Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025435, Wed, 4 Jun 2014 00:56:34 +0300

lutromarina in Ada
Van compares Lucette wearing her desman fur coat to a black bear:

A black bear with bright russet locks (the sun had reached its first parlor window) stood awaiting him. (2.5)

When Ada comes from Ardis to Manhattan, she wears a hoar-glossed coat of sea-otter fur:

As if she had just escaped from a burning palace and a perishing kingdom, she wore over her rumpled nightdress a deep-brown, hoar-glossed coat of sea-otter fur, the famous kamchatstkiy bobr of ancient Estotian traders, also known as 'lutromarina' on the Lyaska coast: 'my natural fur,' as Marina used to say pleasantly of her own cape, inherited from a Zemski granddam, when, at the dispersal of a winter ball, some lady wearing vison or coypu or a lowly manteau de castor (beaver, nemetskiy bobr) would comment with a rapturous moan on the bobrovaya shuba. (2.6)

A black bear and kamchatskiy bobr (a marine otter, Enhydra lutris) bring to mind a line in Marina Tsvetaev's poem Toska po rodine! Davno... ("Home-sickness! Long ago..." 1934):

Kamchatskim medvedyom bez l'diny.
Like a Kamchatka bear without an ice-floe.

In her memoir essay on Marina Tsvetaev (Novyi Zhurnal, 1967) Zinaida Shakhovskoy quotes this line:

Так, утёсом стояла Марина Цветаева на своём возвышении, бросая свои заклинания, шла напролом, рубила сплеча, а потом как-то по-мужски кланялась тем, кого продолжала не видеть, погружённая

В себя, в единоличье чувств
Камчатским медведём без льдины…

Raskhishchennye shuby ("The Stolen Fur Coats," 1811) is a poem by Prince A. A. Shakhovskoy, the author of a comedy Lipetskie vody ("The Lipetsk Waters," 1815). In Kaluga (New Cheshire, U.S.A.) Van and Ada drink the Kaluga Waters:

They traveled to Kaluga and drank the Kaluga Waters, and saw the family dentist. Van, flipping through a magazine, heard Ada scream and say 'chort' (devil) in the next room, which he had never heard her do before. (1.22)

Chyort ("The Devil," 1935) is an autobiographical story by Marina Tsvetaev. Cherti (pl. of chyort) are often mentioned in Ada. The phrase k chertyam sobach'im occurs in the novel at least three times:

Upon first noticing this immediate, sustained, and in her case rather eager and mocking but really quite harmless replay of this or that recent discourse, she felt tickled at the thought that she, poor Aqua, had accidentally hit upon such a simple method of recording and transmitting speech, while technologists (the so-called Eggheads) all over the world were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets that were to replace those that had gone k chertyam sobach'im (Russian 'to the devil') with the banning of an unmentionable 'lammer.' (1.3)

Instead of staying for the night, Marina stalked off and called Ada who, having been told to 'play in the garden,' was mumbling and numbering in raw-flesh red the white trunks of a row of young birches with Rose's purloined lipstick in the preamble to a game she now could not remember - what a pity, said Van - when her mother swept her back straight to Ardis in the same taxi leaving Dan - to his devices and vices, inserted Van - and arriving home at sunrise. But, added Ada, just before being whisked away and deprived of her crayon (tossed out by Marina k chertyam sobach'im, to hell's hounds - and it did remind one of Rose's terrier that had kept trying to hug Dan's leg) the charming glimpse was granted her of tiny Van, with another sweet boy, and blond-bearded, white-bloused Aksakov, walking up to the house, and, oh yes, she had forgotten her hoop - no, it was still in the taxi. (1.24)

Especially so now - when everything had gone to the hell curs, k chertyam sobach'im, of Jeroen Anthniszoon van Aken and the molti aspetti affascinati of his enigmatica arte, as Dan explained with a last sigh to Dr Nikulin and to nurse Bellabestia ('Bess') to whom he bequeathed a trunkful of museum catalogues and his second-best catheter. (2.10)

