emptovato, Glupovatïh & slozhnovato in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Tue, 04/16/2019 - 09:02

In the Tobakoff cinema hall Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) and his half sister Lucette watch Don Juan’s Last Fling, a movie in which Ada played the gitanilla:

 

‘Hey, look!’ he cried, pointing to a poster. ‘They’re showing something called Don Juan’s Last Fling. It’s prerelease and for adults only. Topical Tobakoff!’

‘It’s going to be an unmethylated bore,’ said Lucy (Houssaie School, 1890) but he had already pushed aside the entrance drapery.

They came in at the beginning of an introductory picture, featuring a cruise to Greenland, with heavy seas in gaudy technicolor. It was a rather irrelevant trip since their Tobakoff did not contemplate calling at Godhavn; moreover, the cinema theater was swaying in counterrhythm to the cobalt-and-emerald swell on the screen. No wonder the place was emptovato, as Lucette observed, and she went on to say that the Robinsons had saved her life by giving her on the eve a tubeful of Quietus Pills. (3.5)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): emptovato: Anglo-Russian, rather empty.

 

The entrance drapery pushed aside by Van brings to mind Tyazhkiy, plotnyi zanaves u vkhoda (A thick, heavy curtain at the entrance), the opening line of Alexander Blok’s poem Shagi komandora (“The Commander’s Footsteps,” 1910-12):

 

Тяжкий, плотный занавес у входа,
За ночным окном - туман.
Что теперь твоя постылая свобода,
Страх познавший Дон-Жуан?

Холодно и пусто в пышной спальне,
Слуги спят и ночь глуха.
Из страны блаженной, незнакомой, дальней
Слышно пенье петуха.

Что изменнику блаженства звуки?
Миги жизни сочтены.
Донна Анна спит, скрестив на сердце руки,
Донна Анна видит сны...

Чьи черты жестокие застыли,
В зеркалах отражены?
Анна, Анна, сладко ль спать в могиле?
Сладко ль видеть неземные сны?

Жизнь пуста, безумна и бездонна!
Выходи на битву, старый рок!
И в ответ - победно и влюбленно -
В снежной мгле поет рожок...

Пролетает, брызнув в ночь огнями,
Черный, тихий, как сова, мотор,
Тихими, тяжелыми шагами
В дом вступает Командор...

Настежь дверь. Из непомерной стужи,
Словно хриплый бой ночных часов -
Бой часов: "Ты звал меня на ужин.
Я пришел. А ты готов?.."

На вопрос жестокий нет ответа,
Нет ответа - тишина.
В пышной спальне страшно в час рассвета,
Слуги спят, и ночь бледна.

В час рассвета холодно и странно,
В час рассвета - ночь мутна.
Дева Света! Где ты, донна Анна?
Анна! Анна! - Тишина.

Только в грозном утреннем тумане
Бьют часы в последний раз:
Донна Анна в смертный час твой встанет.
Анна встанет в смертный час.

 

A thick, heavy curtain at the entrance,

Mist beyond the nighttime window.

Now that you know fear, Don Juan

What's your hateful freedom worth?

 

Cold and empty is the lavish bedroom,

Servants sleep in the still night.

From a blissful, foreign, distant land

Comes a rooster's song.

 

What are sounds of bliss to a betrayer

When his time is up?

Donna Anna sleeps, arms crossed above her heart,

Donna Anna's dreaming...

 

When his cruel features have frozen,

Echoed within mirrors?

Anna, Anna, is the grave's sleep sweet?

Is it sweet to have unearthly dreams?

 

Life is empty, crazy , fathomless!

Step outside to fight, old fate!

And in answer - smitten and triumphant -

A horn sounds in snowy darkness...

 

Splashing light into the night, a car

Rushes by, as black and quiet as an owl.

With his quiet, heavy footsteps

The Commander steps inside the house...

 

The door gapes. Through the excessive frost

Hoarsely like the tolling of the midnightclocks - 

The hour tolls: "You called me here to dinner.

I have come. Are you prepared?.."

 

To this brutal question there's no answer,

There's no answer – only silence.

Frightening at daybreak is the lavish bedroom,

Servants sleep in the pale night.

 

Cold and strange is break of day

Night is dim at break of day.

