...she [Aqua] saw giant flying sharks with lateral eyes taking barely one night to carry pilgrims through black ether across an entire continent from dark to shining sea, before booming back to Seattle or Wark. (1.3)
Many years after poor mad Aqua's death her husband Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father, a Manhattan banker who owned an island "in the Gavailles") perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific:
Demon, she [Lucette] said, had told her, last year at [Marina's] funeral, that he was buying an island in the Gavailles ('incorrigible dreamer,' drawled Van). (3.5)
Demon had recently bought a small, perfectly round Pacific island, with a pink house on a green bluff and a sand beach like a frill (as seen from the air), and now wished to sell the precious little palazzo in East Manhattan that Van did not want. (3.7)
In the fourth or fifth worst airplane disaster of the young century, a gigantic flying machine had inexplicably disintegrated at fifteen thousand feet above the Pacific between Lisiansky and Laysanov Islands in the Gavaille region... only on the following morning did Van learn that a bank president lost in the closing garble was his father.
As a young man, Admiral Tobakoff (the ancestor of Ivan Giovannovich Tobak, Cordula de Prey's first husband) "got shipwrecked off Gavaille:"
'When michman Tobakoff himself got shipwrecked off Gavaille, he swam around comfortably for hours, frightening away sharks with snatches of old songs and that sort of thing, until a fishing boat rescued him - one of those miracles that require a minimum of cooperation from all concerned, I imagine.' (3.5)
One of the NW Hawaiian Islands, Lisianski Island was named after Yuri Lisianski, the commanding officer of the sloop-of-war Neva, an exploratory ship which participated in Admiral Krusenstern's voyage and which ran aground on the island in 1805. In his Ostrov Sakhalin (The Sakhalin Island, 1895) Chekhov mentions Krusenstern (who believed, as first explorers did, that Sakhalin was a peninsula). Before he went to Sakhalin, Chekhov, in a letter of February 19-21, 1890, had asked Suvorin to send him Krusenstern's atlas: Атлас Крузенштерна мне нужен теперь или по возвращении из Сахалина. Лучше теперь. Вы пишете, что карта его плоха. Потому-то она мне и нужна, что она плоха, а хорошую я уже купил у Ильина за 65 к.
In a letter of Febr. 23, 1890, Chekhov thanks Suvorin for Krusenstern (who "writes good"): Спасибо за Крузенштерна. Хорошо пишет.
The Russian Admiral's German name brings to mind Robinson Crusoe, the eponymous hero of Daniel Defoe's novel (1719) who got shipwrecked off the NE coast of Venezuela, near the Tobago Island. According to Van, the island received its name after Tobak's ancestor (just as Witch, or Viedma, "was founded by a Russian admiral," presumably Tobakoff, 2.2):
'His ancestor,' Van pattered on, 'was the famous or fameux Russian admiral who had an épée duel with Jean Nicot and after whom the Tobago Islands, or the Tobakoff Islands, are named, I forget which, it was so long ago, half a millennium.' (2.5)
The passengers of Tobakoff include the Robinson couple: The list yielded the Robinson couple, Robert and Rachel, old bores of the family (Bob had retired after directing for many years one of Uncle Dan's offices). (3.5) Uncle Dan (the husband of Aqua's twin sister Marina, Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother) is a namseke of the author of Robinson Crusoe.
Chekhov is the author of Ved'ma (The Witch, 1886), The Duel (1891) and two monologues On the Harm of Tobacco (1886, 1903). In his book on Sakhalin (chapter X) Chekhov mentions a former michman who was exiled to the penal colony in Sakhalin: В Рыковском есть школа, телеграф, больница и метеорологическая станция имени М. Н. Галкина-Враского, которою неофициально заведует привилегированный ссыльный, бывший мичман, человек замечательно трудолюбивый и добрый; он исправляет ещё также должность церковного старосты. Antosha Chekhonte also wrote an amusing parody The Flying Islands. After Jules Verne. (1883).
There had been trouble with her [Ada's] luggage. There still was. Her two maids, who were supposed to have flown over the day before on a Laputa (freight airplane) with her trunks, had got stranded somewhere. (Part Four)
Laputa is the flying island in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726). Btw., in Tartar ada means "island" (Uzun Ada, a port in Turkmenia on the Caspian Sea is mentioned in Jules Verne's novel Claudius Bombarnac)
She [Lucette] drank a 'Cossack pony' of Klass vodka - hateful, vulgar, but potent stuff; had another; and was hardly able to down a third because her head had started to swim like hell. Swim like hell from sharks, Tobakovich!... (3.5)
"Tobakovich" reminds one of Sobakevich, a character in Gogol's Dead Souls. In Chapter Five of Gogol's "poem" Chichikov mentally calls Sobakevich kulak (a tight-fisted man). According to Chichikov, kto uzh kulak, tomu ne razognut'sya v ladon' ("he who is tight-fisted can not have his palm unbent").
