-magazine’s crossword puzzle. We all know it will never happen, never! Do you hate me now?’
‘I don’t,’ he said, passing his hand over her sun-hot back and rubbing her coccyx to make pussy purr. ‘Alas, I don’t! I love you with a brother’s love and maybe still more tenderly. Would you like me to order drinks?’
‘I’d like you to go on and on,’ she muttered, her nose buried in the rubber pillow. (3.5)
According to Van, the fabulous ancestor of Ada's husband "discovered our country" (5.6). In Paris Greg Erminin asks Van if Ada married Christopher Vinelander or his brother:
‘I really know very little about music but it was a great pleasure to make your chum howl. I have an appointment in a few minutes, alas. Za tvoyo zdorovie, Grigoriy Akimovich.’
‘Arkadievich,’ said Greg, who had let it pass once but now mechanically corrected Van.
‘Ach yes! Stupid slip of the slovenly tongue. How is Arkadiy Grigorievich?’
‘He died. He died just before your aunt. I thought the papers paid a very handsome tribute to her talent. And where is Adelaida Danilovna? Did she marry Christopher Vinelander or his brother?’
‘In California or Arizona. Andrey’s the name, I gather. Perhaps I’m mistaken. In fact, I never knew my cousin very well. I visited Ardis only twice, after all, for a few weeks each time, years ago.’
‘Somebody told me she’s a movie actress.’
‘I’ve no idea, I’ve never seen her on the screen.’
‘Oh, that would be terrible, I declare — to switch on the dorotelly, and suddenly see her. Like a drowning man seeing his whole past, and the trees, and the flowers, and the wreathed dachshund. She must have been terribly affected by her mother’s terrible death.’ (3.2)
Grigoriy Akimovich is the name and patronymic of G. A. Vronsky, the movie man whom Ada calls "Gavronsky" (1.3) and who made a film of Mlle Larivière’s novel Les Enfants Maudits (1.32). In his book of essays Ogon' i dym ("Fire and Smoke," 1922) Aldanov describes his meeting with H. G. Wells (the author of Russia in the Shadows, 1921) in London and mentions Ya. O. Gavronsky:
Помню, незадолго до разговора с Уэлльсом, мы с тем же А.А. Титовым и Я.О. Гавронским были в гостях у одного английского политического деятеля, — левого направления и весьма энергичного темперамента. Этот человек занимается политикой лет сорок, по рождению принадлежит к правящим группам Англии и знает всех ее политических деятелей, можно сказать, наизусть. Нисколько не стесняясь в выражениях, несмотря на присутствие иностранцев, он дал такую сочную характеристику Ллойд-Джорджа, что ее, пожалуй, в печати огласить было бы неудобно; заодно коснулся и ближайших сотрудников премьера. (Russia in the Shadows)
The first essay in Aldanov's "Fire and Smoke" is entitled Varfolomeevskiy god ("The Year of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day). 1572 was a leap year.
342 + 100 = 221 × 2 = 222 + 220 = 442
In VN's autobiography Speak, Memory (the Penguin edition) wise, prim, charming Aldanov is mentioned on page 220:
I met many other émigré Russian authors. I did not meet Poplavski who died young, a far violin among near balalaikas.
Go to sleep, O Morella, how awful are aquiline lives
His plangent tonalities I shall never forget, nor shall I ever forgive myself the ill-tempered review in which I attacked him for trivial faults in his unfledged verse. I met wise, prim, charming Aldanov; decrepit Kuprin, carefully carrying a bottle of vin ordinaire through rainy streets; Ayhenvald—a Russian version of Walter Pater—later killed by a trolleycar; Marina Tsvetaev, wife of a double agent, and poet of genius, who, in the late thirties, returned to Russia and perished there. But the author that interested me most was naturally Sirin. He belonged to my generation. Among the young writers produced in exile he was the loneliest and most arrogant one. Beginning with the appearance of his first novel in 1925 and throughout the next fifteen years, until he vanished as strangely as he had come, his work kept provoking an acute and rather morbid interest on the part of critics. Just as Marxist publicists of the eighties in old Russia would have denounced his lack of concern with the economic structure of society, so the mystagogues of émigré letters deplored his lack of religious insight and of moral preoccupation. Everything about him was bound to offend Russian conventions and especially that Russian sense of decorum which, for example, an American offends so dangerously today, when in the presence of Soviet military men of distinction he happens to lounge with both hands in his trouser pockets. Conversely, Sirin’s admirers made much, perhaps too much, of his unusual style, brilliant precision, functional imagery and that sort of thing. Russian readers who had been raised on the sturdy straightforwardness of Russian realism and had called the bluff of decadent cheats, were impressed by the mirrorlike angles of his clear but weirdly misleading sentences and by the fact that the real life of his books flowed in his figures of speech, which one critic has compared to “windows giving upon a contiguous world … a rolling corollary, the shadow of a train of thought.” Across the dark sky of exile, Sirin passed, to use a simile of a more conservative nature, like a meteor, and disappeared, leaving nothing much else behind him than a vague sense of uneasiness. (Chapter Fourteen, 2)
In the corresponding section of Drugie berega ("Other Shores," 1954, the Russian version of his autobiography) VN mentions krestoslovitsa (crossword puzzle), a word that he invented:
Почти всё, что могу сказать о берлинской поре моей жизни (1922-1937), издержано мной в романах и рассказах, которые я тогда же писал. Сначала эмигрантских гонораров не могло хватать на жизнь. Я усердно давал уроки английского и французского, а также и тенниса. Много переводил-начиная с "Alice in Wonderland" (за русскую версию которой получил пять долларов) и кончая всем, чем угодно, вплоть до коммерческих описаний каких-то кранов. Однажды, в двадцатых годах, я составил для "Руля" новинку - шараду, вроде тех, которые появлялись в лондонских газетах,- и тогда-то я и придумал новое слово "крестословица", столь крепко вошедшее в обиход. (Chapter XIII, 3)
The above calculations bring to mind Ada's record in the last game of Flavita (the Russian Scrabble) that the three young Veens ever played together:
‘Je ne peux rien faire,’ wailed Lucette, ‘mais rien — with my idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM...’
