The year 1880 (Aqua was still alive - somehow, somewhere!) was to prove to be the most retentive and talented one in his long, too long, never too long life. He was ten. His father had lingered in the West where the many-colored mountains acted upon Van as they had on all young Russians of genius. He could solve an Euler-type problem or learn by heart Pushkin's 'Headless Horseman' poem in less than twenty minutes. With white-bloused, enthusiastically sweating Andrey Andreevich, he lolled for hours in the violet shade of pink cliffs, studying major and minor Russian writers - and puzzling out the exaggerated but, on the whole, complimentary allusions to his father's volitations and loves in another life in Lermontov's diamond-faceted tetrameters. He struggled to keep back his tears, while AAA blew his fat red nose, when shown the peasant-bare footprint of Tolstoy preserved in the clay of a motor court in Utah where he had written the tale of Murat, the Navajo chieftain, a French general's bastard, shot by Cora Day in his swimming pool. What a soprano Cora had been! Demon took Van to the world-famous Opera House in Telluride in West Colorado and there he enjoyed (and sometimes detested) the greatest international shows - English blank-verse plays, French tragedies in rhymed couplets, thunderous German musical dramas with giants and magicians and a defecating white horse. (1.28)


Vivian Darkbloom (Notes to Ada):


The Headless Horseman: Mayn Reid's title is ascribed here to Pushkin, author of The Bronze Horseman.

Lermontov: author of The Demon.

Tolstoy etc.: Tolstoy's hero, Haji Murad, (a Caucasian chieftain) is blended here with General Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law, and with the French revolutionary leader Marat assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday.


In his Memoirs (1953) Prince Felix Yusupov (one of Rasputins murderers) says that a French friend nicknamed him Charlotte Corday:


էܧѧާ ҧݧ ݧ. ѧ ڧէڧݧ ڧѧ ߧ էާ. ѧ ӧ֧ԧ C ٧ѧҧ֧ԧѧݧӧܧ ߧ֧էѧݧ֧ܧ. ާקاܧ ߧߧѧ, ֧ߧ ҧا֧ܧڧ. էߧѧاէ, ҧ֧էѧ էߧ ߧѧ֧ ڧ֧ݧߧڧ֧, ާ ݧ ҧݧ ӧէ, ߧ ٧ۧܧ ٧ѧӧ֧է֧ߧڧ ӧ֧ݧ ߧѧ էԧ ߧ ڧݧ, ߧ ٧ߧѧ֧ ݧ , ܧ ާ ѧܧڧ.

C ߧѧ, ѧ٧ާ֧֧, C ӧ֧ѧݧ էԧ.

C , է, ߧߧ࡭ ֧, ߧ ٧ߧѧ֧, ߧ֧ ߧѧ ѧܧ ѧܧѧ٧ӧѧ! ӧ, ٧ѧ֧٧ѧ ܧѧܧԧ- ѧѧ ާ ӧѧߧߧ! ڧ, ֧ާ ܧѧاڧ, ݧܧ ֧֧էѧۧ, ܧ ާߧ ӧѧ֧ܧݧ٧֧ ߧ էڧ!

֧ էԧ ٧ӧѧݧ ާ֧ߧ ѧݧ է. (Book Two, chapter 17)


In the 1900s Felix Yusupov incognito performed in Aquarium (St. Petersburgs most fashionable cabaret). Dressed as a girl, he had a tremendous success singing the latest Parisian songs in a soprano voice:


ڧݧ֧اߧ ֧ѧ ܧѧ֧ѧߧѧߧ, ٧ߧѧ ӧ ާէߧ ֧ߧ ѧ ڧݧߧ ڧ ѧߧ. ԧէ ާ ӧ֧ߧݧڧ ڧ, ڧܧݧѧ ֧ڧ, ԧ֧ߧ ٧ѧӧѧ ٧֧ާݧ ާ ѧݧѧߧ ߧѧէҧߧ ާ֧ߧ ӧӧ֧ ߧ ֧ߧ «ܧӧѧڧާ», ѧާԧ ڧܧѧߧԧ ֧֧ҧԧܧԧ ܧѧҧѧ. ӧڧݧ էڧ֧ܧ «ܧӧѧڧާ», ܧԧ ٧ߧѧ, ֧էݧاڧ ֧ާ ݧѧ ѧߧا֧ߧܧ-֧ӧڧܧ ݧ֧էߧڧާ ѧڧاܧڧާ ܧݧ֧ѧާ.

ߧѧ٧ߧѧ֧ߧߧ է֧ߧ ا֧ߧܧ ߧѧէ ӧڧݧ էڧ֧ܧ. ާߧ ҧݧ ֧ اѧܧ֧ ҧܧ, ֧ߧҧܧ ҧݧѧ ݧ. ֧ ֧ާ ӧ ֧֧ѧ. ڧק ӧ ӧ٧ ާ֧ߧ ߧ էӧ ߧ֧է֧ݧ. (Book One, chapter 9)


In his poem Berlinskoe (Berlinian, 1922) Khodasevich compares a Berlin street seen through a caf window to a blue aquarium in which the trams float by like fish. In one of the trams windows the poet with disgust recognizes his own decapitated head:


? ٧ߧҧ է

ڧ ԧ ڧݧ ܧߧ.

է֧ ާ٧ܧ, ٧ӧ է,

ݧڧݧӧѧ ݧާѧ.


ѧ, ٧ ݧ ԧާߧ

ݧڧӧѧߧߧ ֧ܧݧ,

ѧ ҧ ѧܧӧѧڧާ קާߧ,

ѧܧӧѧڧާ ԧݧҧ


ߧԧڧ ѧާӧѧ

ݧӧ ާ֧اէ էӧէߧ ݧڧ,

ѧ ݧ֧ܧڧ֧ܧڧ ѧ

ӧ֧ڧ ݧ֧ߧڧӧ .


