infinite fractions of solitude in Ada, Rodnaya Zembla in Pale Fire

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Sun, 12/09/2018 - 08:41

Describing the suicide of his and Ada’s half-sister Lucette, Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) says that death is only a more complete assortment of the infinite fractions of solitude:


The sky was also heartless and dark, and her body, her head, and particularly those damned thirsty trousers, felt clogged with Oceanus Nox, n,o,x. At every slap and splash of cold wild salt, she heaved with anise-flavored nausea and there was an increasing number, okay, or numbness, in her neck and arms. As she began losing track of herself, she thought it proper to inform a series of receding Lucettes — telling them to pass it on and on in a trick-crystal regression — that what death amounted to was only a more complete assortment of the infinite fractions of solitude. (3.5)


According to Kinbote (in VN’s novel Pale Fire, 1962, Shade’s mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla), solitude is the playfield of Satan:


Often, almost nightly, throughout the spring of 1959, I had feared for my life. Solitude is the playfield of Satan. I cannot describe the depths of my loneliness and distress. There was naturally my famous neighbor just across the lane, and at one time I took in a dissipated young roomer (who generally came home long after midnight). Yet I wish to stress that cold hard core of loneliness which is not good for a displaced soul. Everybody knows how given to regicide Zemblans are: two Queens, three Kings, and fourteen pretenders died violent deaths, strangled, stabbed, poisoned, and drowned, in the course of only one century (1700-1800). The Goldsworth castle became particularly solitary after that turning point at dusk which resembles so much the nightfall of the mind. Stealthy rustles, the footsteps of yesteryear leaves, an idle breeze, a dog touring the garbage cans - everything sounded to me like a bloodthirsty prowler. I kept moving from window to window, my silk nightcap drenched with sweat, my bared breast a thawing pond, and sometimes, armed with the judge's shotgun, I dared beard the terrors of the terrace. I suppose it was then, on those masquerading spring nights with the sounds of new life in the trees cruelly mimicking the cracklings of old death in my brain, I suppose it was then, on those dreadful nights, that I got used to consulting the windows of my neighbor's house in the hope for a gleam of comfort (see notes to lines 47-48). What would I not have given for the poet's suffering another heart attack (see line 691 and note) leading to my being called over to their house, all windows ablaze, in the middle of the night, in a great warm burst of sympathy, coffee, telephone calls, Zemblan herbal receipts (they work wonders!), and a resurrected Shade weeping in my arms ("There, there, John"). But on those March nights their house was as black as a coffin. And when physical exhaustion and the sepulchral cold drove me at last upstairs to my solitary double bed, I would lie awake and breathless - as if only now living consciously through those perilous nights in my country, where at any moment, a company of jittery revolutionists might enter and hustle me off to a moonlit wall. The sound of a rapid car or a groaning truck would come as a strange mixture of friendly life's relief and death's fearful shadow: would that shadow pull up at my door? Were those phantom thugs coming for me? Would they shoot me at once - or would they smuggle the chloroformed scholar back to Zembla, Rodnaya Zembla, to face there a dazzling decanter and a row of judges exulting in their inquisitorial chairs?

At times I thought that only by self-destruction could I hope to cheat the relentlessly advancing assassins who were in me, in my eardrums, in my pulse, in my skull, rather than on that constant highway looping up over me and around my heart as I dozed off only to have my sleep shattered by that drunken, impossible, unforgettable Bob's return to Candida's or Dee's former bed. As briefly mentioned in the foreword, I finally threw him out; after which for several nights neither wine, nor music, nor prayer could allay my fears. On the other hand, those mellowing spring days were quite sufferable, my lectures pleased everybody, and I made a point of attending all the social functions available to me. But after the gay evening there came again the insidious approach, the oblique shuffle, that creeping up, and that pause, and the resumed crepitation. (note to Line 62)


Rodnaya Zembla is a play on rodnaya zemlya (native land). In the opening line of his poem Gerb (“The Blazon,” 1925) VN mentions zemlya rodnaya (my native land):


Лишь отошла земля родная,

в солёной тьме дохнул норд-ост,

как меч алмазный, обнажая

средь облаков стремнину звёзд.


