kozhanyi fartuk, Trofim Fartukov, Alonso & Hippopotamians in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Wed, 01/09/2019 - 05:50

When Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) leaves Ardis forever, Trofim Fartukov (the Russian coachman in “Ardis the Second”) tells him that even through kozhanyi fartuk (a leathern apron) he would not think of touching Blanche (a French maid at Ardis):


‘The express does not stop at Torfyanka, does it, Trofim?’

‘I’ll take you five versts across the bog,’ said Trofim, ‘the nearest is Volosyanka.’

His vulgar Russian word for Maidenhair; a whistle stop; train probably crowded.

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!

‘Barin, a barin,’ said Trofim, turning his blond-bearded face to his passenger.


‘Dazhe skvoz’ kozhanïy fartuk ne stal-bï ya trogat’ etu frantsuzskuyu devku.

Barin: master. Dázhe skvoz’ kózhanïy fártuk: even through a leathern apron. Ne stal-bï ya trógat’: I would not think of touching. Étu: this (that). Frantsúzskuyu: French (adj., accus.). Dévku: wench. Úzhas, otcháyanie: horror, despair. Zhálost’: pity, Kóncheno, zagázheno, rastérzano: finished, fouled, torn to shreds. (1.41)


In Tolstoy’s novel Voyna i mir (“War and Peace,” 1869) belyi kozhanyi fartuk (a white leathern apron) is put on Pierre Bezukhov, when he becomes a member of the Masons:


Двое из братьев подвели Пьера к алтарю, поставили ему ноги в прямоугольное положение и приказали ему лечь, говоря, что он повергается к вратам храма. - Он прежде должен получить лопату, - сказал шопотом один из братьев. - А! полноте пожалуйста, - сказал другой. Пьер, растерянными, близорукими глазами, не повинуясь, оглянулся вокруг себя, и вдруг на него нашло сомнение. "Где я? Что я делаю? Не смеются ли надо мной? Не будет ли мне стыдно вспоминать это?" Но сомнение это продолжалось только одно мгновение. Пьер оглянулся на серьезные лица окружавших его людей, вспомнил всё, что он уже прошел, и понял, что нельзя остановиться на половине дороги. Он ужаснулся своему сомнению и, стараясь вызвать в себе прежнее чувство умиления, повергся к вратам храма. И действительно чувство умиления, еще сильнейшего, чем прежде, нашло на него. Когда он пролежал несколько времени, ему велели встать и надели на него такой же белый кожаный фартук, какие были на других, дали ему в руки лопату и три пары перчаток, и тогда великий мастер обратился к нему. Он сказал ему, чтобы он старался ничем не запятнать белизну этого фартука, представляющего крепость и непорочность; потом о невыясненной лопате сказал, чтобы он трудился ею очищать свое сердце от пороков и снисходительно заглаживать ею сердце ближнего. Потом про первые перчатки мужские сказал, что значения их он не может знать, но должен хранить их, про другие перчатки мужские сказал, что он должен надевать их в собраниях и наконец про третьи женские перчатки сказал: "Любезный брат, и сии женские перчатки вам определены суть. Отдайте их той женщине, которую вы будете почитать больше всех. Сим даром уверите в непорочности сердца вашего ту, которую изберете вы себе в достойную каменьщицу". И помолчав несколько времени, прибавил: - "Но соблюди, любезный брат, да не украшают перчатки сии рук нечистых".


Two of the brothers led Pierre up to the altar, placed his feet at right angles, and bade him lie down, saying that he must prostrate himself at the Gates of the Temple. "He must first receive the trowel," whispered one of the brothers. "Oh, hush, please!" said another. Pierre, perplexed, looked round with his shortsighted eyes without obeying, and suddenly doubts arose in his mind. "Where am I? What am I doing? Aren't they laughing at me? Shan't I be ashamed to remember this?" But these doubts only lasted a moment. Pierre glanced at the serious faces of those around, remembered all he had already gone through, and realized that he could not stop halfway. He was aghast at his hesitation and, trying to arouse his former devotional feeling, prostrated himself before the Gates of the Temple. And really, the feeling of devotion returned to him even more strongly than before. When he had lain there some time, he was told to get up, and a white leather apron, such as the others wore, was put on him: he was given a trowel and three pairs of gloves, and then the Grand Master addressed him. He told him that he should try to do nothing to stain the whiteness of that apron, which symbolized strength and purity; then of the unexplained trowel, he told him to toil with it to cleanse his own heart from vice, and indulgently to smooth with it the heart of his neighbor. As to the first pair of gloves, a man's, he said that Pierre could not know their meaning but must keep them. The second pair of man's gloves he was to wear at the meetings, and finally of the third, a pair of women's gloves, he said: "Dear brother, these woman's gloves are intended for you too. Give them to the woman whom you shall honor most of all. This gift will be a pledge of your purity of heart to her whom you select to be your worthy helpmeet in Masonry." And after a pause, he added: "But beware, dear brother, that these gloves do not deck hands that are unclean." (Book Five, chapter 4)


Showing to Van Kim Beauharnais’s album, Ada tells him that Blanche is now Madame Trofim Fartukov:


‘Good for him,’ said Van. ‘Really it has no importance. It’s our entire past that has been spoofed and condemned. On second thoughts, I will not write that Family Chronicle. By the way, where is my poor little Blanche now?’