Bride of Light! O, Donna Anna where are you?

Anna! Anna! – only silence.

 

In the horrifying morning mist

The hour tolls one final time:

In your dying hour Donna Anna will arise.

Anna will arise in the hour of your death.

 

Lucette’s emptovato blends “empty” with pustovato (rather empty). The second stanza of Blok’s poem begins: Kholodno i pusto v pyshnoy spal’ne (Cold and empty is the lavish bedroom). Describing Don Juan’s Last Fling, Van mentions Donna Anna’s chaste and chilly chamber:

 

On the way to the remote castle where the difficult lady, widowed by his sword, has finally promised him a long night of love in her chaste and chilly chamber, the aging libertine nurses his potency by spurning the advances of a succession of robust belles. A gitana predicts to the gloomy cavalier that before reaching the castle he will have succumbed to the wiles of her sister, Dolores, a dancing girl (lifted from Osberg’s novella, as was to be proved in the ensuing lawsuit). She also predicted something to Van, for even before Dolores came out of the circus tent to water Juan’s horse, Van knew who she would be. (3.5)

 

In a letter of Apr. 23, 1890, to his sister Chekhov (who was on his way to Sakhalin) describes his journey on a Volga steamer from Yaroslavl to Nizhniy Novgorod and uses the words kholodnovato (rather cold) and skuchnovato (rather dull):

 

Холодновато и скучновато, но в общем занятно.

Свистит пароход ежеминутно; его свист — что-то среднее между ослиным рёвом и эоловой арфой. Через 5—6 часов буду в Нижнем. Восходит солнце. Ночь спал художественно. Деньги целы — это оттого, что я часто хватаюсь за живот.

Очень красивы буксирные пароходы, тащущие за собой по 4—5 барж; похоже на то, как будто молодой, изящный интеллигент хочет бежать, а его за фалды держат жена-кувалда, теща, свояченица и бабушка жены.

 

It’s rather cold and rather dull, but interesting on the whole.

The steamer whistles every minute; its whistle is midway between the bray of an ass and an Aeolian harp. In five or six hours we shall be in Nizhniy. The sun is rising. I slept last night artistically. My money is safe; that is because I am constantly pressing my hands on my stomach.

Very beautiful are the steam-tugs, dragging after them four or five barges each; they look like some fine young intellectual trying to run away while a plebeian wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and wife’s grandmother hold on to his coat-tails.

 

In the same letter Chekhov mentions the collected works of Gogol:

 

Миша, научи Лидию Стах<иевну> отправлять заказную бандероль и отдай ей билет на Гоголя. Помните, что Суворину возвращён один том Гоголя для переплётного образца. Значит, получить надо 3 тома.

 

The main character of Gogol’s story Shinel' (“The Overcoat,” 1842), Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, is neskol'ko ryabovat, neskol'ko ryzhevat, neskol'ko na vid dazhe podslepovat, s nebol'shoy lysinoy na lbu (somewhat pock-marked, somewhat red-haired, even somewhat short-sighted in appearance, with a little bald spot on the forehead). One of Ada’s lovers, Percy de Prey is a stoutish, foppish, baldish young man:

 

Van revisited Ardis Hall in 1888. He arrived on a cloudy June afternoon, unexpected, unbidden, unneeded; with a diamond necklace coiled loose in his pocket. As he approached from a side lawn, he saw a scene out of some new life being rehearsed for an unknown picture, without him, not for him. A big party seemed to be breaking up. Three young ladies in yellow-blue Vass frocks with fashionable rainbow sashes surrounded a stoutish, foppish, baldish young man who stood, a flute of champagne in his hand, glancing down from the drawing-room terrace at a girl in black with bare arms: an old runabout, shivering at every jerk, was being cranked up by a hoary chauffeur in front of the porch, and those bare arms, stretched wide, were holding outspread the white cape of Baroness von Skull, a grand-aunt of hers. Against the white cape Ada’s new long figure was profiled in black — the black of her smart silk dress with no sleeves, no ornaments, no memories. The slow old Baroness stood groping for something under one armpit, under the other — for what? a crutch? the dangling end of tangled bangles? — and as she half-turned to accept the cloak (now taken from her grandniece by a belated new footman) Ada also half-turned, and her yet ungemmed neck showed white as she ran up the porch steps. (1.31)

