Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025580, Mon, 4 Aug 2014 01:38:01 +0300

Faragod, Lute & immortality in Ada
Of course, today, after great anti-L years of reactionary delusion have gone by (more or less!) and our sleek little machines, Faragod bless them, hum again after a fashion, as they did in the first half of the nineteenth century, the mere geographic aspect of the affair possesses its redeeming comic side, like those patterns of brass marquetry, and bric-a-Braques, and the ormolu horrors that meant 'art' to our humorless forefathers. (1.3)

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Faragod: apparently, the god of electricity.

Faragod hints at Michael Faraday (1791-1867), English physicist and chemist: discoverer of electromagnetic induction. In Aldanov's The Cave "Comrade Faraday" pops up in Braun's stream of consiousness (when Brown rushes home where he commits suicide by inhaling "une forte dose d’acide cyanhydrique qu’il a fait degager dans un curieux appareil de sa construction"):

На углу боковой улицы висела огромная, многоцветная, с жёлто-красными фигурами, чудовищная афиша кинематографа, залитая синим светом, страшная неестественным безобразием. «На дона Педро работали, товарищ Фарадей… Это судьба хочет облегчить мои последние минуты: в самом прекрасном из городов показывает всё уродливое… Да, так уходить легче… Знаю, знаю, что есть другое, мне ли не знать? Прощай, Париж, благодарю за всё, за всё…»
"It is Don Pedro for whom you worked, Comrade Faraday... The Fate wants to relieve my last minutes by showing me all the ugliest things in the most beautiful of cities... Goodbye, Paris, I thank you for everything, for everything..."

A namesake of Marina's lover Pedro (a young Latin actor), Don Pedro is a colleage of G. A. Vronsky, the movie man whom Ada calls "Gavronsky:"

As Van Veen himself was to find out, at the time of his passionate research in terrology (then a branch of psychiatry) even the deepest thinkers, the purest philosophers, Paar of Chose and Zapater of Aardvark, were emotionally divided in their attitude toward the possibility that there existed' a distortive glass of our distorted glebe' as a scholar who desires to remain unnamed has put it with such euphonic wit. (Hm! Kveree-kveree, as poor Mlle L. used to say to Gavronsky. In Ada's hand.) (1.3)

"Poor Mlle L." is Mlle Lariviere, Lucette's governess who writes fiction under the penname Guillaume de Monparnasse (the leaving out of the 't' made it more intime) (1.31). Parizh intimnyi ("The Intimate Paris," 1930) is an essay by Kuprin. Montparnasse is not mentioned in it, but the Grands Boulevards (according to Ada, Mlle Lariviere thinks that in some former Hindooish state she was a boulevardier in Paris; and writes accordingly, 1.8) are:

Вот краткий перечень тех впечатлений, которые они вывезут из Парижа на свою родину: Монна Лиза (Джиоконда), Гермафродит, Венера Милосская, Бриллиант Регент, собор Нотр-Дам, Эйфелева башня, Большие бульвары, Ателье Пуаре да ещё выставка Независимых, причем парижский кратковременный гость так и не догадается никогда: видел ли он футуристические полотна повешенными как следует или вверх ногами.
A short-time guest of Paris will never find out if he saw the futuristic paintings hanged properly or upside down.

"Bric-a-Braques" hints at a bric-a-brac painter (Darkbloom).

On Antiterra (Earth's twin planet also known as Demonia) electricity is banned after the L disaster. In the totalitarian Russia described by Kuprin in Ray ("The Paradise," 1919) electricity is indispensable.

On Demonia Paris is also known as Lute (Darkbloom: "from Lutece, ancient name of Paris"):

In 1885, having completed his prep-school education, he [Van] went up to Chose University in England, where his fathers had gone, and traveled from time to time to London or Lute (as prosperous but not overrefined British colonials called that lovely pearl-gray sad city on the other side of the Channel). (1.28)

Demon is the society nickname of Van's and Ada's father. On the other hand, Demon (1829-39) is a poem by Lermontov:

With white-bloused, enthusiastically sweating Andrey Andreevich, he [Van] lolled for hours in the violet shade of pink cliffs, studying major and minor Russian writers - and puzzling out the exaggerated but, on the whole, complimentary allusions to his father's volitations and loves in another life in Lermontov's diamond-faceted tetrameters. (1.28)

In his stream of consciousness Braun quotes Lermontov's poem Blagodarnost' ("Gratitude," 1840):

За всё, за всё тебя благодарю я
For everything, for everything I thank you.

