Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025558, Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:21:36 +0300

good auditor in Ada
Ada's fifth letter to Van ends thus:

I'm writing from Marina Ranch - not very far from the little gulch in which Aqua died and into which I myself feel like creeping some day. For the time being, I'm returning for a while to the Pisang Hotel.
I salute the good auditor. (2.1)

At the end of her last note [signed: My sister's sister who teper' iz ada ('now is out of hell')] Aqua mentioned her multicolored pills:

So adieu, my dear, dear son, and farewell, poor Demon, I do not know the date or the season, but it is a reasonably, and no doubt seasonably, fair day, with a lot of cute little ants queuing to get at my pretty pills. (1.3)

"The candy-pink and pisang-green" Pisang Hotel in Los Angeles brings to mind a box of mints that uncle Dan gave Ada on her sixteenth birthday:

Weaving rapidly between the pines, he brought the little red runabout to an abrupt stop in front of Ada and presented her with the perfect gift, a big box of mints, white, pink and, oh boy, green! (1.39)

The closing sentence of Ada's letter brings to mind the Latin polite formula: Lectori benevolo salutem (L. b. s., to the kind reader, greeting). "Auditor" (instead of "lector") seems to foreshadow Ada's last letter transmitted to Van by his and Ada's half-sister (who "turned out to be, against all reason and will, the impeccable paranymph"):

Should that letter, now next to the brandy, listen to all this? Was it from Ada after all (there was no address)? Because it was Lucette's mad, shocking letter of love that was doing the talking. (2.5)

A year before Lucette sent Van from California "a rambling, indecent, crazy, almost savage declaration of love in a ten-page letter, which shall not be discussed in this memoir [See, however, a little farther. Ed.]." According to the Editor of Ada, Van, as he describes his meeting with Lucette in Kingston, can use extracts from her letter or letters to him:

'Belle had returned to Canady, because Vronsky had defigured The Doomed Children; her successor had eloped with Demon; papa was in the East, maman hardly ever came home before dawn, the maids joined their lovers at star-rise, and I hated to sleep alone in the corner room assigned to me, even if I did not put out the pink night-light of porcelain with the transparency picture of a lost lamb, because I was afraid of the cougars and snakes' [quite possibly, this is not remembered speech but an extract from her letter or letters. Ed.], 'whose cries and rattlings Ada imitated admirably, and, I think, designedly, in the desert's darkness under my first floor window. Well [here, it would seem, taped speech is re-turned-on], to make a short story sort of longish -' (ibid.)

Lucette is associated with Shakespeare's Ophelia. At the end of his famous monologue (3.1) Hamlet calls the fair Ophelia "Nymph." While Lucette is "the impeccable paranymph," "benevolo" in the above-mentioned formula brings to mind Malvolio, a character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or What You Will.

Van compares Aqua who commits suicide to a Russian country girl feasting on berries:

Sly Aqua twitched, simulated a yawn, opened her light-blue eyes (with those startlingly contrasty jet-black pupils that Dolly, her mother, also had), put on yellow slacks and a black bolero, walked through a little pinewood, thumbed a ride with a Mexican truck, found a suitable gulch in the chaparral and there, after writing a short note, began placidly eating from her cupped palm the multicolored contents of her handbag, like any Russian country girl lakomyashchayasya yagodami (feasting on berries) that she had just picked in the woods. (1.3)

In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin the girl servants of the Larins are made to sing so as they would not eat in secret the seignioral berry ("device of rural wit"). As she waits for Onegin (whom she wrote a passionate love letter), Tatiana hears the girls sing:

They sing; and with neglection
harking their ringing voice,
Tatiana waited with impatience
for the heart's tremor to subside in her,
for her cheeks to cease flaming;
but in her breasts there's the same quivering,
nor ceases the glow of her cheeks:
yet brighter, brighter do they burn.
Thus a poor butterfly both flashes
and beats an iridescent wing,
captured by a mischievous schoolboy;
thus in the winter corn a small hare quivers
upon suddenly seeing from afar
the shotman in the bushes crouch. (Three: XL)

From Ada's first letter to Van:

I implore you for breath [sic! Ed.] of understanding. But now I think that I should have taken the risk of speaking, of stammering, for I see now that it is just as dreadfully hard to put my heart and honor in script - even more so because in speaking one can use a stutter as a shutter, and plead a chance slurring of words, like a bleeding hare with one side of its mouth shot off, or twist back, and improve; but against a background of snow, even the blue snow of this notepaper, the blunders are red and final. (2.1)

VN seems to salute the good rereader of Ada.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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