Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026854, Sun, 7 Feb 2016 18:43:38 +0300

patient Valentinian, Dr Krolik & his brother Karol in Ada
In a letter to Van Ada calls Andrey Vinelander, an Arizonian Russian who
proposed to her, “my patient Valentinian:”

'O dear Van, this is the last attempt I am making. You may call it a
document in madness or the herb of repentance, but I wish to come and live
with you, wherever you are, for ever and ever. If you scorn the maid at your
window I will aerogram my immediate acceptance of a proposal of marriage
that has been made to your poor Ada a month ago in Valentine State. He is an
Arizonian Russian, decent and gentle, not overbright and not fashionable.
The only thing we have in common is a keen interest in many military-looking
desert plants especially various species of agave, hosts of the larvae of
the most noble animals in America, the Giant Skippers (Krolik, you see, is
burrowing again). He owns horses, and Cubistic pictures, and "oil wells"
(whatever they are-our father in hell who has some too, does not tell me,
getting away with off-color allusions as is his wont). I have told my
patient Valentinian that I shall give him a definite answer after consulting
the only man I have ever loved or shall ever love. Try to ring me up
tonight. Something is very wrong with the Ladore line, but I am assured that
the trouble will be grappled with and eliminated before rivertide. Tvoya,
tvoya, tvoya (thine). A.' (2.5)

Arizona became a state on February 14 (St Valentine Day), 1912, that’s why
Ada calls it “Valentine State.” In a draft of his letter of Feb. 2 (Feb.
14, NS), 1830, to Karolina Sobanska Pushkin points out that today is St.
Valentine’s Day and the ninth anniversary of their first meeting. According
to Pushkin, that day decided his life:

C’est aujourd’hui [la S<aint> Va<lentin>], c’est le 9 anniversaire du
jour ou je vous ai vu pour la première fois. Ce jour a [de] décidé ma vie
― [pour<?>] C’est…

A year and a fortnight after writing this, on Feb. 18 (OS), 1831, Pushkin
married Natalia Goncharov.

Karolina Sobanska (born Rzewuska, 1894-1885) was the elder sister of Eveline
Hanska (1805-82) who in 1850 married Honoré de Balzac. In Chekhov’s play
Tri sestry (“The Three Sisters,” 1901), known on Antiterra as Four Sisters
(2.1, 2.9), Dr Chebutykin reads in a newspaper that Balzac got married in

Чебутыкин (читая газету). Бальзак венчалс
я в Бердичеве.

Ирина напевает тихо.

Даже запишу себе это в книжку. (Записывае
т.) Бальзак венчался в Бердичеве. (Читает г

Ирина (раскладывает пасьянс, задумчиво). Б
альзак венчался в Бердичеве.

CHEBUTYKIN. (Reading from a newspaper.) Balzac got married in Berdichev.

(Irina sings quietly.)

I must write that in my notebook. (He makes a note.) Balzac got married in
Berdichev. (He reads the newspaper.)

IRINA. (Thoughtfully, as she sets out the Patience.) Balzac got married in
Berdichev. (Act Two)

When Dr Chebutykin gets drunk, Masha’s husband Kulygin (the teacher of
classical languages) quotes a Latin saying:

Кулыгин (смеётся). Назюзюкался, Иван Роман
ыч! (Хлопает по плечу.) Молодец! In vino veritas, г
оворили древние.

KULYGIN. (Laughs.) You've had a good drop, Ivan Romanych! (Pats him on the
shoulder.) A fine fellow. In vino veritas, - as the ancients used to say.
(Act Three)

In Blok’s poem Neznakomka (Incognita, 1906), alluded to in Ada (3.3),
p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out:
In vino veritas! (“In wine is truth!”)

In her letter to Van Ada mentions Dr Krolik, her late teacher of natural
history and beloved entomologist who “is burrowing again.” Like Karolina
Sobanska and her sister, Dr Krolik is Polish:

And perhaps, worst of all, that time when she [Ada] stood fiddling with a
bunch of wild flowers, a gentle half-smile hanging back quite neutrally in
her eyes, her lips pursed, her head making imprecise little movements as if
punctuating with self-directed nods secret decisions and silent clauses in
some sort of contract with herself, with him, with unknown parties
hereinafter called Comfortless, Inutile, Unjust - while he indulged in a
brutal outburst triggered by her suggesting - quite sweetly and casually (as
she might suggest walking a little way on the edge of a bog to see if a
certain orchid was out) - that they visit the late Krolik's grave in a
churchyard by which they were passing - and he had suddenly started to shout
('You know I abhor churchyards, I despise, I denounce death, dead bodies are
burlesque, I refuse to stare at a stone under which a roly-poly old Pole is
rotting, let him feed his maggots in peace, the entomologies of death leave
me cold, I detest, I despise -'); he went on ranting that way for a couple
of minutes and then literally fell at her feet, kissing her feet, imploring
her pardon, and for a little while longer she kept gazing at him pensively.

“A roly-poly old Pole feeding his maggots in peace” hints at Polonius, in
Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1601) Ophelia’s father whom Hamlet kills by mistake.
In her letter to Van Ada makes several allusions to Shakespeare’s play and,
specifically, to Ophelia’s song:

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.

Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,

And dupped the chamber door.

Let in the maid that out a maid

Never departed more. (4.5)

Van believes that he was Ada’s first lover. Actually, Ada must have lost
her virginity to Dr Krolik’s brother Karol (note Karolina Sobanska) even
before she met Van:

'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

'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

'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)

Wann is German for “when” (Van imitates Marina’s mispronunciation of his

In a letter of about/not later than June 27, 1834, to his wife Pushkin calls
Smirnov (in 1845-51 the governor of Kaluga), whose wife just gave birth to
twins, krasnoglazyi krolik (a red-eyed rabbit):

Какова бабёнка, и каков красноглазый крол
ик Смирнов?

Smirnov's wife was a close friend of Gogol. Like Andersen, Gogol feared that
he will be buried alive. According to Ada, Dr. Krolik lay in his open coffin
as plump and pink as in vivo. (1.35)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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