It was, Van suggested, a ‘tower in the mist' (as she called any good recollection), and then a conductor walked on the running board of every coach with the train also running and opened doors all over again to give, punch, collect tickets, and lick his thumb, and change money, a hell of a job, but another ‘mauve tower.' Did they hire a motor landaulet to Radugalet? Ten miles, she guessed. Ten versts, said Van. She stood corrected. (1.24)
One verst is equal to 3500 English feet. Vyorsty ("The Versts," 1916, and "The Versts," 1917-20, both published in 1922) is the title of two collections of poetry by Marina Tsvetaev. "Tower in the mist" and "mauve tower" seem to hint at Marina Tsvetaev's autobiographical story Bashnya v plyushche ("The Tower in Ivy," 1933), but also bring to mind "mauve shades of Monsieur Proust" in Ada's entomological diary:
'I think Marina would stop scolding me for my hobby ("There's something indecent about a little girl's keeping such revolting pets...," "Normal young ladies should loathe snakes and worms," et cetera) if I could persuade her to overcome her old-fashioned squeamishness and place simultaneously on palm and pulse (the hand alone would not be roomy enough!) the noble larva of the Cattleya Hawkmoth (mauve shades of Monsieur Proust), a seven-inch-long colossus flesh colored, with turquoise arabesques, rearing its hyacinth head in a stiff "Sphinxian" attitude.' (1.8)
Cattleya is any of several tropical American orchids of the genus Cattleya, having showy flowers ranging from white to purple. In Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu "cattleya" is Swann's and Odette's "tender turret" word for their love-makings. In "My Pushkin" (1937) Marina Tsvetaev compares Pushkin to Marcel Proust whom she calls nedavno umchavshiysya ot nas geniy ("a genius who recently left us"):
Такой нежности слова к старухе нашлись только у недавно умчавшегося от нас гения - Марселя Пруста. Пушкин. Пруст. Два памятника сыновности.
In his poem K moryu ("To the Sea," 1824) Pushkin says of Lord Byron: drugoy ot nas umchalsya geniy ("another genius left us"):
И вслед за ним, как бури шум,
Другой от нас умчался гений,
Другой властитель наших дум.
And after him [Napoleon], like a storm's uproar,
Another genius left us,
Another master of our thoughts.
In a picture (taken by Sumerechnikov, "the Twilight before the Lumières," as Van calls him) in Marina's bedroom her late brother Ivan is clad in a bayronka (from Bayron, the Russian spelling of the poet's name):
A formal photograph, on a separate page: Adochka, pretty and impure in her flimsy, and Vanichka in gray-flannel suit, with slant-striped school tie, facing the kimera (chimera, camera) side by side, at attention, he with the shadow of a forced grin, she, expressionless. Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses) and the occasion: it was ordered by Marina, who had it framed and set up in her bedroom next to a picture of her brother at twelve or fourteen clad in a bayronka (open shirt) and cupping a guinea pig in his gowpen (hollowed hands); the three looked like siblings, with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi. (2.7)
Kimera hints at Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis who spies on Van and Ada and attempts to blackmail Ada. His name brings to mind Josephine Beauharnais (known on Antiterra as "Queen Josephine," 1.5), Napoleon's first wife. Marina Tsvetaev's idol and sole influence, Napoleon (who seems to have not existed on Antiterra) is mentioned by name in Pushkin's poem:
Одна скала, гробница славы...
Там погружались в хладный сон
Воспоминанья величавы:
Там угасал Наполеон.
One lofty crag, a glorious tomb...
There stately memories dwelled on
And plunged in sleep of cold and gloom:
There faded great Napoleon.
According to Pushkin, Byron was a singer of the sea:
Исчез, оплаканный свободой,
Оставя миру свой венец.
Шуми, взволнуйся непогодой:
Он был, о море, твой певец.
Твой образ был на нём означен,
Он духом создан был твоим:
Как ты, могущ, глубок и мрачен,
Как ты, ничем неукротим.
He fled, bewailed by freedom,
Bequeathing to the world his crown.
Grow agitated, roar, oh sea:
Of you, of you he sang.
Your image was designed on him,
In spirit he was made the same:
Mighty, deep and grim, like you,
He was impossible to tame.
When Ada first sees eight-year-old Van, he wears a white sailor suit and a blue sailor cap:
Of course, of course, because that was the first time, Ada recalled, she had glimpsed him. In his little white sailor suit and blue sailor cap. (Un régulier angelochek, commented Van in the Raduga jargon.) (1.24.)
Angelochek ("The Little Angel," 1899) is a story by Leonid Andreev (whose novel "The Ocean" is mentioned in The Luzhin Defense). On the other hand, in the closing line of his poem Sam treugol'nyi, dvukrylyi, beznogiy... ("Himself triangular, two-winged, legless..." 1932) VN calls a night moth (apparently, a hawkmoth) that flew into the room angelochek nochnoy ("the nocturnal little angel"):
Сам треугольный, двукрылый, безногий,
но с округлённым, прелестным лицом,
ижицей быстрой в безумной тревоге
комнату всю облетая кругом,

страшный малютка, небесный калека,
гость, по ошибке влетевший ко мне,
дико метался, боясь человека,
а человек прижимался к стене,

всё ещё в свадебном галстуке белом,
выставив руку, лицо отклоня,
с ужасом тем же, но оцепенелым:
только бы он не коснулся меня,

только бы вылетел, только нашёл бы
это окно и опять, в неземной
лаборатории, в синюю колбу
сел бы, сложась, ангелочек ночной.

