One of Ada's lovers, Philip Rack is a talented composer who gives Lucette piano lessons. Poisoned by his jealous wife, Rack dies in the Kalugano hospital where Van recovers from a superficial wound received in the pistol duel with Captain Tapper. (1.42)
As has been pointed out before, Philip Rack's name seems to hint at the Spanish Inquisition. In a letter of May 15, 1889, to Suvorin Chekhov, answering Suvorin's letter about Paul Bourget, calls the radical critic Pisarev "a belligerent Spanish monk:"
In the middle ages alchemy was gradually in a natural, peaceful way changing into chemistry, and astrology into astronomy; the monks did not understand, saw a conflict and fought against it. Just such a belligerent Spanish monk was our Pisarev in the sixties.
In a letter of March 11, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov criticizes Pisarev's attitude to Tatiana's letter to Onegin:
It is not Pisarev's ideas that are brutalizing, for he has none, but his coarse tone. His attitude to Tatiana, especially to her charming letter, which I love tenderly, seems to me simply abominable. His criticism has the foul aroma of an insolent captious procurator.
In the Kalugano Hospital Van meets Tatiana, a remarkably pretty and proud young nurse, with black hair and diaphanous skin (some of her attitudes and gestures, and that harmony between neck and eyes which is the special, scarcely yet investigated secret of feminine grace fantastically and agonizingly reminded him of Ada, and he sought escape from that image in a powerful response to the charms of Tatiana, a torturing angel in her own right. Tatiana spurns Van's advances; however, much later, she wrote him a charming and melancholy letter in red ink on pink paper; but other emotions and events had intervened, and he never met her again). (1.42)
Tapper challenges Van to a duel because Van glove-slapped him across the face on a platform of the Kalugano railway station. This brings to mind a scene involving Pisarev (Chernyshevski's fellow prisoner in the Pater-and-Paul Fortress) in Chapter Four of Dar:
Да, видел воочию поезд, -- о котором ещё так недавно мечтал бедняга Белинский (предшественник), когда, изнурённый чахоткой, дрожащий, страшный на вид, часами бывало смотрел сквозь слёзы гражданского счастья, как воздвигается вокзал, -- тот вокзал, опять таки, на дебаркадере которого, спустя немного лет, полупомешанный Писарев (преемник), в чёрной маске, в зелёных перчатках, хватает хлыстом по лицу красавца-соперника. (apologies, in my Xerox copy of The Gift several pages are missing)
On a railway station platform half-mad Pisarev, in a black mask and green gloves, whipped the face of the man who married Raissa, the critic's first cousin with whom he was passionately in love. To a Russian ear, Raya (a diminutive of Raissa) sounds as if it came from ray (pronounced to rhyme with "cry"), "paradise." On the contrary, Ada sounds as if it came from ad ("hell").
Van, Ada and Lucette are the children of Marina Durmanov. But, officially, Van is the son of Marina's twin sister Aqua. Poor mad Aqua's suicide note was signed My sister's sister who teper' iz ada ('now is out of hell'). (1.3) Some of young Chekhov's stories (e. g., Woman from the Point of View of a Drunkard, in which girls under sixteen are compared to distilled water) were signed "My brother's brother."
The Durmanovs' favorite domain, however, was Raduga near the burg of that name... Dolly had inherited her mother's beauty and temper but also an older ancestral strain of whimsical, and not seldom deplorable, taste, well reflected, for instance, in the names she gave her daughters: Aqua and Marina ('Why not Tofana?' wondered the good and sur-royally antlered general... (1.1)
Raduga being Russian for "rainbow" and aquamarine a light blue-green or greenish blue color, one is reminded of another fragment in Chapter Four of The Gift:
Just as, in his boyhood, he had arrayed all his notebooks in rainbow covers, so, as a grown man, Pisarev would suddenly abandon some urgent work in order to painstakingly colour wood-cuts in books, or, when going off to the country, would order a red-and-blue summer suit of sarafan calico from his tailor. This professed utilitarian's mental illness was distinguished by a kind of perverted aestheticism.
Rack's wife Elsie is a namesake of Elsie de Nord, a vulgar literary demimondaine who thought that Lyovin went about Moscow in a nagol'nïy tulup, 'a muzhik's sheepskin coat, bare side out, bloom side in,' as defined in a dictionary our commentator [Ada] produced like a conjurer, never to be procurable by Elsies. (1.10)
Elsie de Nord hints at Elsinore, the royal castle in Shakespeare's Hamlet. In his article Promakhi nezreloy mysli ("The Blunders of Immature Thought," 1864) Pisarev criticizes Tolstoy's story Lucerne (1857) and mentions Hamlet's mother:
Преступление и раскаяние не оставили после себя решительно ничего, кроме беспричинного восторга и полнейшего самодовольства, и всё это в течение одной короткой летней ночи. Это стоит матери Гамлета, с её неизношенной парой башмаков.
(The crime and repentance leave after them absolutely nothing save for a pointless exaltation and complete smugness, and all this during one short summer night. This is worth of Hamlet's mother, with her unworn pair of shoes. Chapter VIII)
The main character and narrator of Lucerne, Prince Nekhlyudov is a namesake of the hero of Tolstoy's novel Voskresenie (The Resurrection, 1899). Its main female character, Katyusha Maslov (a prostitute who had been an innocent girl before she met Nekhlyudov), is sentenced for poisoning a merchant. 
