The somewhat Italianate style of the apartment, its elaborate wall lamps with ornaments of pale caramel glass, its white knobbles that produced indiscriminately light or maids, the slat-eyes, veiled, heavily curtained windows which made the morning as difficult to disrobe as a crinolined prude, the convex sliding doors of the huge white 'Nuremberg Virgin'-like closet in the hallway of their suite, and even the tinted engraving by Randon of a rather stark three-mast ship on the zigzag green waves of Marseilles Harbor - in a word, the alberghian atmosphere of those new trysts added a novelistic touch (Aleksey and Anna may have asterisked here!) which Ada welcomed as a frame, as a form, something supporting and guarding life, otherwise unprovidenced on Desdemonia, where artists are the only gods. (3.8)
Aleksey and Anna seem to hint at Aleksey Vronski and Anna Karenin, but they also can be Aleksey Suvorin and his second wife Anna Ivanovna. Suvorin was Chekhov's travelling companion in his journey in Italy. In a letter of April 1, 1891, Chekhov from Rome wrote to Madame Kiselyov:
To-morrow I am going to Naples. Pray that I may meet there a beautiful Russian lady, if possible a widow or a divorced wife.
In the guide-books it says that a love affair is an essential condition for a tour in Italy. Well, hang them all! I am ready for anything. If there must be a love affair, so be it.
Roman (the word Chekhov used in his letter) means both "love affair" and "novel." According to Serebrov (A. N. Tikhonov), Chekhov once told him:
Чтобы строить роман, необходимо хорошо знать закон симметрии и равновесия масс. Роман – это целый дворец, и надо, чтобы читатель чувствовал себя в нём свободно, не удивлялся бы и не скучал, как в музее.
To build a novel one must know well the law of symmetry and the balance of forms. The novel is a whole palace and the reader should be at ease in it, he should not be surprised or bored, as in a museum. (On Chekhov, III)
According to Suvorin, Несколько раз он развивал передо мною широкую тему романа с полуфантастическим героем, который живёт целый век и участвует во всех событиях XIX века.
Several times he [Chekhov] developed before me the broad theme of a novel with the half-fantastic main character who lives a hundred years and participates in all events of the 19th century.
The narrator and main character of Ada, Van Veen, lives almost a whole century dying at ninety seven.
In his postscript to the above-quoted letter to Madame Kiselyov Chekhov sends his greetings gospodam skvortsam
My respects to Messr. starlings.
One of Ada's lovers is John Starling who played Skvortsov in the Yakima stage version of Four Sisters (as Chekhov's play The Three Sisters is known on Antiterra):
Van glanced through the list of players and D.P.'s and noticed two amusing details: the role of Fedotik, an artillery officer (whose comedy organ consists of a constantly clicking camera)', had been assigned to a 'Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimossoff' and somebody called 'John Starling' had been cast as Skvortsov (a sekundant in the rather amateurish duel of the last act) whose name comes from skvorets, starling. When he communicated the latter observation to Ada, she blushed as was her Old World wont.
'Yes,' she said, 'he was quite a lovely lad and I sort of flirted with him, but the strain and the split were too much for him - he had been, since pubescence, the puerulus of a fat ballet master, Dangleleaf, and he finally committed suicide. You see ("the blush now replaced by a matovaya pallor") I'm not hiding one stain of what rhymes with Perm.' (2.9)
A stain of what rhymes with Perm brings to mind Aleksey and Anna who may have asterisked in their Italian hotel.
Yakim and Yakima hint at Yakimanka, a street in Moscow where Chekhov's family lived in the 1880s. The name of the fourth sister in the Antiterran version of Chekhov's play, Varvara ("the garrulous original" who is played by Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother Marina in the film version of Four Sisters), hints at Varvarka, another street in Moscow.

...But let us shift to the didactic metaphorism of Chekhov's friend, Count Tolstoy [the author of Anna Karenin].
We all know those old wardrobes in old hotels in the Old World subalpine zone. At first one opens them with the utmost care, very slowly, in the vain hope of hushing the excruciating creak, the growing groan that the door emits midway. Before long one discovers, however, that if it is opened or closed with celerity, in one resolute sweep, the hellish hinge is taken by surprise, and triumphant silence achieved. Van and Ada, for all the exquisite and powerful bliss that engulfed and repleted them (and we do not mean here the rose sore of Eros alone), knew that certain memories had to be left closed, lest they wrench every nerve of the soul with their monstrous moan. But if the operation is performed swiftly, if indelible evils are mentioned between two quick quips, there is a chance that the anesthetic of life itself may allay unforgettable agony in the process of swinging its door. (ibid.)
In Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard (Act One) Gaev improvises a speech addressing a bookcase (knizhnyi shkaf; shkaf also means "wardrobe" and "cupboard"):
GAEV. And do you know, Luba, how old this case is? A week ago I took out the bottom drawer; I looked and saw figures burnt out in it. That case was made exactly a hundred years ago. What do you think of that? What? We could celebrate its jubilee. It hasn't a soul of its own, but still, say what you will, it's a fine bookcase.
PISHCHIK. [Astonished] A hundred years. . . Think of that!
GAEV. Yes . . . it's a real thing. [Handling it] My dear and honoured case! I congratulate you on your existence, which has already for more than a hundred years been directed towards the bright ideals of good and justice; your silent call to productive labour has not grown less in the hundred years [Weeping] during which you have upheld virtue and faith in a better future to the generations of our race, educating us up to ideals of goodness and to the knowledge of a common consciousness. [Pause.]
According to Van, Marina is an adequate Mme Ranevski (the main character in The Cherry Orchard):
They've all gone and left me behind, as old Fierce mumbles at the end of the Cherry Orchard (Marina was an adequate Mme Ranevski). (1.19)
Van and Ada make love for the first time in the Night of the Burning Barn, when everybody left to see the fire. They "asterisk" in the library of Ardis Hall:
When he grew too loud, she shushed, shushingly breathing into his mouth, and now her four limbs were frankly around him as if she had been love-making for years in all our dreams - but impatient young passion (brimming like Van's overflowing bath while he is reworking this, a crotchety gray old wordman on the edge of a hotel bed) did not survive the first few blind thrusts; it burst at the lip of the orchid, and a bluebird uttered a warning warble, and the lights were now stealing back under a rugged dawn, the firefly signals were circumscribing the reservoir, the dots of the carriage lamps became stars, wheels rasped on the gravel, all the dogs returned well pleased with the night treat, the cook's niece Blanche jumped out of a pumpkin-hued police van in her stockinged feet (long, long after midnight, alas) - and our two naked children, grabbing lap robe and nightdress, and giving the couch a parting pat, pattered back with their candlesticks to their innocent bedrooms. (ibid.)
Btw., Aleksey is also the name of Anna Karenin's deceived husband and Suvorin's first wife (who was killed by a lover who shot himself dead beside her) was also Anna Ivanovna. Could they meet on "Desdemonia" (as Van calls Antiterra, aka Demonia)?
Aleksey Sklyarenko
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