ѧ, ܧݧ٧ ߧߧ ԧߧڧݧ,

ݧ اէԧ ֧ܧݧ

ӧѧԧߧߧ ܧߧѧ ѧ٧ڧݧѧ

ӧ֧ߧ ާ֧ԧ ݧ,


, ߧڧܧѧ اڧ٧ߧ ا,

է ӧѧ֧ߧ֧ ٧ߧѧ

ҧݧ֧ߧߧ, ߧ֧اڧӧ,

ߧ ԧݧӧ ާ.


As a Chose student, Van performs in variety shows as Mascodagama and visits Oxford (a women's college nearby):


Mascodagama's spectacular success in a theatrical club that habitually limited itself to Elizabethan plays, with queens and fairies played by pretty boys, made first of all a great impact on cartoonists. Deans, local politicians, national statesmen, and of course the current ruler of the Golden Horde were pictured as mascodagamas by topical humorists. A grotesque imitator (who was really Mascodagama himself in an oversophisticated parody of his own act!) was booed at Oxford (a women's college nearby) by local rowdies. A shrewd reporter, who had heard him curse a crease in the stage carpet, commented in print on his 'Yankee twang.' Dear Mr 'Vascodagama' received an invitation to Windsor Castle from its owner, a bilateral descendant of Van's own ancestors, but he declined it, suspecting (incorrectly, as it later transpired) the misprint to suggest that his incognito had been divulged by one of the special detectives at Chose - the same, perhaps, who had recently saved the psychiatrist P. O. Tyomkin from the dagger of Prince Potyomkin, a mixed-up kid from Sebastopol, Id. (1.30)


Felix Yusupov (a descendant of Tartar princes whose family tree goes back to Ali, a cousin of Mohammad) studied in Oxford. In his Memoirs Yusupov describes his student years in England. Having completed his education, Yusupov married Princess Irina Romanov, the niece of Nicholas II (a cousin of King George V). The Yusupovs Moyka palace (where Rasputin was assassinated in December of 1916) was given by the Empress Catherine II to Tatiana Engelgardt, Potyomkins niece who married Prince Nikolay Yusupov (Felixs maternal great-grandfather, the addressee of Pushkins poem K velmozhe, To a Grandee, 1830).


The society nickname of Vans father, Demon, brings to mind Khodasevichs poem Gostyu (To a Guest, 1921):


է ܧ ާߧ, ߧ֧ ާ֧,

ݧ էӧݧܧ ܧѧ,

ݧ ԧ, ֧ݧ ѧ اڧ.

ާѧݧ֧ߧܧ էҧ,

ѧ ݧ, ѧӧݧ ڧا֧.


է֧, ߧ ԧڧߧ ٧֧ާݧ,

է ڧݧ ѧߧԧ֧, ڧݧ է֧ާ.

֧ݧӧ֧ - ڧݧ ߧ ٧ѧ֧ ,

ҧ ٧ѧҧ ֧ԧ ާԧݧ?


Bring a dream when you visit me

Or bring a devilish beauty,

Or God if you truly believe,

Yet your little kindness do leave

Like a hat on the hall stand.


Here, on this little pea of Earth,

Be an angel or a demon.

As for man - isn't a human

Worth forgetting after death?

(transl. Ian Probstein)


Demon Veen and Baron dOnsky (Marinas lover) had the same London hatter:


D'Onsky had the reputation of not showing one sign of esthetic emotion in the presence of the loveliest masterpiece; this time, nonetheless, he laid his magnifier aside as he would a mask, and allowed his undisguised gaze to caress the velvety apple and the nude's dimpled and mossed parts with a smile of bemused pleasure. Would Mr Veen consider selling it to him there and then, Mr Veen, please? Mr Veen would not. Skonky (a oneway nickname) must content himself with the proud thought that, as of today, he and the lucky owner were the sole people to have ever admired it en connaissance de cause. Back it went into its special integument; but after finishing his fourth cup of cognac, d'O. pleaded for one last peep. Both men were a little drunk, and Demon secretly wondered if the rather banal resemblance of that Edenic girl to a young actress, whom his visitor had no doubt seen on the stage in 'Eugene and Lara' or 'Lenore Raven' (both painfully panned by a 'disgustingly incorruptible' young critic), should be, or would be, commented upon. It was not: such nymphs were really very much alike because of their elemental limpidity since the similarities of young bodies of water are but murmurs of natural innocence and double-talk mirrors, that's my hat, his is older, but we have the same London hatter. (1.2)


Demon fought a sword duel with dOnsky in Nice (one of the two seconds was Colonel St. Alin, a scoundrel). In 1908 Felix Yusupovs elder brother Nikolay was killed in a pistol duel with Count Arvid Manteuffel (the husband of Marina Heyden, Nikolays mistress who after her lovers death left the Count and settled in Nice).


Skonky (dOnskys nickname) is an anagram of konsky (of a horse). According to Van, horses wore hats when heat waves swept Manhattan:


Vitry dated Theresa's visit to Antiterra as taking place in 1940, but 1940 by the Terranean calendar, and about 1890 by ours. The conceit allowed certain pleasing dips into the modes and manners of our past (did you remember that horses wore hats - yes, hats - when heat waves swept Manhattan?) and gave the impression - which physics-fiction literature had much exploited - of the capsulist traveling backward in terms of time. Philosophers asked nasty questions, but were ignored by the wishing-to-be-gulled moviegoers. (5.5)


Vitre is French for window pane (cf. vitrine, Russ. vitrina, shop-window).


Alexey Sklyarenko

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