Floeberg's Ursula in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Sat, 07/13/2019 - 05:35

On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada, 1969, is set) Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1857) is known as Floeberg’s Ursula:

 

Van reached the third lawn, and the bower, and carefully inspected the stage prepared for the scene, ‘like a provincial come an hour too early to the opera after jogging all day along harvest roads with poppies and bluets catching and twinkle-twining in the wheels of his buggy’ (Floeberg’s Ursula). (1.20)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Floeberg: Flaubert’s style is mimicked in this pseudo quotation.

 

On the eve, in the Night of the Burning Barn, Van and Ada make love for the first time. Van thinks that he was Ada’s first lover:

 

Neither could establish in retrospect, nor, indeed, persisted in trying to do so, how, when and where he actually ‘de-flowered’ her — a vulgarism Ada in Wonderland had happened to find glossed in Phrody’s Encyclopedia as ‘to break a virgin’s vaginal membrane by manly or mechanical means,’ with the example: ‘The sweetness of his soul was deflowered (Jeremy Taylor).’ Was it that night on the lap robe? Or that day in the larchwood? Or later in the shooting gallery, or in the attic, or on the roof, or on a secluded balcony, or in the bathroom, or (not very comfortably) on the Magic Carpet? We do not know and do not care.

(You kissed and nibbled, and poked, and prodded, and worried me there so much and so often that my virginity was lost in the shuffle; but I do recall definitely that by midsummer the machine which our forefathers called’ sex’ was working as smoothly as later, in 1888, etc., darling. Marginal note in red ink.) (1.20)

 

When they make love after the dinner in ‘Ursus,” Ada complains that Van hurt her like a Tiger Turk:

 

He heard Ada Vinelander’s voice calling for her Glass bed slippers (which, as in Cordulenka’s princessdom too, he found hard to distinguish from dance footwear), and a minute later, without the least interruption in the established tension, Van found himself, in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose — no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion, on a kind of lowboy. She complained he hurt her ‘like a Tiger Turk.’ He went to bed and was about to doze off for good when she left his side. Where was she going? Pet wanted to see the album. (2.8)

 

In Kim Beauharnais’s album (that Lucette wants to see) there is a photograph of Karol, or Karapars, Krolik, a doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey:

 

‘Well,’ said Van, when the mind took over again, ‘let’s go back to our defaced childhood. I’m anxious’ — (picking up the album from the bedside rug) — ‘to get rid of this burden. Ah, a new character, the inscription says: Dr Krolik.’
‘Wait a sec. It may be the best Vanishing Van but it’s terribly messy all the same. Okay. Yes, that’s my poor nature teacher.’
Knickerbockered, panama-hatted, lusting for his babochka (Russian for ‘lepidopteron’). A passion, a sickness. What could Diana know about that chase?
‘How curious — in the state Kim mounted him here, he looks much less furry and fat than I imagined. In fact, darling, he’s a big, strong, handsome old March Hare! Explain!’
‘There’s nothing to explain. I asked Kim one day to help me carry some boxes there and back, and here’s the visual proof. Besides, that’s not my Krolik but his brother, Karol, or Karapars, Krolik. A doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey.’
‘I love the way your eyes narrow when you tell a lie. The remote mirage in Effrontery Minor.’
‘I’m not lying!’ — (with lovely dignity): ‘He is a doctor of philosophy.’
‘Van ist auch one,’ murmured Van, sounding the last word as ‘wann.’ (2.7)

 

It seems that Ada was “de-flowered” by Dr Krolik’s brother whose name hints at the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” (known on Antiterra as “Palace in Wonderland” and “Alice in the Camera Obscura,” respectively) who loved to photograph little girls.

 

In a letter to his mistress (quoted by Shakeeb Arzoo in his recent post: https://thenabokovian.org/node/35739) Flaubert compares himself to a tiger:

 

"You ask for love, you complain that I don’t send you flowers? Flowers, indeed! If that’s what you want, find yourself some wet-eared boy stuffed with fine manners and all the right ideas. I’m like the tiger, which has bristles of hair at the end of its cock, with which it lacerates the female."

