Mercury in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Sun, 05/05/2019 - 11:09

In a farewell letter to Marina (in VN’s novel Ada, 1969, Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother) Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) mentions his aunt's ranch near Lolita, Texas, and Marina’s runaway maid who will be stuffed with mercury:

 

‘Adieu. Perhaps it is better thus,’ wrote Demon to Marina in mid-April, 1869 (the letter may be either a copy in his calligraphic hand or the unposted original), ‘for whatever bliss might have attended our married life, and however long that blissful life might have lasted, one image I shall not forget and will not forgive. Let it sink in, my dear. Let me repeat it in such terms as a stage performer can appreciate. You had gone to Boston to see an old aunt — a cliché, but the truth for the nonce — and I had gone to my aunt’s ranch near Lolita, Texas. Early one February morning (around noon chez vous) I rang you up at your hotel from a roadside booth of pure crystal still tear-stained after a tremendous thunderstorm to ask you to fly over at once, because I, Demon, rattling my crumpled wings and cursing the automatic dorophone, could not live without you and because I wished you to see, with me holding you, the daze of desert flowers that the rain had brought out. Your voice was remote but sweet; you said you were in Eve’s state, hold the line, let me put on a penyuar. Instead, blocking my ear, you spoke, I suppose, to the man with whom you had spent the night (and whom I would have dispatched, had I not been overeager to castrate him). Now that is the sketch made by a young artist in Parma, in the sixteenth century, for the fresco of our destiny, in a prophetic trance, and coinciding, except for the apple of terrible knowledge, with an image repeated in two men’s minds. Your runaway maid, by the way, has been found by the police in a brothel here and will be shipped to you as soon as she is sufficiently stuffed with mercury.’ (1.2)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Lolita, Texas: this town exists, or, rather, existed, for it has been renamed, I believe, after the appearance of the notorious novel.

 

In one of his epigrams on Aglaya Davydov (with whom Pushkin, as many others, had had a brief affair) Pushkin mentions Mercury who punishes Aglaya for her love of chuzhdyi pol (the opposite sex):

 

Оставя честь судьбе на произвол,
Давыдова, живая жертва фурий,
От малых лет любила чуждый пол,
И вдруг беда! казнит её Меркурий,
Раскаяться приходит ей пора,
Она лежит, глаз пухнет понемногу,
Вдруг лопнул он: что ж дама? — «Слава богу!
Всё к лучшему: вот новая <дыра>!»

 

Having left her honor to the mercy of fate,

Mme Davydov, a live victim of the furies,

from young age loved the opposite sex,

and suddenly she is in trouble! Mercury punishes her.

It's time for her to repent,

she lies in bed, her eye swells up little by little,

Suddenly it burst: what will the lady do? "Thank God!

It's for the best: here is a new hole!"

 

Chuzhdyi pol in Pushkin's epigram brings to mind the Poling Prize in Lolita. Rogonosets velichavyi (the majestical cornuto) in Chapter One (XII: 12) of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin is Aglaya's husband, General Alexander Davydov. In his epistle (quoted by VN in his EO Commentary, vol. III, p. 331) to Aglaya's brother-in-law, General Vasiliy Davydov, Pushkin mentions nash bezrukiy knyaz' (our one-armed prince):

 

Меж тем как генерал Орлов —
Обритый рекрут Гименея —
Священной страстью пламенея,
Под меру подойти готов;
Меж тем как ты, проказник умный,
Проводишь ночь в беседе шумной,
И за бутылками аи
Сидят Раевские мои,
Когда везде весна младая
С улыбкой распустила грязь,
И с горя на брегах Дуная
Бунтует наш безрукий князь…
Тебя, Раевских и Орлова,
И память Каменки любя, —
Хочу сказать тебе два слова
Про Кишинев и про себя.

 

While General Orlov,

Hymen's recruit with shaven head,

aflame with sacred passion,

prepares to join the ranks;

while you, wise wag,

spend nights in noisy converse;

while over bottles of Ay

sit my Raevskis;

while everywhere young Spring,

smiling, sets loose the mud,

and on the Danube's bank to drown his grief

our one-armed prince stirs strife -

I who love you, Orlov and both Raevskis,

and memories of Kamenka,

desire to say a word or two

about myself and Kishinev...