 

Van brings Ada a diamond necklace but tears it off in fury when he sees Percy de Prey kissing Ada's hand:

 

Before tubbing, Van craned out of his narrow casement to catch sight of the laurels and lilacs flanking the front porch whence came the hubbub of gay departures. He made out Ada. He noticed her running after Percy who had put on his gray topper and was walking away across a lawn which his transit at once caused to overlap in Van’s mind with the fleeting memory of the paddock where he and Van had once happened to discuss a lame horse and Riverlane. Ada overtook the young man in a patch of sudden sunlight; he stopped, and she stood speaking to him and tossing her head in a way she had when nervous or displeased. De Prey kissed her hand. That was French, but all right. He held the hand he had kissed while she spoke and then kissed it again, and that was not done, that was dreadful, that could not be endured.

Leaving his post, naked Van went through the clothes he had shed. He found the necklace. In icy fury, he tore it into thirty, forty glittering hailstones, some of which fell at her feet as she burst into the room.

Her glance swept the floor.

‘What a shame —’ she began.

Van calmly quoted the punchline from Mlle Larivière’s famous story: ‘Mais, ma pauvre amie, elle était fausse’ — which was a bitter lie; but before picking up the spilled diamonds, she locked the door and embraced him, weeping — the touch of her skin and silk was all the magic of life, but why does everybody greet me with tears? He also wanted to know was that Percy de Prey? It was. Who had been kicked out of Riverlane? She guessed he had. He had changed, he had grown swine-stout. He had, hadn’t he just? Was he her new beau?

‘And now,’ said Ada, ‘Van is going to stop being vulgar — I mean, stop forever! Because I had and have and shall always have only one beau, only one beast, only one sorrow, only one joy.’

‘We can collect your tears later,’ he said, ‘I can’t wait.’ (ibid.)

 

A little later Ada asks Van if he found all spilled diamonds and calls him “Uncle Van:”

 

What had she actually done with the poor worms, after Krolik’s untimely end?

‘Oh, set them free’ (big vague gesture), ‘turned them out, put them back onto suitable plants, buried them in the pupal state, told them to run along, while the birds were not looking — or alas, feigning not to be looking.

‘Well, to mop up that parable, because you have the knack of interrupting and diverting my thoughts, I’m in a sense also torn between three private tortures, the main torture being ambition, of course. I know I shall never be a biologist, my passion for creeping creatures is great, but not all-consuming. I know I shall always adore orchids and mushrooms and violets, and you will still see me going out alone, to wander alone in the woods and return alone with a little lone lily; but flowers, no matter how irresistible, must be given up, too, as soon as I have the strength. Remains the great ambition and the greatest terror: the dream of the bluest, remotest, hardest dramatic climbs — probably ending as one of a hundred old spider spinsters, teaching drama students, knowing, that, as you insist, sinister insister, we can’t marry, and having always before me the awful example of pathetic, second-rate, brave Marina.’

‘Well, that bit about spinsters is rot,’ said Van, ‘we’ll pull it off somehow, we’ll become more and more distant relations in artistically forged papers and finally dwindle to mere namesakes, or at the worst we shall live quietly, you as my housekeeper, I as your epileptic, and then, as in your Chekhov, "we shall see the whole sky swarm with diamonds."’

‘Did you find them all, Uncle Van?’ she inquired, sighing, laying her dolent head on his shoulder. She had told him everything.

‘More or less,’ he replied, not realizing she had. ‘Anyway, I made the best study of the dustiest floor ever accomplished by a romantic character. One bright little bugger rolled under the bed where there grows a virgin forest of fluff and fungi. I’ll have them reassembled in Ladore when I motor there one of these days. I have lots of things to buy — a gorgeous bathrobe in honor of your new swimming pool, a cream called Chrysanthemum, a brace of dueling pistols, a folding beach mattress, preferably black — to bring you out not on the beach but on that bench, and on our isle de Ladore.’ (ibid.)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Uncle Van: allusion to a line in Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya: We shall see the sky swarming with diamonds.