The only time we see Rack's pregnant wife (whom Ada accuses of poisoning her poor husband) is at a party in Ardis the Second where she wears a polka-dotted dress:
If one dollied now to another group standing a few paces away under the purple garlands of the patio arch, one might take a medium shot of the young maestro's pregnant wife in a polka-dotted dress replenishing goblets with salted almonds, and of our distinguished lady novelist resplendent in mauve flounces, mauve hat, mauve shoes, pressing a zebra vest on Lucette, who kept rejecting it with rude remarks, learned from a maid but uttered in a tone of voice just beyond deafish Mlle Larivière's field of hearing. (1.32)
The polka dance is mentioned in Lucerne: There, immediately after dinner, we would move the table to one side, and, without paying too much attention to rhythm, take to dancing the polka on the dusty carpet, and often keep it up till evening...
And the Spanish countess with romantic proclivities, and the Italian abbate, who insisted on declaiming from the "Divine Comedy" after dinner, and the American doctor who had the entrée into the Tuileries, and the young dramatic author with his long hair, and the pianist who, according to her own account, had composed the best polka in existence, and the unhappy widow who was a beauty, and wore three rings on every finger, -- all of us enjoyed this society, which, though somewhat superficial, was human and pleasant.
Gertrude's pair of shoes mentioned by Pisarev in his article on Tolstoy brings to mind "old Paar of Chose" (1.3), a Professor at Van's University. Chose is French for "thing." In Lucerne the minstrel asks quelque chosse [sic] for himself:
The minstrel took off his cap, and swinging his guitar went toward the hotel. Raising his head, he addressed the ladies and gentlemen standing by the windows and on the balconies, saying in a half-Italian, half-German accent, and with the same intonation as jugglers use in speaking to their audiences: --
"Messieurs et mesdames, si vous croyez que je gagne quelque chosse, vous vous trompez: je ne suis qu'un bauvre tiaple."
The eponymous hero of Tolstoy's story Albert (1858) is also a musician. In Ada, Albert is the first name of Bouteillan, the butler in Ardis Hall. Bouteillan and his bastard Bout are lovers of Blanche, a handmaid at Ardis. It is Blanche who tells Van that Rack was Ada's lover:
When and how had it started? Last August, she said. Votre demoiselle picking flowers, he squiring her through the tall grass, a flute in his hand. Who he? What flute? Mais le musicien allemand, Monsieur Rack. The eager informer had her own swain lying upon her on the other side of the hedge. How anybody could do it with l'immonde Monsieur Rack, who once forgot his waistcoat in a haystack, was beyond the informer's comprehension. (1.41)
On the eve Blanche placed a note in Van's dinner jacket:
When Van went up to his room he noticed, with a shock of grim premonition, a slip of paper sticking out of the heart pocket of his dinner jacket. Penciled in a large hand, with the contour of every letter deliberately whiffled and rippled, was the anonymous injunction: 'One must not berne you.' Only a French-speaking person would use that word for 'dupe.' Among the servants, fifteen at least were of French extraction - descendants of immigrants who had settled in America after England had annexed their beautiful and unfortunate country in 1815. (1.40)
Berne (or Bern) is the Swiss capital (Lucerne is a city in Switzerland). The Napoleonic wars are described by Tolstoy in War and Peace (1864-69). The inhabitants of Ardis include Kim Beauharnais, a kitchen boy and photographer who spies on Van and Ada. His name hints at Napoleon's first wife (known on Antiterra as Queen Josephine, 1.5). In a letter of October 25, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov says that he enjoys War and Peace but dislikes the scenes involving Napoleon (who, it seems, did not exist on Antiterra):
I wake up every night and read "War and Peace." One reads it with the same interest and naive wonder as though one had never read it before. It's amazingly good. Only I don't like the passages in which Napoleon appears. As soon as Napoleon comes on the scene there are forced explanations and tricks of all sorts to prove that he was stupider than he really was. Everything that is said and done by Pierre, Prince Andrey, or the absolutely insignificant Nikolay Rostov--all that is good, clever, natural, and touching; everything that is thought and done by Napoleon is not natural, not clever, inflated and worthless.
In the Kalugano hospital Van visits dying Rack in Ward Five (where hopeless cases were kept, according to Doc Fitzbishop): Anyway, if Van was so eager to visit his old pal it would have to be as soon as he could be rolled to Ward Five in a wheelchair by Dorofey, so he'd better apply a bit of voodoo, ha-ha, on his own flesh and blood. (1.42)
In a letter of November 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov compares his story Ward No. 6 to lemonade (You are a hard drinker, and I have regaled you with sweet lemonade, and you, after giving the lemonade its due, justly observe that there is no spirit in it) and mentions the ghost of Hamlet's father (the writers, who we say are for all time or are simply good, and who intoxicate us, have one common and very important characteristic; they are going towards something and are summoning you towards it, too, and you feel not with your mind, but with your whole being, that they have some object, just like the ghost of Hamlet's father, who did not come and disturb the imagination for nothing). Hamlet's father was poisoned by Claudius. In Ada (1.5), Gamlet (Hamlet in Russian spelling) is a half-Russian village near Ardis. In Eugene Onegin, Lenski is Onegin's and the Larins' "half-Russian neighbor." Poor Lenski dies in a pistol duel with Onegin.
Rack's pupil, Lucette drowns herself because of the unrequited love for Van (3.5). In 1868, at the age of twenty eight, Pisarev drowned in the Gulf of Riga.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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