In another poem, Vecher dymchat i dolog... ("The Evening is Smoky and Long..."), included in Sem' stikhotvoreniy ("Seven Poems," 1956) VN calls rayskiy sumerechnik ("a heavenly hawkmoth," Sphinx Caput mortuum, no doubt) "an angel" and, when it is netted, "the demon:"
Вечер дымчат и долог:
я с мольбою стою,
молодой энтомолог,
перед жимолостью.
О, как хочется, чтобы
там, в цветах, вдруг возник,
запуская в них хобот,
райский сумеречник.
Содроганье – и вот он.
Я по ангелу бью,
и уж демон замотан
в сетку дымчатую.
Sumerechnikov (the brothers Lumière's forerunner who took the "sumerographs" of Van's and Ada's Uncle Vanya, 2.7) and sumerechnik (Russ., "hawkmoth") come from sumerki (Russ., the twilight).
VN's American cycle of seven poems brings to mind Bryusov's Sem' tsvetov radugi ("Seven Colors of Rainbow," 1912-15) beginning with Orange and ending in Violet. According to Ada, she saw the phrase "far enough, fair enough" in small violet letters before Van put it into orange ones:
Ada said: 'Officially we are maternal cousins, and cousins can marry by special decree, if they promise to sterilize their first five children. But, moreover, the father-in-law of my mother was the brother of your grandfather. Right?'
'That's what I'm told,' said Van serenely.
'Not sufficiently distant,' she mused, 'or is it?'
'Far enough, fair enough.'
'Funny - I saw that verse in small violet letters before you put it into orange ones - just one second before you spoke. Spoke, smoke. Like the puff preceding a distant cannon shot.' (1.24)
In his poem Peterburg ("St. Petersburg," 1923) VN describes the Peter-and-Paul Fortress and mentions the cannon on one of its bastions that shoots at noon:
И рысаки под сетками цветными 
проносятся, как сказочные птицы; 
а вдалеке, за ширью снежной, тают 
в лазури сизой розовые струи 
над кровлями; как призрак золотистый, 
мерцает крепость (в полдень бухнет пушка: 
сперва дымок, потом раскат звенящий); 
и на снегу зелёной бирюзою 
горят квадраты вырезанных льдин.
"At noon the cannon thunders:
First comes the smoke, then there's a ringing peal."
In his old age the elder brother of VN's great-grandfather was a commander of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress:
I know nothing about his [Nikolay Nabokov's] military career; whatever it was, he could not have competed with his brother, Ivan Aleksandrovich Nabokov (1787-1852), one of the heroes of the anti-Napoleon wars and, in his old age, commander of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg where (in 1849) one of his prisoners was the writer Dostoevski, author of The Double, etc., to whom the kind general lent books. Considerably more interesting, however, is the fact that he was married to Ekaterina Pushchin, sister of Ivan Pushchin, Pushkin's schoolmate and close friend. Careful, printers: two "chin" 's and one "kin." (Speak, Memory, Chapter Three, 1)
As a young naval officer, Nikolay Nabokov participated in a polar expedition to map Nova Zembla:
The youngest of his sons, my great-grandfather Nikolay Aleksandrovich Nabokov, was a young naval officer in 1817, when he participated, with the future admirals Baron von Wrangel and Count Litke, under the leadership of Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Vasiliy Mihaylovich Golovnin, in an expedition to map Nova Zembla (of all places) where "Nabokov's River" is named after my ancestor. The memory of the leader of the expedition is preserved in quite a number of place names, one of them being Golovnin's Lagoon, Seward Peninsula, W. Alaska, from where a butterfly, Parnassius phoebus golovinus (rating a big sic), has been described by Dr. Holland; but my great-grandfather has nothing to show except that very blue, almost indigo blue, even indignantly blue, little river winding between wet rocks; for he soon left the navy, n'ayant pas le pied marin (as says my cousin Sergey Sergeevich who informed me about him), and switched to the Moscow Guards. (ibid.)
Van, Ada and Lucette are the grandchildren of General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon Fortress and peaceful country gentleman, with lands in the Severn Tories (Severnïya Territorii), that tesselated protectorate still lovingly called 'Russian' Estoty, which commingles, granoblastically and organically, with 'Russian' Canady, otherwise 'French' Estoty, where not only French, but Macedonian and Bavarian settlers enjoy a halcyon climate under our Stars and Stripes.
The Durmanovs' favorite domain, however, was Raduga near the burg of that name, beyond Estotiland proper, in the Atlantic panel of the continent between elegant Kaluga, New Cheshire, U.S.A., and no less elegant Ladoga, Mayne, where they had their town house and where their three children were born: a son, who died young and famous, and a pair of difficult female twins. (1.1)
Alexey Sklyarenko
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