One is irresistibly tempted to compare the strange longings and nauseous qualms that enter into the complicated ecstasies accompanying the making of a young writer's first book with childbearing...
When in early September Van Veen left Manhattan for Lute, he was pregnant. (Ada, 1.43, End of Part One)
Part One of Flaubert's Madame Bovary ends in the sentence: "In March, when they went away from Tostes, Madame Bovary was pregnant."
In a letter to Ernest Feydeau Flaubert wrote: "Books are made not like children but like pyramids... and are just as useless!"
"Man fears time, but time fears the pyramids." (Arab proverb) The author of Texture of Time (Part Four of Ada), Van Veen went to Africa (as Flaubert did) to see the pyramids: He contemplated the pyramids of Ladorah (visited mainly because of its name) under a full moon that silvered the sands inlaid with pointed black shadows. (3.1)
Flaubert had no children, and Van, too, dies childless. But, on their deathbed, Van and Ada are compared to the parents of the book into which they intend to die: 'Quel livre, mon Dieu, mon Dieu,' Dr [Professor. Ed.] Lagosse exclaimed, weighing the master copy [of Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle] which the flat pale parents of the future Babes, in the brown-leaf Woods, a little book in the Ardis Hall nursery, could no longer prop up in the mysterious first picture: two people in one bed. (5.6)
In a letter of December 28, 1816, to his uncle Pushkin asks Vasiliy L'vovich to excuse the nine-month-long pregnancy of his epistolary pen:
Я не совсем ещё рассудок потерял
От рифм бахических, шатаясь на Пегасе.
Я не забыл себя, хоть рад, хотя не рад,
Нет, нет — вы мне совсем не брат,
Вы дядя мой и на Парнасе.
(nay, you are not my brother at all,
you are my uncle on Parnassus* as well.)
Итак, любезнейший из всех дядей-поэтов здешнего мира, можно ли мне надеяться, что Вы простите девятимесячную беременность пера ленивейшего из поэтов-племянников?
A pupil of the Lyceum, Pushkin wrote this letter in Tsarskoe Selo. In the Soviet era Tsarskoe Selo ("Czar's Village") was renamed first Detskoe Selo ("Children's Village") and then Pushkin. One is irresistibly tempted to compare "the brown-leaf Woods, a little book in the Ardis Hall nursery," and the Ardis Park (with its larch trees borrowed from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park) to the much sung parks of Tsarskoe Selo and Pushkin's estate Mikhailovskoe - but also to the magnificent parks of the Nabokovs's estates Vyra, Batovo and Rozhdestveno nostalgically described by VN in Mashen'ka (Mary) and Drugie Berega** (Speak, Memory).
*Monparnasse (sic) is the pen name of Mlle Larivière, Lucette's governess. In Madame Bovary Dr Larivière is Charles Bovary's more skilful colleague who fails to save Emma.
**Other Shores (the allusion to inye berega, the other shores mentioned by Pushkin in Vnov' ya posetil..., "Again I revisited...", 1835)
Alexey Sklyarenko
p. s. Only the second version of my post on the "Robinsons and the Cossack pony of Klass vodka" is valid. The first version should be deleted from your computers.
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