 

Demon wrote his farewell letter to Marina soon after his sword duel with Baron d'Onsky (whose name hints at Onegin's donskoy zherebets, Don stallion). At Marina's funeral Ada meets d'Onsky's son, a person with only one arm:

 

‘My upper-lip space feels indecently naked.’ (He had shaved his mustache off with howls of pain in her presence). ‘And I cannot keep sucking in my belly all the time.’

‘Oh, I like you better with that nice overweight — there’s more of you. It’s the maternal gene, I suppose, because Demon grew leaner and leaner. He looked positively Quixotic when I saw him at Mother’s funeral. It was all very strange. He wore blue mourning. D’Onsky’s son, a person with only one arm, threw his remaining one around Demon and both wept comme des fontaines. Then a robed person who looked like an extra in a technicolor incarnation of Vishnu made an incomprehensible sermon. Then she went up in smoke. He said to me, sobbing: "I will not cheat the poor grubs!" Practically a couple of hours after he broke that promise we had sudden visitors at the ranch — an incredibly graceful moppet of eight, black-veiled, and a kind of duenna, also in black, with two bodyguards. The hag demanded certain fantastic sums — which Demon, she said, had not had time to pay, for "popping the hymen" — whereupon I had one of our strongest boys throw out vsyu (the entire) kompaniyu.’

‘Extraordinary,’ said Van, ‘they had been growing younger and younger — I mean the girls, not the strong silent boys. His old Rosalind had a ten-year-old niece, a primed chickabiddy. Soon he would have been poaching them from the hatching chamber.’

‘You never loved your father,’ said Ada sadly.

‘Oh, I did and do — tenderly, reverently, understandingly, because, after all, that minor poetry of the flesh is something not unfamiliar to me. But as far as we are concerned, I mean you and I, he was buried on the same day as our uncle Dan.’ (3.8)

 

Van's and Ada's uncle Dan is Marina's husband. Dan's first cousin, Demon Veen could have asked Marina a question that Pushkin asks Aglaya Davydov in another epigram:

 

Иной имел мою Аглаю
За свой мундир и чёрный ус,
Другой за деньги — понимаю,
Другой за то, что был француз,
Клеон — умом её стращая,
Дамис — за то, что нежно пел.
Скажи теперь, мой друг Аглая,
За что твой муж тебя имел?

 

One had Aglaya by attraction
Of raven curls and martial stance,
One for his money (no objection),
A third because he was from France,
Cleon by dint of being clever,
Damis for tender songs galore;
But, my Aglaya, say, whatever
Did your own husband have you for?

(tr. W. Arndt)

 

Before the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” Demon tells Van that the servants at Ardis are not Mercuries:

 

‘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.’

‘That’s very black of you, Dad,’ said pleased Van, using a slang phrase he had learned from his tender young nurse, Ruby, who was born in the Mississippi region where most magistrates, public benefactors, high priests of various so-called’ denominations,’ and other honorable and generous men, had the dark or darkish skin of their West-African ancestors, who had been the first navigators to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

I wonder,’ Demon mused. ‘It would cost hardly more than a couple of millions minus what Cousin Dan owes me, minus also the Ladore pastures, which are utterly mucked up and should be got rid of gradually, if the local squires don’t blow up that new kerosene distillery, the stïd i sram (shame) of our county. I am not particularly fond of Ardis, but I have nothing against it, though I detest its environs. Ladore Town has become very honky-tonky, and the gaming is not what it used to be. You have all sorts of rather odd neighbors. Poor Lord Erminin is practically insane. At the races, the other day, I was talking to a woman I preyed upon years ago, oh long before Moses de Vere cuckolded her husband in my absence and shot him dead in my presence — an epigram you’ve heard before, no doubt from these very lips —’

(The next thing will be ‘paternal repetitiousness.’)

‘— but a good son should put up with a little paternal repetitiousness — Well, she tells me her boy and Ada see a lot of each other, et cetera. Is that true?’

‘Not really,’ said Van. ‘They meet now and then — at the usual parties. Both like horses, and races, but that’s all. There is no et cetera, that’s out of the question.’

