'My dear,' said Van, 'do help me. She told me about her Valentian estanciero but now the name escapes me and I hate bothering her.'
'Only she never told you,' said loyal Lucette, 'so nothing could escape. Nope. I can't do that to your sweetheart and mine, because we know you could hit that keyhole with a pistol.'
'Please, little vixen! I'll reward you with a very special kiss.'
'Oh, Van,' she said over a deep sigh. 'You promise you won't tell her I told you?'
'I promise. No, no, no,' he went on, assuming a Russian accent, as she, with the abandon of mindless love, was about to press her abdomen to his. 'Nikak-s net: no lips, no philtrum, no nosetip, no swimming eye. Little vixen's axilla, just that - unless' - (drawing back in mock uncertainty) - 'you shave there?'
'I stink worse when I do,' confided simple Lucette and obediently bared one shoulder.
'Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!' commanded Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow.
She sat down with a bump on a chair, pressing one hand to her brow.
'Turn off the footlights,' said Van. 'I want the name of that fellow.'
'Vinelander,' she answered.
He heard Ada Vinelander's voice calling for her Glass bed slippers (which, as in Cordulenka's princessdom too, he found hard to distinguish from dance footwear), and a minute later, without the least interruption in the established tension, Van found himself, in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose - no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion, on a kind of lowboy. She complained he hurt her 'like a Tiger Turk.' He went to bed and was about to doze off for good when she left his side. Where was she going? Pet wanted to see the album. (2.8)
Ada's fiancé Andrey Vinelander is a friend of Ivan Tobak, the shipowner who married "Cordulenka" (Cordula de Prey, Van's former mistress). Tobak is a descendant of Admiral Tobakoff "after whom the Tobago Islands, or the Tobakoff Islands, are named" (2.5) and whose name comes from tabak (Russ., tobacco). In a footnote to his story Odinochestvo ("Loneliness," 1898) Kuprin explains that the term pod tabak of Volgan barge haulers (burlaki) meant that the water reached them to the armpits (where they kept tobacco):
Термин "под табак" обозначает, что глубина превосходит длину рейки. Восклицание это осталось от бурлацкого обихода: у них оно означало, что вода доходит до подмышек, куда прятался табак.
The phrase pod takak is also used by Kuprin in Uchenik ("The Disciple," 1908). One of the story's characters, the former korol' shulerov (king of card-sharps) Balunski, brings to mind Mr Plunkett, "Demon's casino-touring companion, bodyguard and guardian angel, who had been, in the summer of his adventurous years, one of the greatest shuler's, politely called 'gaming conjurers,' both in England and America" (1.28). The action in Odinochestvo and Uchenik takes place onboard the steamers running down the Volga. According to Teresa (a character in Van's novel Letters from Terra), 
Eastward, instead of Khan Sosso and his ruthless Sovietnamur Khanate, a super Russia, dominating the Volga region and similar watersheds, was governed by a Sovereign Society of Solicitous Republics (or so it came through) which had superseded the Tsars, conquerors of Tartary and Trst. (2.2)
The Antiterran Khan Sosso clearly hints at Soso Dzhugashvili (Joseph Stalin's real name), who was a compulsive smoker.
In Pushkin's little tragedy Kamennyi gost' ("The Stone Guest," 1830) Don Guan confesses to Donna Anna that he had long been an obedient disciple of dissipation (razvrata ya dolgo byl pokornyi uchenik). Don Juan's Last Fling is the movie (Ada plays the gitanilla in it) that Van and Lucette watch in the Tobakoff cinema hall before Lucette's suicide (3.5)
Kim Beauharnais' album (that Lucette wants to see) brings to mind Josephine Beauharnais (Napoleon's first wife known on Antiterra as "Queen Josephine," 1.5) and Kipling's novel Kim (1900). The author of an essay on Kipling (Radiard Kipling, 1908), Kuprin quotes Napoleon's words in Dumas père (1930):
И не Наполеон ли обронил однажды жестокое слово:
- Я пользуюсь славою тех, которые её недостойны.
I enjoy the glory of those who are unworthy of it.
Kuprin also mentions Dumas' play Napoleon Bonapart written in eight days:
Пьеса "Наполеон Бонапарт" в восьми действиях и двадцати четырёх картинах, содержащая в общей сложности девятьсот строк, была им, по настоянию директора театра "Одеон" г. Арели, написана всего за восемь дней.