Мою тоску, воспоминанья

клянусь я царственно беречь

с тех пор, как принял герб изгнанья:

на чёрном поле звёздный меч.


As soon as my native land had receded

in the briny dark the northeaster struck,

like a sword of diamond revealing

among the clouds a chasm of stars.


My yearning ache, my recollections

I swear to preserve with royal care

ever since I adopted the blazon of exile:

on a field of sable a starry sword.


In VN’s play Izobretenie Val’sa (“The Waltz Invention,” 1938) the name of one of the eleven generals is Gerb. The action in “The Waltz Invention” seems to take place in a dream that Lyubov’, Troshcheykin’s wife in VN’s play Sobytie (“The Event,” 1938), dreams in the “sleep of death” after committing suicide on her dead son’s fifth birthday (two days after her mother’s fiftieth birthday). The main character in “The Event,” the portrait painter Troshcheykin (who fears assassination and is mortally afraid of the killer Barbashin) forgets the proverb ne tak strashen chyort kak ego malyuyut ("the devil is not as terrible as he is painted") and does not recognize the devil when he appears in disguise of the farcical private detective Barboshin. The name of Troshcheykin’s wife means “love” and brings to mind a line in Chapter Four (XXI: 14) of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, lyubov'yu shutit satana (with love jokes Satan):


Зато любовь красавиц нежных
Надёжней дружбы и родства:
Над нею и средь бурь мятежных
Вы сохраняете права.
Конечно так. Но вихорь моды,
Но своенравие природы,
Но мненья светского поток...
А милый пол, как пух, легок.
К тому ж и мнения супруга
Для добродетельной жены
Всегда почтенны быть должны;
Так ваша верная подруга
Бывает вмиг увлечена:
Любовью шутит сатана.


As to the love of tender beauties,

'tis surer than friendship or kin:

even mid restless tempests you retain

rights over it.

No doubt, so. But one has to reckon

with fashion's whirl, with nature's waywardness,

with the stream of the monde's opinion —

while the sweet sex is light as fluff.

Moreover, the opinions of her husband

should by a virtuous wife

be always honored;

your faithful mistress thus

may in a trice be swept away:

with love jokes Satan.


At her birthday party Antonina Pavlovna (Lyubov’s mother in “The Event”) tells Eleonora Schnap (Lyubov’s former mid-wife) that she has two daughters, Lyubov’ (Love) and Vera (Faith) – but, alas, no Nadezhda (Hope):


Антонина Павловна. Это моя дочь Вера. Любовь, вы, конечно, знаете, моего зятя тоже, а Надежды у меня нет.
Элеонора Шнап. Божмой! Неужели безнадежно?
Антонина Павловна. Да, ужасно безнадежная семья. (Смеётся.) А до чего мне хотелось иметь маленькую Надю с зелёными глазками. (Act Two)


An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus (Shade’s murderer) after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbote’s Commentary). Kinbote completes his work on Shade's poem and commits suicide on Oct. 19, 1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin’s Lyceum). There is nadezhda (a hope) that after Kinbote’s death Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin's epigrams, “half-milord, half-merchant, etc.”), will be full again.


In Chapter Three (XXVI) of EO Pushkin mentions rodnaya zemlya and damskaya lyubov’ (a lady’s love):


Ещё предвижу затрудненья:
Родной земли спасая честь,
Я должен буду, без сомненья,
Письмо Татьяны перевесть.
Она по-русски плохо знала,
Журналов наших не читала
И выражалася с трудом
На языке своём родном,
Итак, писала по-французски...
Что делать! повторяю вновь:
Доныне дамская любовь
Не изьяснялася по-русски,
Доныне гордый наш язык
К почтовой прозе не привык.


