NABOKV-L post 0027488, Wed, 30 Aug 2017 00:07:15 +0300

astorium in St Taurus, Aqua's hateful bidet & Lute in Ada
In VN’s novel Ada (1969) Van Veen tells about poor mad Aqua (the twin sister of Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother Marina) and calls Aqua’s last madhouse “a luxurious ‘sanastoria’ at Centaur, Arizona” and “the astorium in St Taurus:”

Still later, on the last short lap of a useless existence, Aqua scrapped all those ambiguous recollections and found herself reading and rereading busily, blissfully, her son’s letters in a luxurious ‘sanastoria’ at Centaur, Arizona…

The astorium in St Taurus, or whatever it was called (who cares — one forgets little things very fast, when afloat in infinite non-thingness) was, perhaps, more modem, with a more refined desertic view, than the Mondefroid bleakhouse horsepittle, but in both places a demented patient could outwit in one snap an imbecile pedant. (1.3)

In E. A. Poe’s story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether (1845) the demented patients manage to outwit the naïve narrator. In his Pinakidia (1836) E. A. Poe quotes the verses of Giovanni Cassini, the Italian astronomer who mentions (among other constellations) Taurus and Centaurus:

The peculiar zodiac of the comets is comprised in these verses of Cassini —

Antinous, Pegasusque, Andromeda, Taurus, Orion,

Procyon, atque Hydrus, Centaurus, Scorpius, Arcus. (Pin 006)

In “Pin-Introduction” E. A. Poe explains that Pinakidia means “Tablets:”

We have chosen the heading Pinakidia, or Tablets, as one sufficiently comprehensive. It was used, for a somewhat similar purpose, by Dionysius of Harlicarnassus.

In the next sentence of Ada Van mentions tablets:

In less than a week Aqua had accumulated more than two hundred tablets of different potency. She knew most of them — the jejune sedatives, and the ones that knocked you out from eight p.m. till midnight, and several varieties of superior soporifics that left you with limpid limbs and a leaden head after eight hours of non-being, and a drug which was in itself delightful but a little lethal if combined with a draught of the cleansing fluid commercially known as Morona; and a plump purple pill reminding her, she had to laugh, of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale (dear to Ladore schoolgirls) puts to sleep all the sportsmen and all their bloodhounds at the opening of the hunting season. (1.3)

In The Enchanted Hunters (a hotel in Briceland where HH and Lolita spend their first night together) Humbert Humbert (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Lolita, 1955) puts to sleep Lolita with Papa’s Purple Pills:

When the dessert was plunked down — a huge wedge of cherry pie for the young lady and vanilla ice cream her protector, most of which she expeditiously added to her pie — I produced a small vial containing Papa's Purple Pills. As I look back at those seasick murals, at that strange and monstrous moment, I can only explain my behavior then by the mechanism of that dream vacuum wherein revolves a deranged mind; but at the time, it all seemed quite simple and inevitable to me. I glanced around, satisfied myself that the last diner had left, removed the stopped, and with the utmost deliberation tipped the philter into my palm. I had carefully rehearsed before a mirror the gesture of clapping my empty hand to my open mouth and swallowing a (fictitious) pill. As I expected, she pounced upon the vial with its plump, beautifully colored capsules loaded with Beauty's Sleep.
"Blue!" she exclaimed. "Violet blue. What are they made of?"
"Summer skies," I said, "and plums and figs, and the grapeblood of emperors."
"No, seriously — please."
"Oh, just Purpills. Vitamin X. Makes one strong as an ox or an ax. Want to try one?"
Lolita stretched out her hand, nodding vigorously. (1.27)

A leitmotif in Lolita are the opening lines of E. A. Poe’s poem Annabel Lee (1849):

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea.

Humbert Humbert first love was Annabel Leigh. According to HH, the maiden name of Annabel’s mother was Vanessa van Ness (1.3). Hotel Mirana owned by HH’s father brings to mind Demon Veen’s villa Armina (1.2, et passim). According to HH, his father read to him Don Quixote and Les Misarables (1.2).

On Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) VN’s Lolita is known as The Gitanilla, a novel by the Spanish writer Osberg:

For the big picnic on Ada’s twelfth birthday and Ida’s forty-second jour de fête, the child was permitted to wear her lolita (thus dubbed after the little Andalusian gipsy of that name in Osberg’s novel and pronounced, incidentally, with a Spanish ‘t,’ not a thick English one), a rather long, but very airy and ample, black skirt, with red poppies or peonies, ‘deficient in botanical reality,’ as she grandly expressed it, not yet knowing that reality and natural science are synonymous in the terms of this, and only this, dream. (1.13)

‘Van,’ said Lucette, ‘it will make you smile’ (it did not: that prediction is seldom fulfilled), ‘but if you posed the famous Van Question, I would answer in the affirmative.’