‘Good! Ah, the portentous footfall is approaching, I hear. Prascovie de Prey has the worst fault of a snob: overstatement. Bonsoir, Bouteillan. You look as ruddy as your native vine — but we are not getting any younger, as the amerlocks say, and that pretty messenger of mine must have been waylaid by some younger and more fortunate suitor.’ (1.38)

 

In his conversation with Van Demon mentions his aunt Kitty who married the Banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy, the writer:

 

‘I don’t know if you know,’ said Van, resuming his perch on the fat arm of his father’s chair. ‘Uncle Dan will be here with the lawyer and Lucette only after dinner.’

‘Capital,’ said Demon.

‘Marina and Ada should be down in a minute — ce sera un dîner à quatre.’

‘Capital,’ he repeated. ‘You look splendid, my dear, dear fellow — and I don’t have to exaggerate compliments as some do in regard to an aging man with shoe-shined hair. Your dinner jacket is very nice — or, rather it’s very nice recognizing one’s old tailor in one’s son’s clothes — like catching oneself repeating an ancestral mannerism — for example, this (wagging his left forefinger three times at the height of his temple), which my mother did in casual, pacific denial; that gene missed you, but I’ve seen it in my hairdresser’s looking-glass when refusing to have him put Crêmlin on my bald spot; and you know who had it too — my aunt Kitty, who married the Banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy, the writer.’

Demon preferred Walter Scott to Dickens, and did not think highly of Russian novelists. As usual, Van considered it fit to make a corrective comment:

‘A fantastically artistic writer, Dad.’ (ibid.)

 

In Tolstoy's Anna Karenin (1877) Kitty Shcherbatski marries Konstantin Lyovin. Anna's maiden name is Oblonski (Stiva Oblonski is her brother). Tolstoy's daughter Maria Lvovna (1871-1906) married N. L. Obolenski.

 

In his memoirs Ocherki bylogo ("Sketches of the Past," 1949) S. L. Tolstoy mentions "the medical certificate" (skorbnyi list) of his mother Sofia Andreevna:

 

Больная страдает манией блохино-банковской... Хорошо тоже действуют в этом случае в умеренном приёме воды Кузькиной матери.

The patient suffers the Blokhin-Bank mania... A moderate dose of the waters of Kuzma's mother can be also helpful in her case. (chapter "Mail Box")

 

“Prince” Blokhin was a quiet lunatic who sometimes visited Yasnaya Polyana (Tolstoy’s family estate in the Province of Tula). 

 

A gene that missed Van was inherited by Ada:

 

Soon after that, as so often occurs with games, and toys, and vacational friendships, that seem to promise an eternal future of fun, Flavita followed the bronze and blood-red trees into the autumn mists; then the black box was mislaid, was forgotten — and accidentally rediscovered (among boxes of table silver) four years later, shortly before Lucette’s visit to town where she spent a few days with her father in mid-July, 1888. It so happened that this was to be the last game of Flavita that the three young Veens were ever to play together. Either because it happened to end in a memorable record for Ada, or because Van took some notes in the hope — not quite unfulfilled — of ‘catching sight of the lining of time’ (which, as he was later to write, is ‘the best informal definition of portents and prophecies’), but the last round of that particular game remained vividly clear in his mind.

‘Je ne peux rien faire,’ wailed Lucette, ‘mais rien — with my idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM...’

‘Look,’ whispered Van, ‘c’est tout simple, shift those two syllables and you get a fortress in ancient Muscovy.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Ada, wagging her finger at the height of her temple in a way she had. ‘Oh, no. That pretty word does not exist in Russian. A Frenchman invented it. There is no second syllable.’

‘Ruth for a little child?’ interposed Van.

‘Ruthless!’ cried Ada.

‘Well,’ said Van, ‘you can always make a little cream, KREM or KREME — or even better — there’s KREMLI, which means Yukon prisons. Go through her ORHIDEYA.’

