'"Ten years and one have gone by-abye since I left Moscow"' - (Ada, now playing Varvara, copied the nun's 'singsongy devotional tone' (pevuchiy ton bogomolki, as indicated by Chekhov and as rendered so irritatingly well by Marina). (Ada, 2.9)
In a letter of February 2, 1900, to I. L. Leont'yev (Shcheglov) Chekhov apologizes for pevuchiy ton bogomolki (singsongy devotional tone): Простите, что я заговорил певучим тоном богомолки. On the other hand, it is Olga, a character in Chekhov's story Muzhiki (Peasants), who speaks in a sing-song voice and walks like bogomolka (a pilgrim woman):
Ольга говорила степенно, нараспев, и походка у неё была, как у богомолки, быстрая и суетливая.
(Olga spoke sedately, in a sing-song voice, and she walked like a pilgrim woman, with a rapid, anxious step.)
A critic compared the impassive author of Muzhiki to a vivisector (see my previous post). "Alibi" is mentioned several times in another story by Chekhov. "The vivisectional alibi" provided by the dead boy (Aqua's and Marina's brother Ivan) seems to suggest that Marina is not as innocent after all.
'You know, children,' interrupted Marina resolutely with calming gestures of both hands, 'when I was your age, Ada, and my brother was your age, Van, we talked about croquet, and ponies, and puppies, and the last fête-d'enfants, and the next picnic, and - oh, millions of nice normal things, but never, never of old French botanists and God knows what!'
'But you just said you collected flowers?' said Ada.
'Oh, just one season, somewhere in Switzerland. I don't remember when. It does not matter now.'
The reference was to Ivan Durmanov: he had died of lung cancer years ago in a sanatorium (not far from Ex, somewhere in Switzerland, where Van was born eight years later). Marina often mentioned Ivan who had been a famous violinist at eighteen, but without any special show of emotion, so that Ada now noted with surprise that her mother's heavy make-up had started to thaw under a sudden flood of tears (maybe some allergy to flat dry old flowers, an attack of hay fever, or gentianitis, as a slightly later diagnosis might have shown retrospectively). (1.10)

We have no evidence to incriminate Marina (who would know that some plants are poisonous) poor Aqua's madness and death, but she is certainly responsible for the miscarriage Aqua sufferred after skiing with her sister (who would woosh down fluffy slopes on a bobsleigh a fortnight after giving birth to Van: 1.38) and for making mad Aqua believe that Van was her, Aqua's, son (1.3).

Alexey Sklyarenko
Google Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal" Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options Visit AdaOnline View NSJ Ada Annotations Temporary L-Soft Search the archive

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.