 

Ursus + la Rousse + art/rat = Ursula + ours + sestra

 

la Rousse - Fr., red-haired woman/girl; Pierre Larousse, a French lexicographer (1817-75)
ours - Fr., bear
sestra – sister

 

According to Cordula de Prey (Ada’s schoolmate at Brownhill), among the girls assigned to her and Ada’s dormitory is one red-haired, la Rousse:

 

‘My cousin Ada,’ said Van, ‘is a little girl of eleven or twelve, and much too young to fall in love with anybody, except people in books. Yes, I too found her sweet. A trifle on the bluestocking side, perhaps, and, at the same time, impudent and capricious — but, yes, sweet.’

‘I wonder,’ murmured Cordula, with such a nice nuance of pensive tone that Van could not tell whether she meant to close the subject, or leave it ajar, or open a new one.

‘How could I get in touch with you?’ he asked. ‘Would you come to Riverlane? Are you a virgin?’

‘I don’t date hoodlums,’ she replied calmly, ‘but you can always "contact" me through Ada. We are not in the same class, in more ways than one’ (laughing); ‘she’s a little genius, I’m a plain American ambivert, but we are enrolled in the same Advanced French group, and the Advanced French group is assigned the same dormitory so that a dozen blondes, three brunettes and one redhead, la Rousse, can whisper French in their sleep’ (laughing alone).

‘What fun. Okay, thanks. The even number means bunks, I guess. Well, I’ll be seeing you, as the hoods say.’ (1.27)

 

In VN’s story Usta k ustam (“Lips to Lips,” 1931), a satire on the editors of the émigré literary review Chisla (“Numbers”), Galatov mentions Chyornaya pantera (“The Black Panther”), a play:

 

Он был счастлив. Он выписал ещё пять экземпляров. Он был счастлив. Умалчивание объяснялось косностью, придирки -- недоброжелательством. Он был счастлив. Продолжение следует. И вот, как-то в воскресенье, позвонил Евфратский:
-- Угадайте,-- сказал он,-- кто хочет с вами говорить? Галатов! Да, он приехал на пару дней.
Зазвучал незнакомый, играющий, напористый, сладкоодуряющий голос. Условились.
-- Завтра в пять часов у меня. Жалко, что не сегодня. -- Не могу,-- отвечал играющий голос.-- Меня тащат на "Чёрную Пантеру". Я кстати давно не видался с Евгенией Дмитриевной...

 

He was happy. He purchased six more copies. He was happy. Silence was readily explained by inertia, detraction by enmity. He was happy. "To be continued." And then, one Sunday, came a telephone call from Euphratski: "Guess," he said, "who wants to speak to you? Galatov! Yes, he's in Berlin for a couple of days. I pass the receiver."
A voice never yet heard took over. A shimmering, urgeful, mellow, narcotic voice. A meeting was settled.
"Tomorrow at five at my place," said Ilya Borisovich, "what a pity you can't come tonight!"
"Very regrettable," rejoined the shimmering voice; "you see, I'm being dragged by friends to attend The Black Panther – terrible play – but it's such a long time since I've seen dear Elena Dmitrievna."

 

Karapars means in Turkic languages “black panther." Euphratski (who also uses the penname Tigris) calls Galatov russkiy Dzhoys (“the Russian Joyce”):

 

- Пошлите вашу вещь,- Евфратский прищурился и вполголоса докончил: - "Ариону".
- "Ариону"? - переспросил Илья Борисович, нервно погладив рукопись.
-
Ничего страшного. Название журнала. Неужели не знаете? Ай-я-яй! Первая книжка вышла весной, осенью выйдет вторая. Нужно немножко следить за литературой, Илья Борисович.
- Как же так - просто послать?
- Ну да, в Париж, редактору. Уж имя-то Галатова вы, небось, знаете?
Илья Борисович виновато пожал толстым плечом. Евфратский, морщась, объяснил: беллетрист, новые формы, мастерство, сложная конструкция, русский Джойс...
- Джойс,- смиренно повторил Илья Борисович.