 

Dr Krolik is the local entomologist, Ada’s beloved teacher of natural history. At the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) mentions Dr Krolik and uses the phrase s glazami (with the eyes):

 

‘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 poem Neznakomka (“The Unknown Woman,” 1906) Blok mentions p’yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) who cry out “In vino veritas!” and says that in his soul lies a treasure and the key belongs to him alone:

 

По вечерам над ресторанами

Горячий воздух дик и глух,

И правит окриками пьяными

Весенний и тлетворный дух.

 

Вдали над пылью переулочной,

Над скукой загородных дач,

Чуть золотится крендель булочной,

И раздается детский плач.

 

И каждый вечер, за шлагбаумами,

Заламывая котелки,

Среди канав гуляют с дамами

Испытанные остряки.

 

Над озером скрипят уключины

И раздается женский визг,

А в небе, ко всему приученный

Бесмысленно кривится диск.

 

И каждый вечер друг единственный

В моем стакане отражен

И влагой терпкой и таинственной

Как я, смирен и оглушен.

 

А рядом у соседних столиков

Лакеи сонные торчат,

И пьяницы с глазами кроликов

"In vino veritas!" кричат.

 

И каждый вечер, в час назначенный

(Иль это только снится мне?),

Девичий стан, шелками схваченный,

В туманном движется окне.

 

И медленно, пройдя меж пьяными,

Всегда без спутников, одна

Дыша духами и туманами,

Она садится у окна.

 

И веют древними поверьями

Ее упругие шелка,

И шляпа с траурными перьями,

И в кольцах узкая рука.

 

И странной близостью закованный,

Смотрю за темную вуаль,

И вижу берег очарованный

И очарованную даль.

 

Глухие тайны мне поручены,

Мне чье-то солнце вручено,

И все души моей излучины

Пронзило терпкое вино.

 

И перья страуса склоненные

В моем качаются мозгу,

И очи синие бездонные

Цветут на дальнем берегу.

 

В моей душе лежит сокровище,

И ключ поручен только мне!

Ты право, пьяное чудовище!

Я знаю: истина в вине.

 

Above the restaurants in the evenings

The sultry air is wild and still,

And the decaying breath of spring

Drives drunken shouting.

 

Above the dusty distant lanes

The boredom of summer homes,

The baker's gold sign barely shines

And a child's crying rings out.

 

Each night, beyond the crossing gates,

With bowler hats tipped rakishly,

The practiced wits stroll with the ladies

Among the drainage ditches.

 

Out on the lake, oarlocks creak

And a woman starts to squeal,

While up in the sky, inured to it all,

The moon's disk senselessly leers.

 

Each night my solitary friend

Is reflected in my glass,

Made meek and reeling, like myself,

By the mysterious, astringent liquid.

 

And drowsy lackeys lounge about

Beside the adjacent tables

While drunks with rabbit eyes cry out

"In vino veritas!"

 

And each night at a certain hour

(Or am I only dreaming it?),

A girl's figure, swathed in silk,

Moves across the misty window.

 

And slowly passing among the drunks,

Always alone and unescorted,

Wafting a breath of perfume and mist,

She takes a table by the window.

 

And an air of ancient legend

Wreaths her resilient silks,

Her hat with its funereal plumes,

And her slender ringed hand.

 

And entranced by this strange nearness,

I look through her dark veil,

And see an enchanted shore

And a horizon enchanted.

 

Deep secrets are entrusted to me,

Someone's sun is in my care,

And at every turn, astringent wine

Pierces my soul.

 

And drooping ostrich plumes

Waver in my brain,

And fathomless blue eyes

Bloom on the distant shore.

 

A treasure lies in my soul,

And the key belongs to me alone!

You are correct, you drunken fiend!

I know it: in wine is truth.

 

Describing his meeting with Lucette in Paris (also known on Demonia – aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set – as Lute), Van mentions Blok’s Incognita:

 

The Bourbonian-chinned, dark, sleek-haired, ageless concierge, dubbed by Van in his blazer days ‘Alphonse Cinq,’ believed he had just seen Mlle Veen in the Récamier room where Vivian Vale’s golden veils were on show. With a flick of coattail and a swing-gate click, Alphonse dashed out of his lodge and went to see. Van’s eye over his umbrella crook traveled around a carousel of Sapsucker paperbacks (with that wee striped woodpecker on every spine): The Gitanilla, Salzman, Salzman, Salzman, Invitation to a Climax, Squirt, The Go-go Gang, The Threshold of Pain, The Chimes of Chose, The Gitanilla — here a Wall Street, very ‘patrician’ colleague of Demon’s, old Kithar K.L. Sween, who wrote verse, and the still older real-estate magnate Milton Eliot, went by without recognizing grateful Van, despite his being betrayed by several mirrors.

