NABOKV-L post 0024642, Tue, 1 Oct 2013 15:37:30 -0300

Re: Tolstoy's tolling bells in ADA's "dom"
There's something that keeps intriguing me about "the strain of his father's demon blood" [Dementiy (Demon) ].
"Van was still being suckled by a very young wet nurse, almost a child, Ruby Black, born Black, who was to go mad too: for no sooner did all the fond, all the frail, come into close contact with him (as later Lucette did, to give another example) than they were bound to know anguish and calamity, unless strengthened by a strain of his father's demon blood."

Van's mother by adoption was Aqua who "was not quite twenty when the exaltation of her nature had begun to reveal a morbid trend. Chronologically, the initial stage of her mental illness coincided with the first decade of the Great Revelation, and although she might have found just as easily another theme for her delusion, statistics shows that the Great, and to some Intolerable, Revelation caused more insanity in the world than even an over-preoccupation with religion had in medieval times." Inspite of an initial suggestion that Van's demon blood was linked to Aqua's insanity ("dementia"), the idea seems to have been dropped. It makes no sense anyway, since Aqua and Marina were twin sisters (we don't know for certain but it's implicit* that they were identical, not fraternal twins, so they must have shared a lot of genetic, and metaphoric, material...) and Marina was far from frail or contaminated by Demon's blood.

Marina had strange qualms, though, unrelated to any secret knowledge about Van and Ada both as children of hers. Their similarity suggests something else to her, but what is it? "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 Marina"**.
The siblings had a similar spot on their left hands: "All this was mere scenery, easily packed, labeled 'Hell' and freighted away; and only very infrequently some reminder would come - say, in the trickwork close-up of two left hands belonging to different sexes - doing what? Marina could no longer recall (though only four years had elapsed!) - playing à quatre mains? - no, neither took piano lessons - casting bunny-shadows on a wall? - closer, warmer, but still wrong; measuring something? [ ] Someday, she mused, one's past must be put in order. Retouched, retaken. Certain 'wipes' and 'inserts' will have to be made in the picture; certain telltale abrasions in the emulsion will have to be corrected; 'dissolves' in the sequence discreetly combined with the trimming out of unwanted, embarrassing 'footage,' and definite guarantees obtained; yes, someday - before death with its clap-stick closes the scene.." (what a blooming field of clues for the Freudians! Here it seems that Marina is aware of their incestuous love)

Ruby Black, born Black (an added touch for she had West-AFrican ancestors***) suddenly reminded me of the Veen cousins: the Dark and the Red Veen and certain types of chess-boards and pieces. It could also indicate Stendhal's "Le Rouge et le Noir" (but I don't think so). It was once associated to the double aspect of Aqua's pains: "It was now the forming of soft black pits (yamï, yamishchi) in her mind, between the dimming sculptures of thought and recollection, that tormented her phenomenally; mental panic and physical pain joined black-ruby hands, one making her pray for sanity, the other, plead for death."

However, these problems are for other Nablers to investigate (if they haven't yet done so already). I was simply reading Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature and got sidetracked...

* "Was there some additional spice? Marina, with perverse vainglory, used to affirm in bed that Demon's senses must have been influenced by a queer sort of 'incestuous' (whatever that term means) pleasure (in the sense of the French plaisir, which works up a lot of supplementary spinal vibrato), when he fondled, and savored, and delicately parted and defiled, in unmentionable but fascinating ways, flesh (une chair) that was both that of his wife and that of his mistress, the blended and brightened charms of twin peris, an Aquamarina both single and double, a mirage in an emirate, a germinate gem, an orgy of epithelial alliterations."

** - Her features were saved from elfin prettiness by the thickish shape of her parched lips. Her plain Irish nose was Van's in miniature. Her teeth were fairly white, but not very even.[ ] Their lips were absurdly similar in style, tint and tissue. Van's upper one resembled in shape a long-winged sea bird coming directly at you, while the nether lip, fat and sullen, gave a touch of brutality to his usual expression. Nothing of that brutality existed in the case of Ada's lips, but the bow shape of the upper one and the largeness of the lower one with its disdainful prominence and opaque pink repeated Van's mouth in a feminine key.

*** -" 'That's very black of you, Dad,' said pleased Van, using a slang phrase he had learned from his tender young nurse, Ruby, who was born in the Mississippi region where most magistrates, public benefactors, high priests of various so-called' denominations,' and other honorable and generous men, had the dark or darkish skin of their West-African ancestors, who had been the first navigators to reach the Gulf of Mexico."

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