Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025367, Sun, 4 May 2014 21:31:09 +0300

elevators & toys in Ada
Daniel Veen proposed to Marina in the Up elevator of Manhattan's first ten-floor building:

One afternoon in the spring of 1871, he proposed to Marina in the Up elevator of Manhattan's first ten-floor building, was indignantly rejected at the seventh stop (Toys), came down alone and, to air his feelings, set off in a counter-Fogg direction on a triple trip round the globe, adopting, like an animated parallel, the same itinerary every time. (1.2)

In her memoir essay Bashnya v plyushche ("The Tower in Ivy," 1933) Marina Tsvetaev says that, as a child, her younger sister Asya dreamed of ascenseur (Fr., an elevator) - not in her house though, but in her garden - and of marrying Edison (1847-1931, the American inventor, esp. of electric devices):

— А ты, Азиа? Каковы твои желания?
Ася, скоропалительно:
— Выйти замуж за Эдисона. Это первое. Потом, чтобы у меня был “ascenseur”, только не в доме, без дома, в саду…
— Ну, а третье?
— Третьего я вам не могу сказать. (Взгляд на фрейлейн Паула.) Совсем не могу сказать!
— Дитя, дитя, не стесняйся! Ты же ничего плохого не можешь пожелать?
— Это не плохое, это… неудобное, неприличное. (Испуганное лицо фрейлейн Паула.) Оно начинается на W. Нет, не то, что вы думаете! — И вдруг, привстав на цыпочки и обняв за шею испуганную и улыбающуюся фрау фюрстин, — громким шепотом: — Weg! (Вон!) Вон из пансиона!

Asya's third, "indecent," wish was to leave the boarding house in Schwarzwald.

A week after this conversation with Fraulein Paula and Furstin Thurn und Taxis Asya received a gift from Frau Furstin, a box with bricks from which one could build not only an elevator, but the whole New York where Asya's wedding with Edison would be celebrated:

В том, с надписью “Азиа”, — коробка с кубиками, из которых можно построить не только лифт, но целый Нью-Йорк, тот Нью-Йорк, где будет праздноваться её свадьба с Эдисоном.

As to Marina, she dreamed of seeing Napoleon and of Russia's victory in the war with Japan:

— Скажи мне, Марина, какое твоё самое большое желание?
— Увидеть Наполеона.
— Ну, а ещё?
— Чтобы мы, чтобы русские разбили японцев. Всю Японию!

The time is thus spring of 1905 and Marina Tsvetaev (born Sept. 26, 1892) is twelve. When Van first comes to Ardis, Ada is almost twelve and soon becomes his lover. Ada is a precocious child, "Wunderkind" (as Lucette calls her and Van, 2.5). According to Fraulein Paula, Marina is geistreich (gifted) и fruhreif (precocious) and her sister Asya is liebreich (full of love):

Мой отец, по словам фрейлейн Паула, знаменитый архитектор, который строит уже второй в Москве музей (первый, очевидно, Румянцевский!), наша мать — знаменитая пианистка (никогда не выступала публично), я — необычайно одарена, “geistreich” (а арифметика? а рукоделие?), Ася необычайно “liebreich” (любвеобильна). Я настолько “geistreich” и “fruhreif” (раннего развития), что уже печатаюсь в русских детских журналах (получаю “Друг детей” и “Родник”), а Ася настолько любвеобильна, что после каждой еды приходит к ней, фрейлейн Паула, “делать кошечку”, то есть ластиться.

Bashnya (tower) in the title of Marina Tsvetaev's memoir essay is a result of corruption: Thurn in the German princely name Thurn und Taxix becomes in the child's mind tour (Fr., "tower"):

— Как же вы не спросите, Руссенкиндер, куда мы едем и откуда эти лошади?
— Взрослых спрашивать нельзя (Ася).
— Лучше, наверное, не знать (я).
— Похвальная воспитанность (Асе). Опасная мечтательность (мне). Мы едем… — И вдруг в моё ухо ударяет созвучие: Тур-унд-Таксис. И молниеносное видение башни в плюще. Ныне, впервые, над этим задумавшись, понимаю: Thurn, принятая мою за Turm, — давало французскую tour (башню), a Taxis, по созвучию с растительным Taxus, точного значения которого я тогда не знала (тисовое дерево, тис), давало плющ. Тур-унд-Таксис. Башня в плюще.

Tower plays an important role in Ada's philosophy:

Children of her type contrive the purest philosophies. Ada had worked out her own little system. Hardly a week had elapsed since Van's arrival when he was found worthy of being initiated in her web of wisdom. An individual's life consisted of certain classified things: 'real things' which were unfrequent and priceless, simply 'things' which formed the routine stuff of life; and 'ghost things,' also called 'fogs,' such as fever, toothache, dreadful disappointments, and death. Three or more things occurring at the same time formed a 'tower,' or, if they came in immediate succession, they made a 'bridge.' 'Real towers' and 'real bridges' were the joys of life, and when the towers came in a series, one experienced supreme rapture; it almost never happened, though. (1.12)

Marina Tsvetaev wrote her essay after seeing that one of Rilke's Duino Elegies was dedicated to Princess Turn und Taxix:

Недавно, раскрыв одну из рильковских “Элегий”, читаю: “Посвящается княгине Турн-унд-Таксис”. Турн-унд-Таксис? Что-то знакомое! Только то было: Тур. Ах, знаю: башня в плюще!

