massa interesnago & Greg's black Silentium in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Sun, 09/01/2019 - 09:04

At the dinner in Bellevue Hotel Dorothy Vinelander (in VN’s novel Ada, 1969, Ada’s sister-in-law) invites Van to her brother’s ranch and uses the phrase massa interesnago (heaps of interesting stuff):


ANDREY: Adochka, dushka (darling), razskazhi zhe pro rancho, pro skot (tell about the ranch, the cattle), emu zhe lyubopïtno (it cannot fail to interest him).

ADA (as if coming out of a trance): O chyom tï (you were saying something)?

ANDREY: Ya govoryu, razskazhi emu pro tvoyo zhit’yo bït’yo (I was saying, tell him about your daily life, your habitual existence). Avos’ zaglyanet k nam (maybe he’d look us up).

ADA: Ostav’, chto tam interesnago (what’s so interesting about it)?

DASHA (turning to Ivan): Don’t listen to her. Massa interesnago (heaps of interesting stuff). Delo brata ogromnoe, volnuyushchee delo, trebuyushchee ne men’she truda, chem uchyonaya dissertatsiya (his business is a big thing, quite as demanding as a scholar’s). Nashi sel’skohozyaystvennïya mashinï i ih teni (our agricultural machines and their shadows) — eto tselaya kollektsiya predmetov modernoy skul’pturï i zhivopisi (is a veritable collection of modern art) which I suspect you adore as I do.

IVAN (to Andrey): I know nothing about farming but thanks all the same.

(A pause.)

IVAN (not quite knowing what to add): Yes, I would certainly like to see your machinery some day. Those things always remind me of long-necked prehistoric monsters, sort of grazing here and there, you know, or just brooding over the sorrows of extinction — but perhaps I’m thinking of excavators —

DOROTHY: Andrey’s machinery is anything but prehistoric! (laughs cheerlessly).

ANDREY: Slovom, milosti prosim (anyway, you are most welcome). Budete zharit’ verhom s kuzinoy (you’ll have a rollicking time riding on horseback with your cousin).


 IVAN (to Ada): Half-past nine tomorrow morning won’t be too early for you? I’m at the Trois Cygnes. I’ll come to fetch you in my tiny car — not on horseback (smiles like a corpse at Andrey).

DASHA: Dovol’no skuchno (rather a pity) that Ada’s visit to lovely Lake Leman need be spoiled by sessions with lawyers and bankers. I’m sure you can satisfy most of those needs by having her come a few times chez vous and not to Luzon or Geneva. (3.8)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): (a pause): This and the whole conversation parody Chekhov’s mannerisms.


In his Zapisnye knizhki (Notebooks: One, p. 92, 12) Chekhov mentions two clerks who say of their job: delo interesnoe, massa raboty (an interesting business, heaps of work):


Податной инспектор и акцизный, чтоб оправдать себя, что занимают такое место, говорят, хотя его и не спрашивают: дело интересное, масса работы, живое дело.


On the other hand, in VN’s story Oblako, ozero, bashnya (“Cloud, Castle, Lake,” 1937) Schramm mentions massa interesnogo (lots of interesting things):


-- Нас ждёт пиво в Эвальде,-- ласково сказал Шрам.--  Пять часов поездом. Прогулки. Охотничий павильон. Угольные копи. Масса интересного.

-- Я буду жаловаться,-- завопил Василий Иванович.--Отдайте мне мой мешок. Я вправе остаться где желаю. Да ведь это какое-то приглашение на казнь,-- будто добавил он, когда его подхватили под руки.


‘There will be beer at Ewald,’ said Schramm in a caressing voice. ‘Five hours by train. Walks. A hunting lodge. Coal mines. Lots of interesting things.’

‘I shall complain,’ wailed Vasiliy Ivanovich. ‘Give me back my bag. I have the right to remain where I want. Oh, but this is nothing less than an invitation to a beheading’ —he told me he cried when they seized him by the arms.


Priglashenie na kazn’ (“Invitation to a Beheading,” 1935) is a novel by VN. In the train Vasiliy Ivanovich opens a little volume of Tyutchev:


Разместились в пустом вагончике сугубо-третьего класса, и Василий Иванович, сев в сторонке и положив в рот мятку, тотчас раскрыл томик Тютчева, которого давно собирался перечесть ("Мы слизь. Реченная есть ложь",-- и дивное о румяном восклицании); но его попросили отложить книжку и присоединиться ко всей группе.


