Horosho, L-shaped bathroom & L disaster in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Mon, 06/24/2019 - 05:42

In "Ardis the First"  Marina (in VN’s novel Ada, 1969, Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother) uses the word horosho (good) in the sense "all right:"


On the following day Ada informed her mother that Lucette badly needed a bath and that she would give it to her, whether her governess liked it or not. 'Horosho,' said Marina (while getting ready to receive a neighbor and his protégé, a young actor, in her best Dame Marina style), 'but the temperature should be kept at exactly twenty-eight (as it had been since the eighteenth century) and don't let her stay in it longer than ten or twelve minutes.' (1.23)


The Mayakovski pastiche in VN's story Istreblenie tiranov ("Tyrants Destroyed," 1938) begins with the word horosho-s (now then):


Хорошо-с,-- а помните, граждане,
Как хирел наш край без отца?
Так без хмеля сильнейшая жажда
Не создаст ни пивца, ни певца.

Вообразите, ни реп нет,
Ни баклажанов, ни брюкв...
Так и песня, что днесь у нас крепнет,
Задыхалась в луковках букв.

Шли мы тропиной исторенной,
Горькие ели грибы,
Пока ворота истории
Не дрогнули от колотьбы!

Пока, белизною кительной
Сияя верным сынам,
С улыбкой своей удивительной
Правитель не вышел к нам.


Now then, citizens,
You remember how long
Our land wilted without a Father?...
Thus, without hops, no matter how strong
One’s thirst, it is rather
Difficult, isn’t it,
To make both the beer and the drinking song!
Just imagine, we lacked potatoes,
No turnips, no beets could we get:
Thus the poem, now blooming, wasted
In the bulbs of the alphabet!
A well-trodded road we had taken,
Bitter toadstools we ate.
Until by great thumps was shaking
History’s gate!
Until in his trim white tunic
Which upon us its radiance cast,
With his wonderful smile the Ruler
Came before his subjects at last! (chapter 16)


Horosho-s seems to hint not only at Horosho! ("Good!" 1927), Mayakovski's poem written for the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, but also at ot gospoda boga-s (from God, the Lord), a phrase used by Mayakovski in his poem Pyatyi Internatsional ("The Fifth International," 1922):


Мистики пишут: «Логос,
Это всемогущество. От господа бога-с».


The mystics write: "Logos

is omnipotence. From God, the Lord."


The Supreme Being on Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set), Log seems to hint at Logos (the rational principle that governs and develops the universe). In Ward Five of the Kalugano hospital (where Van recovers from a wound received in a pistol duel with Captain Tapper and where he visits Philip Rack, Lucette's music teacher who was poisoned by his jealous wife Elsie) male nurse Dorofey is reading the Russian-language newspaper Golos (Logos):


After a long journey down corridors where pretty little things tripped by, shaking thermometers, and first an ascent and then a descent in two different lifts, the second of which was very capacious with a metal-handled black lid propped against its wall and bits of holly or laurel here and there on the soap-smelling floor, Dorofey, like Onegin's coachman, said priehali ('we have arrived') and gently propelled Van, past two screened beds, toward a third one near the window. There he left Van, while he seated himself at a small table in the door corner and leisurely unfolded the Russian-language newspaper Golos (Logos). (1.42)


In his poem Vo ves' golos ("At the Top of my Voice," 1930) Mayakovski calls himself "a poet of the boiled and an enemy of unboiled water:"


И, возможно, скажет
                                  ваш учёный,
кроя эрудицией

                             вопросов рой,
что жил-де такой
                          певец кипячёной
И ярый враг воды сырой.


Alexander Blok's poem Golos iz khora ("Voice from Choir", 1914) ends in the lines:


Будьте ж довольны жизнью своей,
Тише воды, ниже травы!
О, если б знали, дети, вы,
Холод и мрак грядущих дней!


Quieter than water, lower than grass,
Be glad now with your life!
Oh, if you could foresee, children,
The cold and dark of days to come!


The proverbial phrase tishe vody, nizhe travy ("quieter than water, lower than grass") was used by Dostoevski in his first novel Bednye lyudi ("Poor Folk," 1846):


Маменька его очень любила. Но старик ненавидел Анну Фёдоровну, хотя был пред нею тише воды, ниже травы.

Mama was very fond of him. But the old man hated Anna Fyodorovna, though he was as quiet as a mouse and humbler than dust in her presence.