 

"Send your thing" (Euphratski narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice) "to Arion."
"Arion? What's that?" said I.B., nervously patting his manuscript.
"Nothing very frightening. It's the name of the best émigré review. You don't know it? Ay-ya-yay! The first number came out this spring, the second is expected in the fall. You should keep up with literature a bit closer, Ilya Borisovich!"
"But how to contact them? Just mail it?"
"That's right. Straight to the editor. It's published in Paris. Now don't tell me you've never heard Galatov's name?"
Guiltily Ilya Borisovich shrugged one fat shoulder. Euphratski, his face working wryly, explained: a writer, a master, new form of the novel, intricate construction, Galatov the Russian Joyce.
"Djoys," meekly repeated Ilya Borisovich after him.

 

In her marginal note near the end of the Brownhill chapter Ada mentions son grand Joyce and one’s petit Proust:

 

The railway station had a semi-private tearoom supervised by the stationmaster’s wife under the school’s idiotic auspices. It was empty, save for a slender lady in black velvet, wearing a beautiful black velvet picture hat, who sat with her back to them at a ‘tonic bar’ and never once turned her head, but the thought brushed him that she was a cocotte from Toulouse. Our damp trio found a nice corner table and with sighs of banal relief undid their raincoats. He hoped Ada would discard her heavy-seas hat but she did not, because she had cut her hair because of dreadful migraines, because she did not want him to see her in the role of a moribund Romeo.
(On fait son grand Joyce after doing one’s petit Proust. In Ada’s lovely hand.)
(But read on; it is pure V.V. Note that lady! In Van’s bed-buvard scrawl.) (1.27)

 

According to Van, Proust liked to decapitate rats when he did not feel like sleeping:

 

Night, of course, always remained an ordeal, throughout the near-century of his life, no matter how drowsy or drugged the poor man might be — for genius is not all gingerbread even for Billionaire Bill with his pointed beardlet and stylized bald dome, or crusty Proust who liked to decapitate rats when he did not feel like sleeping, or this brilliant or obscure V.V. (depending on the eyesight of readers, also poor people despite our jibes and their jobs); but at Ardis, the intense life of the star-haunted sky troubled the boy’s night so much that, on the whole, he felt grateful when foul weather or the fouler gnat — the Kamargsky Komar of our muzhiks and the Moustique moscovite of their no less alliterative retaliators — drove him back to his bumpy bed. (1.12)

 

When she visits him at Kingston, Lucette (Van’s and Ada’s half-sister) calls Van “Dr V.V. Sector:”

 

She returned the balled handkerchief of many an old romance to her bag, which, however, remained unclosed. Chows, too, have blue tongues.
‘Mamma dwells in her private Samsara. Dad has had another stroke. Sis is revisiting Ardis.’
‘Sis! Cesse, Lucette! We don’t want any baby serpents around.’
‘This baby serpent does not quite know what tone to take with Dr V.V. Sector. You have not changed one bit, my pale darling, except that you look like a ghost in need of a shave without your summer Glanz.’
And summer Mädel. He noticed that the letter, in its long blue envelope, lay now on the mahogany sideboard. He stood in the middle of the parlor, rubbing his forehead, not daring, not daring, because it was Ada’s notepaper. (2.5)

 

Describing Kim Beaharnais’s album, Van mentions “a vivisectional alibi” provided by a picture of Marina’s brother:

 

