'I ask myself who can that be,' murmured Mlle Larivière from behind the samovar (which expressed fragments of its surroundings in demented fantasies of a primitive genre) as she slitted her eyes at a part of the drive visible between the pilasters of an open-work gallery. (Ada, 1.14)
...Greg said that both Aunt Ruth and Grace were laid up with acute indigestion - 'not because of your wonderful sandwiches,' he hastened to add, 'but because of all those burnberries they picked in the bushes.' (Ibid.)
One is reminded of a similar situation in Tolstoy's story Yagody (The Berries, 1906), but also of a scene in Ilf & Petrov's The Golden Calf (Chapter XXI, "The End of the Crow's Nest"):
Штепсельный чайник собрал на своей кривой поверхности весь уют птибурдуковского гнезда. В нём отражались и кровать, и белые занавески, и ночная тумбочка. Отражался и сам Птибурдуков, сидевший напротив жены в синей пижаме со шнурками. Он тоже был счастлив. Пропуская сквозь усы папиросный дым, он выпиливал лобзиком из фанеры игрушечный дачный нужник. (The electric kettle collected all the comfort of the Ptiburdukovs' nest on its curved surface. The bed, and the white curtains, and the nightstand were all reflected in it, as well as Ptiburdukov himself, sitting in blue pajamas opposite his wife. He was also happy. Blowing smoke through his mustache, he was cutting a toy country privy with a fretsaw out of plywood.)
Next moment there is a knock on the door and Vasisualiy Lokhankin (Varvara's husband whom she left for Ptiburdukov), wrapt up in a blanket, enters the room. His home, the so-called Crow's Nest, burnt down (all Vasisualiy managed to save from the fire is his favorite volume Man and Woman). When it happenned, Vasisualiy's lodger, Ostap Bender, was dancing a tango to the tune Pod znoynym nebom Argentiny (sung in Ada by Rita with whom Van dances a tango on his hands: 1.30) in the empty office of Antlers & Hooves:
"Воронья слободка" загорелась в двенадцать часов вечера, в то самое время, когда Остап Бендер танцевал танго в пустой конторе, а молочные братья Балаганов и Паниковский выходили из города, сгибаясь под тяжестью золотых гирь.
В длинной цепи приключений, которые предшествовали пожару в квартире номер три, начальным звеном была ничья бабушка. Она, как известно, жгла на своей антресоли керосин, так как не доверяла электричеству. (Nobody's Grandma was the first link in the long chain of adventures that preceded the fire in the Apartment No. 3. She burned kerosene in her entresole, as is well known, because she did not trust electricity.)
The Benten lamp is out of kerosene when, soon after the night of the Burning Barn ('Who cried? Stopchin cried? Larivière cried? Larivière? Answer! Crying that the barn flambait?'), Van, Ada and Lucette play Flavita (Russian scrabble):
She was speaking at the same time, saying casually: 'I would much prefer the Benten lamp here but it is out of kerosin. Pet (addressing Lucette), be a good scout, call her - Good Heavens!'
The seven letters she had taken, S,R,E,N,O,K,I, and was sorting out in her spektrik (the little trough of japanned wood each player had before him) now formed in quick and, as it were, self-impulsed rearrangement the key word of the chance sentence that had attended their random assemblage. (1.36)
As to electricity, it was banned on Antiterra (Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) after the L disaster in the middle of the 19th century.
Speaking of samovars: the fat samovar face of Douglas Fairbanks is mentioned in The Golden Calf (Chapter Five, "The Underground Kingdom"): "Three of them [printing presses] were spitting out monochrome pictures of the canyon, while out of a fourth, multicolored press, like cards out of a card sharp’s sleeve, there flew postcards of Douglas Fairbanks with a black half-mask over his fat samovar face, the charming Lia de Putti and the famous little bug-eyed man known as Monty Banks." The Three Musketeers (1921) and The Iron Mask (1929) starred Fairbanks as d'Artagnan. An amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement is mentioned in Ada (1.2).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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