On Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earths twin planet on which Ada is set) Pushkins poem Mednyi vsadnik (The Bronze Horseman, 1833) is known as Headless Horseman:

 

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 Pushkins Headless Horseman poem in less than twenty minutes.

 

In his poem Zabludivshiysya tramvay (The Lost Tram, 1921) Gumilyov mentions the chopped-off heads and Falconet's equestrian statue of Peter I (the Bronze Horseman of Pushkin's poem):

 

ӧ֧ܧ... ܧӧ ߧѧݧڧ ҧܧӧ

ݧѧ: "֧ݧ֧ߧߧѧ", - ٧ߧѧ,

ާ֧ ܧѧ ӧާ֧ ҧܧӧ

קӧ ԧݧӧ էѧ.

 

ܧѧߧ ҧѧܧ, ݧڧ ܧѧ ӧާ,

ݧӧ ֧٧ѧ ѧݧѧ ާߧ,

ߧ ݧ֧اѧݧ ӧާ֧ էԧڧާ

է֧, ڧܧ ܧݧ٧ܧ, ߧ ѧާ էߧ.

 

A sign...Blood-filled letters

Announce: "Zelennaya,"-I know that here

Instead of cabbages and rutabagas

The heads of the dead are for sale.

 

In a red shirt, with a face like an udder,

The executioner cuts my head off, too,

It lies together with the others

Here, in a slippery box, at the very bottom.

 

....

 

ѧ٧ ӧ֧֧ ٧ߧѧܧާ ݧѧէܧڧ,

٧ ާ ݧ֧ڧ ߧ ާ֧ߧ

ѧէߧڧܧ էݧѧߧ ا֧ݧ֧٧ߧ ֧ѧܧ

էӧ ܧ ֧ԧ ܧߧ.

 

And a sudden, familiar, sweet wind blows,

A horseman's hand in an iron glove

And two hooves of his horse

Fly at me over the bridge.

 

In his poem Kantsona vtoraya (Second Canzone, 1920) Gumilyov calls mayatnik (the pendulum) vremeni nepriznannyi zhenikh (Times unrecognized fianc) that chops off the pretty heads of plotting seconds:

 

ѧߧڧ ѧѧ֧ݧߧ ԧҧ,

֧ާ֧ߧ ߧ֧ڧ٧ߧѧߧߧ ا֧ߧڧ,

ѧԧӧڧѧ ֧ܧߧէѧ ҧڧ

ݧӧ ֧ߧܧڧ ڧ.

 

The assiduous and rude pendulum,

Time's unrecognized bridegroom,

chops off the pretty heads

of plotting seconds.

 

In Chekhovs story Duel (The Duel, 1891) von Koren asks Dr Ustimovich to stop moving to and fro like a pendulum:

 

- ܧ, - ܧѧ٧ѧ ٧ݧ, - ҧէ էҧ, ߧ էڧ ܧѧ ާѧߧڧ. ާ֧ߧ ӧѧ ާ֧ݧܧѧ֧ ԧݧѧ٧ѧ.

ܧ ѧߧӧڧݧ. ֧ ѧ ڧ֧ݧڧӧѧ ѧ֧ӧܧԧ.

 

"Doctor," said the zoologist, "be so good as not to move to and fro like a pendulum. You make me dizzy."
The doctor stood still. Von Koren began to take aim at Laevski. (chapter XIX)

 

In his essay Texture of Time Van says that he was wounded in his duel with the Imposter:

 

Here they are, the two rocky ruin-crowned hills that I have retained for seventeen years in my mind with decalcomaniac romantic vividness though not quite exactly, I confess; memory likes the otsebyatina (what one contributes oneself); but the slight discrepancy is now corrected and the act of artistic correction enhances the pang of the Present. The sharpest feeling of nowness, in visual terms, is the deliberate possession of a segment of Space collected by the eye. This is Times only contact with Space, but it has a far-reaching reverberation. To be eternal the Present must depend on the conscious spanning of an infinite expansure. Then, and only then, is the Present equatable with Timeless Space. I have been wounded in my duel with the Imposter. (Part Four)

 