What he had asked little Cordula. In that bookshop behind the revolving paperbacks’ stand, The Gitanilla, Our Laddies, Clichy Clichés, Six Pricks, The Bible Unabridged, Mertvago Forever, The Gitanilla… He was known in the beau monde for asking that question the very first time he met a young lady. (2.5)

La Gitanilla (“The Little Gipsy Girl,” 1613) is a novella by Cervantes. In Pinakidia (and later in his story How to Write a Blackwood Article, 1838) E. A. Poe quotes an epigram by Cervantes:

A fine sample of galimatias is to be found in an epigram of Miguel de Cervantes:

Van muerte tan escondida,

Que no te sienta venir;

Porque el plazer del morir

No me tomne a dar la vida. (Pin 112)

“Come quickly, O death! but be sure and don’t let me see you coming, lest the pleasure I shall feel at your appearance should unfortunately bring me back again to life.”

According to Van, Aqua was afraid that some busybody would bring her back to life:

Lest some busybody resurrect her in the middle of the float-away process, Aqua reckoned she must procure for herself a maximum period of undisturbed stupor elsewhere than in a glass house, and the carrying out of that second part of the project was simplified and encouraged by another agent or double of the Isère Professor, a Dr Sig Heiler whom everybody venerated as a great guy and near-genius in the usual sense of near-beer. (1.3)

A Russian word for “rubbish, nonsense,” galimat’ya comes from galimatias. In a footnote to his review of Polevoy’s Istoriya russkogo naroda (“The History of the Russian People,” 1829) Pushkin quotes a line from Dmitriev’s epigram on Count Khvostov: poydut v primer galimat’yi (will be an example of rubbish):

Выписки, коими наполнена сия статья, в самом деле пойдут в пример галиматьи; но и самый текст почти от них не отличается.

Dmitriev’s epigram (1810) on Khvostov begins as follows:

Подзобок на груди и, подогнув колена…

With his chin on his breast and his knees bent…

According to Sig Heiler, Aqua’s dead body lay, as if buried prehistorically, in a fetus-in-utero position:

She was discovered much sooner, but had also died much faster than expected, and the observant Siggy, still in his baggy khaki shorts, reported that Sister Aqua (as for some reason they all called her) lay, as if buried prehistorically, in a fetus-in-utero position, a comment that seemed relevant to his students, as it may be to mine. (1.3)

In a letter of November 18, 1831, to Yazykov Pushkin quotes the lines from Khvostov’s epistle to him in which the author says that he became soyuznik Zodiaku (zodiac’s ally):

Хвостов написал мне послание, где он помолодел и тряхнул стариной. Он говорит:

Приближася похода к знаку,
Я стал союзник Зодиаку;
Холеры не любя пилюль,
Я пел при старости июль

и проч. в том же виде. Собираюсь достойно отвечать союзнику Водолея, Рака и Козерога. В прочем всё у нас благополучно.

According to Pushkin, he plans to reply to the ally of Aquarius, Cancer and Capricorn. There is Aqua in Aquarius. Aqua’s twin sister Marina dies of cancer (3.1). Marina’s affair with Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) started on January 5, 1868:

Marina’s affair with Demon Veen started on his, her, and Daniel Veen’s birthday, January 5, 1868, when she was twenty-four and both Veens thirty. (1.2)

Like their parents, Van (who was born on January 1, 1870) and Lucette (who was born on January 3, 1876) are Capricorns by horoscope. Ada was born on July 21, 1872. In VN’s novel Pale Fire (1962) Gradus kills Shade on July 21, 1959. Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ birthday is July 5 (Shade was born in 1898, Kinbote and Gradus were born in 1915). Botkin (Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name) writes Pale Fire (at least, the Commentary, Index and Foreword to Shade’s poem) in a madhouse and completes his work on Oct. 19, 1959 (the Lyceum anniversary). In his epistle to Pushkin Khvostov says that in his old age he sang July (ya pel pri starosti iyul’) and rhymes iyul’ (July) with pilyul’ (Gen. pl. of pilyulya, “pill”). According to Pushkin, Khvostov tryakhnul starinoy (has harked back to days of yore) in his verses. As she speaks to Van, Lucette uses the phrase tryakhnuvshikh starinoy:

‘Kak-to noch’yu (one night), when Andrey was away having his tonsils removed or something, dear watchful Dorochka went to investigate a suspicious noise in my maid’s room and found poor Brigitte fallen asleep in the rocker and Ada and me tryahnuvshih starinoy (reshaking old times) on the bed. That’s when I told Dora I would not stand her attitude, and immediately left for Monarch Bay.’ (3.3)