‘Look,’ whispered Van, ‘c’est tout simple, shift those two syllables and you get a fortress in ancient Muscovy.’
‘Oh, no,’ said Ada, wagging her finger at the height of her temple in a way she had. ‘Oh, no. That pretty word does not exist in Russian. A Frenchman invented it. There is no second syllable.’
‘Ruth for a little child?’ interposed Van.
‘Ruthless!’ cried Ada.
‘Well,’ said Van, ‘you can always make a little cream, KREM or KREME — or even better — there’s KREMLI, which means Yukon prisons. Go through her ORHIDEYA.’
‘Through her silly orchid,’ said Lucette.
‘And now,’ said Ada, ‘Adochka is going to do something even sillier.’ And taking advantage of a cheap letter recklessly sown sometime before in the seventh compartment of the uppermost fertile row, Ada, with a deep sigh of pleasure, composed: the adjective TORFYaNUYu which went through a brown square at F and through two red squares (37 x 9 = 333 points) and got a bonus of 50 (for placing all seven blocks at one stroke) which made 383 in all, the highest score ever obtained for one word by a Russian scrambler. ‘There!’ she said, ‘Ouf! Pas facile.’ And brushing away with the rosy knuckles of her white hand the black-bronze hair from her temple, she recounted her monstrous points in a smug, melodious tone of voice like a princess narrating the poison-cup killing of a superfluous lover, while Lucette fixed Van with a mute, fuming appeal against life’s injustice — and then looking again at the board emitted a sudden howl of hope:
‘It’s a place name! One can’t use it! It’s the name of the first little station after Ladore Bridge!’
‘That’s right, pet,’ sang out Ada. ‘Oh, pet, you are so right! Yes, Torfyanaya, or as Blanche says, La Tourbière, is, indeed, the pretty but rather damp village where our cendrillon’s family lives. But, mon petit, in our mother’s tongue — que dis-je, in the tongue of a maternal grandmother we all share — a rich beautiful tongue which my pet should not neglect for the sake of a Canadian brand of French — this quite ordinary adjective means "peaty," feminine gender, accusative case. Yes, that one coup has earned me nearly 400. Too bad — ne dotyanula (didn’t quite make it).’
‘Ne dotyanula!’ Lucette complained to Van, her nostrils flaring, her shoulders shaking with indignation. (1.36)
Flavita is an anagram of alfavit (alphabet). Alfavit - zerkalo zhizni ("The Mirror of Life Index") is a chapter in Ilf and Petrov's novel Dvenadtsat' stuliev ("The Twelve Chairs," 1928). A set of Flavita was given to Marina's children by Baron Klim Avidov (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov):
The set our three children received in 1884 from an old friend of the family (as Marina’s former lovers were known), Baron Klim Avidov, consisted of a large folding board of saffian and a boxful of weighty rectangles of ebony inlaid with platinum letters, only one of which was a Roman one, namely the letter J on the two joker blocks (as thrilling to get as a blank check signed by Jupiter or Jurojin). It was, incidentally, the same kindly but touchy Avidov (mentioned in many racy memoirs of the time) who once catapulted with an uppercut an unfortunate English tourist into the porter’s lodge for his jokingly remarking how clever it was to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule, at the Gritz, in Venezia Rossa.
By July the ten A’s had dwindled to nine, and the four D’s to three. The missing A eventually turned up under an Aproned Armchair, but the D was lost — faking the fate of its apostrophizable double as imagined by a Walter C. Keyway, Esq., just before the latter landed, with a couple of unstamped postcards, in the arms of a speechless multilinguist in a frock coat with brass buttons. The wit of the Veens (says Ada in a marginal note) knows no bounds. (ibid.)
While the Gritz seems to hint at Madame Gritsatsuev (a character in "Twelve Chairs," a passionate woman, a poet's dream whom Ostap Bender marries in Stargorod), Walter C. Keyway, Esq., brings to mind klyuch ot kvartiry gde den'gi lezhat (the key of the apartment where the money is) mentioned by Ostap Bender (the main character in "The Twelve Chairs" and "The Golden Calf," 1931). Like Humbert Humbert, Ostap Bender often appeals to gospoda prisyazhnye zasedateli (gentlemen of the jury). According to Kinbote, in a conversations with him Shade mentioned those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov:
Speaking of the Head of the bloated Russian Department, Prof. Pnin, a regular martinet in regard to his underlings (happily, Prof. Botkin, who taught in another department, was not subordinated to that grotesque "perfectionist"): "How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov." (note to Line 172)
In VN's novel Pnin (1957) Pnin's last address is 999 Todd Road. Tod is German for "death." In its unfinished form Shade's poem has 999 lines.
(342 – 9) × 3 = 999
Let me draw your attention to the updated version of my previous post, "Brewster, Oriental parlor & Drome cigarettes in Lolita" (https://thenabokovian.org/node/35680)