In my previous post (Monparnasse in Ada) I forgot to mentions two facts:


In a letter of Feb. 6, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov praises Suvorin's article on Tolstoy's Posleslovie (Afterword) to The Kreutzer Sonata and Fransuaza, Tolstoy's Russian version of Maupassant's story Le Port (1889):


ѧ ѧ ݧ ݧߧѧ ֧ݧ֧. ֧ߧ, ֧ߧ . ڧݧߧ, է֧ݧڧܧѧߧ. ҧ ܧѧܧ- ҧ֧ߧߧ էѧߧ ߧާ֧: ѧ ѧ, "ѧߧѧ٧". ֧ܧѧߧ ѧܧѧ. ڧҧѧӧܧ ֧ ("ߧ ӧ ֧!"), է֧ݧѧߧߧѧ ݧ, ߧ ѧ ڧ, ܧѧ ҧݧڧ. ݧܧ ߧ֧ ѧܧѧ ֧ ܧѧ ҧէ ӧ ӧ֧ا֧. ֧, ӧ ѧӧߧ.


Suvorin was afraid that the addition about sister ("she is your sister!") made by Tolstoy would spoil Maupassants story, but it did not. The story seems to have lost its freshness, though (in Chekhov's opinion).


The two main characters in VNs novel, Van and Ada are brother and sister. One of Adas lovers is Philip Rack, the flutist. According to Lucette, the lover of Racks wife Elsie played the triple viol (2.5). In The Kreutzer Sonata Pozdnyshev killed his wife because he thought that she had been unfaithful to him with a violinist.


In a letter of Nov. 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov mentions Repins pictures and our Muse:


Putting aside "Ward Six" and myself, let us discuss the matter in general, for that is more interesting. Let us discuss the general causes, if that won't bore you, and let us include the whole age. Tell me honestly, who of my contemporariesthat is, men between thirty and forty-fivehave given the world one single drop of alcohol? Are not Korolenko, Nadson, and all the playwrights of to-day, lemonade? Have Repin's or Shishkin's pictures turned your head? Charming, talented, you are enthusiastic; but at the same time you can't forget that you want to smoke. Science and technical knowledge are passing through a great period now, but for our sort it is a flabby, stale, and dull time. We are stale and dull ourselves, we can only beget gutta-percha boys, and the only person who does not see that is Stasov, to whom nature has given a rare faculty for getting drunk on slops. The causes of this are not to be found in our stupidity, our lack of talent, or our insolence, as Burenin imagines, but in a disease which for the artist is worse than syphilis or sexual exhaustion. We lack "something," that is true, and that means that, lift the robe of our Muse, and you will find within an empty void.


Tolstoys novella was named after Beethovens Kreutzer Sonata. In his Ode to Beethoven (1914) Mandelshtam compares Beethoven to Dionysus (the god of fertility, wine and drama; Bacchus). Describing the performance in which Marina played the heroine, Van mentions an invisible sign of Dionysian origin:


At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or 'ribbon boule' in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.'s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat. (1.2)


Ribbon boule hints at "Moscow's ribbon of boulevards," as Lowell mistranslated the phrase kurva-Moskva ("Moscow the whore") in a poem by Mandelshtam. On the other hand, Boule de suif (1880) is a story by Maupassant.


According to Ada, Mlle Larivire thinks that in some former Hindooish state she was a boulevardier in Paris; and writes accordingly" (1.8). In Maupassants novella Yvette (criticized by Tolstoy) the main character is a Parisian boulevardier. Some former Hindooish state brings to mind Tolstoys story Karma (1894).


in vino veritas + kulak/kukla = Suvorin + Nikita + levak


in vino veritas C Lat., in wine is truth

kulak C fist

kukla C doll

Nikita C the tsar in Pushkins poem Tsar Nikita and his Forty Daughters (1822): the girls in it have the same defect as our Muse in Chekhovs letter to Suvorin; Nikita, the porter in Chekhovs story Ward Six (1892)

levak C a Leftist


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.