In VN’s novel Ada (1969) Ada, instead of answering Van’s question, asks him to blow his nose and uses the phrase platok momental’no (handkerchief quick):
‘You never loved your father,’ said Ada sadly.
‘Oh, I did and do — tenderly, reverently, understandingly, because, after all, that minor poetry of the flesh is something not unfamiliar to me. But as far as we are concerned, I mean you and I, he was buried on the same day as our uncle Dan.’
‘I know, I know. It’s pitiful! And what use was it? Perhaps I oughtn’t to tell you, but his visits to Agavia kept getting rarer and shorter every year. Yes, it was pitiful to hear him and Andrey talking. I mean, Andrey n’a pas le verbe facile, though he greatly appreciated — without quite understanding it — Demon’s wild flow of fancy and fantastic fact, and would often exclaim, with his Russian "tssk-tssk" and a shake of the head — complimentary and all that — "what a balagur (wag) you are!" — And then, one day, Demon warned me that he would not come any more if he heard again poor Andrey’s poor joke (Nu i balagur-zhe vï, Dementiy Labirintovich) or what Dorothy, l’impayable ("priceless for impudence and absurdity") Dorothy, thought of my camping out in the mountains with only Mayo, a cowhand, to protect me from lions.’
‘Could one hear more about that?’ asked Van.
‘Well, nobody did. All this happened at a time when I was not on speaking terms with my husband and sister-in-law, and so could not control the situation. Anyhow, Demon did not come even when he was only two hundred miles away and simply mailed instead, from some gaming house, your lovely, lovely letter about Lucette and my picture.’
‘One would also like to know some details of the actual coverture — frequence of intercourse, pet names for secret warts, favorite smells —’
‘Platok momental’no (handkerchief quick)! Your right nostril is full of damp jade,’ said Ada, and then pointed to a lawnside circular sign, rimmed with red, saying: Chiens interdits and depicting an impossible black mongrel with a white ribbon around its neck: Why, she wondered, should the Swiss magistrates forbid one to cross highland terriers with poodles? (3.8)
In 1905, when after a long separation Van and Ada meet again in Switzerland, Ada is thirty-three. In a letter of Dec. 25, 1887, to his elder brother Alexander Anton Chekhov uses the phrase 33 momental’no (“33 momentarily,” some private joke):
Когда на 3-й день праздника откроется оконце Полины Яковлевны, надень штаны и сбегай получить мой гонорар, который 33 моментально вышли мне через г. Волкова. В праздники контора запирается в 2 часа.
Chekhov asks his brother to go to the office of Suvorin’s newspaper Novoe Vremya and receive the fee for his short story Kashtanka (1887). At the beginning of Kashtanka Chekhov mentions some wooden thing wrapped up in krasnyi platok (a red handkerchief):
Молодая рыжая собака — помесь такса с дворняжкой — очень похожая мордой на лисицу, бегала взад и вперед по тротуару и беспокойно оглядывалась по сторонам. Изредка она останавливалась и, плача, приподнимая то одну озябшую лапу, то другую, старалась дать себе отчёт: как это могло случиться, что она заблудилась?
Она отлично помнила, как она провела день и как в конце концов попала на этот незнакомый тротуар. День начался с того, что ее хозяин, столяр Лука Александрыч, надел шапку, взял под мышку какую-то деревянную штуку, завёрнутую в красный платок, и крикнул:— Каштанка, пойдём!
A young dog, a reddish mongrel, between a dachshund and a "yard-dog," very like a fox in face, was running up and down the pavement looking uneasily from side to side. From time to time she stopped and, whining and lifting first one chilled paw and then another, tried to make up her mind how it could have happened that she was lost.
She remembered very well how she had passed the day, and how, in the end, she had found herself on this unfamiliar pavement.