‘Oh, she’s all right. She’s still around. You know, she came back — after you abducted her. She married our Russian coachman, the one who replaced Bengal Ben, as the servants called him.’

‘Oh she did? That’s delicious. Madame Trofim Fartukov. I would never have thought it.’

‘They have a blind child,’ said Ada.

‘Love is blind,’ said Van.

‘She tells me you made a pass at her on the first morning of your first arrival.’

‘Not documented by Kim,’ said Van. ‘Will their child remain blind? I mean, did you get them a really first-rate physician?’

‘Oh yes, hopelessly blind. But speaking of love and its myths, do you realize — because I never did before talking to her a couple of years ago — that the people around our affair had very good eyes indeed? Forget Kim, he’s only the necessary clown — but do you realize that a veritable legend was growing around you and me while we played and made love?’ (2.7)


When Van meets her on his first morning at Ardis, Blanche tells him that she has the whites:


Monsieur a quinze ans, je crois, et moi, je sais, j’en ai dixneuf. Monsieur is a nobleman; I am a poor peat-digger’s daughter. Monsieur a tâté, sans doute, des filles de la ville; quant à moi, je suis vierge, ou peu s’en faut. De plus, were I to fall in love with you — I mean really in love — and I might, alas, if you possessed me rien qu’une petite fois — it would be, for me, only grief, and infernal fire, and despair, and even death, Monsieur. Finalement, I might add that I have the whites and must see le Docteur Chronique, I mean Crolique, on my next day off. Now we have to separate, the sparrow has disappeared, I see, and Monsieur Bouteillan has entered the next room, and can perceive us clearly in that mirror above the sofa behind that silk screen.’ (1.7)


In a letter of Dec. 27, 1889, to Suvorin Chekhov pairs Tolstoy with Bourget and mentions beli (the whites):


Тоном Жана Щеглова, просящего Вас поговорить с ним о театре, я прошу: «Позвольте мне поговорить с Вами о литературе!» Когда я в одном из своих последних писем писал Вам о Бурже и Толстом, то меньше всего думал о прекрасных одалисках и о том, что писатель должен изображать одни только тихие радости. Я хотел только сказать, что современные лучшие писатели, которых я люблю, служат злу, так как разрушают. Одни из них, как Толстой, говорят: «не употребляй женщин, потому что у них бели; жена противна, потому что у нее пахнет изо рта; жизнь — это сплошное лицемерие и обман, так как человек по утрам ставит себе клистир, а перед смертью с трудом сидит на судне, причем видит свои исхудалые ляжки». Другие же, ещё не импотенты, не пресыщенные телом, но уж пресыщенные духом, изощряют свою фантазию до зелёных чёртиков и изобретают несуществующего полубога Сикста и «психологические» опыты. Правда, Бурже приделал благополучный конец, но этот банальный конец скоро забывается, и в памяти остаются только Сикст и «опыты», которые убивают сразу сто зайцев: компрометируют в глазах толпы науку, которая, подобно жене Цезаря, не должна быть подозреваема, и третируют с высоты писательского величия совесть, свободу, любовь, честь, нравственность, вселяя в толпу уверенность, что всё это, что сдерживает в ней зверя и отличает ее от собаки и что добыто путем вековой борьбы с природою, легко может быть дискредитировано «опытами», если не теперь, то в будущем. Неужели подобные авторы «заставляют искать лучшего, заставляют думать и признавать, что скверное действительно скверно»? Неужели они заставляют «обновляться»? Нет, они заставляют Францию вырождаться, а в России они помогают дьяволу размножать слизняков и мокриц, которых мы называем интеллигентами. Вялая, апатичная, лениво философствующая, холодная интеллигенция, которая никак не может придумать для себя приличного образца для кредитных бумажек, которая не патриотична, уныла, бесцветна, которая пьянеет от одной рюмки и посещает пятидесятикопеечный бордель, которая брюзжит и охотно отрицает всё, так как для ленивого мозга легче отрицать, чем утверждать; которая не женится и отказывается воспитывать детей и т. д. Вялая душа, вялые мышцы, отсутствие движений, неустойчивость в мыслях — и всё это в силу того, что жизнь не имеет смысла, что у женщин бели и что деньги — зло.