The name Sobakevich comes from sobaka (dog). Chekhov is the author of Dama s sobachkoy (The Lady with the Little Dog, 1899). According to Van,
The Veens speak only to Tobaks
But Tobaks speak only to dogs.
[Viny govoryat lish' s Tobakami,
a Tobaki govoryat lish' s sobakami] (3.2)
The phrase k chertyam sobach'im (to the devils) occurs in Ada thrice:
Upon first noticing this immediate, sustained, and in her case rather eager and mocking but really quite harmless replay of this or that recent discourse, she felt tickled at the thought that she, poor Aqua, had accidentally hit upon such a simple method of recording and transmitting speech, while technologists (the so-called Eggheads) all over the world were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets that were to replace those that had gone k chertyam sobach'im (Russian 'to the devil') with the banning of an unmentionable 'lammer.' (1.3)
But, added Ada, just before being whisked away and deprived of her crayon (tossed out by Marina k chertyam sobach'im, to hell's hounds - and it did remind one of Rose's terrier that had kept trying to hug Dan's leg) the charming glimpse was granted her of tiny Van, with another sweet boy, and blond-bearded, white-bloused Aksakov, walking up to the house, and, oh yes, she had forgotten her hoop - no, it was still in the taxi. (1.24)
Especially so now - when everything had gone to the hell curs, k chertyam sobach'im, of Jeroen Anthnizoon van Äken and the molti aspetti affascinati of his enigmatica arte, as Dan explained with a last sigh to Dr Nikulin and to nurse Bellabestia ('Bess') to whom he bequeathed a trunkful of museum catalogues and his second-best catheter. (2.10)
kulak + a = kukla + a = akula + k (kulak - Russ., fist; Tartar, ear; uzun-kulak, "long ear," is Tartar for "steppe telegraph;" in the malheureux Pompier's cheap novel La Condition Humaine the term 'Vandemonian' is glossed as 'koulak tasmanian d'origin hollandaise,' kukla - doll; puppet; Aqua's last note begins: Aujourd'hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doctor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several 'patients,' in the neighboring bor (piney wood)... 1.3; Dan proposed to Marina in the Up elevator of Manhattan's first ten-floor building, was indignantly rejected at the seventh stop (Toys), came down alone and, to air his feelings, set off in a counter-Fogg direction on a triple trip round the globe, adopting, like an animated parallel, the same itinerary every time... 1.1; akula - shark, a rhyme word of Cordula)
Akula (shark) appears at the end of Chekhov's story Gusev (1890), which is set in the Indian Ocean: 
After that another dark body appeared. It was a shark. It swam under Gusev with dignity and no show of interest, as though it did not notice him, and sank down upon its back, then it turned belly upwards, basking in the warm, transparent water and languidly opened its jaws with two rows of teeth. The harbour pilots are delighted, they stop to see what will come next. After playing a little with the body the shark nonchalantly puts its jaws under it, cautiously touches it with its teeth, and the sailcloth is rent its full length from head to foot; one of the weights falls out and frightens the harbour pilots, and striking the shark on the ribs goes rapidly to the bottom.
Overhead at this time the clouds are massed together on the side where the sun is setting; one cloud like a triumphal arch, another like a lion, a third like a pair of scissors. . . . From behind the clouds a broad, green shaft of light pierces through and stretches to the middle of the sky; a little later another, violet-coloured, lies beside it; next that, one of gold, then one rose-coloured. . . . The sky turns a soft lilac. Looking at this gorgeous, enchanted sky, at first the ocean scowls, but soon it, too, takes tender, joyous, passionate colours for which it is hard to find a name in human speech.
Gusev (or "Gusinykh," or "Gusiadi") was Chekhov's name for his brother Alexander (who was an alcoholic and had an enlarged liver; the name Gusev comes from gus', "goose"). See Chekhov's letters to his brother. See also my notes Dobro s kulakami ("Good should have Fists") and In Vino Veritas.
Alexey Sklyarenko (Alkogolik-Pianovsky who hates foie gras)
Google Search
the archive
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

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