A pointer of sunlight daubed with greener paint a long green box where croquet implements were kept; but the balls had been rolled down the hill by some rowdy children, the little Erminins, who were now Van's age and had grown very nice and quiet.
'As we all are at that age,' said Van and stooped to pick up a curved tortoiseshell comb - the kind that girls use to hold up their hair behind; he had seen one, exactly like that, quite recently, but when, in whose hairdo?
'One of the maids,' said Ada. 'That tattered chapbook must also belong to her, Les Amours du Docteur Mertvago, a mystical romance by a pastor.'
'Playing croquet with you,' said Van, 'should be rather like using flamingoes and hedgehogs.'
'Our reading lists do not match,' replied Ada. 'That Palace in Wonderland was to me the kind of book everybody so often promised me I would adore, that I developed an insurmountable prejudice toward it. (1.8)
Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Les amours du Dr Mertvago: play on 'Zhivago' ('zhiv' means in Russian 'alive' and 'mertv' dead).
Doctor Zhivago (1957) is a novel by Pasternak. In her essay Epos i lirika sovremennoy Rossii ("The Epic and Lyric Poetry of Contemporary Russia: Vladimir Mayakovski and Boris Pasternak," 1932) Marina Tsvetaev compares the reader's attempts to talk with Pasternak to the dialogues in Alice in Wonderland:
Попытка беседы читателя с Пастернаком мне напоминает диалоги из "Алисы в стране чудес", где на каждый вопрос следует либо запаздывающий, либо обскакивающий, либо вовсе не относящийся к делу ответ, - очень точный бы, ежели бы, - но здесь неуместный. Сходство объясняется введением в "Алисе" другого времени, времени сна, из которого никогда не выходит Пастернак.
According to Marina Tsvetaev, the resemblance can be explained by the fact that a different kind of time is introduced in Alice, the time of dream within which Pasternak always remains.
The "tattered chapbook" belongs to Blanche, a French handmaid at Ardis who is associated with Cendrillon. In Povest' o Sonechke ("The Tale about Little Sonya," 1937) Marina Tsvetaev compares Sonya Gollidey to Zolushka (Cinderella):
А вы - Золушка, которая должна золу золить, пока другие танцуют.
In the entomological entries of her diary Ada mentions Monsieur Proust: 
(At ten or earlier the child had read - as Van had - Les Malheurs de Swann, as the next sample reveals):
'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)
In "The Epic and Lyric Poetry of Contemporary Russia" Marina Tsvetaev speaks of Proust and uses the words zhiv and mertv:
Когда я на каком-нибудь французском литературном собрании слышу все имена, кроме Пруста, и на своё невинное удивление: “Et Proust?” — “Mais Proust est mort, nous parlons des vivants”, — я каждый раз точно с неба падаю; по какому же признаку устанавливают живость и умершесть писателя? Неужели X. жив, современен и действенен потому, что он может прийти на это собрание, а Марсель Пруст потому, что никуда уже ногами не придёт, — мертв? Так судить можно только о скороходах.
"Is X alive because he can attend this meeting and Marcel Proust dead, because he will never come anywhere with his feet? One can speak in such terms only of fast runners."
Btw., Ada is crazy about everything that crawls: 'Je raffole de tout ce qui rampe (I'm crazy about everything that crawls),' she said. (1.8) She calls Dr Krolik (her beloved entomologist) "dear Crawly:"
'Dr Krolik received from Andalusia and kindly gave me five young larvae of the newly described very local Carmen Tortoiseshell. They are delightful creatures, of a beautiful jade nuance with silvery spikes, and they breed only on a semi-extinct species of high-mountain willow (which dear Crawly also obtained for me).' (ibid.)
Belyi Krolik (a White Rabbit) is a character in Anya v strane chudes (1923), VN's Russian version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Les malheurs de Swann: cross between Les malheurs de Sophie by Mme de Ségur (née Countess Rostopchin) and Proust's Un amour de Swann.
Unlike Proust's Swann, the hero of Pasternak's novel is not odnolyub (a monogamous person), hence "Les amours du Dr Mertvago." Zhivago's last love is the yardman Markel's daughter Marina.
In "The Tale about Little Sonya" Marina Tsvetaev praises Ségur's Nouveaux Contes de Fées published in the Bibliothèque Rose series:
Графиня де Сегюр - большая писательница, имевшая глупость вообразить себя бабушкой и писать только для детей. Прошу обратить внимание на её сказки «Nouveaux Contes de Fées» (Bibliothèque Rose) - лучшее и наименее известное из всего ею написанного - сказки совершенно-исключительные, потому что совершенно единоличные (без ни единого заимствования - хотя бы из народных сказок). Сказки, которым я верна уже четвёртый десяток, сказки, которые я уже здесь в Париже четырежды дарила и трижды сохранила, ибо увидеть их в витрине для меня - неизбежно - купить).
Incidentally, Sonya is a diminutive of Sofia (Fr., Sophie). 
Alexey Sklyarenko
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.