The day had begun by her master Luka Aleksandrych’s putting on his hat, taking something wooden under his arm wrapped up in a red handkerchief, and calling: "Kashtanka, come along!"esc
“Damp jade” in Van’s right nostril brings to mind Sopli i vopli (“Snivel and Drivel”), a satirical wall newspaper mentioned by Evgeniy Petrov in his memoir essay Iz vospominaniy ob Il’fe (“From the Reminiscences about Ilf,” 1939):
В комнате четвёртой полосы создалась очень приятная атмосфера остроумия. Острили здесь беспрерывно. Человек, попадающий в эту атмосферу, сам начинал острить, но главным образом был жертвой насмешек. Сотрудники остальных отделов газеты побаивались этих отчаянных остряков.
Для боязни было много оснований. В комнате четвёртой полосы на стене висел большой лист бумаги, куда наклеивались всяческие газетные ляпсусы -- бездарные заголовки, малограмотные фразы, неудачные фотографии и рисунки. Этот страшный лист назывался так: "Сопли и вопли". (2)
Plural of vopl’ (cry, yell, wail, howl), vopli bring to mind Vidoplyasov’s vopli in Dostoevski’s short novel Selo Stepanchikovo i ego obitateli (“The Village of Stepanchikovo and its Inhabitants,” 1859). A servant who writes vopli (as he calls his poetic exercises) and who ends up in a madhouse, Vidoplyasov is a secretary of Foma Opiskin, a charlatan whose name comes from opiska (slip of the pen). A newspaper article from which Van learns about the airplane disaster in which his father died is full of opiski and opechatki (misprints):
Idly, one March morning, 1905, on the terrace of Villa Armina, where he sat on a rug, surrounded by four or five lazy nudes, like a sultan, Van opened an American daily paper published in Nice. In the fourth or fifth worst airplane disaster of the young century, a gigantic flying machine had inexplicably disintegrated at fifteen thousand feet above the Pacific between Lisiansky and Laysanov Islands in the Gavaille region. A list of ‘leading figures’ dead in the explosion comprised the advertising manager of a department store, the acting foreman in the sheet-metal division of a facsimile corporation, a recording firm executive, the senior partner of a law firm, an architect with heavy aviation background (a first misprint here, impossible to straighten out), the vice president of an insurance corporation, another vice president, this time of a board of adjustment whatever that might be —
I’m hongree,’ said a maussade Lebanese beauty of fifteen sultry summers.
‘Use bell,’ said Van, continuing in a state of odd fascination to go through the compilation of labeled lives:
— the president of a wholesale liquor-distributing firm, the manager of a turbine equipment company, a pencil manufacturer, two professors of philosophy, two newspaper reporters (with nothing more to report), the assistant controller of a wholesome liquor distribution bank (misprinted and misplaced), the assistant controller of a trust company, a president, the secretary of a printing agency —
The names of those big shots, as well as those of some eighty other men, women, and silent children who perished in blue air, were being withheld until all relatives had been reached; but the tabulatory preview of commonplace abstractions had been thought to be too imposing not to be given at once as an appetizer; and only on the following morning did Van learn that a bank president lost in the closing garble was his father. (3.7)
Demon Veen is a gambler. Dostoevski is the author of Igrok (“The Gambler,” 1867), a short novel whose characters include Blanche (a courtesan). Demon calls Blanche, a French handmaid at Ardis, “a passing angel” (1.38). In his essay Poeziya Ignata Lebyadkina (“The Poetry of Ignat Lebyadkin,” 1931) Hodasevich compares some of Dostoevski’s characters to padshie angely (the fallen angels) and mentions Vidoplyasov and his vopli:
Причина этому -- та, что в жизни самого Достоевского поэзия ещё с младенчества играла роль важную. Он привык откликаться на неё сильно и считал её одним из высочайших явлений человеческого духа. А так как одной из любимых мыслей его была та, что и в падении человек сохраняет хотя бы смутную память о своем божеском подобии, о подлинном, лучшем своем образе, то и тяготение к поэзии, пусть задавленное, искажённое, изуродованное, живет в героях Достоевского, униженных и оскорбленных людьми, роком, собственными страстями. Обрывки стихов, когда-то запавших в душу, они порой вспоминают, как падшие ангелы вспоминают о небесах. И даже чем ниже падение, тем неизбежнее в них проявляется, по закону контраста, влечение к поэзии. Самые последние из последних не только помнят о стихах, но и порываются к творчеству. Потому-то лакей Видоплясов, идиот, кончающий сумасшедшим домом, норовит излить тёмную свою душу в каких-то поэтических упражнениях, которые сам именует "воплями".