The concierge returned shaking his head. Out of the goodness of his heart Van gave him a Goal guinea and said he’d call again at one-thirty. He walked through the lobby (where the author of Agonic Lines and Mr Eliot, affalés, with a great amount of jacket over their shoulders, dans des fauteuils, were comparing cigars) and, leaving the hotel by a side exit, crossed the rue des Jeunes Martyres for a drink at Ovenman’s.

Upon entering, he stopped for a moment to surrender his coat; but he kept his black fedora and stick-slim umbrella as he had seen his father do in that sort of bawdy, albeit smart, place which decent women did not frequent — at least, unescorted. He headed for the bar, and as he was in the act of wiping the lenses of his black-framed spectacles, made out, through the optical mist (Space’s recent revenge!), the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then (much more distinctly!) ever since his pubescence, passing alone, drinking alone, always alone, like Blok’s Incognita. It was a queer feeling — as of something replayed by mistake, part of a sentence misplaced on the proof sheet, a scene run prematurely, a repeated blemish, a wrong turn of time. He hastened to reequip his ears with the thick black bows of his glasses and went up to her in silence. For a minute he stood behind her, sideways to remembrance and reader (as she, too, was in regard to us and the bar), the crook of his silk-swathed cane lifted in profile almost up to his mouth. There she was, against the aureate backcloth of a sakarama screen next to the bar, toward which she was sliding, still upright, about to be seated, having already placed one white-gloved hand on the counter. She wore a high-necked, long-sleeved romantic black dress with an ample skirt, fitted bodice and ruffy collar, from the black soft corolla of which her long neck gracefully rose. With a rake’s morose gaze we follow the pure proud line of that throat, of that tilted chin. The glossy red lips are parted, avid and fey, offering a side gleam of large upper teeth. We know, we love that high cheekbone (with an atom of powder puff sticking to the hot pink skin), and the forward upsweep of black lashes and the painted feline eye — all this in profile, we softly repeat. From under the wavy wide brim of her floppy hat of black faille, with a great black bow surmounting it, a spiral of intentionally disarranged, expertly curled bright copper descends her flaming cheek, and the light of the bar’s ‘gem bulbs’ plays on her bouffant front hair, which, as seen laterally, convexes from beneath the extravagant brim of the picture hat right down to her long thin eyebrow. Her Irish profile sweetened by a touch of Russian softness, which adds a look of mysterious expectancy and wistful surprise to her beauty, must be seen, I hope, by the friends and admirers of my memories, as a natural masterpiece incomparably finer and younger than the portrait of the similarily postured lousy jade with her Parisian gueule de guenon on the vile poster painted by that wreck of an artist for Ovenman.

‘Hullo there, Ed,’ said Van to the barman, and she turned at the sound of his dear rasping voice.

‘I didn’t expect you to wear glasses. You almost got le paquet, which I was preparing for the man supposedly "goggling" my hat. Darling Van! Dushka moy!’

‘Your hat,’ he said, ‘is positively lautrémontesque — I mean, lautrecaquesque — no, I can’t form the adjective.’

Ed Barton served Lucette what she called a Chambéryzette.

‘Gin and bitter for me.’

‘I’m so happy and sad,’ she murmured in Russian. ‘Moyo grustnoe schastie! How long will you be in old Lute?’

Van answered he was leaving next day for England, and then on June 3 (this was May 31) would be taking the Admiral Tobakoff back to the States. She would sail with him, she cried, it was a marvelous idea, she didn’t mind whither to drift, really, West, East, Toulouse, Los Teques. He pointed out that it was far too late to obtain a cabin (on that not very grand ship so much shorter than Queen Guinevere), and changed the subject. (3.3)

 

Le paquet that Lucette was preparing brings to mind the lines in Blok’s poem Zhenshchina (“The Woman,” 1914):

 

Но чувствую: он за плечами
Стоит, он подошел в упор...
Ему я гневными речами
Уже готовлюсь дать отпор...