In the Kalugano forest Van fights a pistol duel with Captain Tapper, of Wild Violet Lodge (1.42). The name of Vans adversary hints at Chekhovs story Tapyor (The Ballroom Pianist, 1885). In the Kalugano hospital where he recovers from the wound received in his duel with Tapper Van visits Philip Rack, the composer (and one of Adas lovers) who was poisoned by his jealous wife Elsie and who dies in Ward Five (where hopeless cases are kept). In his essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (Creation from Nothing, 1905), Lev Shestov (the philosopher whose penname comes from shest, six) calls Chekhov pevets beznadyozhnosti (the bard of hopelessness). In a letter of Nov. 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov complains that modern art, and literature in particular, lacks the alcohol that would intoxicate the reader and modestly compares his story Palata . 6 (Ward No. 6, 1892) to lemonade:

 

ѧ ߧ֧էߧ ߧ, ߧѧѧߧ ҧѧߧڧ ֧ҧ ٧ , ߧ֧ߧ ӧѧاѧ֧֧. ԧܧڧ ߧڧ, ԧڧ ѧ ݧѧէܧڧ ݧڧާߧѧէ, , էѧӧѧ էݧاߧ ݧڧާߧѧէ, ѧӧ֧էݧڧӧ ٧ѧާ֧ѧ֧, ߧק ߧ֧ ڧ. ߧѧڧ ڧ٧ӧ֧է֧ߧڧ ߧ֧ ڧާ֧ߧߧ ѧݧܧԧݧ, ܧ ҧ ߧڧ ѧҧѧ, էѧק ߧ. ֧ԧ ߧ֧? ѧӧݧ ߧ «ѧݧѧ  6» ާ֧ߧ ѧާԧ, ҧէ֧ ԧӧڧ ӧҧ, ڧҧ ڧߧ֧֧ߧ֧. է֧ ԧӧڧ ҧڧ ڧڧߧѧ, ܧݧ ѧ ߧ ܧߧ, էѧӧѧۧ ٧ѧӧѧڧ ֧ݧ . ܧѧاڧ ӧ֧, ܧ ڧ ާڧ ӧ֧ߧڧܧ, . . ݧէ֧ ӧ٧ѧ 3045 ݧ֧ էѧ ާڧ էߧ ܧѧݧ ѧݧܧԧݧ? ѧ٧ӧ ݧ֧ߧܧ, ѧէ ӧ ߧߧ֧ߧڧ էѧާѧԧ ߧ ݧڧާߧѧ? ѧ٧ӧ ܧѧڧߧ ֧ڧߧ ڧݧ ڧܧڧߧ ܧاڧݧ ѧ ԧݧӧ? ڧݧ, ѧݧѧߧݧڧӧ, ӧڧѧ֧֧ ا ӧ֧ާ ߧڧܧѧ ߧ ާا֧ ٧ѧҧ, ѧ ֧ ܧڧ. ѧܧ ֧ߧڧܧ ֧֧اڧӧѧ ֧֧ ӧ֧ݧڧܧ ӧ֧ާ, էݧ ߧѧ֧ԧ ا ҧѧ ӧ֧ާ ݧ, ܧڧݧ, ܧߧ, ѧާ ާ ܧڧݧ ܧߧ, ާ֧֧ اէѧ ݧܧ ԧѧ֧֧ӧ ާѧݧڧܧ, ߧ ӧڧէڧ ԧ ݧܧ ѧ, ܧާ ڧէ էѧݧ ֧էܧ ҧߧ ߧ֧ էѧا ާ֧. ڧڧߧ ߧ ԧݧ ߧѧ֧, ߧ ҧ֧٧էѧߧ ߧ ߧѧԧݧ, ܧѧ էާѧ֧ ֧ߧڧ, ҧݧ֧٧ߧ, ܧѧ էݧ էاߧڧܧ ا ڧڧݧڧ ݧӧԧ ڧ֧ߧڧ. ߧѧ ߧ֧ «֧ԧ-», ѧӧ֧էݧڧӧ, ٧ߧѧڧ, էߧڧާڧ է ߧѧ֧ ާ٧, ӧڧէڧ ѧ ݧܧ ާ֧. ާߧڧ, ڧѧ֧ݧ, ܧ ާ ߧѧ٧ӧѧ֧ ӧ֧ߧާ ڧݧ ڧާ ܧ ߧ ߧѧ, ڧާ֧ էڧ ҧڧ ӧ֧ާ ӧѧاߧ ڧ٧ߧѧ: ߧ ܧէ- ڧէ ѧ ٧ӧ է ا, ӧӧ֧ ߧ ާ, ӧ֧ ӧڧ ֧ӧ, ߧڧ ֧ ܧѧܧѧ- ֧ݧ, ܧѧ ֧ߧ ѧާݧ֧, ܧѧ ߧ֧էѧ ڧէڧݧ ֧ӧاڧݧ ӧҧѧا֧ߧڧ. էߧڧ, ާ ܧѧݧڧҧ, ֧ݧ ҧݧڧاѧۧڧ ܧ֧ߧ ѧӧ, ӧҧاէ֧ߧڧ էڧߧ, ݧڧڧܧ, ܧѧ ڧݧ ӧէܧ, ܧѧ ֧ߧڧ ѧӧէӧ, էԧڧ ֧ݧ էѧݧקߧߧ ҧ, ٧ѧԧҧߧѧ اڧ٧ߧ, ѧ ֧ݧӧ֧֧ӧ . . ڧ ڧ ߧڧ ֧ѧݧߧ ڧ اڧ٧ߧ ѧܧ, ܧѧܧѧ ߧ ֧, ߧ ԧ, ܧѧاէѧ ܧ ڧѧߧ, ܧѧ ܧ, ٧ߧѧߧڧ֧ ֧ݧ, , ܧާ اڧ٧ߧ, ܧѧܧѧ ֧, ӧӧ֧ ֧ اڧ٧ߧ, ܧѧܧѧ էݧاߧ ҧ, ݧ֧ߧ֧ ѧ.