In the old Russian alphabet the letter L was called lyudi. The Antiterran L disaster in the very middle of the 19th century seems to correspond to the mock execution of Dostoevski and the Petrashevskians on Jan. 3, 1850 (NS), in our world. After the L disaster electricity was banned on Antiterra. Elektrichestvo - vid energii ("Electricity is a Form of Energy," 1928) and Elevator ("The Grain Elevator," 1923) are poems by Mayakovski, whose book Dlya golosa ("For the Voice," 1923) designed by El Lissitzky begins with Levyi marsh ("Left March," 1918). According to Van, by the L disaster he does not mean Elevated:


The details of the L disaster (and I do not mean Elevated) in the beau milieu of last century, which had the singular effect of both causing and cursing the notion of ‘Terra,’ are too well-known historically, and too obscene spiritually, to be treated at length in a book addressed to young laymen and lemans — and not to grave men or gravemen.

Of course, today, after great anti-L years of reactionary delusion have gone by (more or less!) and our sleek little machines, Faragod bless them, hum again after a fashion, as they did in the first half of the nineteenth century, the mere geographic aspect of the affair possesses its redeeming comic side, like those patterns of brass marquetry, and bric-à-Braques, and the ormolu horrors that meant ‘art’ to our humorless forefathers. (1.3)


“Bric-à-Braques” blends George Braques (a Cubist painter, 1882-1963) with brikabrak, as in his story Smert' Ivana Ilyicha (“The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” 1886) Tolstoy calls an antique shop; but it also brings to mind Lilya Brik (Mayakovski’s mistress). At first Tolstoy wanted to entitle his novel Voyna i mir ("War and Peace,” 1869) Vsyo horosho, chto horosho konchaetsya (“All's Well that Ends Well”).


While Lucette soaks in the tub, Van and Ada make love in the bathroom’s hidden nook:


The two elder children, having locked the door of the L-shaped bathroom from the inside, now retired to the seclusion of its lateral part, in a corner between a chest of drawers and an old unused mangle, which the sea-green eye of the bathroom looking-glass could not reach; but barely had they finished their violent and uncomfortable exertions in that hidden nook, with an empty medicine bottle idiotically beating time on a shelf, when Lucette was already calling resonantly from the tub and the maid knocking on the door: Mlle Larivière wanted some hot water too. (1.23)


The L-shaped bathroom brings to mind the Antiterran L disaster followed by great anti-L years of reactionary delusion.


Van and Ada are the children of Demon Veen and Marina Durmanov. In Blok's poem Vozmezdie ("Retribution," 1910-21) Dostoevski compares the hero's father to Byron. "He is a Byron, ergo he is a demon" (the monde decides).


In his essay V zashchitu A. Bloka ("In Defense of A. Blok," 1931) Berdyaev says that Logos was absent from Blok's words when he spoke and from the poetry he wrote:


Это есть самая большая и мучительная проблема поэзии: она лишь в очень малой степени причастна Логосу, она причастна Космосу. В поэзии Блока стихия лирическая нашла себе самое чистое и совершенное выражение. Русский поэтический ренессанс начала XX века заключал в себе смертоносные яды, и в него вошли элементы онтологического растления (говорю — онтологического, а не морального). Но о Блоке должен быть совершенно особый разговор. А. Блок - один из величайших лирических поэтов. На нём можно изучать природу лирической стихии. Когда мне приходилось разговаривать с Блоком, меня всегда поражала нечленораздельность его речи и мысли. Его почти невозможно было понять. Стихи его я понимаю, но не мог понять того, что он говорил. Для понимания нужно было находиться в том состоянии, в каком он сам находился в это мгновение. В его словах совершенно отсутствовал Логос. Блок не знал никакого другого пути преодоления и просветления душевного хаоса, кроме лирической поэзии. В его разговорной речи ещё не совершалось того прекрасного преодоления хаоса, который совершался в его стихах, и потому речь его была лишена связи, смысла, формы, это были какие-то клочья мутных ещё душевных переживаний. Для философии Св. Фомы Аквината, которая видит в интеллекте самую благородную часть человека, соединяющую его с подлинным бытием, Блок был бы затруднителен. Он может быть выше ума, но ума в нём не было никакого, ему чуждо было начало Логоса, он пребывал исключительно в Космосе, в душе мира.