Где вырождение и апатия, там половое извращение, холодный разврат, выкидыши, ранняя старость, брюзжащая молодость, там падение искусств, равнодушие к науке, там несправедливость во всей своей форме. Общество, которое не верует в бога, но боится примет и чёрта, которое отрицает всех врачей и в то же время лицемерно оплакивает Боткина и поклоняется Захарьину, не смеет и заикаться о том, что оно знакомо с справедливостью.


Wherever there is degeneration and apathy, there also is sexual perversion, cold depravity, miscarriage, premature old age, grumbling youth, there is a decline in the arts, indifference to science, and injustice in all its forms. A society that does not believe in God but is afraid of tokens and the devil, that denies all doctors, while hypocritically mourning over Botkin and worshipping Zakharyin, such a society simply has no right to say that it is familiar with justice.


Describing a weekday lunch at Ardis, Van mentions Paul Bourget’s ‘monologue intérieur’ borrowed from old Leo:


Weekday lunch at Ardis Hall. Lucette between Marina and the governess; Van between Marina and Ada; Dack, the golden-brown stoat, under the table, either between Ada and Mlle Larivière, or between Lucette and Marina (Van secretly disliked dogs, especially at meals, and especially that smallish longish freak with a gamey breath). Arch and grandiloquent, Ada would be describing a dream, a natural history wonder, a special belletristic device — Paul Bourget’s ‘monologue intérieur’ borrowed from old Leo — or some ludicrous blunder in the current column of Elsie de Nord, a vulgar literary demimondaine who thought that Lyovin went about Moscow in a nagol’nïy tulup, ‘a muzhik’s sheepskin coat, bare side out, bloom side in,’ as defined in a dictionary our commentator produced like a conjurer, never to be procurable by Elsies. Her spectacular handling of subordinate clauses, her parenthetic asides, her sensual stressing of adjacent monosyllables (‘Idiot Elsie simply can’t read’) — all this somehow finished by acting upon Van, as artificial excitements and exotic torture-caresses might have done, in an aphrodisiac sinistral direction that he both resented and perversely enjoyed. (1.10)


Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada"): monologue intérieur: the so-called ‘stream-of-consciousness’ device, used by Leo Tolstoy (in describing, for instance, Anna’s last impressions whilst her carriage rolls through the streets of Moscow).


As pointed out by Mlle Larivière (Lucette’s governess), Ardis means in Greek “the point of an arrow.” In a letter of June 12, 1891, to Lika Mizinov (instead of signature, Chekhov drew a heart pierced with an arrow) Chekhov mentions such lomovye izvozchiki (carters), like Trophim, who have a bad influence on Lika, enlarging her vocabulary with foul words:


Сейчас получил от Вас письмо. Оно сверху донизу полно такими милыми выражениями, как «чёрт вас задави», «чёрт подери», «анафема», «подзатыльник», «сволочь», «обожралась» и т. п. Нечего сказать, прекрасное влияние имеют на Вас такие ломовые извозчики, как Trophim.


Lika Mizinov’s nickname was Jamais. In his stream of consciousness Van recalls Ada's revised monologue of Shakespeare's King Lear:


Ce beau jardin fleurit en mai,

Mais en hiver

Jamais, jamais, jamais, jamais, jamais

N’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert.


‘Oh, that’s good,’ exclaimed Greg with a veritable sob of admiration. (1.14)


Greg Erminin's surname hints at Erminia, the nickname (after a character in Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, 1581) of Pushkin's staunch friend Eliza Khitrovo, Kutuzov's daughter. Prince Mikhail Kutuzov is a character in Tolstoy's "War and Peace." Greg's twin sister Grace marries a Wellington:


Ada’s bobrï (princely plural of bobr) were a gift from Demon, who as we know, had lately seen in the Western states considerably more of her than he had in Eastern Estotiland when she was a child. The bizarre enthusiast had developed the same tendresse for her as he had always had for Van. Its new expression in regard to Ada looked sufficiently fervid to make watchful fools suspect that old Demon ‘slept with his niece’ (actually, he was getting more and more occupied with Spanish girls who were getting more and more youthful every year until by the end of the century, when he was sixty, with hair dyed a midnight blue, his flame had become a difficult nymphet of ten). So little did the world realize the real state of affairs that even Cordula Tobak, born de Prey, and Grace Wellington, born Erminin, spoke of Demon Veen, with his fashionable goatee and frilled shirtfront, as ‘Van’s successor.’ (2.6)


Ada's bobrï bring to mind Onegin's bobrovyi vorotnik (beaver collar) in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (One: XVI: 4):


Уж тёмно: в санки он садится.
"Пади, пади!" - раздался крик;
Морозной пылью серебрится
Его бобровый воротник.


