NABOKV-L post 0026922, Sat, 26 Mar 2016 14:52:44 +0300

bad dreams & Four Sisters in Ada
According to Dorothy Vinelander (Ada’s sister-in-law), for Van’s patients to have bad dreams is a zhidovskaya prerogativa [Jewish prerogative]. (3.8)

Ya vizhu durnoy son (I have a bad dream) is a line in Mandelshtam’s poem Segodnya durnoy den’… (“Today is a bad day…” 1911). In her memoirs Na beregakh Nevy (“Upon the Neva’s Banks,” 1967) Irina Odoevtsev (the widow of G. Ivanov, the editor of the Numbers magazine in which Ivanov published his abusive article on Sirin) writes that Gumilyov was mentally repeating this poem to the rhythm of the wheels, when a Red Army soldier who stood behind him in the platform of a railway carriage suddenly said aloud: “today is a bad day:”

— А со мной, когда я ехал к ним, странный случай произошёл. Вы ведь на Званку ездите и знаете, какая теснота, мерзость и давка в поезде. В купе набилось тринадцать человек — дышать нечем. До тошноты. К тому ж я терпеть не могу число тринадцать. Да ещё под Рождество, в Сочельник. Вот я с трудом, через мешки и сидящих на них мешочников, и пробрался на площадку.

Холод волчий. Окно всё в узорах, заледенело, ничего сквозь него не видно. Я подышал на стекло и стал смотреть в оттаявшую дырку на серое небо, на белый снег и чёрные деревья. Как, помните, у Андерсена Кай в сказке «Ледяное сердце».

Колёса стучат та-та, та-та-та! Та. — Однообразно, ритмично. И я совсем машинально, не думая ни о чём, стал повторять про себя строчки Мандельштама:

Сегодня дурной день,

Кузнечиков хор спит…

ведь тот же ритм, как и стук колёс. Повторяю ещё и ещё:

Сегодня дурной день…

И чувствую, — я ведь очень нервный, — за мной стоит кто-то. Оборачиваюсь — высоченный красноармеец через моё плечо смотрит в надышанное мною, оттаявшее пятно на оконном стекле. И вдруг он, не меняя позы, продолжая смотреть на снежные поля и деревья, громко и раздельно произносит:

— Сегодня дурной день.

Больше ничего. Потом широко зевнул, повернулся и ушёл.

According to Gumilyov, there were thirteen people in his train’s compartment and he always hated the number 13. In his poem Pamyati Annenskogo (“In Memory of Annenski,” 1916) Gumilyov calls Innokentiy Annenski “the last swan of Tsarskoe Selo” (in VN’s story Lips to Lips, 1931, Euphratski quotes Gumilyov’s words to Ilya Borisovich, the writer who signed his novel “I. Annenski”). In Merezhkovski’s essay Ubiytsa lebedey (“The Slayer of Swans,” 1916) there are thirteen swans.

Annenski is the author of two collections of literary essays: Kniga otrazheniiy (“A Book of Reflections,” 1906) and Vtoraya kniga otrazheniy (“The Second Book of Reflections,” 1909). Van Veen is the author of Reflections in Sidra (Ardis backwards). According to Ada, it was Dorothy Vinelander who showed her Van’s book:

I have just read Reflections in Sidra, by Ivan Veen, and I regard it as a grand piece, dear Professor. The 'lost shafts of destiny' and other poetical touches reminded me of the two or three times you had tea and muffins at our place in the country about twenty years ago. I was, you remember (presumptuous phrase!), a petite fille modèle practicing archery near a vase and a parapet and you were a shy schoolboy (with whom, as my mother guessed, I may have been a wee bit in love!), who dutifully picked up the arrows I lost in the lost shrubbery of the lost castle of poor Lucette's and happy, happy Adette's childhood, now a 'Home for Blind Blacks' - both my mother and L., I'm sure, would have backed Dasha's advice to turn it over to her Sect. Dasha, my sister-in-law (you must meet her soon, yes, yes, yes, she's dreamy and lovely, and lots more intelligent than I), who showed me your piece, asks me to add she hopes to 'renew' your acquaintance - maybe in Switzerland, at the Bellevue in Mont Roux, in October. I think you once met pretty Miss 'Kim' Blackrent, well, that's exactly dear Dasha's type. She is very good at perceiving and pursuing originality and all kinds of studies which I can't even name! She finished Chose (where she read History - our Lucette used to call it 'Sale Histoire,' so sad and funny!). For her you're le beau ténébreux, because once upon a time, once upon libellula wings, not long before my marriage, she attended - I mean at that time, I'm stuck in my 'turnstyle' - one of your public lectures on dreams, after which she went up to you with her latest little nightmare all typed out and neatly clipped together, and you scowled darkly and refused to take it. Well, she's been after Uncle Dementiy to have him admonish le beau ténébreux to come to Mont Roux Bellevue Hotel, in October, around the seventeenth, I guess, and he only laughs and says it's up to Dashenka and me to arrange matters. (3.7)

