According to Dr Fitzbishop, hopeless cases are kept in Ward Five of the Kalugano Hospital:


Did Van like music? Sportsmen usually did, didn't they? Would he care to have a Sonorola by his bed? No, he disliked music, but did the doctor, being a concert-goer, know perhaps where a musician called Rack could be found? 'Ward Five,' answered the doctor promptly. Van misunderstood this as the title of some piece of music and repeated his question. Would he find Rack's address at Harper's music shop? Well, they used to rent a cottage way down Dorofey Road, near the forest, but now some other people had moved in. Ward Five was where hopeless cases were kept. (1.42)


In his essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (Creation from Nothing, 1905), Shestov calls Chekhov pevets beznadyozhnosti (the poet of hopelessness):


ҧ էӧ ݧӧѧ ֧է֧ݧڧ ֧ԧ ֧ߧէ֧ߧڧ, ܧѧا: ֧ ҧ ֧ӧ ҧ֧٧ߧѧէ֧اߧ. ߧ, ߧݧ, էߧҧѧ٧ߧ ֧֧ߧڧ ӧ֧ ӧ֧ 25-ݧ֧ߧ֧ ݧڧ֧ѧߧ է֧֧ݧߧ ֧ ݧܧ էߧ է֧ݧѧ: ֧ާ ڧݧ ڧߧާ ҧѧާ ҧڧӧѧ ֧ݧӧ֧֧ܧڧ ߧѧէ֧اէ. , ߧ ާ ӧ٧ԧݧ, ߧ ֧ԧ ӧ֧ӧ. (I)


Shestovs penname comes from shest (six). Chekhov is the author of Palata 6 (Ward No. 6, 1892), a story that Shestov discusses in his essay:


, ܧѧا֧, ѧݧѧ 6 ӧ ӧ֧ާ ֧ߧ ӧӧ֧ߧߧ ڧߧݧ. ѧ ڧҧѧӧڧ, էܧ ާڧѧ֧ ֧ߧ ܧѧڧӧ: ݧ֧էߧڧ ާڧߧ ӧڧէڧ ѧէ ݧ֧ߧ֧ . . (V)


Shestov mentions the fact that in his last minutes Dr Ragin (the main character in Ward No. 6) sees a herd of deer. In his last minutes Van Veen (whom Dr Lagosse made the last merciful injection of morphine and who hastens to finish Ada before it is too late) sees a doe at gaze:


Not the least adornment of the chronicle is the delicacy of pictorial detail: a latticed gallery; a painted ceiling; a pretty plaything stranded among the forget-me-nots of a brook; butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance; a misty view descried from marble steps; a doe at gaze in the ancestral park; and much, much more. (5.6)


According to Shestov, Chekhovs genuine and only hero is the hopeless man:


ѧ, ߧѧڧ, ֧էڧߧӧ֧ߧߧ ԧ֧ ֧ӧ ҧ֧٧ߧѧէ֧اߧ ֧ݧӧ֧. (V)


At Ardis Rack (who, according to Dr Fitzbishop, was poisoned by his jealous wife) asks Ada if there is no hope for him any more:


'When are you leaving?' asked Ada.

'Forestday - after tomorrow.'

'Fine. That's fine. Adieu, Mr Rack.'

Poor Philip drooped, fingerpainting sad nothings on wet stone, shaking his heavy head, gulping visibly.

'One feels... One feels,' he said, 'that one is merely playing a role and has forgotten the next speech.'

'I'm told many feel that,' said Ada; 'it must be a furchtbar feeling.'

'Cannot be helped? No hope any more at all? I am dying, yes?'