Rilke wrote his Duino Elegies while visiting Princess Marie of Turn and Taxis (nee princess of Hohenlohe) at her family's Duino castle on the Adriatic sea. Marie was married to Alexander Turn and Taxis, a member of the family's branch that in the early 19th century settled in Bohemia and became strongly connected to Czech national culture and history. After his duel with Demon d'Onsky marries a Bohemian lady (who wanted Demon's recommendation for a job in the in the Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston museum, 1.2).

Marina Tsvetaev's poem Novogodnee ("The New Year's," 1927) is her last, "posthumous," letter to Rilke (who died in the last days of 1926). Zeus, Castor and Pollux are mentioned in it:

Не поэта с прахом, духа с телом,
(Обособить — оскорбить обоих)
А тебя с тобой, тебя с тобою ж,
— Быть Зевесовым не значит лучшим —
Кастора — тебя с тобой — Поллуксом,
Мрамора — тебя с тобою, травкой,
Не разлуку и не встречу — ставку
Очную: и встречу и разлуку

The twin brothers Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces, the Dioskouri, are the sons of Leda whom Zeus seduced in the guise of a swan. When Dorothy Vinelander ascends in a lift of the Bellevue hotel in Mont Roux, Van kisses Ada's neck "like a veritable Jupiter Olorinus:"

Before the two ladies proceeded toward the lift, Ada glanced at Van - and he - no fool in amorous strategy - refrained to comment on her 'forgetting' her tiny black silk handbag on the seat of her chair. He did not accompany them beyond the passage leading liftward and, clutching the token, awaited her planned return behind a pillar of hotel-hall mongrel design, knowing that in a moment she would say to her accursed companion (by now revising, no doubt, her views on the 'beau tenebreux') as the lift's eye turned red under a quick thumb: 'Akh, sumochku zabila (forgot my bag)!' - and instantly flitting back, like Vere's Ninon, she would be in his arms.
Their open mouths met in tender fury, and then he pounced upon her new, young, divine, Japanese neck which he had been coveting like a veritable Jupiter Olorinus throughout the evening.
'We'll vroom straight to my place as soon as you wake up, don't bother to bathe, jump into your lenclose -' and, with the burning sap brimming, he again devoured her, until (Dorothy must have reached the sky!) she danced three fingers on his wet lips - and escaped. (3.8)

In her poem Marina Tsvetaev says that she lives in Bellevue (a suburb of Paris):

В Беллевю живу. Из гнёзд и веток
Городок. Переглянувшись с гидом:
Беллевю. Острог с прекрасным видом
На Париж — чертог химеры галльской —
На Париж — и на немножко дальше…

The Bellevue hotel is patronized by wealthy Rheinlanders:

When he reached at long last the whitewashed and blue-shaded Bellevue (patronized by wealthy Estotilanders, Rheinlanders, and Vinelanders, but not placed in the same superclass as the old, tawny and gilt, huge, sprawling, lovable Trois Cygnes), Van saw with dismay that his watch still lagged far behind 7:00 p.m., the earliest dinner hour in local hotels. (3.8)

In Poema Lestnitsy ("The Poem of a Staircase," 1926) Marina Tsvetaev compares the water splashed out by some lodger from a window (or running down the back staircase when it is washed?) to the Rhein falling from the Alps:

Откуда -- узнай-ка! --
Последняя шайка --
Рейн, рухнувший с Альп, --
Воды об асфальт

In her poem Marina Tsvetaev says that every staircase in a house where people do not sleep at night is a waterfall to hell (vodopad v ad):

В доме, где по ночам не спят,
Каждая лестница - водопад
в ад.

In Marina's pronunciation the phrase quatre a quatre (rushing up or down stairs) sounds like katrakatra:

Then he clattered, in Lucette's wake, down the cataract of the narrow staircase, katrakatra (quatre a quatre). Please, children not katrakatra (Marina). (2.5)

Presently, as Marina had promised, the two children went upstairs. 'Why do stairs creak so desperately, when two children go upstairs,' she thought, looking up at the balustrade along which two left hands progressed with strikingly similar flips and glides like siblings taking their first dancing lesson. 'After all, we were twin sisters; everybody knows that.' The same slow heave, she in front, he behind, took them over the last two steps, and the staircase was silent again. 'Old-fashioned qualms,' said Marina. (1.5)

The children of Demon and Marina, Van and Ada are full brother and sister. But officially Van is the son of Demon Veen and Marina's twin sister Aqua, and Ada is a daughter of Daniel Veen (Demon's first cousin) and Marina (1.1). In her last note poor mad Aqua calls herself "eye-rolling toy:"

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. (1.3)

Marina Tsvetaev committed suicide in Elabuga on August 31, 1941.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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