Another problem I foresee:

saving the honor of my native land,

undoubtedly I shall have to translate

Tatiana's letter. She

knew Russian badly,

did not read our reviews,

and in her native tongue expressed herself

with difficulty. So,

she wrote in French.

What's to be done about it! I repeat again;

as yet a lady's love

has not expressed itself in Russian,

as yet our proud tongue has not got accustomed

to postal prose.


By translating EO into English VN saved the honor of his native land. Pushkin's pochtovaya proza (postal prose) brings to mind VN’s “honest roadside prose” in the first of the two stanzas of VN’s poem On Translating "Eugene Onegin" (1955) written after the meter and rhyme scheme of the EO stanza:


What is translation? On a platter
A poets pale and glaring head,
A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,
And profanation of the dead.
The parasites you were so hard on
Are pardoned if I have your pardon,
O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:
I traveled down your secret stem,
And reached the root, and fed upon it;
Then, in a language newly learned,
I grew another stalk and turned
Your stanza patterned on a sonnet,
Into my honest roadside prose--
All thorn, but cousin to your rose.


According to Kinbote, Sybil Shade (the poet’s wife) used to call him “the monstrous parasite of a genius:”


From the very first I tried to behave with the utmost courtesy toward my friend's wife, and from the very first she disliked and distrusted me. I was to learn later that when alluding to me in public she used to call me "an elephantine tick; a king-sized botfly; a macaco worm; the monstrous parasite of a genius." I pardon her--her and everybody. (note to Line 247)


In a conversation at the Faculty Club Professor Pardon (American History) asks Kinbote if his name is an anagram of Botkin or Botkine:


Professor Pardon now spoke to me: "I was under the impression that you were born in Russia, and that your name was a kind of anagram of Botkin or Botkine?"
Kinbote: "You are confusing me with some refugee from Nova Zembla [sarcastically stressing the "Nova"].
"Didn't you tell me, Charles, that kinbote means regicide in your language?" asked my dear Shade.
"Yes, a king's destroyer," I said (longing to explain that a king who sinks his identity in the mirror of exile is in a sense just that).
Shade [addressing the German visitor]: "Professor Kinbote is the author of a remarkable book on surnames. I believe [to me] there exists an English translation?"
"Oxford, 1956," I replied.
"You do know Russian, though?" said Pardon. "I think I heard you, the other day, talking to--what's his name--oh, my goodness" [laboriously composing his lips].
Shade: "Sir, we all find it difficult to attack that name" [laughing].
Professor Hurley: "Think of the French word for 'tire': punoo."
Shade: "Why, sir, I am afraid you have only punctured the difficulty" [laughing uproariously].
"Flatman," quipped I. "Yes," I went on, turning to Pardon, "I certainly do speak Russian. You see, it was the fashionable language par excellence, much more so than French, among the nobles of Zembla at least, and at its court. Today, of course, all this has changed. It is now the lower classes who are forcibly taught to speak Russian." (note to Line 894)


Stalin + Satan = Satin/satin/stain/saint + Saltan = atlas/salat + sin + tan/ant


Satin - a character in Gorky's play Na dne ("At the Bottom," 1902) 

Saltan – the title character in Puskin’s Skazka o tsare Saltane (“The Fairy Tale about Tsar Saltan,” 1831)

atlas - Russ., satin

salat - salad


Describing a scene in the Geneva airport (when Ada refuses to leave her ill husband, Andrey Andreevich Vinelander), Van mentions “a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell:”


As had been peculiar to his nature even in the days of his youth, Van was apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappointment by means of bombastic and arcane utterances which hurt like a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell.

‘Castle True, Castle Bright!’ he now cried, ‘Helen of Troy, Ada of Ardis! You have betrayed the Tree and the Moth!’

Perestagne (stop, cesse)!’

‘Ardis the First, Ardis the Second, Tanned Man in a Hat, and now Mount Russet —’

‘Perestagne!’ repeated Ada (like a fool dealing with an epileptic).

Oh! Qui me rendra mon Hélène —’

Ach, perestagne!