Finally, Kuprin compares Dumas to a fairy tale, fantastic, giant silkworm:
Подобно сказочному, фантастическому, гигантскому шелкопряду, выматывал Дюма из себя в продолжение многих десятков лет драгоценную шёлковую нить и ткал из неё волшебные узоры. Суровый закон природы: нить, казавшаяся бесконечной, вымоталась. Творческий источник медленно иссяк. За всё в жизни надо расплачиваться – таково таинственное и неумолимое правило возмездия. Наполеон, которому тесен казался весь земной шар, умирает на крошечном, проклятом самим богом скалистом островке. Бетховен глохнет. Гейне, вся жизнь которого была радость, веселье, смех и любовь, покорно подчиняется в свои последние дни параличу и слепоте. Дюма, плодовитейшего из всех бывших, настоящих и будущих писателей, неумолимая судьба карает бесплодием. И всего ужаснее то, что этим чудесным людям судьба оставляет чересчур много времени, в течение которого они могли бы сознательно созерцать и ощущать собственное разрушение... Не слишком ли это, всемилостивейшая госпожа судьба?
"Napoleon for whom the whole world was small dies on the tiny rocky island cursed by God himself."
St. Helena, a Small Island (1921) is a novel by Aldanov. Aldanov's real name, Landau, brings to mind the philosopher Grigoriy Landau, who perished in a Soviet labor camp and who cited the phrase bednye lyudi ("poor people") as an example of tautology. Bednye lyudi ("Poor Folks," 1846) is, of course, Dostoevski's first novel (written in the epistolary form). Its characters include Teresa, a servant woman who transmits Makar Devushkin's letters to Varenka Dobrosyolov and Varenka's letters to Makar. It is Lucette who brings to Van Ada's last letter in which she mentions her "Valentian estanciero:"
'O dear Van, this is the last attempt I am making. You may call it a document in madness or the herb of repentance, but I wish to come and live with you, wherever you are, for ever and ever. If you scorn the maid at your window I will aerogram my immediate acceptance of a proposal of marriage that has been made to your poor Ada a month ago in Valentine State. He is an Arizonian Russian, decent and gentle, not overbright and not fashionable. The only thing we have in common is a keen interest in many military-looking desert plants especially various species of agave, hosts of the larvae of the most noble animals in America, the Giant Skippers (Krolik, you see, is burrowing again). He owns horses, and Cubistic pictures, and "oil wells" (whatever they are-our father in hell who has some too, does not tell me, getting away with off-color allusions as is his wont). I have told my patient Valentinian that I shall give him a definite answer after consulting the only man I have ever loved or shall ever love. Try to ring me up tonight. Something is very wrong with the Ladore line, but I am assured that the trouble will be grappled with and eliminated before rivertide. Tvoya, tvoya, tvoya (thine). A.' (2.5)
Ada tries to identify herself with Ophelia (Polonius's daughter who goes mad after her father's death). Actually, of course, it is Lucette who is persistently linked to Ophelia: 'Little Lucette no doubt had told him about a later escapade? Punning in an Ophelian frenzy on the feminine glans? Raving about the delectations of clitorism?' (2.6)
From Van's letter to Ada (written after Lucette's suicide): As a psychologist, I know the unsoundness of speculations as to whether Ophelia would not have drowned herself after all, without the help of a treacherous sliver, even if she had married her Voltemand. (3.6)
Voltemand is a courtier in Hamlet and Van's penname under which he publishes Letters from Terra (reviewed by the First Clown in Elsinore, a distinguished London weekly, 2.2).
In Kuprin's story Polubog ("Demigod," 1896) the main characters are the celebrated actor Kostromskoy who plays Hamlet (but who gets drunk and can not act his part to the end) and a young girl from the audience who agrees to play Ophelia (and who acts brilliantly). The name (or stage name) Kostromskoy comes from Kostroma, a city on the Volga (another Volgan city, Tsaritsyn,* was renamed Stalingrad by the Bolsheviks). Kuprin is the author of Kak ya byl aktyorom ("How I was an Actor," 1906).
*Tsaritsa is a river, tributary of the Volga.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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