‘Through her silly orchid,’ said Lucette. (1.36)

 

A set of Flavita (the Russian Scrabble) was given to Marina's children by Baron Klim Avidov (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov):

 

The set our three children received in 1884 from an old friend of the family (as Marina’s former lovers were known), Baron Klim Avidov, consisted of a large folding board of saffian and a boxful of weighty rectangles of ebony inlaid with platinum letters, only one of which was a Roman one, namely the letter J on the two joker blocks (as thrilling to get as a blank check signed by Jupiter or Jurojin). It was, incidentally, the same kindly but touchy Avidov (mentioned in many racy memoirs of the time) who once catapulted with an uppercut an unfortunate English tourist into the porter’s lodge for his jokingly remarking how clever it was to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule, at the Gritz, in Venezia Rossa. (ibid,)

 

In Tolstoy’s Voina i mir (“War and Peace,” 1869) Pierre Bezukhov mentions Mercury in his diary (the entry of Nov. 27, 1809):

 

После этого в дневнике было пропущено три листа, и потом было написано следующее: «Имел продолжительный поучительный разговор наедине с братом В., который советовал мне держаться брата А. Многое, хотя и недостойному, мне было открыто. Адонаи есть имя сотворившего мир. Элоим есть имя правящего всем. Третье имя, имя неизрекаемое, имеющее значение Всего. Беседы с братом В. подкрепляют, освежают и утверждают меня на пути добродетели. При нем нет места сомнению. Мне ясно различие бедного учения наук общественных с нашим святым, все обнимающим учением. Науки человеческие все подразделяют — чтобы понять, все убивают — чтобы рассмотреть. В святой науке ордена все едино, все познается в своей совокупности и жизни. Троица — три начала вещей — сера, меркурий и соль. Сера елейного и огненного свойства; она в соединении с солью огненностью своей возбуждает в ней алкание, посредством которого притягивает меркурий, схватывает его, удерживает и совокупно производит отдельные тела. Меркурий есть жидкая и летучая духовная сущность — Христос, Дух Святой, он».

 

After this, three pages were left blank in the diary, and then the following was written: I have had a long and instructive talk alone with Brother V., who advised me to hold fast by brother A. Though I am unworthy, much was revealed to me. Adonai is the name of the creator of the world. Elohim is the name of the ruler of all. The third name is the name unutterable which means the All. Talks with Brother V. strengthen, refresh, and support me in the path of virtue. In his presence doubt has no place. The distinction between the poor teachings of mundane science and our sacred all-embracing teaching is clear to me. Human sciences dissect everything to comprehend it, and kill everything to examine it. In the holy science of our order all is one, all is known in its entirety and life. The Trinity - the three elements of matter - are sulphur, mercury, and salt. Sulphur is of an oily and fiery nature; in combination with salt by its fiery nature it arouses a desire in the latter by means of which it attracts mercury, seizes it, holds it, and in combination produces other bodies. Mercury is a fluid, volatile, spiritual essence. Christ, the Holy Spirit, Him!... (Volume Two, Part Three, chapter X)

 

In the next entry (Dec. 3, 1809) of his diary Pierre Bezukhov mentions Dolokhov with whom he had a duel four years ago:

 

Проснулся поздно, читал св. Писание, но был бесчувствен. После вышел и ходил по зале. Хотел размышлять, но вместо того воображение представило одно происшествие, бывшее четыре года тому назад. Господин Долохов, после моей дуэли встретясь со мной в Москве, сказал мне, что он надеется, что я пользуюсь теперь полным душевным спокойствием, несмотря на отсутствие моей супруги. Я тогда ничего не отвечал. Теперь же я припоминал все подробности этого свидания и в душе своей говорил ему самые злобные слова и колкие ответы. Опомнился и бросил сию мысль только тогда, когда увидел себя в распалении гнева; но недостаточно раскаялся в этом.

 

Awoke late, read the Scriptures but was apathetic. Afterwards went and paced up and down the large hall. I wished to meditate, but instead my imagination pictured an occurrence of four years ago, when Dolokhov, meeting me in Moscow after our duel, said he hoped I was enjoying perfect peace of mind in spite of my wife's absence. At the time I gave him no answer. Now I recalled every detail of that meeting and in my mind gave him the most malevolent and bitter replies. I recollected myself and drove away that thought only when I found myself glowing with anger, but I did not sufficiently repent. (ibid.)