This is a very great and tortuous problem that involves poetry: it relates but to a small degree to the Logos, it relates rather to the Cosmos. Within the poetry of Blok, lyric verse has found itself a most pure and perfect expression. The Russian poetic renaissance of the beginning XXth Century contained within it the death-bearing hell and into it entered elements of an ontological dissoluteness (I tend to say ontological, and not moral). But about Blok there ought to be a completely special discussion. A. Blok was one of the greatest of lyric poets. When I happened to converse with Blok, I was always struck by an inarticulate aspect underlying his talk and thought. It was almost always impossible to understand him. His verses I do understand, but I could not understand what he said while speaking. For a proper understanding one had to be situated in the same condition, in which he happened to be situated at that instant. The Logos was completely absent in his words. Blok did not know any other sort of path of surmounting and enlightening his emotional chaos, besides the lyrical poetry. Within his conversational speech there did not as yet transpire that beautiful surmounting of chaos, which was wrought in his verses, and therefore his conversation was bereft of connection, of sense, of form, and it was all in some sort of shreds of the still tormenting emotional experiences. Blok could not transform the cosmic-soul chaos either intellectually, through thought and knowledge, or religiously, through faith, or mystically, through contemplation of the Divine light, or morally through moral distinction and evaluation; he transformed it exclusively through lyrical poetry. And this was an hopeless lyricism. It has always seemed to me, that Blok was altogether lacking in a mental sense, he is the most non-intellectual of Russian poets. This does not mean, that Blok had a mind quite poor and of low quality, as occurs with stupid people, no, he simply was outside of intellectuality and not wont to judgement from the point of view of intellectual categories. For the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which sees in the intellect the most noble part of man, conjoining him with authentic being, Blok would have been an enigma. He was perhaps of an higher mind, but the mind in him was nowise akin and was foreign to the principle of the Logos, he dwelt exclusively within the Cosmos, within the soul of the world.


In "The Fifth International" Mayakovski says that Cosmos is daleko-s (far away):


— Бросьте вы там, которые о космосе!
Что космос?
Космос далеко-с, мусью-с!


In his Pushkin speech, O naznachenii poeta (“On a Poet’s Destination,” 1921), Blok says that a poet is "a son of harmony" (an allusion to Mozart's words in Pushkin's little tragedy "Mozart and Salieri") who turns the Chaos (a primeval, elemental anarchy) into the Cosmos (an organized harmony, culture):


Что такое поэт? Человек, который пишет стихами? Нет, конечно. Он называется поэтом не потому, что он пишет стихами; но он пишет стихами, то есть приводит в гармонию слова и звуки, потому что он — сын гармонии, поэт.

Что такое гармония? Гармония есть согласие мировых сил, порядок мировой жизни. Порядок — космос, в противоположность беспорядку — хаосу. Из хаоса рождается космос, мир, учили древние. Космос — родной хаосу, как упругие волны моря — родные грудам океанских валов. Сын может быть не похож на отца ни в чём, кроме одной тайной черты; но она-то и делает похожими отца и сына.

Хаос есть первобытное, стихийное безначалие; космос — устроенная гармония, культура; из хаоса рождается космос; стихия таит в себе семена культуры; из безначалия создается гармония.


According to Berdyaev, Blok had nothing demonical about him and was unprotected to demons surrounding him:


Менее всего можно про Блока сказать, что в нём было демоническое начало, но он был беззащитен перед демоническими началами.

Least of all can it be said for Blok, that in him there was a demonic principle. But he was defenseless afront the demonic principles.


Describing his meeting with Lucette in Paris (also known as Lute on Demonia), Van compares her to Blok's Neznakomka (Unknown Woman):


