Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025372, Sun, 4 May 2014 15:08:28 -0700

Re: elevators & toys in Ada
Dear Alexey,

How funny ... in conjunction with quondam attempts to read and comprehend Ada, I read an odd novel about a marvelous mechanical Eve, built by Edison. Don't recall now what led me to that book (author de Lisle Adam). although it does rather fit in with some of the futuristic elements of Ada. Interestingly, I believe another of de Lisle Adam's books inspired Edmund Wilson's title Axel's Castle. I will poke around and if I come up with anything more I will send it in.

On Sunday, May 4, 2014 11:31 AM, Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark1970@MAIL.RU> wrote:

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 Fräulein
Paula and Fürstin Thurn und Taxis Asya received a gift
from Frau Fürstin, 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
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
— Увидеть Наполеона.
— Ну, а ещё?
— Чтобы мы, чтобы русские разбили японцев. Всю
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 Fräulein
Paula, Marina is geistreich (gifted) и frühreif (precocious) and her sister Asya is liebreich (full of
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 “frühreif”
(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
Tower plays an important role in Ada's
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
 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 (née 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
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 ténébreux') as the lift's eye turned red
under a quick thumb: 'Akh, sumochku zabïla (forgot my bag)!' - and
instantly flitting back, like Vere's Ninon, she would be in his
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
В Беллевю живу. Из гнёзд и веток
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 --
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 à
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 à 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
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
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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