It’s already dark. He gets into a sleigh.

The cry “Way, way!” resounds.

With frostdust silvers

his beaver collar.


Onegin's neighbors in the country call Onegin farmazon (a Freemason):


Сначала все к нему езжали;

Но так как с заднего крыльца

Обыкновенно подавали

Ему донского жеребца,

Лишь только вдоль большой дороги

Заслышат их домашни дроги, —

Поступком оскорбясь таким,

Все дружбу прекратили с ним.

«Сосед наш неуч; сумасбродит;

Он фармазон; он пьет одно

Стаканом красное вино;

Он дамам к ручке не подходит;

Все да да нет; не скажет да-с

Иль нет-с». Таков был общий глас.


At first they all would call on him,

but since to the back porch

habitually a Don stallion

for him was brought

as soon as one made out along the highway

the sound of their domestic runabouts —

outraged by such behavior,

they all ceased to be friends with him.

“Our neighbor is a boor; acts like a crackbrain;

he's a Freemason; he

drinks only red wine, by the tumbler;

he won't go up to kiss a lady's hand;

'tis all ‘yes,’ ‘no’ — he'll not say ‘yes, sir,’

or ‘no, sir.’ ” This was the general voice. (Two: V)


Onegin's donskoy zherebets (Don stallion) brings to mind Baron d'Onsky, Marina's lover with whom Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) fought a sword duel (1.2). At the end of his poem Ne ver' sebe... ("Don't trust yourself..." 1839) Lermontov (the author of "The Demon," 1829-40) mentions tragicheskiy aktyor (a tragic actor) waving a cardboard sword:


А между тем из них едва ли есть один,
Тяжёлой пыткой не измятый,
До преждевременных добравшийся морщин
Без преступленья иль утраты!..
Поверь: для них смешон твой плач и твой укор,
С своим напевом заучённым,
Как разрумяненный трагический актёр,
Махающий мечом картонным...


But among them is hardly a one
Not crushed by heavy torture
Into early wrinkles
Without crime or loss!..
Believe me: to them are laughable your tears and your blame
With its tune learned by heart,
Like a painted tragic actor
Waving a cardboard sword.


In the poem's first stanza Lermontov compares inspiration to tyazhyolyi bred (a severe delirium) of one's sick soul:


Не верь, не верь себе, мечтатель молодой,
Как язвы, бойся вдохновенья...
Оно - тяжёлый бред души твоей больной
Иль пленной мысли раздраженье.


Don't trust, don't trust yourself, young dreamer,
Fear inspiration like the pest:
It is a heavy delirium of your sick soul
or an irritation of captive thought.


Ada's sister-in-law, Dorothy Vinelander marries a Mr Brod or Bred:


After helping her to nurse Andrey at Agavia Ranch through a couple of acrimonious years (she begrudged Ada every poor little hour devoted to collecting, mounting, and rearing!), and then taking exception to Ada’s choosing the famous and excellent Grotonovich Clinic (for her husband’s endless periods of treatment) instead of Princess Alashin’s select sanatorium, Dorothy Vinelander retired to a subarctic monastery town (Ilemna, now Novostabia) where eventually she married a Mr Brod or Bred, tender and passionate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other sacramental objects throughout the Severnïya Territorii and who subsequently was to direct, and still may be directing half a century later, archeological reconstructions at Goreloe (the ‘Lyaskan Herculanum’); what treasures he dug up in matrimony is another question. (3.8)


In “War and Peace” Tolstoy describes Napoleon's army leaving Moscow and mentions Krymskiy Brod (the Crimean Ford Bridge across the Moskva river):


Войска Даву, к которым принадлежали пленные, шли через Крымский брод и уже отчасти вступали в Калужскую улицу. Но обозы так растянулись, что последние обозы Богарне ещё не вышли из  Москвы в Калужскую улицу, а голова войск Нея уже выходила из Большой Ордынки.


Davoust's troops, in whose charge the prisoners were, had crossed the Krymskyi Brod, or Crimean Ford Bridge, and already some of the divisions we're debouching into Kaluga Street. But the teams stretched out so endlessly that the last ones belonging to Beauharnais's division had not yet left Moscow to enter Kaluga Street, while the head of Ney's troops had already left Bolshaya Ordynka. (Part IV, chapter XIV)


The Crimean Ford Bridge received its name after the Crimean Tartars who crossed the Moskva river here when they attacked Moscow. The street name Ordynka comes from Orda (the Horde). On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) Moscow (a city that should not be confused with Moscow, Id., the former capital of Estotiland, 2.9) is the capital of the Golden Horde. In the conversation about religions in “Ardis the First” Van mentions mosques in Moscow:


Now Lucette demanded her mother’s attention.