Upon entering, he stopped for a moment to surrender his coat; but he kept his black fedora and stick-slim umbrella as he had seen his father do in that sort of bawdy, albeit smart, place which decent women did not frequent — at least, unescorted. He headed for the bar, and as he was in the act of wiping the lenses of his black-framed spectacles, made out, through the optical mist (Space’s recent revenge!), the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then (much more distinctly!) ever since his pubescence, passing alone, drinking alone, always alone, like Blok’s Incognita. It was a queer feeling — as of something replayed by mistake, part of a sentence misplaced on the proof sheet, a scene run prematurely, a repeated blemish, a wrong turn of time. He hastened to reequip his ears with the thick black bows of his glasses and went up to her in silence. For a minute he stood behind her, sideways to remembrance and reader (as she, too, was in regard to us and the bar), the crook of his silk-swathed cane lifted in profile almost up to his mouth. There she was, against the aureate backcloth of a sakarama screen next to the bar, toward which she was sliding, still upright, about to be seated, having already placed one white-gloved hand on the counter. She wore a high-necked, long-sleeved romantic black dress with an ample skirt, fitted bodice and ruffy collar, from the black soft corolla of which her long neck gracefully rose. With a rake’s morose gaze we follow the pure proud line of that throat, of that tilted chin. The glossy red lips are parted, avid and fey, offering a side gleam of large upper teeth. We know, we love that high cheekbone (with an atom of powder puff sticking to the hot pink skin), and the forward upsweep of black lashes and the painted feline eye — all this in profile, we softly repeat. From under the wavy wide brim of her floppy hat of black faille, with a great black bow surmounting it, a spiral of intentionally disarranged, expertly curled bright copper descends her flaming cheek, and the light of the bar’s ‘gem bulbs’ plays on her bouffant front hair, which, as seen laterally, convexes from beneath the extravagant brim of the picture hat right down to her long thin eyebrow. Her Irish profile sweetened by a touch of Russian softness, which adds a look of mysterious expectancy and wistful surprise to her beauty, must be seen, I hope, by the friends and admirers of my memories, as a natural masterpiece incomparably finer and younger than the portrait of the similarily postured lousy jade with her Parisian gueule de guenon on the vile poster painted by that wreck of an artist for Ovenman.

‘Hullo there, Ed,’ said Van to the barman, and she turned at the sound of his dear rasping voice.

‘I didn’t expect you to wear glasses. You almost got le paquet, which I was preparing for the man supposedly "goggling" my hat. Darling Van! Dushka moy!’

‘Your hat,’ he said, ‘is positively lautrémontesque — I mean, lautrecaquesque — no, I can’t form the adjective.’

Ed Barton served Lucette what she called a Chambéryzette.

‘Gin and bitter for me.’

‘I’m so happy and sad,’ she murmured in Russian. ‘Moyo grustnoe schastie! How long will you be in old Lute?’ (3.3)


In his poem Pomnite den' bezotradnyi i seryi... ("Do you remember the cheerless and gray day..." 1899) Blok mentions grustnoe schast'ye (the sad happiness):


Помните день безотрадный и серый,
Лист пожелтевший во мраке зачах...
Всё мне: Любовь и Надежда и Вера
     В Ваших очах!

Помните лунную ночь голубую,
Шли мы, и песня звучала впотьмах...
Я схоронил эту песню живую
     В Ваших очах!

Помните счастье: давно отлетело
Грустное счастье на быстрых крылах...
Только и жило оно и горело
     В Ваших очах!


The characters in Blok's play Balaganchik ("The Puppet Show," 1906) include the mystics of both sexes. In Blok's "Unknown Woman" p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out: "In vino veritas!" Giving bath to Lucette, Ada mentions Dr Krolik:


The liquid prison was now ready and an alarm clock given a full quarter of an hour to live.

‘Let her soak first, you’ll soap her afterwards,’ said Van feverishly.

‘Yes, yes, yes,’ cried Ada.

‘I’m Van,’ said Lucette, standing in the tub with the mulberry soap between her legs and protruding her shiny tummy.

‘You’ll turn into a boy if you do that,’ said Ada sternly, ‘and that won’t be very amusing.’

Warily, the little girl started to sink her buttocks in the water.

‘Too hot,’ she said, ‘much too horribly hot!’

‘It’ll cool,’ said Ada, ‘plop down and relax. Here’s your doll.’

‘Come on, Ada, for goodness’ sake, let her soak,’ repeated Van.

‘And remember,’ said Ada, ‘don’t you dare get out of this nice warm water until the bell rings or you’ll die, because that’s what Krolik said. I’ll be back to lather you, but don’t call me; we have to count the linen and sort out Van’s hankies.’ (1.23)


As he speaks to Lucette after the dinner in 'Ursus,' Van uses the so-called slovoers (the particle -s at the end of a word):


‘My dear,’ said Van, ‘do help me. She told me about her Valentian estanciero but now the name escapes me and I hate bothering her.’

‘Only she never told you,’ said loyal Lucette, ‘so nothing could escape. Nope. I can’t do that to your sweetheart and mine, because we know you could hit that keyhole with a pistol.’

‘Please, little vixen! I’ll reward you with a very special kiss.’