'You are dead, Mr Rack,' said Ada. (1.32)


Sad nothings bring to mind the title of Shestovs essay. According to Shestov, creation from nothing or, rather, a possibility to create from nothing is the only problem that can interest and inspire Chekhov:


ӧ ӧ֧ӧ ڧ ߧڧ֧ԧࡱ, ӧ֧ߧ֧, ӧ٧ާاߧ ӧ֧ӧ ڧ ߧڧ֧ԧ ֧էڧߧӧ֧ߧߧѧ ҧݧ֧ާ, ܧѧ ҧߧ ٧ѧߧ ӧէߧӧڧ ֧ӧ. ԧէ ҧҧѧ ӧ֧ԧ ԧ֧ է ݧ֧էߧ֧ ߧڧܧ, ܧԧէ ԧ֧ ѧ֧ ݧܧ ܧݧڧ ԧݧӧ ֧ߧ, ֧ ߧѧڧߧѧ֧ ӧӧӧѧ ߧ֧ ӧէ էӧݧ֧ӧ֧ߧڧ, ֧ԧ ڧ ԧݧѧ٧ѧ ٧ѧاڧԧѧ֧ ѧߧߧ ԧߧ, ߧ֧էѧ ܧѧ٧ѧӧڧۧ ڧѧۧݧӧܧާ ߧ֧էҧ. ӧ֧ӧ ڧ ߧڧ֧ԧ! ӧէڧ ݧ ٧ѧէѧ ٧ ֧է֧ݧ ֧ݧӧ֧֧ܧڧ ڧ, ֧ݧӧ֧֧ܧڧ ѧ? (V)


In Kalugano Van fights a pistol duel with Captain Tapper (a member of the Do-Re-La country club), whose name hints at Chekhovs story Tapyor (The Ballroom Pianist, 1885). Chekhov is the author of Duel (The Duel, 1891). In his essay Shestov discusses Chekhovs story and compares the zoologist Von Koren (a character in The Duel) to Stoltz, a character in Goncharovs Oblomov (1859). Like Goncharovs Stoltz, Philip Rack and Dr Fitzbishop are German. Dr Fitzbishop is a poshlyak:


On Monday around noon he was allowed to sit in a deckchair, on the lawn, which he had avidly gazed at for some days from his window. Dr Fitzbishop had said, rubbing his hands, that the Luga laboratory said it was the not always lethal 'arethusoides' but it had no practical importance now, because the unfortunate music teacher, and composer, was not expected to spend another night on Demonia, and would be on Terra, ha-ha, in time for evensong. Doc Fitz was what Russians call a poshlyak ('pretentious vulgarian') and in some obscure counter-fashion Van was relieved not to be able to gloat over the wretched Rack's martyrdom. (1.42)


Laevski (the main character in Chekhovs Duel) is a good example of poshlost (vulgarity).


According to Shestov, one of Chekhovs most remarkable works is his play Chayka (The Seagull, 1896):


էߧڧ ڧ ѧާ ѧѧܧ֧ߧ էݧ ֧ӧ, ާ ٧ѧާ֧ѧ֧ݧߧ ֧ԧ ڧ٧ӧ֧է֧ߧڧ էݧاߧ ڧѧ ֧ԧ էѧާ ѧۧܧѡ. ߧ֧ ߧѧڧҧݧ֧ ݧߧ ݧڧݧ ӧ ӧѧا֧ߧڧ ڧڧߧߧ ߧ֧ߧڧ էاߧڧܧ اڧ٧ߧ. (VIII)


According to Treplev (a character in Chekhovs play), his mother, the actress Arkadina, can not live without durman (the intoxicant) of stage:


ا էѧէߧ, ӧ ߧ ާѧݧ֧ߧܧ ֧ߧ ҧէ֧ ڧާ֧ ֧ ѧ֧ߧѧ, ߧ ߧ. (ާ֧ ߧ ѧ.) ڧݧԧڧ֧ܧڧ ܧק - ާ ާѧ. ֧ߧ ѧݧѧߧݧڧӧ, ާߧ, ҧߧ էѧ ߧѧ ܧߧڧاܧ, ӧѧڧ ֧ҧ ӧ֧ԧ ֧ܧѧӧ ߧѧڧ٧, ٧ ҧݧߧާ ѧاڧӧѧ֧, ܧѧ ѧߧԧ֧; ߧ ҧ ӧѧݧڧ ߧ֧ ٧! ԧ-ԧ! اߧ ӧѧݧڧ ݧܧ ֧ էߧ, ߧاߧ ڧѧ ߧ֧, ܧڧѧ, ӧԧѧ ֧ ߧ֧ҧܧߧӧ֧ߧߧ ڧԧ "La dame aux camelias" ڧݧ "ѧ اڧ٧ߧ", ߧ ѧ ܧѧ ٧է֧, է֧֧ӧߧ, ߧ֧ ԧ էާѧߧ, ӧ ߧ ܧѧ֧ ٧ݧڧ, ӧ ާ - ֧ ӧѧԧ, ӧ ާ ӧڧߧӧѧ. ѧ֧ ߧ ֧ӧ֧ߧ, ҧڧ ק ӧ֧֧, ڧߧѧէѧԧ ڧݧ. ߧ ܧ. ߧ֧ է֧ ҧѧߧܧ ֧ާէ֧ - ٧ߧѧ ߧѧӧ֧ߧ. ߧ֧ ӧ٧ѧۧާ, ߧ ѧߧ֧ ݧѧܧѧ.