A character in Dostoevski’s novel Besy (“The Possessed,” 1873), Ignat Lebyadkin imagines that he is one-armed and that he lost his arm in the Crimean war (in which he did not actually participate). In his essay Hodasevich quotes Lebyadkin’s poem in which the author calls himself bezrukiy (armless):
Любви пылающей граната
Лопнула в груди Игната.
И вновь заплакал горькой мукой
По Севастополю безрукий.
A cannonball of love aflame
Burst in Ignat's tender soul.
And, armless, now in bitter pain
He wept once more for Sevastopol.
According to Ada, at Marina’s funeral Demon and d’Onsky’s son, a person with only one arm, wept comme des fontaines:
‘Oh, I like you better with that nice overweight — there’s more of you. It’s the maternal gene, I suppose, because Demon grew leaner and leaner. He looked positively Quixotic when I saw him at Mother’s funeral. It was all very strange. He wore blue mourning. D’Onsky’s son, a person with only one arm, threw his remaining one around Demon and both wept comme des fontaines. Then a robed person who looked like an extra in a technicolor incarnation of Vishnu made an incomprehensible sermon. Then she went up in smoke. He said to me, sobbing: "I will not cheat the poor grubs!" Practically a couple of hours after he broke that promise we had sudden visitors at the ranch — an incredibly graceful moppet of eight, black-veiled, and a kind of duenna, also in black, with two bodyguards. The hag demanded certain fantastic sums — which Demon, she said, had not had time to pay, for "popping the hymen" — whereupon I had one of our strongest boys throw out vsyu (the entire) kompaniyu.’ (3.8)
In a letter to Van Ada calls the man who proposed to her and whom she eventually marries “my patient Valentinian” (2.5). In his memoir essay about Ilf Evgeniy Petrov (whose real name was Kataev and who died in an airplane crash) mentions his elder brother Valentin Kataev who wrote under the penname Starik Sobakin (Old Sobakin):
Как случилось, что мы с Ильфом стали писать вдвоём? Назвать это случайностью было бы слишком просто. Ильфа нет, и я никогда не узнаю, что думал он, когда мы начинали работать вместе. Я же испытывал по отношению к нему чувство огромного уважения, а иногда даже восхищения. Я был моложе его на пять лет, и, хотя он был очень застенчив, писал мало и никогда не показывал написанного, я готов был признать его своим метром. Его литературный вкус казался мне в то время безукоризненным, а смелость его мнений приводила меня в восторг. Но у нас был ещё один метр, так сказать, профессиональный метр. Это был мой брат, Валентин Катаев. Он в то время тоже работал в "Гудке" в качестве фельетониста и подписывался псевдонимом "Старик Собакин". И в этом качестве он часто появлялся в комнате четвёртой полосы. (3)
The name Sobakin comes from sobaka (dog) and brings to mind Fima Sobak, in Ilf and Petrov’s novel Dvenadtsat’ stuliev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) a friend of Ellochka the Cannibal. Ellochka Shchukin’s vocabulary consists of thirty words and short phrases. One of them, kho-kho (“expresses irony, surprise, delight, loathing, joy, contempt and satisfaction, according to the circumstances”), brings to mind khokhorony (misprinted pokhorony, “funeral”) in the telegram received by Olenka in Chekhov’s story Dushechka (“The Darling,” 1899):
Оленька и раньше получала телеграммы от мужа, но теперь почему-то так и обомлела. Дрожащими руками она распечатала телеграмму и прочла следующее: «Иван Петрович скончался сегодня скоропостижно сючала ждем распоряжений хохороны вторник».