Everyone found a place in an empty car, unmistakably third-class, and Vasiliy Ivanovich, having sat down by himself and put a peppermint into his mouth, immediately opened a little volume of Tyutchev, whom he had long intended to reread, but he was requested to put the book aside and join the group.


My sliz'. Rechyonnaya est' lozh' ("We are slime. What was once uttered is a lie," a parenthesis omitted in the English version of VN's story) hints at a line in Tyutchev's poem Silentium (1833): Mysl' izrechyonnaya est' lozh' (A thought once uttered is untrue).


In a conversation with Greg Erminin in Paris (also known as Lute on Demonia, aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) Van mentions Greg’s black Silentium (a motorcycle) and Greg tells Van that he would have consented to be beheaded by a Tartar, if in exchange he could have kissed Ada’s instep:


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.

Van considered for a moment those red round cheeks, that black goatee.

‘Ne uznayosh’ (You don’t recognize me)?’

‘Greg! Grigoriy Akimovich!’ cried Van tearing off his glove.

‘I grew a regular vollbart last summer. You’d never have known me then. Beer? Wonder what you do to look so boyish, Van.’

‘Diet of champagne, not beer,’ said Professor Veen, putting on his spectacles and signaling to a waiter with the crook of his ‘umber.’ ‘Hardly stops one adding weight, but keeps the scrotum crisp.’

‘I’m also very fat, yes?’

‘What about Grace, I can’t imagine her getting fat?’

‘Once twins, always twins. My wife is pretty portly, too.’

‘Tak tï zhenat (so you are married)? Didn’t know it. How long?’

‘About two years.’

‘To whom?’

‘Maude Sween.’

‘The daughter of the poet?’

‘No, no, her mother is a Brougham.’

Might have replied ‘Ada Veen,’ had Mr Vinelander not been a quicker suitor. I think I met a Broom somewhere. Drop the subject. Probably a dreary union: hefty, high-handed wife, he more of a bore than ever.

‘I last saw you thirteen years ago, riding a black pony — no, a black Silentium. Bozhe moy!’

‘Yes — Bozhe moy, you can well say that. Those lovely, lovely agonies in lovely Ardis! Oh, I was absolyutno bezumno (madly) in love with your cousin!’

‘You mean Miss Veen? I did not know it. How long —’

‘Neither did she. I was terribly —’

‘How long are you staying —’

‘— terribly shy, because, of course, I realized that I could not compete with her numerous boy friends.’

Numerous? Two? Three? Is it possible he never heard about the main one? All the rose hedges knew, all the maids knew, in all three manors. The noble reticence of our bed makers.

‘How long will you be staying in Lute? No, Greg, I ordered it. You pay for the next bottle. Tell me —’

‘So odd to recall! It was frenzy, it was fantasy, it was reality in the x degree. I’d have consented to be beheaded by a Tartar, I declare, if in exchange I could have kissed her instep. You were her cousin, almost a brother, you can’t understand that obsession. Ah, those picnics! And Percy de Prey who boasted to me about her, and drove me crazy with envy and pity, and Dr Krolik, who, they said, also loved her, and Phil Rack, a composer of genius — dead, dead, all dead!’

‘I really know very little about music but it was a great pleasure to make your chum howl. I have an appointment in a few minutes, alas. Za tvoyo zdorovie, Grigoriy Akimovich.’

‘Arkadievich,’ said Greg, who had let it pass once but now mechanically corrected Van.

‘Ach yes! Stupid slip of the slovenly tongue. How is Arkadiy Grigorievich?’

‘He died. He died just before your aunt. I thought the papers paid a very handsome tribute to her talent. And where is Adelaida Danilovna? Did she marry Christopher Vinelander or his brother?’

‘In California or Arizona. Andrey’s the name, I gather. Perhaps I’m mistaken. In fact, I never knew my cousin very well: I visited Ardis only twice, after all, for a few weeks each time, years ago.’

‘Somebody told me she’s a movie actress.’

‘I’ve no idea, I’ve never seen her on the screen.’