 

But I feel: at my back he
Stands, he approached and froze…
Already with angry words I
Prepare to rebuff him...

 

Lucette studied the History of Art in Queenston College for Glamorous and Glupovatïh (‘dumb’) Girls:

 

He had not seen her since 1888. In the fall of 1891 she had sent him from California a rambling, indecent, crazy, almost savage declaration of love in a ten-page letter, which shall not be discussed in this memoir [See, however, a little farther. Ed.]. At present, she was studying the History of Art (‘the second-rater’s last refuge,’ she said) in nearby Queenston College for Glamorous and Glupovatïh (‘dumb’) Girls. (2.5)

 

In a letter of the second half of May (not later than May 24), 1826, to Vyazemski Pushkin says that poetry should be glupovata (silly):

 

Твои стихи к Мнимой Красавице (ах, извини: Счастливице) слишком умны.-- А поэзия, прости господи, должна быть глуповата. Характеристика зла. Экой ты неуимчивый, как говорит моя няня. «Семь пятниц» лучший твой водевиль.

Your verses To a Would-Be Beautiful (ah, sorry, Happy) Girl are too clever. And poetry, may God forgive me, should be glupovata (silly).

 

According to Pushkin, Sem' pyatnits na nedele ("Seven Fridays a Week," 1826) is Vyazemski's best vaudeville. In his epistle "To Nikolay Aleksandrovich Kochubey" (1863) from the cycle "The Photographs of Venice" Vyazemski compares himself to Robinson Crusoe and mentions seven nauseating Fridays a week:

 

Под этим уныньем с зевотой сердечной,
Другим Робинсоном в лагунной темнице,
Сидишь с глазу на глаз ты с Пятницей вечной,
И тошных семь пятниц сочтёшь на седмице.

Under this depression with yawning in one's heart,
like another Robinson in the lagoon dungeon,
one is sitting tête-à-tête with the eternal Friday
and can count seven nauseating Fridays a week.

 

Lucette tells Van that the Robinsons (the old couple on the Tobakoff) had saved her life by giving her on the eve a tubeful of Quietus Pills ("jolly good name," according to Van). In his famous monologue in Shakespeare's Hamlet (3.1) Hamlet mentions a quietus that one can make with a bare bodkin. In his poem Gogol (1853) Vyazemski calls Gogol Gamlet nash (our Hamlet):

 

Гамлет наш! Смесь слёз и смеха,
Внешний смех и тайный плач,
Ты, несчастный от успеха,
Как другой от неудач.

 

Our Hamlet! A mixture of tears and laughter,

Outer laughter and secret cry,

you, unhappy from a success,

as others are from failures.

 

Gamlet, a hamlet, is a half-Russian village near Ardis Hall (1.5, et passim). In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (Two: XII: 5) Lenski is Onegin's (and the Larins') "half-Russian neighbor:"

 

Богат, хорош собою, Ленский
Везде был принят как жених;
Таков обычай деревенский;
Все дочек прочили своих
За полурусского соседа;
Взойдёт ли он, тотчас беседа
Заводит слово стороной
О скуке жизни холостой;
Зовут соседа к самовару,
А Дуня разливает чай;
Ей шепчут: «Дуня, примечай!»
Потом приносят и гитару:
И запищит она (бог мой!):
Приди в чертог ко мне златой!

 

Wealthy, good-looking, Lenski everywhere

was as a marriageable man received:

such is the country custom;

all for their daughters planned a match

with the half-Russian neighbor.

Whenever he drops in, at once the conversation

broaches a word, obliquely,

about the tedium of bachelor life;

the neighbor is invited to the samovar,

and Dunya pours the tea;

they whisper to her: “Dunya, mark!”

Then the guitar (that, too) is brought,

and she will start to shrill (good God!):

“Come to me in my golden castle!..”12

 

Pushkin's note 12: From the first part of Dneprovskaya Rusalka.