‘Oh, Van,’ she said over a deep sigh. ‘You promise you won’t tell her I told you?’

‘I promise. No, no, no,’ he went on, assuming a Russian accent, as she, with the abandon of mindless love, was about to press her abdomen to his. ‘Nikak-s net: no lips, no philtrum, no nosetip, no swimming eye. Little vixen’s axilla, just that — unless’ — (drawing back in mock uncertainty) — ‘you shave there?’

‘I stink worse when I do,’ confided simple Lucette and obediently bared one shoulder.

‘Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!’ commanded Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow.

She sat down with a bump on a chair, pressing one hand to her brow.

‘Turn off the footlights,’ said Van. ‘I want the name of that fellow.’

‘Vinelander,’ she answered. (2.8)


Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Nikak-s net: Russ., certainly not.


In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (Two: V: 13-14) Onegin's country neighbors are outraged by the fact that Onegin would never say da-s (yes, sir) or net-s (no, sir):


Сначала все к нему езжали;
Но так как с заднего крыльца
Обыкновенно подавали
Ему донского жеребца,
Лишь только вдоль большой дороги
Заслышат их домашни дроги, —
Поступком оскорбясь таким,
Все дружбу прекратили с ним.
«Сосед наш неуч; сумасбродит;
Он фармазон; он пьёт одно
Стаканом красное вино;
Он дамам к ручке не подходит;
Всё да да нет; не скажет да-с
Иль нет-с». Таков был общий глас.


At first they all would call on him,

but since to the back porch

habitually a Don stallion

for him was brought

as soon as one made out along the highway

the sound of their domestic runabouts —

outraged by such behavior,

they all ceased to be friends with him.

“Our neighbor is a boor; acts like a crackbrain;

he's a Freemason; he

drinks only red wine, by the tumbler;

he won't go up to kiss a lady's hand;

'tis all ‘yes,’ ‘no’ — he'll not say ‘yes, sir,’

or ‘no, sir.’ ” This was the general voice.


Onegin's donskoy zherebets (Don stallion) brings to mind Baron d'Onsky, Marina's lover with whom Demon fought a sword duel in Nice:


Upon being questioned in Demon’s dungeon, Marina, laughing trillingly, wove a picturesque tissue of lies; then broke down, and confessed. She swore that all was over; that the Baron, a physical wreck and a spiritual Samurai, had gone to Japan forever. From a more reliable source Demon learned that the Samurai’s real destination was smart little Vatican, a Roman spa, whence he was to return to Aardvark, Massa, in a week or so. Since prudent Veen preferred killing his man in Europe (decrepit but indestructible Gamaliel was said to be doing his best to forbid duels in the Western Hemisphere — a canard or an idealistic President’s instant-coffee caprice, for nothing was to come of it after all), Demon rented the fastest petroloplane available, overtook the Baron (looking very fit) in Nice, saw him enter Gunter’s Bookshop, went in after him, and in the presence of the imperturbable and rather bored English shopkeeper, back-slapped the astonished Baron across the face with a lavender glove. The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish — a kind of American ‘Gory Mary’ in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d’Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not ‘of his wounds’ (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston — a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)


"Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel," clearly hints at Stalin. At the end of his poem O pravitelyakh ("On Rulers," 1944) VN says that, if Mayakovski were still alive, he would be now finding taut rhymes such as monumentalen and pereperchil:


Покойный мой тёзка,
писавший стихи и в полоску,
и в клетку, на самом восходе
всесоюзно-мещанского класса,
кабы дожил до полдня,
нынче бы рифмы натягивал
на "монументален",
на "переперчил"
и так далее.


If my late namesake,
who used to write verse, in rank
and in file, at the very dawn
of the Soviet Small-Bourgeois order,
had lived till its noon
he would be now finding taut rhymes
such as “praline”
or “air chill,”
and others of the same kind.


VN’s footnote: Lines 58–59/“praline” … “air chill.” In the original, monumentalen, meaning “[he is] monumental” rhymes pretty closely with Stalin; and pereperchil, meaning “[he] put in too much pepper,” offers an ingenuous correspondence with the name of the British politician in a slovenly Russian pronunciation (“chair-chill”).