 

Rufin Dorokhov (who served, like Tolstoy the American, as a model of Dolokhov in "War and Peace") wrote the following imitation of Pushkin's epigram on Aglaya Davydov ("One had my Aglaya..."):

 

Иной имел младую Фрину

За деньги иль свой чёрный ус,

Иной её клал на перину,

Как итальянец иль француз,

Иной — что был собой картина,

Иной — что голосисто пел;

Теперь скажи, моя мне Фрина,

За что твой муж тебя имел?

 

Chyornyi us (the black moustache) in Pushkin's epigram and in Dorokhov's imitation brings to mind the tickle of Demon's moustache to which Marina (who plays Lara in Eugene and Lara, a stage version of a famous Russian romance) is especially vulnerable:

 

Even before the old Eskimo had shuffled off with the message, Demon Veen had left his pink velvet chair and proceeded to win the wager, the success of his enterprise being assured by the fact that Marina, a kissing virgin, had been in love with him since their last dance on New Year’s Eve. Moreover, the tropical moonlight she had just bathed in, the penetrative sense of her own beauty, the ardent pulses of the imagined maiden, and the gallant applause of an almost full house made her especially vulnerable to the tickle of Demon’s moustache. She had ample time, too, to change for the next scene, which started with a longish intermezzo staged by a ballet company whose services Scotty had engaged, bringing the Russians all the way in two sleeping cars from Belokonsk, Western Estoty. In a splendid orchard several merry young gardeners wearing for some reason the garb of Georgian tribesmen were popping raspberries into their mouths, while several equally implausible servant girls in sharovars (somebody had goofed — the word ‘samovars’ may have got garbled in the agent’s aerocable) were busy plucking marshmallows and peanuts from the branches of fruit trees. At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or ‘ribbon boule’ in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.’s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat. (1.2)

 

In Chapter One (XVII: 6-8) of EO Pushkin calls Onegin "the inconstant adorer of enchanting actresses; an honorary citizen of the coulisses:"

 

Ещё бокалов жажда просит
Залить горячий жир котлет,
Но звон брегета им доносит,
Что новый начался балет.
Театра злой законодатель,
Непостоянный обожатель
Очаровательных актрис,
Почётный гражданин кулис,
Онегин полетел к театру,
Где каждый, вольностью дыша,
Готов охлопать entrechat,
Обшикать Федру, Клеопатру,
Моину вызвать (для того,
Чтоб только слышали его).

 

Thirst is still clamoring for beakers

to drown the hot fat of the cutlets;

but Bréguet's chime reports to them

that a new ballet has begun.

The theater's unkind

lawgiver; the inconstant

adorer of enchanting actresses;

an honorary citizen of the coulisses,

Onegin has flown to the theater,

where, breathing criticism,

each is prepared to clap an entrechat,

hiss Phaedra, Cleopatra,

call out Moëna — for the purpose

merely of being heard.

 

Marina's impressario, Scotty brings to mind Skotoprigonievsk, a city in which the action in Dostoevski's "Brothers Karamazov" (1880) takes place. In Dostoevski's Idiot (1869) the characters include Aglaya Epanchin (General Epanchin's younger daughter who is in love with Prince Myshkin). Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin is a namesake of Count Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy.

 

In a letter of Aug. 3, 1831, to Pletnyov (to whom EO is dedicated) Pushkin says that, after Delvig's death, Literaturnaya gazeta (Literary Gazette) became even less accurate than Merkuriy (Bestuzhev-Ryumin's "Northern Mercury"):

 

Кстати: что сделалось с Литературною газетою? Она неисправнее Меркурия. Кстати: не умер ли Бестужев-Рюмин? говорят, холера уносит пьяниц. С душевным прискорбием узнал я, что Хвостов жив. Посреди стольких гробов, стольких ранних или бесценных жертв, Хвостов торчит каким-то кукишем похабным. Перечитывал я на днях письма Дельвига; в одном из них пишет он мне о смерти Д. Веневитинова. «Я в тот же день встретил Хвостова, говорит он, и чуть не разругал его: зачем он жив?» — Бедный наш Дельвиг! Хвостов и его пережил. Вспомни моё пророческое слово: Хвостов и меня переживёт.