‘Oh, that would be terrible, I declare — to switch on the dorotelly, and suddenly see her. Like a drowning man seeing his whole past, and the trees, and the flowers, and the wreathed dachshund. She must have been terribly affected by her mother’s terrible death.’

Likes the word ‘terrible,’ I declare. A terrible suit of clothes, a terrible tumor. Why must I stand it? Revolting — and yet fascinating in a weird way: my babbling shadow, my burlesque double.

Van was about to leave when a smartly uniformed chauffeur came up to inform ‘my lord’ that his lady was parked at the corner of rue Saïgon and was summoning him to appear.

‘Aha,’ said Van, ‘I see you are using your British title. Your father preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel.’

‘Maude is Anglo-Scottish and, well, likes it that way. Thinks a title gets one better service abroad. By the way, somebody told me — yes, Tobak! — that Lucette is at the Alphonse Four. I haven’t asked you about your father? He’s in good health?’ (Van bowed,) ‘And how is the guvernantka belletristka?’

‘Her last novel is called L‘ami Luc. She just got the Lebon Academy Prize for her copious rubbish.’

They parted laughing. (3.2)


Grace Erminin is Greg’s twin sister. In Tyutchev’s poem Bliznetsy (“The Twins,” 1851) the two pairs of twins are Smert' i Son (Death and Sleep) and Samoubiystvo i Lyubov' (Suicide and Love):


Есть близнецы – для земнородных
Два божества – то Смерть и Сон,
Как брат с сестрою дивно сходных –
Она угрюмей, кротче он...


Но есть других два близнеца –
И в мире нет четы прекрасней,
И обаянья нет ужасней,
Ей предающего сердца...


Союз их кровный, не случайный,
И только в роковые дни
Своей неразрешимой тайной
Обворожают нас они.


И кто в избытке ощущений,
Когда кипит и стынет кровь,
Не ведал ваших искушений –
Самоубийство и Любовь!


There are twins. For the earthborn

they are gods, Death and Sleep,

like brother and sister wondrously akin,

Death's the gloomier, Sleep is gentler.


But there are two more twins:

there are no finer twins in the world,

and there's no fascination more fearsome

than he who's surrendered his heart to them.


They're no in-laws.  Their union is one of blood,

and only on days ordained by fate,

with their unsolvable mystery

do they charm us, enchant, fascinate,


and who, in an excess of sensation,

when blood boils and freezes in his veins,

can claim he's never tasted your temptations,

Suicide and Love?

(tr. F. Jude)


A couple of days after Van’s meeting with Greg Erminin, Van’s and Ada’s half-sister Lucette commits suicide by jumping into the Atlantic from The Admiral Tobakoff (3.5). Chekhov is the author of the two monologue scenes O vrede tobaka (“On the Harm of Tobacco,” 1886, 1903).


Nerazreshimaya tayna (unsolvable mystery) in Tyutchev’s poem “The Twins” brings to mind kvadratnaya tayna (a square secret) discussed in a whisper by the walls of Cincinnatus's cell in Priglashenie na kazn’:


Некоторое время все молчали: глиняный кувшин с водой на дне, поивший всех узников мира; стены, друг другу на плечи положившие руки, как четверо неслышным шёпотом обсуждающих квадратную тайну;  бархатный паук, похожий чем-то на Марфиньку; большие чёрные книги на столе...


For a while they were all silent — the earthenware pitcher with water at the bottom that had offered drink to all the prisoners of the world; the walls, with their arms around each others shoulders like a foursome discussing a square secret in inaudible whispers; the velvet spider, somehow resembling Marthe; the large black books on the table . . . (Chapter Two)


In Cincinnatus’s cell the jailer Rodion sings in his bass-baritone:


У Родиона были васильковые глаза и, как всегда,  чудная рыжая бородища. Это красивое русское лицо было обращено вверх к Цинциннату, который босой подошвой на него наступил, то есть призрак его наступил, сам же Цинциннат уже сошел со стула на стол.  Родион, обняв его как младенца, бережно снял, -- после чего со скрипичным звуком отодвинул стол на прежнее место и присел на него с  краю, болтая той ногой, что была повыше, а другой упираясь  в  пол, -- приняв фальшиво-развязную позу оперных гуляк в сцене погребка, а Цинциннат ковырял шнурок халата, потупясь, стараясь не плакать.