On Antiterra Stalin is also represented by Khan Sosso, the current ruler of the Golden Horde (ruthless Sovietnamur Khanate):


Western Europe presented a particularly glaring gap: ever since the eighteenth century, when a virtually bloodless revolution had dethroned the Capetians and repelled all invaders, Terra’s France flourished under a couple of emperors and a series of bourgeois presidents, of whom the present one, Doumercy, seemed considerably more lovable than Milord Goal, Governor of Lute! Eastward, instead of Khan Sosso and his ruthless Sovietnamur Khanate, a super Russia, dominating the Volga region and similar watersheds, was governed by a Sovereign Society of Solicitous Republics (or so it came through) which had superseded the Tsars, conquerors of Tartary and Trst. Last but not least, Athaulf the Future, a fair-haired giant in a natty uniform, the secret flame of many a British nobleman, honorary captain of the French police, and benevolent ally of Rus and Rome, was said to be in the act of transforming a gingerbread Germany into a great country of speedways, immaculate soldiers, brass bands and modernized barracks for misfits and their young. (2.2)


Describing the family dinner in "Ardis the Second," Van mentions Richard Leonard Churchill’s novel about a certain Crimean Khan, “A Great Good Man:”


Van remembered that his tutor’s great friend, the learned but prudish Semyon Afanasievich Vengerov, then a young associate professor but already a celebrated Pushkinist (1855-1954), used to say that the only vulgar passage in his author’s work was the cannibal joy of young gourmets tearing ‘plump and live’ oysters out of their ‘cloisters’ in an unfinished canto of Eugene Onegin. But then ‘everyone has his own taste,’ as the British writer Richard Leonard Churchill mistranslates a trite French phrase (chacun à son gout) twice in the course of his novel about a certain Crimean Khan once popular with reporters and politicians, ‘A Great Good Man’ — according, of course, to the cattish and prejudiced Guillaume Monparnasse about whose new celebrity Ada, while dipping the reversed corolla of one hand in a bowl, was now telling Demon, who was performing the same rite in the same graceful fashion. (1.38)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Great good man: a phrase that Winston Churchill, the British politician, enthusiastically applied to Stalin.


Richard Leonard Churchill blends Winston Churchill with Richard the Lionheart. In Ilf and Petrov's novel Dvenadtsat’ stul'yev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) the voice of Mme Petukhov (Vorobyaninov’s mother-in-law) was so strong and fruity that it might well have been envied by Richard the Lionheart:


Голос у неё был такой силы и густоты, что ему позавидовал бы Ричард Львиное Сердце, от крика которого, как известно, приседали кони.

Her voice was so strong and fruity that it might well have been envied by Richard the Lionheart, at whose shout, as is well known, horses used to kneel. (chapter I “Bezenchuk and The Nymphs”)


Guillaume de Monparnasse is the penname of  Mlle Larivière (Lucette's governess). According to Mlle Larivière, the leaving out of the ‘t’ made her pseudonym more intime:


Yes! Wasn’t that a scream? Larivière blossoming forth, bosoming forth as a great writer! A sensational Canadian bestselling author! Her story ‘The Necklace’ (La rivière de diamants) had become a classic in girls’ schools and her gorgeous pseudonym ‘Guillaume de Monparnasse’ (the leaving out of the ‘t’ made it more intime) was well-known from Quebec to Kaluga. As she put it in her exotic English: ‘Fame struck and the roubles rolled, and the dollars poured’ (both currencies being used at the time in East Estotiland); but good Ida, far from abandoning Marina, with whom she had been platonically and irrevocably in love ever since she had seen her in ‘Bilitis,’ accused herself of neglecting Lucette by overindulging in Literature; consequently she now gave the child, in spurts of vacational zeal, considerably more attention than poor little Ada (said Ada) had received at twelve, after her first (miserable) term at school. (1.31)


In his Foreword to "Paul Verlaine. Poems Selected and Translated by F. Sologub" (1908) Maximilian Voloshin says that he can hear the sounds of intimnyi golos (the intimate voice) in Lermontov's poetry, but does not hear them in Pushkin:


Я слышу, например, звуки интимного голоса у Лермонтова, но не слышу их у Пушкина.

Их нет у Тютчева, но есть у Фета и ещё больше у Полонского.

Из современных поэтов этим даром в наибольшей степени владеет Блок.


Voloshin singles out Alexander Blok as a modern poet whose intimate voice can be heard in his verses.


In his essay Golosa poetov (“The Voices of Poets,” 1917) Voloshin says that the voice is the inner mould of the soul and quotes Théophile Gautier’s poem Contralto:


Сомнения быть не может: в этой лирике звучит тот волнующий и странный голос, о котором Теофиль Готье сказал:


Que tu me plais, o timbre etrange!
Son double, homme et femme a la fois,
Contralto, bizarre melange,
Hermaphrodite de la voix.