‘What are Jews?’ she asked.

‘Dissident Christians,’ answered Marina.

‘Why is Greg a Jew?’ asked Lucette.

‘Why-why!’ said Marina; ‘because his parents are Jews.’

‘And his grandparents? His arrière grandparents?’

‘I really wouldn’t know, my dear. Were your ancestors Jews, Greg?’

‘Well, I’m not sure,’ said Greg. ‘Hebrews, yes — but not Jews in quotes — I mean, not comic characters or Christian businessmen. They came from Tartary to England five centuries ago. My mother’s grandfather, though, was a French marquis who, I know, belonged to the Roman faith and was crazy about banks and stocks and jewels, so I imagine people may have called him un juif.’

‘It’s not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?’ said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp).

‘Who cares —’ said Van.

‘And Belle’ (Lucette’s name for her governess), ‘is she also a dizzy Christian?’

‘Who cares,’ cried Van, ‘who cares about all those stale myths, what does it matter — Jove or Jehovah, spire or cupola, mosques in Moscow, or bronzes and bonzes, and clerics, and relics, and deserts with bleached camel ribs? They are merely the dust and mirages of the communal mind.’

‘How did this idiotic conversation start in the first place?’ Ada wished to be told, cocking her head at the partly ornamented dackel or taksik.

‘Mea culpa,’ Mlle Larivière explained with offended dignity. ‘All I said, at the picnic, was that Greg might not care for ham sandwiches, because Jews and Tartars do not eat pork.’

‘The Romans,’ said Greg, ‘the Roman colonists, who crucified Christian Jews and Barabbits, and other unfortunate people in the old days, did not touch pork either, but I certainly do and so did my grandparents.’

Lucette was puzzled by a verb Greg had used. To illustrate it for her, Van joined his ankles, spread both his arms horizontally, and rolled up his eyes.

‘When I was a little girl,’ said Marina crossly, ‘Mesopotamian history was taught practically in the nursery.’

‘Not all little girls can learn what they are taught,’ observed Ada.

‘Are we Mesopotamians?’ asked Lucette.

‘We are Hippopotamians,’ said Van. ‘Come,’ he added, ‘we have not yet ploughed today.’

A day or two before, Lucette had demanded that she be taught to hand-walk. Van gripped her by her ankles while she slowly progressed on her little red palms, sometimes falling with a grunt on her face or pausing to nibble a daisy. Dack barked in strident protest. (1.14)


In Leontiev-Shcheglov's story Kozhanyi aktyor ("The Leathern Actor," 1889) Karaulov (the leathern actor) fluffs his words and mentions Mesopotamia:


Караулов моментально придал своему лицу оттенок меланхолии и тупоумия и, закинув за плечо конец испанского плаща, медленно выполз на сцену, к великому ужасу толстого испанца с тараканьими усами. Девица с вырезом упала в обморок, а суфлер прохрипел из своей будки по адресу Караулова:

-- А, сеньор, я приехал, кажется, несколько ранее, чем вы ожидали?!

-- Сеньор, вы, кажется, не ожидали, что я приеду из Месопотамии?! -- произнес Караулов и саркастически улыбнулся.

-- Несколько ранее,-- подсказал суфлер.

-- Да, я приехал из Месопотамии! -- с достоинством повторяет коломенский испанец и понемногу... входит в роль.


In a letter of Oct. 21, 1889, to Leontiev-Shcheglov Chekhov says that his story "The Leathern Actor" is superb:


Читал я Вашего «Кожаного актёра» и очень рад, что могу салютовать Вам. Рассказ превосходный.


In Shcheglov's story the director's assistant mentions señor Alonso who seduced the daughter of a character impersonated by Karaulov:


Сценариус — высокий, заспанный господин с подвязанным флюсом и мутными глазами — кивнул ему на сцену по направлению толстого испанца с тараканьими усами, стоявшего на коленях перед чахоточной девицей с вырезом на груди и распущенными волосами, и апатично пояснил:

— Понимаешь, сеньор Алонзо соблазнил твою дочь… А ты, понимаешь, внезапно приехал и упрекаешь Алоизо…


In Kim Beauharnais's album there is a photograph of Alonso, an Andalusian architect whom Uncle Dan wanted to plan an 'artistic' swimming pool for Ardis Manor:


A photograph of an oval painting, considerably diminished, portrayed Princess Sophia Zemski as she was at twenty, in 1775, with her two children (Marina’s grandfather born in 1772, and Demon’s grandmother, born in 1773).