‘— et le phalène.’

Je t’emplie ("prie" and "supplie"), stop, Van. Tu sais que j’en vais mourir.’

‘But, but, but’ — (slapping every time his forehead) — ‘to be on the very brink of, of, of — and then have that idiot turn Keats!’

‘Bozhe moy, I must be going. Say something to me, my darling, my only one, something that might help!’

There was a narrow chasm of silence broken only by the rain drumming on the eaves.

‘Stay with me, girl,’ said Van, forgetting everything — pride, rage, the convention of everyday pity.

For an instant she seemed to waver — or at least to consider wavering; but a resonant voice reached them from the drive and there stood Dorothy, gray-caped and mannish-hatted, energetically beckoning with her unfurled umbrella.

‘I can’t, I can’t, I’ll write you,’ murmured my poor love in tears. (3.8)


In "The Event" Lyubov', as she speaks to her mother, repeats the word perestan' (stop, cease) five times:


Любовь. Перестань, перестань, перестань... Ты меня сама вовлекаешь в какую-то мутную, липкую, пошлую обстановку чувств. Я не хочу! Какое тебе дело до меня? Алёша лезет со своими страхами, а ты со своими. Оставьте меня. Не трогайте меня. Кому какое дело, что меня шесть лет медленно сжимали и вытягивали, пока я не превратилась в какую-то роковую уездную газель - с глазами и больше ни с чем? Я не хочу. И главное, какое ты имеешь право меня допрашивать? Ведь тебе решительно всё равно, ты просто входишь в ритм и потом не можешь остановиться...

Антонина Павловна. Один только вопрос, и я пойду спать: ты с ним увидишься?

Любовь. Я ему с няней пошлю французскую записку, я к нему побегу, я брошу мужа, я...

Антонина Павловна. Люба, ты... ты шутишь?

Любовь. Да. Набросок третьего действия.

Антонина Павловна. Дай бог, чтобы он тебя разлюбил за эти годы, а то хлопот не оберешься.

Любовь. Мама, перестань. Слышишь, перестань! (Act Five)


The name and patronymic of Lyubov's mother, Antonina Pavlovna, hints at Chekhov. In Chekhov's last story Nevesta ("Betrothed," 1903) Nadya Shumin is the fiancèe of Andrey Andreevich, Father Andrey's son. Nadya is a diminutive of Nadezhda. Aleksey Maksimovich Troshcheykin has the same name and patronymic as A. M. Peshkov (Gorky's real name). 


Describing their journey onboard Admiral Tobakoff, Van mentions Lucette's jeweled head:


‘Sure you’d not prefer the restaurant?’ he inquired when Lucette, looking even more naked in her short evening frock than she had in her ‘bickny,’ joined him at the door of the grill. ‘It’s crowded and gay down there, with a masturbating jazzband. No?’

Tenderly she shook her jeweled head. (3.5)


In Pushkin's "Fairy Tale about Tsar Saltan" the beautiful tsarevna Lebed' (Swan Princess) has a moon under her plait and a star in her forehead:


Месяц под косой блестит,
А во лбу звезда горит;
А сама-то величава,
Выступает, будто пава;
А как речь-то говорит,
Словно реченька журчит.


The Swan Princess' walk is compared to that of pava (a peahen). When a tall girl walks past them, Lucette asks Van kto siya pava (who's that stately dame?):


Two half-naked children in shrill glee came running toward the pool. A Negro nurse brandished their diminutive bras in angry pursuit. Out of the water a bald head emerged by spontaneous generation and snorted. The swimming coach appeared from the dressing room. Simultaneously, a tall splendid creature with trim ankles and repulsively fleshy thighs, stalked past the Veens, all but treading on Lucette's emerald-studded cigarette case. Except for a golden ribbon and a bleached mane, her long, ripply, beige back was bare all the way down to the tops of her slowly and lusciously rolling buttocks, which divulged, in alternate motion, their nether bulges from under the lame loincloth. Just before disappearing behind a rounded white corner, the Titianesque Titaness half-turned her brown face and greeted Van with a loud 'hullo!'
Lucette wanted to know: kto siya pava? (who's that stately dame?)