Olenka had received telegrams from her husband before, but this time for some reason she felt numb with terror. With shaking hands she opened the telegram and read as follows: "IVAN PETROVITCH DIED SUDDENLY TO-DAY. AWAITING IMMATE INSTRUCTIONS FUFUNERAL TUESDAY."
In Ilf and Petrov’s novel Zolotoy telyonok (“The Golden Calf,” 1931) one of the chapters is entitled Telegramma ot bratyev Karamazovykh (“A Telegram from Brothers Karamazov”). “Brothers Karamazov” (1880) is a novel by Dostoevski. The telegram’s text, Gruzite apel’siny bochkakh (“Load oranges barrels”), brings to mind Ronald Oranger (old Van’s secretary). Ronald Oranger marries Violet Knox, Van’s beautiful typist who seems to be a Lesbian (5.4). One of the words in Fima Sobak’s rich vocabulary (180 words!) is gomoseksualizm (homosexuality). The name Sobak rhymes with Tobak (Cordula de Prey’s first husband, a friend of Andrey Vinelander). Describing his meeting with Cordula in Paris, Van mentions two unhappy poodlets:
A moment later, as happens so often in farces and foreign cities, Van ran into another friend. With a surge of delight he saw Cordula in a tight scarlet skirt bending with baby words of comfort over two unhappy poodlets attached to the waiting-post of a sausage shop. Van stroked her with his fingertips, and as she straightened up indignantly and turned around (indignation instantly replaced by gay recognition), he quoted the stale but appropriate lines he had known since the days his schoolmates annoyed him with them:
The Veens speak only to Tobaks
But Tobaks speak only to dogs. (3.2)
Actually, Van quotes these lines in Russian:
Viny govoryat lish’ s Tobakami,
a Tobaki govoryat lish’ s sobakami.
The name Tobak hints at tobacco. Chekhov is the author of two monologue scenes O vrede tabaka (“On the Harm of Tobacco,” 1886, 1903). According to Van, Andrey Vinelander was a heavy smoker:
Andrey had had a first copious hemorrhage while on a business trip to Phoenix sometime in August. A stubborn, independent, not overbright optimist, he had ascribed it to a nosebleed having gone the wrong way and concealed it from everybody so as to avoid ‘stupid talks.’ He had had for years a two-pack smoker’s fruity cough, but when a few days after that first ‘postnasal blood drip’ he spat a scarlet gob into his washbasin, he resolved to cut down on cigarettes and limit himself to tsigarki (cigarillos). The next contretemps occurred in Ada’s presence, just before they left for Europe; he managed to dispose of his bloodstained handkerchief before she saw it, but she remembered him saying’ Vot te na’ (well, that’s odd) in a bothered voice. Believing with most other Estotians that the best doctors were to be found in Central Europe, he told himself he would see a Zurich specialist whose name he got from a member of his ‘lodge’ (meeting place of brotherly moneymakers), if he again coughed up blood. The American hospital in Valvey, next to the Russian church built by Vladimir Chevalier, his granduncle, proved to be good enough for diagnosing advanced tuberculosis of the left lung. (3.8)
Anton Chekhov and Ilya Ilf died of tuberculosis. In his memoir essay about Ilf Petrov describes a scene in a New Orleans hotel when Ilf showed to him a blood-stained handkerchief:
Вечером, в гостинице, Ильф, морщась, сказал мне:
- Женя, я давно хотел поговорить с вами. Мне очень плохо. Уже дней десять как у меня болит грудь. Болит непрерывно, днем и ночью. Я никуда не могу уйти от этой боли. А сегодня, когда мы гуляли по кладбищу, я кашлянул и увидел кровь. Потом кровь была весь день. Видите?
Он кашлянул и показал мне платок.