Yes, she is furious because Nina is going to have a success on this little stage. [Looking at his watch] My mother is a psychological curiosity. Without doubt brilliant and talented, capable of sobbing over a novel, of reciting all Nekrasoff's poetry by heart, and of nursing the sick like an angel of heaven, you should see what happens if any one begins praising Duse to her! She alone must be praised and written about, raved over, her marvellous acting in "La Dame aux Camelias" or in "Life's Intoxication" [Chad zhizni, a play by Boleslav Markevich] extolled to the skies. As she cannot get all that rubbish [durman] in the country, she grows peevish and cross, and thinks we are all against her, and to blame for it all. She is superstitious, too. She dreads burning three candles, and fears the thirteenth day of the month. Then she is stingy. I know for a fact that she has seventy thousand roubles in a bank at Odessa, but she is ready to burst into tears if you ask her to lend you a penny. (Act One)


Durmanova is the stage name (and the maiden name) of Vans, Adas and Lucettes mother Marina. Marina had a twin sister Aqua who married Demon Veen (Vans and Adas father) and went mad (1.3).


According to Shestov (who mentions Arkadina and her seventy thousand roubles), all characters in The Seagull are either blind or half-mad:


է֧ ӧ է֧ۧӧڧ ݧڧ ݧڧҧ ݧ֧, ҧڧ֧ էӧڧߧ ާ֧, ߧ ֧ էԧ էާ, ݧڧҧ ݧާѧ֧էڧ, ӧڧ֧ ާڧ֧ ߧ֧ڧ٧ӧ֧ߧ ܧէ ٧ѧ֧. ߧѧާ֧ߧڧѧ ѧڧܧ ܧѧէڧߧ ݧӧߧ ٧ҧѧާ ӧ֧ڧݧѧ ӧ ֧ާէ֧ , ӧ ݧѧӧ ݧ֧էߧ֧ԧ ݧҧӧߧڧܧ. ڧԧڧ ا ڧ٧ӧ֧ߧ ڧѧ֧ݧ, ڧ٧ էߧ է֧ߧ ڧ֧, ڧ֧, ڧ֧, ߧ ٧ߧѧ, էݧ ֧ԧ ٧ѧ֧ է֧ݧѧ֧. (VIII)


There are three blind characters in Ada. One of them, Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis), is blinded by Van for spying on him and Ada and attempting to blackmail Ada. In her letter to Van Ada compares Dorothy Vinelander (a born blackmailer, according to Lucette) to Miss Kim Blackrent:


I have just read Reflections in Sidra, by Ivan Veen, and I regard it as a grand piece, dear Professor. The 'lost shafts of destiny' and other poetical touches reminded me of the two or three times you had tea and muffins at our place in the country about twenty years ago. I was, you remember (presumptuous phrase!), a petite fille modle practicing archery near a vase and a parapet and you were a shy schoolboy (with whom, as my mother guessed, I may have been a wee bit in love!), who dutifully picked up the arrows I lost in the lost shrubbery of the lost castle of poor Lucette's and happy, happy Adette's childhood, now a 'Home for Blind Blacks' - both my mother and L., I'm sure, would have backed Dasha's advice to turn it over to her Sect. Dasha, my sister-in-law (you must meet her soon, yes, yes, yes, she's dreamy and lovely, and lots more intelligent than I), who showed me your piece, asks me to add she hopes to 'renew' your acquaintance - maybe in Switzerland, at the Bellevue in Mont Roux, in October. I think you once met pretty Miss 'Kim' Blackrent, well, that's exactly dear Dasha's type. (3.7)