‘I don’t seem to remember it,’ said Van, ‘where did it hang?’

‘In Marina’s boudoir. And do you know who this bum in the frock coat is?’

‘Looks to me like a poor print cut out of a magazine. Who’s he?’

‘Sumerechnikov! He took sumerographs of Uncle Vanya years ago.’

‘The Twilight before the Lumières. Hey, and here’s Alonso, the swimming-pool expert. I met his sweet sad daughter at a Cyprian party — she felt and smelt and melted like you. The strong charm of coincidence.’ (2.7)


The surname Sumerechnikov comes from sumerki (twilight). V sumerkakh ("In the Twilight," 1887) is a collection of stories by Chekhov.


Van met Alonso's daughter in one of the hundred floramors (palatial brothels) built by David van Veen (a wealthy architect of Flemish extraction) all over the world in memory of his grandson Eric:


Those preparations proceeded in such sustained, unendurably delicious rhythms that Eric dying in his sleep and Van throbbing with foul life on a rococo couch (three miles south of Bedford) could not imagine how those three young ladies, now suddenly divested of their clothes (a well-known oneirotic device), could manage to draw out a prelude that kept one so long on the very lip of its resolution. I lay supine and felt twice the size I had ever been (senescent nonsense, says science!) when finally six gentle hands attempted to ease la gosse, trembling Adada, upon the terrible tool. Silly pity — a sentiment I rarely experience — caused my desire to droop, and I had her carried away to a feast of peach tarts and cream. The Egypsies looked disconcerted, but very soon perked up. I summoned all the twenty hirens of the house (including the sweet-lipped, glossy chinned darling) into my resurrected presence. After considerable examination, after much flattering of haunches and necks, I chose a golden Gretchen, a pale Andalusian, and a black belle from New Orleans. The handmaids pounced upon them like pards and, having empasmed them with not unlesbian zest, turned the three rather melancholy graces over to me. The towel given me to wipe off the sweat that filmed my face and stung my eyes could have been cleaner. I raised my voice, I had the reluctant accursed casement wrenched wide open. A lorry had got stuck in the mud of a forbidden and unfinished road, and its groans and exertions dissipated the bizarre gloom. Only one of the girls stung me right in the soul, but I went through all three of them grimly and leisurely, ‘changing mounts in midstream’ (Eric’s advice) before ending every time in the grip of the ardent Ardillusian, who said as we parted, after one last spasm (although non-erotic chitchat was against the rules), that her father had constructed the swimming pool on the estate of Demon Veen’s cousin. (2.3)


The author of an essay entitled "Villa Venus: an Organized Dream," Eric Veen derived his project from reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather had bought near Vence from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole. According to Ilya Tolstoy (the writer's son), the phrase arkhitektor vinovat (the architect is to blame) was proverbial in the Tolstoy family:


Перебегая из залы в гостиную, я зацепился ногой за порог, упал, и от моей чашки остались одни осколочки.

Конечно, я заревел во весь голос и сделал вид, что расшибся гораздо больше, чем на самом деле.

Мамá кинулась меня утешать и сказала мне, что я сам виноват, потому что был неосторожен.

Это меня рассердило ужасно, и я начал кричать, что виноват не я, а противный архитектор, который сделал в двери порог, и если бы порога не было, я бы не упал.

Папá это услыхал и начал смеяться: "Архитектор виноват, архитектор виноват," - и мне от этого стало ещё обиднее, и я не мог ему простить, что он надо мной смеётся.

С этих пор поговорка "архитектор виноват" так и осталась в нашей семье, и папá часто любил её повторять, когда кто-нибудь старался свалить свою вину на другого.


Like the Masons, the members of the Venus Villa Club have their special sign:


‘I must warn Marina,’ said Demon after a gum-rinse and a slow swallow, ‘that her husband should stop swilling tittery, and stick to French and Califrench wines — after that little stroke he had. I met him in town recently, near Mad Avenue, saw him walking toward me quite normally, but then as he caught sight of me, a block away, the clockwork began slowing down and he stopped — oh, helplessly! — before he reached me. That’s hardly normal. Okay. Let our sweethearts never meet, as we used to say, up at Chose. Only Yukonians think cognac is bad for the liver, because they have nothing but vodka. Well, I’m glad you get along so well with Ada. That’s fine. A moment ago, in that gallery, I ran into a remarkably pretty soubrette. She never once raised her lashes and answered in French when I — Please, my boy, move that screen a little, that’s right, the stab of a sunset, especially from under a thunderhead, is not for my poor eyes. Or poor ventricles. Do you like the type, Van — the bowed little head, the bare neck, the high heels, the trot, the wiggle, you do, don’t you?’

