Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024986, Wed, 8 Jan 2014 01:53:04 +0300

dogs, hairdos & merry-go-rounds in Ada
In 1901, in Lute (as Paris is also known on Antiterra), Van meets his old mistress, Cordula de Prey (now Mrs. Ivan G. Tobak), and they make love:

A moment later, as happens so often in farces and foreign cities, Van ran into another friend. With a surge of delight he saw Cordula in a tight scarlet skirt bending with baby words of comfort over two unhappy poodlets attached to the waiting-post of a sausage shop. Van stroked her with his fingertips, and as she straightened up indignantly and turned around (indignation instantly replaced by gay recognition), he quoted the stale but appropriate lines he had known since the days his schoolmates annoyed him with them:

The Veens speak only to Tobaks
But Tobaks speak only to dogs.

The passage of years had but polished her prettiness and though many fashions had come and gone since 1889, he happened upon her at a season when hairdos and skirtlines had reverted briefly (another much more elegant lady was already ahead of her) to the style of a dozen years ago, abolishing the interruption of remembered approval and pleasure. She plunged into a torrent of polite questions - but he had a more important matter to settle at once - while the flame still flickered.
'Let's not squander,' he said, 'the tumescence of retrieved time on the gush of small talk. I'm bursting with energy, if that's what you want to know. Now look; it may sound silly and insolent but I have an urgent request. Will you cooperate with me in cornuting your husband? It's a must!'
'Really, Van!' exclaimed angry Cordula. 'You go a bit far. I'm a happy wife. My Tobachok adores me. We'd have ten children by now if I'd not been careful with him and others.'
'You'll be glad to learn that this other has been found utterly sterile.'
'Well, I'm anything but. I guess I'd cause a mule to foal by just looking on. Moreover, I'm lunching today with the Goals.'
'C'est bizarre, an exciting little girl like you who can be so tender with poodles and yet turns down a poor paunchy stiff old Veen.'
'The Veens are much too gay as dogs go.'
'Since you collect adages,' persisted Van, 'let me quote an Arabian one. Paradise is only one assbaa south of a pretty girl's sash. Eh bien?'
'You are impossible. Where and when?'
'Where? In that drab little hotel across the street. When? Right now. I've never seen you on a hobbyhorse yet, because that's what tout confort promises - and not much else.'
'I must be home not later than eleven-thirty, it's almost eleven now.'
'It will take five minutes. Please!'
Astraddle, she resembled a child braving her first merry-go-round. She made a rectangular moue as she used that vulgar contraption. Sad, sullen streetwalkers do it with expressionless faces, lips tightly closed. She rode it twice. Their brisk nub and its repetition lasted fifteen minutes in all, not five. Very pleased with himself, Van walked with her for a stretch through the brown and green Bois de Belleau in the direction of her osobnyachyok (small mansion). (3.2)

Maximilian Voloshin is the author of Lutetia Parisiorum (a sonnet written on April 22, 1915). In his essay The National Festival July 14 in Paris (1916) Voloshin describes a merry-go-round of bicycles. The girls riding them have their hair done a la chien (dog-style):

Быстро вертится карусель, и играет орган. Карусель маленькая, из велосипедов. На них сидят верхом девицы с причёсками a la chien, макро [souteneurs] в каскетках, дети... Все они с увлечением работают ногами и трясут расставленными локтями.

Just before meeting Cordula, Van parted with Greg Erminin whom he had met earlier that day:

On a bleak morning between the spring and summer of 1901, in Paris, as Van, black-hatted, one hand playing with the warm loose change in his topcoat pocket and the other, fawn-gloved, upswinging a furled English umbrella, strode past a particularly unattractive sidewalk cafe among the many lining the Avenue Guillaume Pitt, a chubby bald man in a rumpled brown suit with a watch-chained waistcoat stood up and hailed him. (3.2)

In his article Voloshin also mentions umbrellas, sidewalk cafes and dogs:

- Зонтики! зонтики! Эй, уберите зонтики!
Зонтики клубятся над толпой как водяные пузыри - белые, красные, голубые.
- Зонтики!
Но зонтики не двигаются.

...Изо всех лавочек вынесены столы на улицу и обедают под открытым небом. Зелёные бутылки, грязные тарелки, оловянные ложки, на которых застыло жёлтое сало. Дети. Собаки.

After helping her to nurse Andrey at Agavia Ranch through a couple of acrimonious years (she begrudged Ada every poor little hour devoted to collecting, mounting, and rearing!), and then taking exception to Ada's choosing the famous and excellent Grotonovich Clinic (for her husband's endless periods of treatment) instead of Princess Alashin's select sanatorium, Dorothy Vinelander retired to a subarctic monastery town (Ilemna, now Novostabia) where eventually she married a Mr Brod or Bred, tender and passionate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other sacramental objects throughout the Severniya Territorii and who subsequently was to direct, and still may be directing half a century later, archeological reconstructions at Goreloe (the 'Lyaskan Herculanum'); what treasures he dug up in matrimony is another question. (3.8)

It seems that Princess Alashin ows her name to the phrase a la chien used by Voloshin in his article.

Monsieur de Tobak (an earlier cuckold) and Lord Erminin (a second-time second) witnessed the duel in the company of a few tall yuccas and short cactuses. (ibid.)

Van fights this duel with Andrey Vinelander (Ada's husband who dies of tuberculosis) in his dream.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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