As she speaks to Van, Lucette mentions Dorothys collection of keys:


Dorothy is a prissy and pious monster who comes to stay for months, orders the meals, and has a private collection of keys to the servants' rooms - which our bumb brunette should have known - and other little keys to open people's hearts - she has tried, by the way, to make a practicing Orthodox not only of every American Negro she can catch, but of our sufficiently pravoslavnaya mother - though she only succeeded in making the Trimurti stocks go up. (3.3)


Shestov is the author of Potestas Clavium (Power of the Keys, 1919).


Speaking of numbers: Chisla (Numbers, 1902) and 13 (1902) are poems by Zinaida Hippius. In the former poem Hippius says that divine numbers are given to us like second names:


֧٧էߧߧԧ, ֧էӧӧ֧ߧߧԧ ާݧ

ҧݧѧԧէѧߧ ާէ ݧߧ,

ѧ ڧާ֧ߧ ӧ, ߧѧ էѧߧ

ا֧ӧ֧ߧߧ ڧݧ.


In 13 Hippius says that the Devil loves to play with numbers:


, ӧ֧٧է ѧ٧ڧ ק,-

ӧ֧ ٧ ݧڧߧڧ,

ݧ֧֧ߧڧ, ާ֧֧, ֧ѧߧڧ -

ڧߧѧէѧ ӧ ٧էѧק.


ݧҧڧ ڧݧѧާ ڧԧѧ.

ӧ֧ܧ ߧ֧ߧѧӧڧէ ӧ֧ߧ,-

٧ڧ 8 - ҧ֧ܧߧ֧ߧ,-

ݧڧӧѧ ߧڧ 5.


According to Hippius, 5 is an empty number. 5 + 8 (infinity) = 13. VNs collection Nabokovs Dozen (1958) has thirteen stories.


5 x 5 = 25. In Creation from Nothing Shestov says that in the course of his almost twenty-five-year-long literary work Chekhov was stubbornly killing human hopes (see the quote at the beginning of this note). Lucette (Vans and Adas half-sister) commits suicide at the age of twenty-five. At Alphonse Four (Lucettes hotel in Paris) her room is numb twenty-five:


'You know whom I ran into this morning? Good old Greg Erminin. It was he who told me you were around. His wife est un peu snob, what?'

'Everybody is un peu snob,' said Lucette. 'Your Cordula, who is also around, cannot forgive Shura Tobak, the violinist, for being her husband's neighbor in the telephone book. Immediately after lunch, we'll go to my room, a numb twenty-five, my age. I have a fabulous Japanese divan and lots of orchids just supplied by one of my beaux. Ach, Bozhe moy - it has just occurred to me - I shall have to look into this - maybe they are meant for Brigitte, who is marrying after tomorrow, at three-thirty, a head waiter at the Alphonse Trois, in Auteuil. Anyway they are greenish, with orange and purple blotches, some kind of delicate Oncidium, "cypress frogs," one of those silly commercial names. I'll stretch out upon the divan like a martyr, remember?'

'Are you still half-a-martyr - I mean half-a-virgin?' inquired Van.

'A quarter,' answered Lucette. 'Oh, try me, Van! My divan is black with yellow cushions.' (3.3)


Re hopeless cases: at Kingston Van praises Lucette for spotting Bergson and mentions her petit cas (little case):


'Actually,' observed Lucette, wiping the long envelope which a drop of soda had stained, 'Bergson is only for very young people or very unhappy people, such as this available rousse.'

'Spotting Bergson,' said the assistant lecher, 'rates a B minus dans ton petit cas, hardly more. Or shall I reward you with a kiss on your krestik - whatever that is?' (2.5)


B minus corresponds to chetyre s minusom (Four minus) in the Russian grading, in which 5 is the highest grade.


Kalugano + Luga = Kaluga + Lugano


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.