 

Pushkin compares Khvostov (a poetaster who outlived Ryleev, Venevitinov, Griboedov and Delvig and died only in 1835, at the age of seventy-eight) to pokhabnyi kukish (an obscene fig) that sticks out amidst so many early graves and predicts that Khvostov will outlive him (Pushkin) as well.

 

In his Ode to his Excellency Count Dm. Iv. Khvostov (1825) Pushkin mentions lyutyi Pit (ferocious Pitt):

 

Султан ярится. Кровь Эллады
И peзвocкачет, и кипит.
Открылись грекам древни клады,
Трепещет в Стиксе лютый Пит.

 

The sultan gets furious. Hellas's blood
is galloping fast and boiling.
The Greeks discovered ancient treasures,
ferocious Pitt trembles in Styx.

 

Describing his meeting with Greg Erminin in Paris (also known as Lute on Demonia, aka Antiterra, Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set), Van mentions the Avenue Guillaume Pitt:

 

On a bleak morning between the spring and summer of 1901, in Paris, as Van, black-hatted, one hand playing with the warm loose change in his topcoat pocket and the other, fawn-gloved, upswinging a furled English umbrella, strode past a particularly unattractive sidewalk café among the many lining the Avenue Guillaume Pitt, a chubby bald man in a rumpled brown suit with a watch-chained waistcoat stood up and hailed him. (3.2)

 

In his parodic ode Pushkin compares Khvostov to Byron:

 

Вам с Бейроном шипела злоба,

Гремела и правдива лесть.

Он лорд — граф ты! Поэты оба!

Се, мнится, явно сходство есть.—

Никак! Ты с верною супругой 6

Под бременем Судьбы упругой

Живёшь в любви — и наконец

Глубок он, но единобразен,

А ты глубок, игрив и разен,

И в шалостях ты впрям певец.

 

At the family dinner in "Ardis the Second" Demon mentions Lord Byron's hock:

 

‘Ah!’ said Demon, tasting Lord Byron’s Hock. ‘This redeems Our Lady’s Tears.’

‘I was telling Van a moment ago,’ he continued, raising his voice (he labored under the delusion that Marina had grown rather deaf), ‘about your husband. My dear, he overdoes the juniper vodka stuff, he’s getting, in fact, a mite fuzzy and odd. The other day I chanced to walk through Pat Lane on the Fourth Avenue side, and there he was coming, at quite a spin, in his horrid town car, that primordial petrol two-seater he’s got, with the tiller. Well, he saw me, from quite a distance, and waved, and the whole contraption began to shake down, and finally stopped half a block away, and there he sat trying to budge it with little jerks of his haunches, you know, like a child who can’t get his tricycle unstuck, and as I walked up to him I had the definite impression that it was his mechanism that had stalled, not the Hardpan’s.’ But what Demon, in the goodness of his crooked heart, omitted to tell Marina was that the imbecile, in secret from his art adviser, Mr Aix, had acquired for a few thousand dollars from a gaming friend of Demon’s, and with Demon’s blessings, a couple of fake Correggios — only to resell them by some unforgivable fluke to an equally imbecile collector, for half a million which Demon considered henceforth as a loan his cousin should certainly refund him if sanity counted for something on this gemel planet. And, conversely, Marina refrained from telling Demon about the young hospital nurse Dan had been monkeying with ever since his last illness (it was, by the way, she, busybody Bess, whom Dan had asked on a memorable occasion to help him get ‘something nice for a half-Russian child interested in biology’). (1.38)

 

Bess (Dan's buxom nurse who managed to extract orally a few last drops of 'play-zero' out of his poor body) hints at Dostoevski's novel Besy ("The Possessed," 1872) that has for epigraph the lines from Pushkin's poem Besy ("The Demons," 1830). Demon Veen is a gambler. Dostoevski is the author of Igrok ("The Gambler," 1866).

 

Let me also draw your attention to the updated version of my previous post, "yellow chair & Poling Prize in Lolita" (https://thenabokovian.org/node/35691).