Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024682, Tue, 8 Oct 2013 21:21:57 +0300

Viedma, Ursus & Raven in ADA
Ved' ('it is, isn't it') sidesplitting to imagine that 'Russia,' instead of being a quaint synonym of Estoty, the American province extending from the Arctic no longer vicious Circle to the United States proper, was on Terra the name of a country, transferred as if by some sleight of land across the ha-ha of a doubled ocean to the opposite hemisphere where it sprawled over all of today's Tartary, from Kurland to the Kuriles! (1.3)

Ved' is a part of ved'ma (witch) and medved' (bear). In Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (Five: XXIV: 5-9) ved'ma and medved' are among the words Tatiana looks up in Martin Zadeck (the interpreter of dreams):

Татьяна в оглавленье кратком
Находит азбучным порядком
Слова: бор, буря, ведьма, ель,
Еж, мрак, мосток, медведь, мятель
И прочая.

Tatiana in the brief index
Looks up in alphabetic order
the words: forest, storm, raven,* fir,
hedgehog, gloom, footbridge, bear, snowstorm,
et cetera.

On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) Viedma (a sea port in Argentina) is also known as Witch:

From Manhattan, via Mephisto, El Paso, Meksikansk and the Panama Chunnel, the dark-red New World Express reached Brazilia and Witch (or Viedma, founded by a Russian admiral). (2.2)

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. (2.8)

The restaurant's name seems to hint at Ursus, a character in Hugo's L'Homme qui rit (1869). On the other hand, ursus being Latin for "bear," one recalls Medved', a fashionable restaurant in St. Petersburg before the Revolution.

According to Martin Zadeck, a small bridge of birch withes... is put together and and placed under the maiden's pillow. At bedtime she incants: "He who is my suzhenyi [the one destined me] will help me over the bridge." He appears to her in a dream and leads her across by the hand.
It will be noted that the bear, Onegin's chum (Five: XV: 11), who helps Tatiana to cross over in her prophetic dream (XII: 7-13), foreshadows her future husband, the corpulent general, a relation of Onegin's. An interesting structural move in the development of Pushkin's precise composition that blends creative intuition and artistic foresight. (EO Commentary, II, p. 503)

In 1901, in Paris (on Antiterra, aka Lute), Van meets Greg Erminin (his playmate who as a child lived in the neighborhood of Ardis, Daniel Veen's family estate):

'I'm also very fat, yes?'
'What about Grace, I can't imagine her getting fat?'
'Once twins, always twins. My wife is pretty portly, too.'
'Tak ti zhenat (so you are married)? Didn't know it. How long?'
'About two years.'
'To whom?'
'Maude Sween.'
'The daughter of the poet?'
'No, no, her mother is a Brougham.'
Might have replied 'Ada Veen,' had Mr Vinelander not been a quicker suitor. I think I met a Broom somewhere. (3.2)

This is a reminiscence of Onegin's dialogue with Prince N. (Tatiana's husband) in Chapter Eight of EO:

"Так ты женат! не знал я ране!
Давно ли?" - Около двух лет. -
"На ком?" - На Лариной. - "Татьяне!"
- Ты ей знаком? - "Я им сосед".

So you are married! Didn't know before.
How long?" "About two years."
"Two whom?" "The Larin girl." "Tatiana!"
"She knows you?" "I'm their neighbor." (XVV: 1-4)

It is after the dinner at 'Ursus' that Van learns the name of Ada's future husband:

'Turn off the footlights,' said Van. 'I want the name of that fellow.'
'Vinelander,' she [Lucette] answered. (2.8)

Ved'ma (The Witch, 1886) is a story and Medved' (The Bear, 1888) an one-act play by Chekhov. Chekhov is also the author of two monologues O vrede tabaka (On the Harm of Tobacco, 1886, 1903).** No doubt, it was Admiral Tobakoff (the ancestor of Cordula's first husband, Ivan Tobak) who founded Witch (or Viedma). Van's conversation with the Vinelanders (Ada, her husband Andrey and Andrey's sister Dasha) in Part Three of Ada (3.8) is a parody of Chekhov's mannerisms (see Vivian Darkbloom's 'Notes to Ada'). Ada's husband (who dies of tuberculosis, as Chekhov did) is a namesake of Andrey Andreich, the heroine's fiance in Chekhov's last story Nevesta (The Bride, 1903).

*In VN's translation of EO "raven" corresponds to voron in all three lifetime editions of EO Five. Ved'ma (witch) appeared only in the Acad 1937 edition (see EO Commentary, II, p. 516). Van and Ada are the children of Demon Veen. In society he [Demon] was generally known as Raven Veen or simply Dark Walter to distinguish him from Marina's husband [Lucette's father Daniel Veen], Durak Walter or simply Red Veen. (1.1) According to Van, Lucette's "firebird" is as fascinating as Ada's "blue raven:" Simultaneously, without turning her head, she [Ada] slapped furtive Van away from her rear, and with her other hand made magic passes over the small but very pretty breasts, gemmed with sweat, and along the flat palpitating belly of a seasand nymph, down to the firebird seen by Van once, fully fledged now, and as fascinating in its own way as his favorite's blue raven. Enchantress! Acrasia! (2.8)
**Kurit' (Russ., "to smoke") brings to mind Kurland and the Kurils mentioned by Van (1.3).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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