A formal photograph, on a separate page: Adochka, pretty and impure in her flimsy, and Vanichka in gray-flannel suit, with slant-striped school tie, facing the kimera (chimera, camera) side by side, at attention, he with the shadow of a forced grin, she, expressionless. Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses) and the occasion: it was ordered by Marina, who had it framed and set up in her bedroom next to a picture of her brother at twelve or fourteen clad in a bayronka (open shirt) and cupping a guinea pig in his gowpen (hollowed hands); the three looked like siblings, with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi. (2.7)

 

At the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” Van mentions an Alibi:

 

Marina helped herself to an Albany from a crystal box of Turkish cigarettes tipped with red rose petal and passed the box on to Demon. Ada, somewhat self-consciously, lit up too.
‘You know quite well,’ said Marina, ‘that your father disapproves of your smoking at table.’
‘Oh, it’s all right,’ murmured Demon.
‘I had Dan in view,’ explained Marina heavily. ‘He’s very prissy on that score.’
‘Well, and I’m not,’ answered Demon.
Ada and Van could not help laughing. All that was banter — not of a high order, but still banter.
A moment later, however, Van remarked: ‘I think I’ll take an Alibi — I mean an Albany — myself.’
‘Please note, everybody,’ said Ada, ‘how voulu that slip was! I like a smoke when I go mushrooming, but when I’m back, this horrid tease insists I smell of some romantic Turk or Albanian met in the woods.’
‘Well,’ said Demon, ‘Van’s quite right to look after your morals.’ (1.38)

 

Describing the Night of the Burning Barn, Van mentions a glass box of Turkish Traumatis:

 

Van stretched himself naked in the now motionless candlelight.

‘Let us sleep here,’ he said. ‘They won’t be back before dawn relights Uncle’s cigar.’

‘My nightie is trempée,’ she whispered.

‘Take it off, this plaid sleeps two.’

‘Don’t look, Van.’

‘That’s not fair,’ he said and helped her to slip it up and over her hair-shaking head. She was shaded with a mere touch of coal at the mystery point of her chalk-white body. A bad boil had left a pink scar between two ribs. He kissed it, and lay back on his clasped hands. She was inspecting from above his tanned body the ant caravan to the oasis of the navel; he was decidedly hirsute for so young a boy. Her young round breasts were just above his face. I denounce the philistine’s post-coital cigarette both as a doctor and an artist. It is, however, true that Van was not unaware of a glass box of Turkish Traumatis on a console too far to be reached with an indolent stretch. The tall clock struck an anonymous quarter, and Ada was presently watching, cheek on fist, the impressive, though oddly morose, stirrings, steady clockwise launch, and ponderous upswing of virile revival. (1.19)

And of course this post should be linked with Alexey's previous mentions of Floeberg (https://thenabokovian.org/node/5559).

Flaubert does compare himself to a bear several times:

"I am a bear and I want to stay a bear in my den, in my lair, in my skin, in my old bear’s skin; I want to live quietly, far away from the bourgeois and the bourgeoises."

he also mentions a white bear-skin rug in his study, where he likes to stretch out:

"That will be more satisfactory than any possible description, and you'll think of my rug and of the great white bearskin I stretch out on during the day, just as I think of your alabaster lamp and the way I watched its dying light flickering on the ceiling." (August of 1846, letter to Colet)

and an another time from a letter to his mother quoted much too often:

"If you participate in life, you don’t see it clearly: you suffer from it too much or enjoy it too much. The artist, to my way of thinking, is a monstrosity, something outside nature. All the misfortunes Providence inflicts on him come from his stubbornness in denying that maxim … So (and this is my conclusion) I am resigned to living as I have lived: alone, with my throng of great men as my only cronies – a bear, with my bear-rug for company." (Letter to his Mother, December of 1850)

And of course, the passage that Flaubert reworks twice - once in Madame Bovary and once in his Letters:

"....for human speech is like a cracked kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to touch the stars to tears." (this is Nabokov's translation from his Bovary lecture)

Best,
SA (interesting to reverse the initials ;)

PS - And since we are collating, let this interesting conversation be linked to this thread as well: (https://thenabokovian.org/node/23763)