Poor mad Aqua is Marina's twin sister, Daniel Veen ("Dan") is Marina's husband. All of them were born on January 5 (Marina Tsvetaev's Plach Yaroslavny, "The Weeping of Yaroslavna," a cycle of three poems included in Lebedinyi stan, "The Swan Camp," was written on January 5, 1921, NS):

Marina's affair with Demon Veen started on his, her, and Daniel Veen's birthday, January 5, 1868, when she was twenty-four and both Veens thirty. (1.2)

Demon Veen (Aqua's husband) is Van's and Ada's father. Ada's furs were given her by Demon:

Ada's bobri (princely plural of bobr) were a gift from Demon, who as we know, had lately seen in the Western states considerably more of her than he had in Eastern Estotiland when she was a child. (2.6)

January 5 is also Vera Nabokov's birthday. When VN first met Vera Slonim on a bridge over a chestnut-lined canal in Berlin, she wore a black satin mask. In his poem Vstrecha ("The Encounter," 1923) VN mentions the mask's lupine profile and the canal:

И ночь текла, и плыли молча
в её атласные струи
той чёрной маски профиль волчий
и губы нежные твои.

И под каштаны, вдоль канала,
прошла ты, искоса маня;
и что душа в тебе узнала,
чем волновала ты меня?

VN's Vstrecha has an epigraph from Blok's Incognita. In Blok's poem "Noch'. Ulitsa. Fonar'. Apteka..." ("Night. Street. Lamp. Chemist's shop..." 1912) ledyanaya ryab' kanala ("the canal's icy ripple") is mentioned.

kanal = kalan = nakal
lutromarina + Erminin = ultramarine + or + Minin (kanal - canal; kalan - kamchatskiy bobr, Enhydra lutris; nakal - incandescence; Erminin - the Erminin twins, Greg and Grace, and their father, Colonel Erminin; or - Fr., gold; Minin - Kuzma Minin, a national hero for his role in defending Russia against the Polish invasion in 1612; cf. Marina Mnishek, a Polish beauty after whom Marina Tsvetaev was named)

When Van meets Lucette in Lute (as Paris is also known on Antiterra), she is linked to Blok's Incognita:

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. (3.3)

As I pointed out in my essay "Aleksandr Blok's Dreams as Enacted in Ada by Van Veen - and Vice Versa" available in Zembla (http://www.google.ru/url?url=http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/sklyar3.htm&rct=j&frm=1&q=&esrc=s&sa=U&ei=C1mPU62KMa7JsQSQvoDoBA&ved=0CC4QFjAD&usg=AFQjCNEmaWRTmM0Aj4DumZczZ5PD-KFL2Q), the character of Van Veen is based on the romantic image of Blok. Marina Tsvetaev is the author of "Verses to Blok" (1921).

'Lucette affirmed,' he said, 'that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions.'
He was omniscient. Better say, omni-incest.
'That's right,' said the other total-recaller.
And, by the way, Grace - yes, Grace - was Vanda's real favorite, pas petite moi and my little crest. (2.6)

In Toska po rodine ("Home-Sickness") Marina Tsveatev compares herself not only to a Kamchatka bear, but also to a captive lion:

Мне всё равно, каких среди
Лиц ощетиниваться пленным
Львом, из какой людской среды
Быть вытесненной — непременно —

В себя, в единоличье чувств.
Камчатским медведём без льдины
Где не ужиться (и не тщусь!),
Где унижаться — мне едино.