‘I thought she addressed you,’ answered Van, ‘I did not distinguish her face and do not remember that bottom,’

‘She gave you a big jungle smile,’ said Lucette, readjusting her green helmet, with touchingly graceful movements of her raised wings, and touchingly flashing the russet feathering of her armpits.

‘Come with me, hm?’ she suggested, rising from the mat.

He shook his head, looking up at her: ‘You rise,’ he said, ‘like Aurora,’

‘His first compliment,’ observed Lucette with a little cock of her head as if speaking to an invisible confidant.

He put on his tinted glasses and watched her stand on the diving board, her ribs framing the hollow of her intake as she prepared to ardis into the amber. He wondered, in a mental footnote that might come handy some day, if sunglasses or any other varieties of vision, which certainly twist our concept of ‘space,’ do not also influence our style of speech. The two well-formed lassies, the nurse, the prurient merman, the natatorium master, all looked on with Van. (3.5)


"The prurient merman" (as Van calls one of the Tobakoff passengers) brings to mind The Merman, a fine old melodrama in which Odon (a world-famous actor and Zemblan patriot who helps the King to escape from Zembla) perfoms:


Anyway, Odon had to leave in a few moments, being due to act that night in The Merman, a fine old melodrama which had not been performed, he said, for at least three decades. "I'm quite satisfied with my own melodrama," remarked the King. "Alas," said Odon. Furrowing his forehead, he slowly got into his leathern coat. One could do nothing tonight. If he asked the commandant to be left on duty, it would only provoke suspicion, and the least suspicion might be fatal. Tomorrow he would find some opportunity to inspect that new avenue of escape, if it was that and not a dead end. Would Charlie (His Majesty) promise not to attempt anything until then? "But they are moving closer and closer," said the King alluding to the noise of rapping and ripping that came from the Picture Gallery. "Not really," said Odon, "one inch per hour, maybe two. I must be going now," he added indicating with a twitch of the eyelid the solemn and corpulent guard who was coming to relieve him. (note to Line 130)


According to Kinbote, one of the three heraldic creatures in the King's coat of arms is a merman azure, crined or:


Incidentally, it is curious to note that a crested bird called in Zemblan sampel ("silktail"), closely resembling a waxwing in shape and shade, is the model of one of the three heraldic creatures (the other two being respectively a reindeer proper and a merman azure, crined or) in the armorial bearings of the Zemblan King, Charles the Beloved (born 1915), whose glorious misfortunes I discussed so often with my friend. (note to Lines 1-4)


At the beginning of his poem Shade says that he was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane. In his poem The Sacred Tree (quoted by Kinbote in his Commentary) Shade compares a ginkgo leaf to an old-fashioned butterfly, ill-spread, in shape:


A hickory. Our poet shared with the English masters the noble knack of transplanting trees into verse with their sap and shade. Many years ago Disa, our King's Queen, whose favorite trees were the jacaranda and the maidenhair, copied out in her album a quatrain from John Shade's collection of short poems Hebe's Cup, which I cannot refrain from quoting here (from a letter I received on April 6, 1959, from southern France):


The ginkgo leaf, in golden hue, when shed,

A muscat grape,

Is an old-fashioned butterfly, ill-spread,

In shape.