Родион баритонным басом пел, играя глазами и размахивая пустой кружкой. Эту же удалую песню певала прежде и Марфинька. Слёзы брызнули из глаз Цинцинната. На какой-то предельной ноте Родион грохнул кружкой об стол и соскочил со стола. Дальше он уже пел хором, хотя был один.  Вдруг поднял вверх обе руки и вышел.


Rodion had cornflower-blue eyes and, as always, his splendid red beard. This attractive Russian countenance was turned upwards toward Cincinnatus, who stepped on it with his naked sole — that is, his double stepped on it, while Cincinnatus himself had already descended from the chair to the table. Rodion, embracing him like a baby, carefully took him down, after which he moved the table with a violinlike sound to its previous place and sat on the edge, dangling the foot  that was in the air, and bracing the other against the floor,  having assumed the imitation-jaunty pose of operatic rakes in the tavern scene, while Cincinnatus picked at the sash of his dressing gown, and did his best not to cry.

Rodion was singing in his bass-baritone, rolling his eyes, brandishing the empty mug. Marthe used to sing that same dashing song once. Tears gushed from the eyes of Cincinnatus. On a climactic note Rodion sent the mug crashing against the floor and slid off the table. His song went on in chorus, even though he was alone. Suddenly he raised both arms and went out. (ibid.)


When Marthe and her whole family visit Cincinnatus in the fortress, Cincinnatus's brother-in-law (who has a twin brother) sings from an opera:


Примятые звуки постепенно начинали расправляться. Брат Марфиньки, брюнет, прочистил горло и пропел вполголоса: "Mali e trano t'amesti..." - осёкся и посмотрел на брата, который сделал страшные глаза. Адвокат, чему-то улыбаясь, опять принялся за платок. Марфинька на кушетке перешёптывалась со своим кавалером, который упрашивал ее накинуть шаль, - тюремный воздух был сыроват. Они говорили на "вы", но с каким грузом нежности проплывало это "вы" на горизонте их едва уловимой беседы... Старичок, ужасно дрожа, встал со стула, передал портрет старушке и, заслоняя дрожавшее, как он сам, пламя, подошел к своему зятю, а Цинциннатову тестю, и хотел ему --. Но пламя потухло, и тот сердито поморщился:

- Надоели, право, со своей дурацкой зажигалкой, - сказал он угрюмо, но уже без гнева, - и тогда воздух совсем оживился, и сразу заговорили все.

"Mali e trano t'amesti..." - полным голосом пропел Марфинькин брат.


The various trampled sounds began to straighten up. Marthe’s brother, the brunette, cleared his throat and softly began to sing Mali e trano t’ames ti . . .’ He stopped short and looked at his brother, who made terrible eyes at him. The lawyer, smiling at something, again applied himself to his handkerchief. On the couch, Marthe was talking in a whisper with her escort, who was pleading with her to throw the shawl over herself— the prison air was a little damp. When they spoke they used the formal second person plural, but with what a cargo of tenderness this second person plural was laden as it sailed along the horizon of their barely audible conversation . . . The little old man, trembling awfully, got up from his chair, handed the portrait to his old woman and,  shielding the flame that was trembling like himself, went up to Cincinnatus’s father-in-law, and was going to light his . . . But the flame went out, and the latter frowned angrily.

‘You have really become a nuisance with your stupid lighter, said he glumly, but already without wrath; then the  atmosphere really grew animated, and everybody began talking simultaneously.

'Mali e trano t’amesti /’ Marthe’s brother sang in full voice. (Chapter Nine)


According to G. Barabtarlo, "mali e trano t'amesti!" is an anagram of smert' mila, eto taina! (death is sweet, this is a secret). Trano may hint at treno ("train" in Italian). At the dinner with the Vinelanders Van mentions Maître Jorat, or Raton:


‘Tomorrow morning, je veux vous accaparer, ma chère. As my lawyer, or yours, or both, have, perhaps, informed you, Lucette’s accounts in several Swiss banks —’ and he trotted out a prepared version of a state of affairs invented in toto. ‘I suggest,’ he added, ‘that if you have no other engagements’ — (sending a questioning glance that avoided the Vinelanders by leaping across and around the three cinematists, all of whom nodded in idiotic approval) — ‘you and I go to see Maître Jorat, or Raton, name escapes me, my adviser, enfin, in Luzon, half an hour drive from here — who has given me certain papers which I have at my hotel and which I must have you sigh — I mean sign with a sigh — the matter is tedious. All right? All right.’