Ada's "crayon" tossed out by Marina k chertyam sobach'im brings to mind the "Cranach crayons" that Ada brings from Ardis for Lucette:

'I'm not sure I did bring her damned Cranach crayons,' said Ada a moment later, making a frightened frog face...
'I'm a good, good girl. Here are her special pencils. It was very considerate and altogether charming of you to invite her next weekend. I think she's even more madly in love with you than with me, the poor pet. Demon got them in Strassburg. After all she's a demi-vierge now' ('I hear you and Dad -' began Van, but the introduction of a new subject was swamped) 'and we shan't be afraid of her witnessing our ebats' (pronouncing on purpose, with triumphant hooliganism, for which my prose, too, is praised, the first vowel a la Russe). (2.6)

Next weekend Van takes Ada and Lucette to 'Ursus:'

Knowing how fond his sisters were of Russian fare and Russian floor shows, Van took them Saturday night to 'Ursus,' the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major. Both young ladies wore the very short and open evening gowns that Vass 'miraged' that season - in the phrase of that season: Ada, a gauzy black, Lucette, a lustrous cantharid green. Their mouths 'echoed' in tone (but not tint) each other's lipstick; their eyes were made up in a 'surprised bird-of-paradise' style that was as fashionable in Los as in Lute. Mixed metaphors and double-talk became all three Veens, the children of Venus. (2.8)

Ursus (Lat., "bear") is the wandering artist in Victor Hugo's "The Laughing Man." The novel's characters include the tame wolf Homo (Lat., "man"). In her memoir essay on Valeriy Bryusov, Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925), Marina Tsvetaev calls Bryusov trizhdy rimlyanin ("a triple Roman") and compares him to a wolf. It is Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman, who after Ada's arrival in Manhattan brings her and Van a beautiful breakfast and who procured neat Rose, the sportive Negro maid whom Van shares with Mr Dean:

Lucette had gone (leaving a curt note with her room number at the Winster Hotel for Young Ladies) when our two lovers, now weak-legged and decently robed, sat down to a beautiful breakfast (Ardis' crisp bacon! Ardis' translucent honey!) brought up in the lift by Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman, always ill-shaven and gloomy, but a dear old boy (he it was who, having procured neat Rose last June, was being paid to keep her strictly for Veen and Dean). (2.6)

In the preface to "The Stolen Fur Coats" Prince Shakhovskoy mentions Boileau's poem Le Lutrin ("The Lectern," 1683) highly praised by La Harpe:

Во Франции, в век Людовика XIV, Буало сочинил совершеннейшее, по словам г. Лагарпа, в сём роде творение «Налой» («Le lutrin»), поэму, названную им, по примеру Тассония, ирои-комическою.

"Tassonius" mentioned by Shakhovskoy is Torquato Tasso, the author of Jerusalem Delivered (1581). The poem's characters include Erminia, a girl who is hopelessly in love with Tancred. "Erminia" was the nickname of Pushkin's friend Eliza Khitrovo, born Kutuzov. Greg Erminin's twin sister Grace (with whom Ada played anagrams at the picnic in "Ardis the First," 1.13) marries a Wellington:

So little did the world realize the real state of affairs that even Cordula Tobak, born de Prey, and Grace Wellington, born Erminin, spoke of Demon Veen, with his fashionable goatee and frilled shirtfront, as 'Van's successor.' (2.6)

While Kutuzov (Erminia's father) opposed Napoleon in the battles of Austerlitz (1805) and Borodino (1812), Wellington opposed him in the battle of Waterloo (1815) lost by Napoleon. The sole idol of Marina Tsvetaev, Napoleon (who seems to have not existed on Antiterra) is mentioned by Pushkin in his poem K moryu ("To the Sea," 1824): Proshchay, svobodnaya stikhiya... ("Farewell, the free element..."). Pushkin is the author of Skazka o medvedikhe ("The Fairy Tale about a She-Bear," 1830). S. P. Krasheninnikov's Opisanie zemli Kamchatki ("The Description of the Land Kamchatka," 1755) was one of the lasts books that Pushkin read. A few days before his fatal duel the poet planned to write for "The Contemporary" an article about Kamchatka.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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