 

Percy de Prey (whose mother was born Praskovia Lanskoy) is Ada's half-Russian neighbor. He seems to correspond to "the gentleman farmer" mentioned by G. A. Vronsky (the movie man who makes a film of Mlle Larivière's novel Les Enfants Maudits) in a conversation in "Ardis the Second:"

 

And now hairy Pedro hoisted himself onto the brink and began to flirt with the miserable girl (his banal attentions were, really, the least of her troubles).

‘Your leetle aperture must be raccommodated,’ he said.

‘Que voulez-vous dire, for goodness sake?’ she asked, instead of dealing him a backhand wallop.

‘Permit that I contact your charming penetralium,’ the idiot insisted, and put a wet finger on the hole in her swimsuit.

‘Oh that’ (shrugging and rearranging the shoulder strap displaced by the shrug). ‘Never mind that. Next time, maybe, I’ll put on my fabulous new bikini.’

‘Next time, maybe, no Pedro?’

‘Too bad,’ said Ada. ‘Now go and fetch me a Coke, like a good dog.’

‘E tu?’ Pedro asked Marina as he walked past her chair. ‘Again screwdriver?’

‘Yes, dear, but with grapefruit, not orange, and a little zucchero. I can’t understand’ (turning to Vronsky), ‘why do I sound a hundred years old on this page and fifteen on the next? Because if it is a flashback — and it is a flashback, I suppose’ (she pronounced it fleshbeck), ‘Renny, or what’s his name, René, should not know what he seems to know.’

‘He does not,’ cried G.A., ‘it’s only a half-hearted flashback. Anyway, this Renny, this lover number one, does not know, of course, that she is trying to get rid of lover number two, while she’s wondering all the time if she can dare go on dating number three, the gentleman farmer, see?’

‘Nu, eto chto-to slozhnovato (sort of complicated), Grigoriy Akimovich,’ said Marina, scratching her cheek, for she always tended to discount, out of sheer self-preservation, the considerably more slozhnïe patterns out of her own past.

‘Read on, read, it all becomes clear,’ said G.A., riffling through his own copy.

‘Incidentally,’ observed Marina, ‘I hope dear Ida will not object to our making him not only a poet, but a ballet dancer. Pedro could do that beautifully, but he can’t be made to recite French poetry.’

‘If she protests,’ said Vronsky, ‘she can go and stick a telegraph pole — where it belongs.’

The indecent ‘telegraph’ caused Marina, who had a secret fondness for salty jokes, to collapse in Ada-like ripples of rolling laughter (pokativshis’ so smehu vrode Adï): ‘But let’s be serious, I still don’t see how and why his wife — I mean the second guy’s wife — accepts the situation (polozhenie).’

Vronsky spread his fingers and toes.

‘Prichyom tut polozhenie (situation-shituation)? She is blissfully ignorant of their affair and besides, she knows she is fubsy and frumpy, and simply cannot compete with dashing Hélène.’

‘I see, but some won’t,’ said Marina. (1.32)

 

Marina's slozhnovato brings to mind Lucette's emptovato and Glupovatïh. Mlle Larivière's (Lucette's governess) publishes her stuff under the penname Guillaume de Monparnasse. In his epigram on Kachenovski, Zhurnalami obizhennyi zhestoko… (“Insulted deeply by the magazines…” 1829), that appeared in Moskovskiy telegraf ("The Moscow Telegraph") Pushkin mentions gospodin parnasskiy starover (Mr. Parnassian Old Believer) who is otmenno skuchnovat, tyazhelovat i dazhe glupovat (excellenty dull, ponderous and even dumb):

 

Журналами обиженный жестоко,
Зоил Пахом печалился глубоко;
На цензора вот подал он донос;
Но цензор прав, нам смех, зоилу нос.
Иная брань, конечно, неприличность,
Нельзя писать: Такой-то де старик,
Козёл в очках, плюгавый клеветник,
И зол и подл: всё это будет личность.
Но можете печатать, например,
Что господин парнасский старовер
(В своих статьях) бессмыслицы оратор,
Отменно вял, отменно скучноват,
Тяжеловат и даже глуповат;
Тут не лицо, а только литератор.

 

Insulted deeply by some journalists 

Zoilus Pakhom files charges, where he lists

Claims and complains. The teasers, yet,

For sure will be found not guilty, one can bet.