When the new Episcopal church in New Wye (see note to line 549) was built, the bulldozers spared an arc of those sacred trees planted by a landscaper of genius (Repburg) at the end of the so-called Shakespeare Avenue, on the campus. I do not know if it is relevant or not but there is a cat-and-mouse game in the second line, and "tree" in Zemblan is grados. (note to Line 49)


When Van leaves Ardis forever, a ginkgo tree turns up in his stream of consciousness:


Maidenhair. Idiot! Percy boy might have been buried by now! Maidenhair. Thus named because of the huge spreading Chinese tree at the end of the platform. Once, vaguely, confused with the Venus’-hair fern. She walked to the end of the platform in Tolstoy’s novel. First exponent of the inner monologue, later exploited by the French and the Irish. N’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert. L’arbre aux quarante écus d’or, at least in the fall. Never, never shall I hear again her ‘botanical’ voice fall at biloba, ‘sorry, my Latin is showing.’ Ginkgo, gingko, ink, inkog. Known also as Salisbury’s adiantofolia, Ada’s infolio, poor Salisburia: sunk; poor Stream of Consciousness, marée noire by now. Who wants Ardis Hall! (1.41)


At the end of his poem Shade mentions a dark Vanessa butterfly:


A dark Vanessa with a crimson band

Wheels in the low sun, settles on the sand

And shows its ink-blue wingtips flecked with white.

And through the flowing shade and ebbing light

A man, unheedful of the butterfly -

Some neighbor's gardener, I guess - goes by

Trundling an empty barrow up the lane. (ll. 993-999)


According to Kinbote, Zemblans call this butterfly harvalda (the heraldic one):


It is so like the heart of a scholar in search of a fond name to pile a butterfly genus upon an Orphic divinity on top of the inevitable allusion to Vanhomrigh, Esther! In this connection a couple of lines from one of Swift's poems (which in these backwoods I cannot locate) have stuck in my memory:

When, lo! Vanessa in her bloom

Advanced like Atalanta's star

As to the Vanessa butterfly, it will reappear in lines 993-995 (to which see note). Shade used to say that its Old English name was The Red Admirable, later degraded to The Red Admiral. It is one of the few butterflies I happen to be familiar with. Zemblans call it harvalda (the heraldic one) possibly because a recognizable figure of it is borne in the escutcheon of the Dukes of Payn. In the autumn of certain years it used to occur rather commonly in the Palace Gardens and visit the Michaelmas daisies in company with a day-flying moth. I have seen The Red Admirable feasting on oozy plums and, once, on a dead rabbit. It is a most frolicsome fly. An almost tame specimen of it was the last natural object John Shade pointed out to me as he walked to his doom (see, see now, my note to lines 993-995).

I notice a whiff of Swift in some of my notes. I too am a desponder in my nature, an uneasy, peevish, and suspicious man, although I have my moments of volatility and fou rire. (note to Line 270)


Harvalda rhymes with Esmeralda (the gypsy girl in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris, 1831, and the butterfly in VN's poem Lines Written in Oregon, 1953). In their note to Lucette Van and Ada call Lucette "our Esmeralda and mermaid" (2.8). Esmeralda brings to mind Gerald Emerald, as Kinbote mercifully calls a young instructor at Wordsmith University. It is Gerald Emerald ("the man in green") who gives Gradus ("the man in brown") a lift to Kinbote's house in New Wye.


Shade's poem is almost finished, when the author is killed by Gradus. Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade’s poem needs but one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”). But it seems that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem also needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). Dvoynik ("The Double") is a short novel (1846) by Dostoevski and a poem (1909) by Alexander Blok. In a letter of Oct. 31, 1838 (Dostoevski's seventeenth birthday), to his brother Dostoevski twice repeats the word gradus (degree). Shade's birthday, July 5, is also Kinbote's and Gradus' birthday (Shade, who was born in 1898, is seventeen years Kinbote's and Gradus' senior). Dostoevski died at the end of January, 1881, a month before the assassination of Alexander II. In his poem Vozmezdie ("Retribution," 1910-21) Blok mentions March 1 (the day of the tsar's assassination), 1881:


Прошло два года. Грянул взрыв
С Екатеринина канала,
Россию облаком покрыв.
Все издалёка предвещало,
Что час свершится роковой,
Что выпадет такая карта...
И этот века час дневной -
Последний - назван первым марта. (Chapter One)


In 1881 the Red Admirable was found in great abundance in Russia. It was called "the butterfly of doom" because the undersides of the wings bore markings that resembled the numbers "1881."