In Mont Roux Van puts up at Les Trois Cygnes (The Three Swans). Van meets Ada, her husband and sister-in-law in Bellevue Hotel where they have dinner with Yuzlik (the director of Don Juan’s Last Fling, the film in which Ada played the gitanilla, 3.5) and two agents of Lemorio (3.8). The conversation at table parodies Chekhov’s mannerisms (Darkbloom, ‘Notes to Ada’). In Chekhov’s play Tri sestry (“The Three Sisters,” 1901) there are thirteen people at table:

Маша. У лукоморья дуб зелёный, златая цепь на дубе том... Златая цепь на дубе том... (Плаксиво.) Ну, зачем я это говорю? Привязалась ко мне эта фраза с самого утра...

Кулыгин. Тринадцать за столом!
Родэ (громко). Господа, неужели вы придаете значение предрассудкам?
Кулыгин. Если тринадцать за столом, то, значит, есть тут влюбленные. Уж не вы ли, Иван Романович, чего доброго...

MASHA. By the sea-shore an oak-tree green. . . . Upon that oak a chain of gold. . . [Tearfully] Why do I keep saying that? That phrase has been haunting me all day…

KULYGIN. Thirteen at table!

RODE [loudly]. Surely you don't attach importance to such superstitions? [Laughter]

KULYGIN. If there are thirteen at table, it means that someone present is in love. It's not you, Ivan Romanovich, by any chance? (Act One)

On Antiterra Chekhov’s play is known as Four Sisters (2.1, et passim). But the title of an abridged version in which Ada played Irina could have been The Three Sisters:

The beginning of Ada's limelife in 1891 happened to coincide with the end of her mother's twenty-five-year-long career. What is more, both appeared in Chekhov's Four Sisters. Ada played Irina on the modest stage of the Yakima Academy of Drama in a somewhat abridged version which, for example, kept only the references to Sister Varvara, the garrulous originalka ('odd female' - as Marsha calls her) but eliminated her actual scenes, so that the title of the play might have been The Three Sisters, as indeed it appeared in the wittier of the local notices. It was the (somewhat expanded) part of the nun that Marina acted in an elaborate film version of the play; and the picture and she received a goodly amount of undeserved praise. (2.9)

4 + 3 = 7. At the dinner in Bellevue Hotel there are seven people at table.

In his essay Vlast’ idey (“The Power of Ideas,” 1905), a review of Merezhkovski’s book “Tolstoy and Dostoevski” (1902), Lev Shestov mentions Chekhov:

Разумеется, возможен и третий выход: нисколько не заботясь о читателях, прямо высказывать всё, что ты думаешь. Но в настоящее время, кроме А. Чехова, нет ни одного человека, который бы имел достаточно внутренней веры, религиозности, чтобы не побояться принять такое предложение. (III)

According to Shestov, Chekhov is the only contemporary writer who has enough inner faith and religiousness in order to speak outright what he thinks without caring about the reader.

The name Shestov comes from shest’ (six). 7 + 6 = 13

The title of Shestov’s essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (“Creation from Nothing,” 1905), brings to mind Annenski’s penname Nik. T-o (Nobody). Annenski chose his penname after Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey who calls himself Outis (“Nobody”) in order to deceive Polyphemus (the Cyclops). In his essay on Annenski Khodasevich points this out and compares Annenski (who had an incurable heart disease) to the main character of Tolstoy’s story Smert’ Ivana Ilyicha (“The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” 1886). Golova being Russian for “head,” the name Veen (of almost all of Ada’s main characters) looks like beheaded Golovin (in Tolstoy’s story, Ivan Ilyich’s surname). On the other hand, veen means in Dutch what Neva does in Finnish: “peat bog.”

Shestov’s essay on Chekhov has for epigraph a line from Baudelaire’s poem Le Goût du néant (“The Taste for Nothingness”):

Résigne-toi, mon cœur, dors ton sommeil de brute.

Resign yourself, my heart; sleep your brutish sleep.

Shestov repeats this line several times in his article and ends his piece with it:

Спокойно обдумывать, предугадывать будущее — нельзя! Нужно колотиться, без конца колотиться головой о стену. К чему это приведёт? И приведёт ли к чему-нибудь? Конец это или начало? Можно видеть в этом залог нового, нечеловеческого творчества, творчества из ничего? “Не знаю”, ответил старый профессор рыдающей Кате. Не знаю, — отвечал Чехов всем рыдающим и замученным людям. Этими — и только этими словами можно закончить статью о Чехове. Résigne-toi, mon cœur, dors ton sommeil de brute.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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