Some invective, of course, aren't recommended.

One cannot write that Mister Such-and-Such,

Bespectacled goat... - this is a bit too much,

A shabby libeler... - should also be amended.

However, one can say politely that

Mr. Parnassian Old Believer is just sad

And slightly ponderous, and in the latest journal

His article is sort of daft and dull,

A bit annoying, honestly, 'tis fool.

Here is the literateur and nothing personal.

(tr. V. Gurvich)

 

Otmenno vyal (excellently limp) brings to mid temno i vyalo ("obscurely" and "limply"), as Pushkin describes Lenski's style. Demon Veen calls Cordula de Prey's father "an obscure Mayor de Prey - obscurely related to our late neighbor:"

 

‘Marina gives me a glowing account of you and says uzhe chuvstvuetsya osen’. Which is very Russian. Your grandmother would repeat regularly that’ already-is-to-be-felt-autumn’ remark every year, at the same time, even on the hottest day of the season at Villa Armina: Marina never realized it was an anagram of the sea, not of her. You look splendid, sïnok moy, but I can well imagine how fed up you must be with her two little girls. Therefore, I have a suggestion —’

‘Oh, I liked them enormously,’ purred Van. ‘Especially dear little Lucette.’

‘My suggestion is, come with me to a cocktail party today. It is given by the excellent widow of an obscure Major de Prey — obscurely related to our late neighbor, a fine shot but the light was bad on the Common, and a meddlesome garbage collector hollered at the wrong moment. Well, that excellent and influential lady who wishes to help a friend of mine’ (clearing his throat) ‘has, I’m told, a daughter of fifteen summers, called Cordula, who is sure to recompense you for playing Blindman’s Buff all summer with the babes of Ardis Wood.’

‘We played mostly Scrabble and Snap,’ said Van. ‘Is the needy friend also in my age group?’

‘She’s a budding Duse,’ replied Demon austerely, ‘and the party is strictly a "prof push." You’ll stick to Cordula de Prey, I, to Cordelia O’Leary.’

‘D’accord,’ said Van. (1.27)

 

Before the family dinner in "Ardis the Second" Van prefaces Ada's (or, more likely, his own) translation of Coppée's poem by a snatch of Pushkin (by chance preserved has been Lenski's last poem):

 

‘Old storytelling devices,’ said Van, ‘may be parodied only by very great and inhuman artists, but only close relatives can be forgiven for paraphrasing illustrious poems. Let me preface the effort of a cousin — anybody’s cousin — by a snatch of Pushkin, for the sake of rhyme —’

‘For the snake of rhyme!’ cried Ada. ‘A paraphrase, even my paraphrase, is like the corruption of "snakeroot" into "snagrel" — all that remains of a delicate little birthwort.’

‘Which is amply sufficient,’ said Demon, ‘for my little needs, and those of my little friends.’

‘So here goes,’ continued Van (ignoring what he felt was an indecent allusion, since the unfortunate plant used to be considered by the ancient inhabitants of the Ladore region not so much as a remedy for the bite of a reptile, as the token of a very young woman’s easy delivery; but no matter). ‘By chance preserved has been the poem. In fact, I have it. Here it is: Leur chute est lente and one can know ‘em...’

‘Oh, I know ‘em,’ interrupted Demon:

 

‘Leur chute est lente. On peut les suivre

Du regard en reconnaissant

Le chêne à sa feuille de cuivre

L’érable à sa feuille de sang

 

‘Grand stuff!’

‘Yes, that was Coppée and now comes the cousin,’ said Van, and he recited:

 

‘Their fall is gentle. The leavesdropper

Can follow each of them and know

The oak tree by its leaf of copper,

The maple by its blood-red glow.’

 

‘Pah!’ uttered the versionist.

‘Not at all!’ cried Demon. ‘That "leavesdropper" is a splendid trouvaille, girl.’ He pulled the girl to him, she landing on the arm of his Klubsessel, and he glued himself with thick moist lips to her hot red ear through the rich black strands. Van felt a shiver of delight. (1.38)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): By chance preserved: The verses are by chance preserved

                                                                                  I have them, here they are:

                                                                                  (Eugene Onegin, Six: XXI: 1-2)