‘Well, sir —’

(Tell him I’m the youngest Venutian? Does he belong, too? Show the sign? Better not. Invent.)

‘— Well, I’m resting after my torrid affair, in London, with my tango-partner whom you saw me dance with when you flew over for that last show — remember?’

‘Indeed, I do. Curious, you calling it that.’ (1.38)


Masony ("The Masons," 1880) is a novel by Pisemski. In Chekhov’s story Ionych (1898) Kitten tells Dr Startsev that she has been reading Pisemski’s novel Tysyacha dush ("A Thousand Souls," 1858):


— Что вы читали на этой неделе, пока мы не виделись? — спросил он теперь. — Говорите, прошу вас.
— Я читала Писемского.
— Что именно?— «Тысяча душ», — ответила Котик. — А как смешно звали Писемского: Алексей Феофилактыч!


"What have you been reading this week since I saw you last?" he asked now. "Do please tell me."
"I have been reading Pisemski."
"What exactly?"
"'A Thousand Souls,' "answered Kitten. "And what a funny name Pisemski had -- Alexey Feofilaktych!” (chapter II)


The title of Pisemski's novel brings to mind Gogol’s Myortvye dushi (“Dead Souls,” 1842). In his fragment Rim (“Rome,” 1842) Gogol describes a carnival in Rome and mentions the Italian sonetto colla coda (sonnet with a coda), explaining in a footnote what a coda is. In VN's novel Pale Fire (1962) Kinbote (Shade’s mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) believes that, to be completed, Shade’s almost finished poem needs but one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”). But it seems that Shade’s poem also needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). The "real" name of Shade, Kinbote and Gradus (Shade's murderer) seems to be Botkin. In the above-quoted letter to Suvorin Chekhov mentions Dr. Botkin.


Chekhov’s story Tysyacha odna strast’, ili Strashnaya noch’ (“A Thousand and One Passions, or The Terrible Night,” 1880) is dedicated to Victor Hugo. The Antiterran counterpart of Queen Victoria, King Victor (who frequents the floramors as "a Mr Ritcov") also brings to mind Victor Hugo, the author of Le roi s’amuse (“The King Amuses Himself,” 1832):


Demon’s father (and very soon Demon himself), and Lord Erminin, and a Mr Ritcov, and Count Peter de Prey, and Mire de Mire, Esq., and Baron Azzuroscudo were all members of the first Venus Club Council; but it was bashful, obese, big-nosed Mr Ritcov’s visits that really thrilled the girls and filled the vicinity with detectives who dutifully impersonated hedge-cutters, grooms, horses, tall milkmaids, new statues, old drunks and so forth, while His Majesty dallied, in a special chair built for his weight and whims, with this or that sweet subject of the realm, white, black or brown. (2.3)


In “A Thousand and One Passions” Chekhov mentions gostinitsa Fioletovogo gippopotama (the hotel of Violet Hippopotamus)


Я зашёл в гостиницу «Фиолетового гиппопотама» и выпил пять стаканов доброго вина.

I entered the hotel of "A Violet Hippopotamus" and drank five glasses of good wine.


The hotel of a Violet Hippopotamus brings to mind not only "Hippopotamians" mentioned by Van, but also Violet Knox (old Van's typist who marries Ronald Oranger, old Van's secretary, after Van's and Ada's death). Ada calls old Van's typist 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. Sometimes, at dinner, lingering over the liqueurs, my Ada would consider my typist (a great lover of Koo-Ahn-Trow) with a dreamy gaze, and then, quick-quick, peck at her flushed cheek. The situation might have been considerably more complicated had it arisen twenty years earlier. (5.4)


Nox being Latin for “night,” the name of Van’s typist seems to hint at Nochnaya Fialka (“The Night Violet,” 1906), a poem by Alexander Blok. In Blok's poem Neznakomka (“Incognita,” 1906) p’yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out “In vino veritas!” At the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” Demon uses the phrase s glazami (with the eyes) and mentions Dr Krolik (whom Blanche calls le Docteur Chronique):


Marina,’ murmured Demon at the close of the first course. ‘Marina,’ he repeated louder. ‘Far from me’ (a locution he favored) ‘to criticize Dan’s taste in white wines or the manners de vos domestiques. You know me, I’m above all that rot, I’m…’ (gesture); ‘but, my dear,’ he continued, switching to Russian, ‘the chelovek who brought me the pirozhki — the new man, the plumpish one with the eyes (s glazami) —’
‘Everybody has eyes,’ remarked Marina drily.
‘Well, his look as if they were about to octopus the food he serves. But that’s not the point. He pants, Marina! He suffers from some kind of odïshka (shortness of breath). He should see Dr Krolik. It’s depressing. It’s a rhythmic pumping pant. It made my soup ripple.’
‘Look, Dad,’ said Van, ‘Dr Krolik can’t do much, because, as you know quite well, he’s dead, and Marina can’t tell her servants not to breathe, because, as you also know, they’re alive.’
‘The Veen wit, the Veen wit,’ murmured Demon. (1.38)