Через год и три месяца 13 апреля 1937 года, в десять часов тридцать пять минут вечера Ильф умер. (1)
The action in Ada takes place on Demonia, Earth’s twin planet also known as Antiterra. One of the chapters in “The Twelve Chairs” is entitled Mezhduplanetnyi shakhmatnyi congress (“The Interplanetary Chess Tournament”). In his lecture in the Vasyuki chess club Ostap Bender promises that Vasyuki will be renamed New Moscow and Moscow will become Old Vasyuki:
— Не беспокойтесь, — сказал Остап, — мой проект гарантирует вашему городу неслыханный расцвет производительных сил. Подумайте, что будет, когда турнир окончится и когда уедут все гости. Жители Москвы, стеснённые жилищным кризисом, бросятся в ваш великолепный город. Столица автоматически переходит в Васюки. Сюда переезжает правительство. Васюки переименовываются в Нью-Москву, а Москва — в Старые Васюки. Ленинградцы и харьковчане скрежещут зубами, но ничего не могут поделать. Нью-Москва становится элегантнейшим центром Европы, а скоро и всего мира.
"Don't worry," continued Ostap, "my scheme will guarantee the town an unprecedented boom in your production forces. Just think what will happen when the tournament is over and the visitors have left. The citizens of Moscow, crowded together on account of the housing shortage, will come flocking to your beautiful town. The capital will be automatically transferred to Vasyuki. The government will move here. Vasyuki will be renamed New Moscow, and Moscow will become Old Vasyuki. The people of Leningrad and Kharkov will gnash their teeth in fury but won't be able to do a thing about it. New Moscow will soon become the most elegant city in Europe and, soon afterwards, in the whole world."
New Moscow brings to mind New York, a city known on Antiterra as Manhattan or simply Man. In Manhattan Demon smoothly passes in front of a slow-clopping horse-drawn vegetable cart, well out of the way of Mrs Arfour:
Van’s father had just left one Santiago to view the results of an earthquake in another, when Ladore Hospital cabled that Dan was dying. He set off at once for Manhattan, eyes blazing, wings whistling. He had not many interests in life.
At the airport of the moonlit white town we call Tent, and Tobakov’s sailors, who built it, called Palatka, in northern Florida, where owing to engine trouble he had to change planes, Demon made a long-distance call and received a full account of Dan’s death from the inordinately circumstantial Dr Nikulin (grandson of the great rodentiologist Kunikulinov — we can’t get rid of the lettuce). Daniel Veen’s life had been a mixture of the ready-made and the grotesque; but his death had shown an artistic streak because of its reflecting (as his cousin, not his doctor, instantly perceived) the man’s latterly conceived passion for the paintings, and faked paintings, associated with the name of Hieronymus Bosch.
Next day, February 5, around nine p.m., Manhattan (winter) time, on the way to Dan’s lawyer, Demon noted — just as he was about to cross Alexis Avenue, an ancient but insignificant acquaintance, Mrs Arfour, advancing toward him, with her toy terrier, along his side of the street. Unhesitatingly, Demon stepped off the curb, and having no hat to raise (hats were not worn with raincloaks and besides he had just taken a very exotic and potent pill to face the day’s ordeal on top of a sleepless journey), contented himself — quite properly — with a wave of his slim umbrella; recalled with a paint dab of delight one of the gargle girls of her late husband; and smoothly passed in front of a slow-clopping horse-drawn vegetable cart, well out of the way of Mrs R4. But precisely in regard to such a contingency, Fate had prepared an alternate continuation. As Demon rushed (or, in terms of the pill, sauntered) by the Monaco, where he had often lunched, it occurred to him that his son (whom he had been unable to ‘contact’) might still be living with dull little Cordula de Prey in the penthouse apartment of that fine building. He had never been up there — or had he? For a business consultation with Van? On a sun-hazed terrace? And a clouded drink? (He had, that’s right, but Cordula was not dull and had not been present.) (2.10)
Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): R4: ‘rook four,’ a chess indication of position (pun on the woman’s name). In “The Twelve Chairs” Mme Gritsatsuev (a passionate woman, a poet’s dream whom Ostap Bender marries in Stargorod) learns about her husband’s whereabouts because in Moscow Ostap was knocked down by a horse. The name of Bender’s wife brings to mind the Gritz mentioned by Van in the Flavita chapter of Ada:
The set [of Flavita] 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. (1.36)
At the beginning of the Flavita chapter Van mentions “poodle-doodles:”
Pedantic Ada once said that the looking up of words in a lexicon for any other needs than those of expression — be it instruction or art — lay somewhere between the ornamental assortment of flowers (which could be, she conceded, mildly romantic in a maidenly headcocking way) and making collage-pictures of disparate butterfly wings (which was always vulgar and often criminal). Per contra, she suggested to Van that verbal circuses, ‘performing words,’ ‘poodle-doodles,’ and so forth, might be redeemable by the quality of the brain work required for the creation of a great logogriph or inspired pun and should not preclude the help of a dictionary, gruff or complacent. (ibid.)
