Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024436, Fri, 26 Jul 2013 16:31:31 +0300

Edenic gene in LATH
(Bel wearing only slippers and a cheap necklace of iridescent glass--a Riviera souvenir--comes down at the other end of the living room beyond the piano. She has already turned kitchenward showing the beau-page back of her head and delicate shoulder blades when she becomes aware of our presence and retraces her steps.)

BEL (addressing me and casually squinting at my amazed visitor) Ya bezumno golodnaya (I'm madly hungry).

VADIM Louise dear, this is my daughter Bel. She's walking in her sleep, really, hence the, uh, non-attire.

LOUISE Hullo, Annabel. The non-attire is very becoming.

BEL (correcting Louise) Isa.

VADIM Isabel, this is Louise Adamson, an old friend of mine, back from Rome. I hope we'll be seeing a lot of her.

BEL How do you do (question-markless).

VADIM Well, run along, Bel, and put on something. Breakfast is ready. (To Louise) Would you like to have breakfast too? Hard-boiled eggs? A Coke with a straw? (Pale violin climbing stairs)

LOUISE Non, merci. I'm flabbergasted.

VADIM Yes, things have been getting a little out of hand, but you'll see, she's a special child, there's no other child like her. All we need is your presence, your touch. She has inherited the habit of circulating in a state of nature from me. An Edenic gene. Curious.

LOUISE Is this a two-people nudist colony or has Mrs. O'Leary also joined?
VADIM (laughing) No, no, she's not here on Sundays. Everything is fine, I assure you. Bel is a docile angel. She--

LOUISE (rising to leave) There she comes to be fed (Bel descends the stairs in a skimpy pink robe). Drop in around tea time. Fay is being taken by Jane King to a lacrosse game in Rosedale. (Exits) (4.5)

According to a Russian saying, yabloko ot yabloni nedaleko padaet ("an apple never falls too far from the apple tree"; in other words: like mother, like child). An Edenic gene Bel inherited from her father seems to confirm my guess that Vadim's family name is Yablonsky (yablonya is Russian for "apple tree").

"A docile angel," Bel is a namesake of Isabella, Claudio's sister in Pushkin's Angelo (1833), partly dramatic, partly narrative poem based on Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure. In Pushkin's poem Isabella is compared to an angel several times:

Как ангел, Изабела
Пред ней нечаянно явилась у дверей.
Like an angel, Isabella
appeared before her [Mariana] unexpectedly at the doors. (Part Three, III)

Душой о грешнике, как ангел, пожалела
like an angel, in her heart felt sorry for the sinner (Part Three, VII)

In his Table-Talk (<XVIII.>) Pushkin compares Shakespeare's Angelo to Moliere's Tartuffe, pointing out that "Angelo is a hypocrite because all his public actions contradict his secret passions." Ninel Langley (who pretends to feel affection for Vadim's wife Annette but who is secretly in love with Vadim), like Angelo, is a hypocrite and, like Isabella, is compared to an angel:

An angel is now waiting under my restless heels...
"She's a veritable angel," confided Annette to me in her touchingly phony English. (3.2)

As to Louise Adamson (Vadim's third wife), she is a namesake of Louise Poindexter, the sister of Henry Poindexter (the headless horseman) in Captain Mayne Reid's Headless Horseman. On Antiterra (Earth's twin planet on which VN's Ada is set) The Headless Horseman is a poem by Pushkin (the author of The Bronze Horseman, 1833). Incidentally, the equestrian statue of Peter I in St. Petersburg ("the Bronze Horseman") is also described by Pushkin's friend Adam Mickiewicz in "The Monument of Peter the Great" (1832). In this poem Pushkin and Mickiewicz stand hand in hand under one cloak. On the last evening of her life Vadim's first wife, Iris Black, tells him:

"How nice it would be," she said as we hurried downstairs, "if you'd be wearing an opera cloak. You could wrap it around both of us as the Siamese twins do in your story.
Now, quick!" (1.13)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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