In his story Zhenshchina s tochki zreniya p’yanitsy (“Woman as Seen by a Drunkard,” 1885), signed Brat moego brata (My brother’s brother), Chekhov compares girls under sixteen to aqua distillatae (distilled water). The last note of Marina's twin sister Aqua (Demon's poor mad wife) was signed “My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (now is out of Hell)” (1.3). Teper’ iz ada rhymes with Shekherezada (Scheherazade in Russian spelling), the narrator in “A Thousand and One Nights.”


Chekhov's story "A Thousand and One Passions" ends in the phrase Spokoynoy nochi (Good night):


Она полюбила во мне демона. Я хотел, чтобы она полюбила во мне ангела. «Полтора миллиона франков отдаю бедным!» — сказал я. Она полюбила во мне ангела и заплакала. Я тоже заплакал. Что это были за слёзы!!! Через месяц в церкви св. Тита и Гортензии происходило торжественное венчание. Я венчался с ней. Она венчалась со мной. Бедные нас благословляли! Она упросила меня простить врагов моих, которых я ранее убил. Я простил. С молодою женой я уехал в Америку. Молодая любящая жена была ангелом в девственных лесах Америки, ангелом, пред которым склонялись львы и тигры. Я был молодым тигром. Через три года после нашей свадьбы старый Сам носился уже с курчавым мальчишкой. Мальчишка был более похож на мать, чем на меня. Это меня злило. Вчера у меня родился второй сын... и сам я от радости повесился... Второй мой мальчишка протягивает ручки к читателям и просит их не верить его папаше, потому что у его папаши не было не только детей, но даже и жены. Папаша его боится женитьбы, как огня. Мальчишка мой не лжёт. Он младенец. Ему верьте. Детский возраст — святой возраст. Ничего этого никогда не было... Спокойной ночи!


The last words of Chekhov's story bring to mind the Goodnight Kids mentioned by Van at the beginning of Ada:


According to the Sunday supplement of a newspaper that had just begun to feature on its funnies page the now long defunct Goodnight Kids, Nicky and Pimpernella (sweet siblings who shared a narrow bed), and that had survived with other old papers in the cockloft of Ardis Hall, the Veen-Durmanov wedding took place on St Adelaida’s Day, 1871. Twelve years and some eight months later, two naked children, one dark-haired and tanned, the other dark-haired and milk-white, bending in a shaft of hot sunlight that slanted through the dormer window under which the dusty cartons stood, happened to collate that date (December 16, 1871) with another (August 16, same year) anachronistically scrawled in Marina’s hand across the corner of a professional photograph (in a raspberry-plush frame on her husband’s kneehole library table) identical in every detail — including the commonplace sweep of a bride’s ectoplasmic veil, partly blown by a parvis breeze athwart the groom’s trousers — to the newspaper reproduction. A girl was born on July 21, 1872, at Ardis, her putative father’s seat in Ladore County, and for some obscure mnemonic reason was registered as Adelaida. Another daughter, this time Dan’s very own, followed on January 3, 1876. (1.1)


Describing Aqua's last smile, Van mentions the abrupt, mysterious, never explained demise of a comic strip in a Sunday paper:


Sly Aqua twitched, simulated a yawn, opened her light-blue eyes (with those startlingly contrasty jet-black pupils that Dolly, her mother, also had), put on yellow slacks and a black bolero, walked through a little piinewood, thumbed a ride with a Mexican truck, found a suitable gulch in the chaparral and there, after writing a short note, began placidly eating from her cupped palm the multicolored contents of her handbag, like any Russian country girl lakomyashchayasya yagodami (feasting on berries) that she had just picked in the woods. She smiled, dreamily enjoying the thought (rather ‘Kareninian’ in tone) that her extinction would affect people about as deeply as the abrupt, mysterious, never explained demise of a comic strip in a Sunday paper one had been taking for years. It was her last smile. (1.3)


In her last note Aqua says that one day Van will visit Ardis:


Aujourd’hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doktor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several ‘patients,’ in the neighboring bor (piney wood) where I noticed exactly the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt. (ibid.)


Leaving Ardis forever, Van compares himself to Anna Karenin (who walked to the end of the platform in Tolstoy's novel).