In Canto Three of his poem Shade speaks of IPH (a lay Institute of Preparation for the Hereafter) and mentions Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept all is allowed:


In later years it started to decline:

Buddhism took root. A medium smuggled in

Pale jellies and a floating mandolin.

Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept

All is allowed, into some classes crept;

And to fulfill the fish wish of the womb,

A school of Freudians headed for the tomb. (ll. 638-644)


In Dostoevski's novel Brat'ya Karamazovy ("Brothers Karamazov," 1880) Ivan Karamazov believes that, if there is no God, all is allowed. After the murder of his father Ivan Karamazov goes mad and begins to see the devil. In "The Event" Barboshin (the devil in disguise of a sleuth) paraphrases the words of Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevski's novel:


Трощейкин. Человека, который нам угрожает, зовут Барбашин.

Барбошин. А я вам говорю, что моя фамилия Барбошин. Альфред Барбошин. Причём это одно из моих многих настоящих имён. Да-да... Дивные планы! О, вы увидите! Жизнь будет прекрасна. Жизнь будет вкусна. Птицы будут петь среди клейких листочков, слепцы услышат, прозреют глухонемые. Молодые женщины будут поднимать к солнцу своих малиновых младенцев. Вчерашние враги будут обнимать друг друга. И врагов своих врагов. И врагов их детей. И детей врагов. Надо только верить... Теперь ответьте мне прямо и просто: у вас есть оружье? (Act Three)


At the end of VN's play Lyubov' asks Meshaev the Second (the occultist) to read her palm:


Любовь. Можете мне погадать?

Мешаев Второй. Извольте. Только я давно этим не занимался. А ручка у вас холодная.

Трощейкин. Предскажите ей дорогу, умоляю вас.

Мешаев Второй. Любопытные линии. Линия жизни, например... Собственно, вы должны были умереть давным-давно. Вам сколько? Двадцать два, двадцать три?

Барбошин принимается медленно и несколько недоверчиво рассматривать свою ладонь.

Любовь. Двадцать пять. Случайно выжила.

Мешаев Второй. Рассудок у вас послушен сердцу, но сердце у вас рассудочное. Ну, что вам ещё сказать? Вы чувствуете природу, но к искусству довольно равнодушны.

Трощейкин. Дельно!

Мешаев Второй. Умрёте... вы не боитесь узнать, как умрёте?

Любовь. Нисколько. Скажите.

Мешаев Второй. Тут, впрочем, есть некоторое раздвоение, которое меня смущает... Нет, не берусь дать точный ответ.

Барбошин (протягивает ладонь). Прошу.

Любовь. Ну, вы не много мне сказали. Я думала, что вы предскажете мне что-нибудь необыкновенное, потрясающее... например, что в жизни у меня сейчас обрыв, что меня ждет удивительное, страшное, волшебное счастье...

Трощейкин. Тише! Мне кажется, кто-то позвонил... А?

Барбошин (суёт Мешаеву руку). Прошу.

Антонина Павловна. Нет, тебе почудилось. Бедный Алёша, бедный мой... Успокойся, милый.

Мешаев Второй (машинально беря ладонь Барбошина). Вы от меня требуете слишком многого, сударыня. Рука иногда недоговаривает. Но есть, конечно, ладони болтливые, откровенные. Лет десять тому назад я предсказал одному человеку всякие катастрофы, а сегодня, вот только что, выходя из поезда, вдруг вижу его на перроне вокзала. Вот и обнаружилось, что он несколько лет просидел в тюрьме из-за какой-то романтической драки и теперь уезжает за границу навсегда. Некто Барбашин Леонид Викторович. Странно было его встретить и тотчас опять проводить. (Наклоняется над рукой Барбошина, который тоже сидит с опущенной головой.) Просил кланяться общим знакомым, но вы его, вероятно, не знаете... (Ibid.)