According to Van, Ada is a poor chess player:
Van, a first-rate chess player — he was to win in 1887 a match at Chose when he beat the Minsk-born Pat Rishin (champion of Underhill and Wilson, N.C.) — had been puzzled by Ada’s inability of raising the standard of her, so to speak, damsel-errant game above that of a young lady in an old novel or in one of those anti-dandruff color-photo ads that show a beautiful model (made for other games than chess) staring at the shoulder of her otherwise impeccably groomed antagonist across a preposterous traffic jam of white and scarlet, elaborately and unrecognizably carved, Lalla Rookh chessmen, which not even cretins would want to play with — even if royally paid for the degradation of the simplest thought under the itchiest scalp. (ibid.)
In VN’s novel Zashchita Luzhina (“The Luzhin Defense,” 1930) the German doctor forbids Luzhin (the chess maestro who suffered a nervous breakdown) to read Dostoevski, “because as in a terrible looking-glass…” The Antiterran L disaster in the beau milieu of the 19th century seems to correspond to the mock execution of Dostoevski and the Petrashevskians on Jan. 3, 1850 (NS), in our world. January 3, 1876, is Lucette’s birthday. The narrator and main character in Ada, Van Veen, is a psychiatrist. In “The Golden Calf” one of the chapters is entitled Yahrbuch für Psychoanalytik. The characters in “The Luzhin Defense” include Valentinov, Luzhin’s tutor and impresario. The great Scott (Marina’s impresario who engaged the services of the Russian dancers bringing them in two sleeping cars all the way from Belokonsk, 1.2) brings to mind Skotoprigonievsk, a city in which the action in “Brothers Karamazov” takes place.
The Antiterran name of Russian Scrabble, Flavita is an anagram of alfavit (alphabet). In “The Twelve Chairs” one of the chapters is entitled Alfavit – zerkalo zhizni (“The Mirror of Life Index”). As he speaks to Varfolomey Korobeynikov (the compiler of the Mirror of Life Index), Ostap Bender mentions Maupassant:
Остап, который к этому времени закончил свои наблюдения над Коробейниковым, решил, что «старик – типичная сволочь».
– Так вот, – сказал Остап.
– Так вот, – сказал архивариус, – трудно, но можно…
– Потребует расходов? – помог владелец мясохладобойни.
– Небольшая сумма…
– Ближе к телу, как говорил Мопассан. Сведения будут оплачены.
"A typical old bastard," decided Ostap, who had by then completed his observation of Korobeynikov.
"So there you are," said Ostap.
So there you are," said the record-keeper. "It's difficult, but possible."
"And it involves expense," suggested the refrigeration-plant owner helpfully.
"A small sum . . ."
"'Is nearer one's heart', as Maupassant used to say. The information will be paid for."