Что по-русски можно перевести так:


Меня пленяет это слиянье
Юноши с девушкой в тембре слов -
Контральто! - странное сочетанье -
Гермафродит голосов!


Describing the illness of Ada's husband, Van mentions Dorothy Vinelander’s contralto and old issues of the Golos Feniksa that Dorothy read to her brother:


Much to Van’s amusement (the tasteless display of which his mistress neither condoned nor condemned), Andrey was laid up with a cold for most of the week. Dorothy, a born nurser, considerably surpassed Ada (who, never being ill herself, could not stand the sight of an ailing stranger) in readiness of sickbed attendance, such as reading to the sweating and suffocating patient old issues of the Golos Feniksa; but on Friday the hotel doctor bundled him off to the nearby American Hospital, where even his sister was not allowed to Visit him ‘because of the constant necessity of routine tests’ — or rather because the poor fellow wished to confront disaster in manly solitude.

During the next few days, Dorothy used her leisure to spy upon Ada. The woman was sure of three things: that Ada had a lover in Switzerland; that Van was her brother; and that he was arranging for his irresistible sister secret trysts with the person she had loved before her marriage. The delightful phenomenon of all three terms being true, but making nonsense when hashed, provided Van with another source of amusement.

The Three Swans overwinged a bastion. Anyone who called, flesh or voice, was told by the concierge or his acolytes that Van was out, that Madame André Vinelander was unknown, and that all they could do was to take a message. His car, parked in a secluded bosquet, could not betray his presence. In the forenoon he regularly used the service lift that communicated directly with the backyard. Lucien, something of a wit, soon learned to recognize Dorothy’s contralto: ‘La voix cuivrée a téléphoné,’ ‘La Trompette n’était pas contente ce matin,’ et cetera. Then the friendly Fates took a day off. (3.8)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Golos etc.: Russ., The Phoenix Voice, Russian language newspaper in Arizona.

I think you're very much onto something here Alexey! I've never communicated with you directly but your ease with the Russian language helps readers like me (who are familiar with a good deal of Russian Lit. but alas in translation!). There's a few more times when Van uses this invocation, Log (as a counterpart for Earth's God as in "Thank God" or "For God's sake") in Ada.

I'm sure you've seen Brian Boyd's annotation for it, which for the ease of reference I'll just transcribe here:

"3.33: thank Log: an Antiterran version of "thank God" (or “Thank the Lord”) via Bog, Russ. "God" (cf. Levinton 328) and logos, Gk., "word," especially as in John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." If God divided the heavens from the earth (Genesis 1.1-10), it seems to have been Log, the Word, Who has divided Antiterra from Terra." (Ada Pt. 1, Ch 4)

and of course, in the Part 4 (Texture of Time) where Van mentions, "but for Log’s sake, let us not confuse Time with Tinnitus..."

As for the L-shaped bathroom, this is a cutting theme (let alone a motif) from a lot of Nabokov's works from probably The Luzhin Defense and of course, Lolita. From Chapter 9, Part Two of Lolita:

"One of the latticed squares in a small cobwebby casement window at the turn of the staircase was glazed with ruby, and that raw wound among the unstained rectangles and its asymmetrical position—a knight’s move from the top—always strangely disturbed me."

which Akiko Nakata elucidates as how a car would park in "an L-shaped move" into a parking square.

Again, I'll add this valuable discussion of this passage from the Nabokov Society of Japan (with BB, TW, AN, and others) it's very much worth reading in full:


And of course, Nabokov knew the poet Max Voloshin intimately, which Brian Boyd (our indispensible guide) mentions in his biography.

Again, I'm just quoting here to put it into perspective:

"Nabokov regarded Voloshin as an excellent poet, and critics agree that his most remarkable work was being written at this time, in verse where he proclaimed, often in highly biblical language, Russia's expiation of its sins in the suffering the revolution caused. Nabokov always remained grateful that Voloshin sat with him and instructed him so good-naturedly in the art of poetry. But though Nabokov's next major poetic effort, the nine-poem cycle "Angels," clearly shows traces of Voloshin in its religious imagery and its cyclic structure, the older poet's real influence on the younger was to introduce him to Bely's radical methods of metrical analysis." (VNRY 149)