It is easy to understand you, and there is no need for you to abuse yourself for obscurity of expression. You are a hard drinker, and I have regaled you with sweet lemonade, and you, after giving the lemonade its due, justly observe that there is no spirit in it. That is just what is lacking in our productionsthe alcohol which could intoxicate and subjugate, and you state that very well. Why not? Putting aside "Ward No. 6" 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? ...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.  Let me remind you that the writers, who we say are for all time or are simply good, and who intoxicate us, have one common and very important characteristic; they are going towards something and are summoning you towards it, too, and you feel not with your mind, but with your whole being, that they have some object, just like the ghost of Hamlet's father, who did not come and disturb the imagination for nothing. Some have more immediate objectsthe abolition of serfdom, the liberation of their country, politics, beauty, or simply vodka, like Denis Davydov; others have remote objectsGod, life beyond the grave, the happiness of humanity, and so on.

 

Chekhov calls Suvorin gor'kiy p'yanitsa (a hard drinker). In Blok's poem Neznakomka (Incognita, 1906) p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out: "In vino veritas!" The characters of Ada include Dr Krolik, Adas beloved lepidopterist and teacher of natural history (who never appears but is often mentioned in the novel). Alexander Blok is the author of Nochnaya fialka (The Night Violet, 1906), a poem subtitled Son (a Dream). The manuscript of Ada is typed out by Violet Knox, old Vans secretary whose surname sounds like nox, the Latin word for night. After Vans and Adas death Violet Knox marries Ronald Oranger, the editor of Ada  (5.4). In his poem V etot moy blagoslovennyi vecher (In this Blessed Evening of Mine 1917) Gumilyov compares the stars to voskovye apelsiny (the oranges of wax) that are served at Christmas:

 

ӧ֧ڧݧڧ ٧ӧק٧է ٧ݧ,
ڧԧݧѧקߧߧ ߧ ا֧ӧ,
ݧӧߧ ѧ֧ݧڧߧ ӧܧӧ,
, էѧ ߧ اէ֧ӧ.

 

Van and Ada (whom Dr Lagosse makes the last merciful injection of morphine) die on the same day in winter of 1967. The two poets who could not stand each other, Blok and Gumilyov died almost simultaneously in August of 1921.

 

Alexey Sklyarenko

Google Search
the archive
Contact
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Policies
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.