‘But, Ada,’ clarioned Dora, ‘you forget that tomorrow morning we wanted to visit the Institute of Floral Harmony in the Château Piron!’

‘You’ll do it after tomorrow, or Tuesday, or Tuesday week,’ said Van. ‘I’d gladly drive all three of you to that fascinating lieu de méditation but my fast little Unseretti seats only one passenger, and that business of untraceable deposits is terribly urgent, I think.’ (3.8)


Raton = notar = trano

treno = tenor = notre (cf. Notre Dame de Paris)


The characters of Priglashenie na kazn' include Roman Vissarionovich, Cincinnatus's lawyer. The public execution of Cincinnatus takes place in Interesnaya ploshchad' (Thriller Square). 


Massa interesnago brings to mind "Aardvark, Massa" and interesnoe polozhenie (‘interesting condition’) mentioned by Van as he describes Demon's duel with d'Onsky:


Upon being questioned in Demon’s dungeon, Marina, laughing trillingly, wove a picturesque tissue of lies; then broke down, and confessed. She swore that all was over; that the Baron, a physical wreck and a spiritual Samurai, had gone to Japan forever. From a more reliable source Demon learned that the Samurai’s real destination was smart little Vatican, a Roman spa, whence he was to return to Aardvark, Massa, in a week or so. Since prudent Veen preferred killing his man in Europe (decrepit but indestructible Gamaliel was said to be doing his best to forbid duels in the Western Hemisphere — a canard or an idealistic President’s instant-coffee caprice, for nothing was to come of it after all), Demon rented the fastest petroloplane available, overtook the Baron (looking very fit) in Nice, saw him enter Gunter’s Bookshop, went in after him, and in the presence of the imperturbable and rather bored English shopkeeper, back-slapped the astonished Baron across the face with a lavender glove. The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish — a kind of American ‘Gory Mary’ in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d’Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not ‘of his wounds’ (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston — a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum.

Marina arrived in Nice a few days after the duel, and tracked Demon down in his villa Armina, and in the ecstasy of reconciliation neither remembered to dupe procreation, whereupon started the extremely interesnoe polozhenie (‘interesting condition’) without which, in fact, these anguished notes could not have been strung.

(Van, I trust your taste and your talent but are we quite sure we should keep reverting so zestfully to that wicked world which after all may have existed only oneirologically, Van? Marginal jotting in Ada’s 1965 hand; crossed out lightly in her latest wavering one.) (1.2)


Both Demon after his sword duel with d'Onsky and Van after his pistol duel with Tapper have scars on their bodies. Russian for "scar," shram brings to mind Schramm, a character in "Cloud, Castle, Lake" who mentions massa interesnogo (a lot of interesting things).


Greg's motorcycle seems to hint not only at Tyutchev's Silentium, but also at his poem Encyclica ("An Encyclical," 1864) in which kazn' v otstupnicheskom Rime (the execution in apostate Rome) is mentioned:


Был день, когда господней правды молот
Громил, дробил ветхозаветный храм
И, собственным мечом своим заколот,
В нём издыхал первосвященник сам.

Ещё страшней, ещё неумолимей
И в наши дни – дни божьего суда –
Свершится казнь в отступническом Риме
Над лженаместником Христа.

Столетья шли, ему прощалось много,
Кривые толки, тёмные дела,
Но не простится правдой бога
Его последняя хула...

Не от меча погибнет он земного,
Мечом земным владевший столько лет, –
Его погубит роковое слово:
«Свобода совести есть бред!»


