Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025087, Sat, 15 Feb 2014 17:06:38 +0300

female heads & flowers in Ada
'How could I get in touch with you?' he [Van] asked. 'Would you come to Riverlane? Are you a virgin?'
'I don't date hoodlums,' she [Cordula] 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.'
In his next coded letter to Ada Van inquired if Cordula might not be the lezbianochka mentioned by Ada with such unnecessary guilt. I would as soon be jealous of your own little hand. (1.27)

Van later finds out the name of the girl who used to make constant passes at Grace Erminin and Ada: Vanda Broom. According to Cordula, Vanda is "a regular tribadka" (1.43). Ada, Cordula and Vanda are the names of orchids (Ada's favorite flower). With this in mind, let me quote again Chekhov's letter of 27 March 1894 to Lika Mizinov:

I am in Yalta and I am dreary, very dreary indeed. The aristocracy, so to call it, are performing "Faust," and I go to the rehearsals and there I enjoy the spectacle of a perfect flower-bed of black, red, flaxen, and brown heads.

In 1901 Chekhov married Olga Knipper, a leading actress of the the Moscow Art Theater. In her old age Ada suggests that, if she dies first, Van should marry his typist Violet Knox:

One solution would be for you to marry Violet.
'Thank you. J'ai tate de deux tribades dans ma vie, ca suffit. Dear Emile says "terme qu'on evite d'employer." How right he is!' (5.6)

Ada calls Violet (an enchanting blonde) "Fialochka" (little Violet):

Violet Knox [now Mrs Ronald Oranger. Ed.], born in 1940, came to live with us in 1957. She was (and still is - ten years later) an enchanting English blonde with doll eyes, a velvet carnation and a tweed-cupped little rump [.....]; but such designs, alas, could no longer flesh my fancy. She has been responsible for typing out this memoir - the solace of what are, no doubt, my last ten years of existence. A good daughter, an even better sister, and half-sister, she had supported for ten years her mother's children from two marriages, besides laying aside [something]. I paid her [generously] per month, well realizing the need to ensure unembarrassed silence on the part of a puzzled and dutiful maiden. Ada called her 'Fialochka' and allowed herself the luxury of admiring 'little Violet' 's cameo neck, pink nostrils, and fair pony-tail. (5.4)

"Dear Emile" (mileyshiy Emile, 1.17) is Emile Littre, a French lexicographer. Botanically minded Ada calls his Russian colleague, Vladimir Dahl, "my darling dahlia" (1.36)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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