On Antiterra Maupassant is represented by Mlle Larivière, Lucette’s governess who writes fiction under the penname Guillaume de Monparnasse (sic, the leaving out of the ‘t’ made it more intime). Describing his first arrival at Ardis, Van mentions Mlle Larivière and her tiny poodlet:
Mlle Larivière suddenly looked at Van over her green spectacles — and he had to cope with another warm welcome. In contrast to Albert, she had not changed at all since the days she used to come three times a week to Dark Veen’s house in town with a bagful of books and the tiny, tremulous poodlet (now dead) that could not be left behind. It had glistening eyes like sad black olives. (1.5)
Baron Klim Avidov (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov) brings to mind Baron, a character in Gorky’s play Na dne (“At the Bottom,” 1902), and Zhizn’ Klima Samgina (“The Life of Klim Samgin,” 1925-36), Gorky’s novel in which the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch tremendously impress the protagonist. In “The Twelve Chairs” Ilf and Petrov mention Gorky who wrote a big novel:
Шаляпин пел. Горький писал большой роман. Капабланка готовился к матчу с Алехиным. Мельников рвал рекорды. Ассириец доводил штиблеты граждан до солнечного блеска. Авессалом Изнуренков - острил. Он никогда не острил бесцельно, ради красного словца. Он острил по заданиям юмористических журналов.
Chaliapin sang. Gorky wrote a big novel. Capablanca prepared for his match against Alekhine. Melnikov broke records. The Assyrian made citizens' shoes shine like mirrors. Absalom Iznurenkov made jokes. He never made them without reason, just for the effect. He made them to order for humorous journals. (chapter 23 “Absalom Vladimirovich Iznurenkov”)
The German doctor in “The Luzhin Defense” has a black Assyrian beard. It brings to mind the bearded peasant in Anna’s and Vronski’s nightmare in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin (1877). At the beginning of Ada Van turns inside out the opening sentence of Tolstoy’s novel. Describing his meetings with Ada in Switzerland, Van mentions Aleksey (Vronski) and Anna:
That meeting, and the nine that followed, constituted the highest ridge of their twenty-one-year-old love: its complicated, dangerous, ineffably radiant coming of age. The somewhat Italianate style of the apartment, its elaborate wall lamps with ornaments of pale caramel glass, its white knobbles that produced indiscriminately light or maids, the slat-eyes, veiled, heavily curtained windows which made the morning as difficult to disrobe as a crinolined prude, the convex sliding doors of the huge white ‘Nuremberg Virgin’-like closet in the hallway of their suite, and even the tinted engraving by Randon of a rather stark three-mast ship on the zigzag green waves of Marseilles Harbor — in a word, the alberghian atmosphere of those new trysts added a novelistic touch (Aleksey and Anna may have asterisked here!) which Ada welcomed as a frame, as a form, something supporting and guarding life, otherwise unprovidenced on Desdemonia, where artists are the only gods. When after three or four hours of frenetic love Van and Mrs Vinelander would abandon their sumptuous retreat for the blue haze of an extraordinary October which kept dreamy and warm throughout the duration of adultery, they had the feeling of still being under the protection of those painted Priapi that the Romans once used to set up in the arbors of Rufomonticulus. (3.8)
Desdemonia hints at Desdemona, Othello’s wife in Shakespeare’s Othello. In “The Twelve Chairs” Ilf and Petrov contrast Ellochka the Cannibal with Shakespeare:
Словарь Вильяма Шекспира, по подсчету исследователей, составляет 12000 слов. Словарь негра из людоедского племени «Мумбо-Юмбо» составляет 300 слов.
Эллочка Щукина легко и свободно обходилась тридцатью.
William Shakespeare's vocabulary has been estimated by the experts at twelve thousand words. The vocabulary of a Negro from the Mumbo Jumbo tribe amounts to three hundred words.
Ellochka Shchukin managed easily and fluently on thirty.
In “The Golden Calf” Zosya Sinitski compares Ostap Bender to Othello:
-- Честное слово, вы слишком любопытны! Нельзя быть таким Отелло!
-- Ей-богу, Зося, вы меня смешите. Разве я похож на старого глупого мавра?
“Honestly, you’re way too nosy. You shouldn’t be such an Othello!”
“For God’s sake, Zosya, you make me laugh. Do I look like a silly old Moor?” (Chapter 24 “The Weather was Right for Love”)