There is Lermontov in Palermontovia:

A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth - say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia - as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs. (1.3)

According to VN, he wrote the post scriptum to the Russian edition of Lolita in Palermo. It is dated November 7, 1965. The Bolshevist coup took place on November 7 (Oct. 25, Old Style), 1917.

Demon's aunt Kitty ("who married the Banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy, the writer," 1.38) had a ranch near Lolita, Texas:

From Demon's letter to Marina: You had gone to Boston to see an old aunt - a cliche, but the truth for the nonce - and I had gone to my aunt's ranch near Lolita, Texas. (1.2)

Tolstoy is the author of Anna Karenin. In Ada the opening sentence of Tolstoy's novel is turned inside out and "Anna Arkadievna's patronymic given an absurd masculine ending, while an incorrect feminine one is added to her surname" (Darkbloom). Like Braun in Aldanov's novel, Tolstoy's Anna commits suicide. Her stream of consciousness is alluded to in Ada when Van leaves Ardis forever (1.41). G. A. Vronsky (Marina's lover who left her "for another long-lashed Khristosik as he called all pretty starlets," 1.3) brings to mind Anna's lover.

"Riverlane" (Van's prep-school) and "Brownhill" (Ada's school for girls) seem to have erotic connotations. On the other hand, "Brownhill" may hint at Braun. In the Russian encyclopaedia where Braun looks up bessmertie ('immortality'), it is preceded by bessilie polovoe ('impotence'):

«Беспоместные дворяне»… «Бессилие половое — см. Анафродизия»… «Бессмертие» — вот, вот, оно самое. «Бессмертие, т. е. существование человеческой личности, в какой бы то ни было форме, и за гробом — представление весьма распространённое и встречающееся на всех ступенях человеческой культуры, хотя…» «Нет, я тебя спрашиваю не об этом». Он заглянул в конец статьи. «При современном состоянии науки следует признать, что если до сих пор и нет прямого философски обоснованного доказательства в пользу идеи бессмертия, то с другой стороны нельзя также подыскать такого доказательства против неё…» "Modern science can neither confirm, nor refute the idea of immortality" (very loose translation).

In his nineties, when he writes Ada, Van is completely impotent:

The successive secretaries he engaged got plainer and plainer (culminating in a coconut-haired female with a horse mouth who wrote love notes to Ada); and by the time Violet Knox broke the lack-luster series Van Veen was eighty-seven and completely impotent. (5.3)

Peshchera (the cave) is mentioned by VN in Drugie berega ("Other Shores"):

Первобытная пещера, а не модное лоно, -- вот (венским мистикам наперекор) образ моих игр, когда было три-четыре года. (Chapter One, 2)

It was the primordial cave (and not what Freudian mystics might suppose) that lay behind the games I played when I was four. (Speak, Memory, 1.2)

"Freudian mystics" bring to mind a Dr Froid, one of the administerial centaurs in Aqua's last luxurious 'sanastoria' at Centaur, Arizona:

A Dr Froid, one of the administerial centaurs, who may have been an emigre brother with a passport-changed name of the Dr Froit of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu in the Ardennes or, more likely, the same man, because they both came from Vienne, Isere, and were only sons (as her son was), evolved, or rather revived, the therapistic device, aimed at establishing a 'group' feeling, of having the finest patients help the staff if 'thusly inclined.' (1.3)

The centaurs of Greek myths are immortal (see Updike's novel Chiron alluded to in Ada: 1.21).
"Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu" brings to mind Dr Lagosse's exclamation at the end of Ada:

'Quel livre, mon Dieu, mon Dieu,' Dr [Professor. Ed.] Lagosse exclaimed, weighing the master copy which the flat pale parents of the future Babes, in the brown-leaf Woods, a little book in the Ardis Hall nursery, could no longer prop up in the mysterious first picture: two people in one bed. (5.6)

Van and Ada die immediately after finishing their book. It is Dr Lagosse who gives them the last merciful injection of morphine.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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