Before the family dinner in "Ardis the Second" Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) reads Van's palm and predicts his own death in an airplane disaster:


‘I say,’ exclaimed Demon, ‘what’s happened — your shaftment is that of a carpenter’s. Show me your other hand. Good gracious’ (muttering:) ‘Hump of Venus disfigured, Line of Life scarred but monstrously long...’ (switching to a gipsy chant:) ‘You’ll live to reach Terra, and come back a wiser and merrier man’ (reverting to his ordinary voice:) ‘What puzzles me as a palmist is the strange condition of the Sister of your Life. And the roughness!’

‘Mascodagama,’ whispered Van, raising his eyebrows.

‘Ah, of course, how blunt (dumb) of me. Now tell me — you like Ardis Hall?’

‘I adore it,’ said Van. ‘It’s for me the château que baignait la Dore. I would gladly spend all my scarred and strange life here. But that’s a hopeless fancy.’

‘Hopeless? I wonder. I know Dan wants to leave it to Lucile, but Dan is greedy, and my affairs are such that I can satisfy great greed. When I was your age I thought that the sweetest word in the language rhymes with "billiard," and now I know I was right. If you’re really keen, son, on having this property, I might try to buy it. I can exert a certain pressure upon my Marina. She sighs like a hassock when you sit upon her, so to speak. Damn it, the servants here are not Mercuries. Pull that cord again. Yes, maybe Dan could be made to sell.’ (1.38)


The action in Ada takes place on Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth's twin planet). In "The Event" Lyubov' tells her mother that they live in different worlds and the communication between their planets is impossible:


Любовь. А я тебе говорю: отстань! Ты живёшь в своём мире, а я в своём. Не будем налаживать междупланетное сообщение. Всё равно ничего не выйдет. (Act Three)


In Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions Terra the Fair, an orbicle of jasp:


How to locate in blackness, with a gasp,
Terra the Fair, an orbicle of jasp. (ll. 557-558)


In their old age (even on the last day of their long lives) Van and Ada translate Shade's poem into Russian:


She insisted that if there were no future, then one had the right of making up a future, and in that case one’s very own future did exist, insofar as one existed oneself. Eighty years quickly passed — a matter of changing a slide in a magic lantern. They had spent most of the morning reworking their translation of a passage (lines 569-572) in John Shade’s famous poem:

...Sovetï mï dayom

Kak bït’ vdovtsu: on poteryal dvuh zhyon;

On ih vstrechaet — lyubyashchih, lyubimïh,

Revnuyushchih ego drug k druzhke...

(...We give advice

To widower. He has been married twice:

He meets his wives, both loved, both loving, both

Jealous of one another...)

Van pointed out that here was the rub — one is free to imagine any type of hereafter, of course: the generalized paradise promised by Oriental prophets and poets, or an individual combination; but the work of fancy is handicapped — to a quite hopeless extent — by a logical ban: you cannot bring your friends along — or your enemies for that matter — to the party. The transposition of all our remembered relationships into an Elysian life inevitably turns it into a second-rate continuation of our marvelous mortality. Only a Chinaman or a retarded child can imagine being met, in that Next-Installment World, to the accompaniment of all sorts of tail-wagging and groveling of welcome, by the mosquito executed eighty years ago upon one’s bare leg, which has been amputated since then and now, in the wake of the gesticulating mosquito, comes back, stomp, stomp, stomp, here I am, stick me on.

She did not laugh; she repeated to herself the verses that had given them such trouble. The Signy brain-shrinkers would gleefully claim that the reason the three ‘boths’ had been skipped in the Russian version was not at all, oh, not at all, because cramming three cumbersome amphibrachs into the pentameter would have necessitated adding at least one more verse for carrying the luggage.

‘Oh, Van, oh Van, we did not love her enough. That’s whom you should have married, the one sitting feet up, in ballerina black, on the stone balustrade, and then everything would have been all right — I would have stayed with you both in Ardis Hall, and instead of that happiness, handed out gratis, instead of all that we teased her to death!’ (5.6)