Once, the hammer of the justice of the Lord
smashed and destroyed the primal temple
where the high priest gasped his last,
impaled upon his own sword.
More fearsome, more implacable, God demands that he atone
on these days of heavenly judgement
in apostate Rome, and capital sentence will be passed
on that Pretender to Christ's throne!
Passing centuries disguise
black deeds and lying rumours,
but God in his justice cannot pardon
this latest in a string of lies.
No human being will win
the right to kill this earthly ruler,
living by the sword of man so long himself.
He will be destroyed by his own fateful words:
"Think for yourself and you sin!"
(tr. F. Jude)


In the original Tyutchev's poem ends in the line "Svoboda sovesti est' bred!" ("Freedom of conscience is nonsense!") and brings to mind a Mr Brod or Bred whom Dorothy Vinelander eventually marries:


So she did write as she had promised? Oh, yes, yes! In seventeen years he received from her around a hundred brief notes, each containing around one hundred words, making around thirty printed pages of insignificant stuff — mainly about her husband’s health and the local fauna. 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)


"Smart little Vatican, a Roman spa" brings to mind Tyutchev's poem Vatikanskaya godovshchina ("The Vatican Anniversary," 1871).


Describing his last meeting with Demon, Van mentions two lawyers and Cardinal Grishkin, a novel by Kithar Sween extolling the Roman faith:


The last occasion on which Van had seen his father was at their house in the spring of 1904. Other people had been present: old Eliot, the real-estate man, two lawyers (Grombchevski and Gromwell), Dr Aix, the art expert, Rosalind Knight, Demon’s new secretary, and solemn Kithar Sween, a banker who at sixty-five had become an avant-garde author; in the course of one miraculous year he had produced The Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding habits, and Cardinal Grishkin, an overtly subtle yarn extolling the Roman faith. The poem was but the twinkle in an owl’s eye; as to the novel it had already been pronounced ‘seminal’ by celebrated young critics (Norman Girsh, Louis Deer, many others) who lauded it in reverential voices pitched so high that an ordinary human ear could not make much of that treble volubility; it seemed, however, all very exciting, and after a great bang of obituary essays in 1910 (‘Kithar Sween: the man and the writer,’ ‘Sween as poet and person,’ ‘Kithar Kirman Lavehr Sween: a tentative biography’) both the satire and the romance were to be forgotten as thoroughly as that acting foreman’s control of background adjustment — or Demon’s edict. (3.8)


In Pushkin's drama Boris Godunov (1825) Grishka Otrepiev (the Pretender) promises to pater Chernikhovsky that before two years all Russians will follow his example and become Roman Catholics:

САМОЗВАНЕЦ. Нет, мой отец, не будет затрудненья;
Я знаю дух народа моего;
В нём набожность не знает исступленья:
Ему священ пример царя его.
Всегда, к тому ж, терпимость равнодушна.
Ручаюсь я, что прежде двух годов
Весь мой народ, вся северная церковь
Признают власть наместника Петра.

PRETENDER. Nay, father, there will be no trouble. I know
The spirit of my people; piety
Does not run wild in them, their tsar's example
To them is sacred. Furthermore, the people
Are always tolerant. I warrant you,
Before two years my people all, and all
The Eastern Church, will recognise the power
Of Peter's Vicar. (Cracow. The House of Vishnevetsky)


On Van's seventh birthday (Jan. 1, 1877) Demon made himself up as Boris Godunov in an amateur parody:


Demon spoke on: ‘I cannot disinherit you: Aqua left you enough "ridge" and real estate to annul the conventional punishment. And I cannot denounce you to the authorities without involving my daughter, whom I mean to protect at all cost. But I can do the next proper thing, I can curse you, I can make this our last, our last —’

Van, whose finger had been gliding endlessly to and fro along the mute but soothingly smooth edge of the mahogany desk, now heard with horror the sob that shook Demon’s entire frame, and then saw a deluge of tears flowing down those hollow tanned cheeks. In an amateur parody, at Van’s birthday party fifteen years ago, his father had made himself up as Boris Godunov and shed strange, frightening, jet-black tears before rolling down the steps of a burlesque throne in death’s total surrender to gravity. Did those dark streaks, in the present show, come from his blackening his orbits, eyelashes, eyelids, eyebrows? The funest gamester… the pale fatal girl, in another well-known melodrama…. In this one. Van gave him a clean handkerchief to replace the soiled rag. His own marble calm did not surprise Van. The ridicule of a good cry with Father adequately clogged the usual ducts of emotion.

Demon regained his composure (if not his young looks) and said:

‘I believe in you and your common sense. You must not allow an old debaucher to disown an only son. If you love her, you wish her to be happy, and she will not be as happy as she could be once you gave her up. You may go. Tell her to come here on your way down.' (2.11)


Compelled by Demon to give up Ada, Van wants to shoot himself.