This conversation takes place at the beginning of June, 1901, in Lute (as Paris is also known on Antiterra). Andrey Vinelander (Ada’s husband) is an Arizonian Russian. His sister Dorothy (Dora) eventually marries a Mr. Brod or Bred (3.8). In “War and Peace” (1869) Tolstoy mentions Krymski Brod (a street in Moscow). Bred (“Delirium,” 1955) is a novel by Aldanov. In his novel Peshchera (“The Cave,” 1932) Aldanov mentions Wallenstein’s horoscope composed by Kepler (a German astronomer). In his Table Talk (1830-36) Pushkin mentions the horoscope of poor Ivan VI composed by Leonhard Euler (a Swiss mathematician who lived in St. Petersburg). In Ada Van pairs Euler with Pushkin:

The year 1880 (Aqua was still alive — somehow, somewhere!) was to prove to be the most retentive and talented one in his long, too long, never too long life. He was ten. His father had lingered in the West where the many-colored mountains acted upon Van as they had on all young Russians of genius. He could solve an Euler-type problem or learn by heart Pushkin’s ‘Headless Horseman’ poem in less than twenty minutes. (1.28)

In “The Bronze Horseman” (1833) Pushkin describes the disastrous Neva flood of November, 1824, and mentions Count Khvostov, a poet beloved by the heavens, who in immortal verses already sang the misfortune of the Neva’s banks:

Граф Хвостов,
Поэт, любимый небесами,
Уж пел бессмертными стихами
Несчастье невских берегов. (Part II)

In a letter of (not earlier than) November 20, 1824, from Mikhaylovskoe (Pushkin’s country seat in the Province of Pskov) to his brother Lyov in St. Petersburg Pushkin quips that the flood is a good occasion for the ladies de faire bidet:

Что это у вас? потоп! ничто проклятому Петербургу! voilà une belle occasion à vos dames de faire bidet.

Describing poor Aqua’s torments, Van mentions her hateful bidet:

Bathwater (or shower) was too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly — or perhaps was too brutally anxious to emit the hot torrent and get rid of the infernal ardor — to bother about small talk; but the burbly flowlets grew more and more ambitious and odious, and when at her first ‘home’ she heard one of the most hateful of the visiting doctors (the Cavalcanti quoter) garrulously pour hateful instructions in Russian-lapped German into her hateful bidet, she decided to stop turning on tap water altogether. (1.3)

In the same letter of Nov., 1824, Pushkin asks his brother “is there a Noah among you who would plant grapes:”

Что погреба? признаюсь, и по них сердце болит. Не найдётся ли между вами Ноя, для насаждения винограда?

Vinograd (grapes) mentioned by Pushkin brings to mind Andrey Vinelander and Vinogradus (as in his Commentary Kinbote mockingly calls Gradus). According to Van, the fabulous ancestor of Ada’s husband “discovered our country” (5.6). In a manuscript note Pushkin compares Karamzin (the author of the twelve-volume “History of the Russian State”) to Columbus:

Древняя Россия, казалось, найдена Карамзиным, как Америка — Коломбом.

In his (negative) review of Polevoy’s “History of the Russian People” Pushkin contrasts Polevoy’s work with that of Karamzin:

Карамзин есть первый наш историк и последний летописец. Своею критикой он принадлежит истории, простодушием и апофегмами хронике. Критика его состоит в учёном сличении преданий, в остроумном изыскании истины, в ясном и верном изображении событий. Нет ни единой эпохи, ни единого важного происшествия, которые не были бы удовлетворительно развиты Карамзиным.

Lute (short of Lutece, the ancient name of Paris) sounds like lyut (short form of lyutyi, “furious”). According to Gogol, Pushkin wept when he heard for the first time Yazykov’s verses about the Great Moscow Fire, lyut pozhar Moskvy revyot (“the furious Moscow fire is roaring”). Pushkin (born June 6, 1799, NS) was Gemini by horoscope. Van’s and Ada’s half-sister Lucette commits suicide (drowns herself in the Atlantic) on June 4, 1901.

Gemini + Nord/Dorn = Erminin + god/dog = Gremin + Odin/odin

Gemini – Lat., twins

Nord – North; cf. Elsie de Nord, a vulgar literary demimondaine who thought that Lyovin (a character in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin) went about Moscow in nagol’nyi tulup (1.10)

Dorn – Dr Dorn, a character in Chekhov’s play Chayka (“The Seagull,” 1896)

Erminin – the Erminin twind, Greg (whom Van also meets in Lute) and Grace (who marries a Wellington, 2.6)

god – Russ., year

Gremin – Prince Gremin, the name of Tatiana’s husband in Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin; cf. “The next outstretched hand belonged to a handsome, tall, remarkably substantial and cordial nobleman who could be none other than the Prince Gremin of the preposterous libretto, and whose strong honest clasp made Van crave for a disinfecting fluid to wash off contact with any of her husband’s public parts.” (3.8)

Odin – a god in North mythology

odin – alone; cf. ‘Mozhno pridti teper’ (can I come now)?’ asked Lucette. ‘Ya ne odin (I’m not alone),’ answered Van. A small pause followed; then she hung up. (3.5)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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