Next day, February 5, around nine p.m.,* Manhattan (winter) time, on the way to Dan’s lawyer, Demon noted — just as he was about to cross Alexis Avenue, an ancient but insignificant acquaintance, Mrs Arfour, advancing toward him, with her toy terrier, along his side of the street. Unhesitatingly, Demon stepped off the curb, and having no hat to raise (hats were not worn with raincloaks and besides he had just taken a very exotic and potent pill to face the day’s ordeal on top of a sleepless journey), contented himself — quite properly — with a wave of his slim umbrella; recalled with a paint dab of delight one of the gargle girls of her late husband; and smoothly passed in front of a slow-clopping horse-drawn vegetable cart, well out of the way of Mrs R4. (2.10)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): R4: ‘rook four’, a chess indication of position (pun on the woman’s name).


In VN’s story Sluchaynost’ (“A Matter of Chance,” 1924) Aleksey Luzhin (the story’s main character who contemplates suicide) is compared to a man who solves (in the English version, composes) a chess problem:


В сотый раз воображал он, как устроит свою смерть. Рассчитывал каждую мелочь, словно решал шахматную задачу.


He imagined for the hundredth time how he would arrange his death. He calculated every little detail, as if he were composing a chess problem.


Aleksey Luzhin (cf. Alexis Avenue in Ada) is a waiter in the international dining car of a German fast train:


Он служил лакеем в столовой германского экспресса. Звали его так: Алексей Львович Лужин.

Ушёл он из России пять лет тому назад и с тех пор, перебираясь из города в город, перепробовал немало работ и ремёсел: был батраком в Турции, комиссионером в Вене, маляром, приказчиком и ещё чем-то.


HE HAD a job as a waiter in the international dining car of a German fast train. His name was Aleksey Lvovich Luzhin. He had left Russia five years before, in 1919, and since then, as he made his way from city to city, had tried a good number of trades and occupations: he had worked as a farm laborer in Turkey, a messenger in Vienna, a housepainter, a sales clerk, and so forth.


Demon comes to the apartment where Van lives with Ada in the company of Valerio, a waiter at ‘Monaco’ (a restaurant in the entresol of the tall building crowned by Van’s penthouse):


With the simple and, combinationally speaking, neat, thought that, after all, there was but one sky (white, with minute multicolored optical sparks), Demon hastened to enter the lobby and catch the lift which a ginger-haired waiter had just entered, with breakfast for two on a wiggle-wheel table and the Manhattan Times among the shining, ever so slightly scratched, silver cupolas. Was his son still living up there, automatically asked Demon, placing a piece of nobler metal among the domes. Si, conceded the grinning imbecile, he had lived there with his lady all winter.

‘Then we are fellow travelers,’ said Demon inhaling not without gourmand anticipation the smell of Monaco’s coffee, exaggerated by the shadows of tropical weeds waving in the breeze of his brain. (2.10)


As he listens to his father, Van wonders if Demon is under the influence of some bright Chilean drug:


Was he perhaps under the influence of some bright Chilean drug? That torrent was simply unstoppable, a crazy spectrum, a talking palette — (2.10)


Aleksey Luzhin is a cocainist:


Сам он чувствовал, как с  каждым днём всё скудеет жизнь. От кокаина, от слишком частых понюшек опустошалась душа,-- и в ноздрях, на внутреннем хряще, появлялись тонкие язвы.


At present, he felt his life wasting away. Too-frequent sniffs of cocaine had ravaged his mind; the little sores on the inside of his nostrils were eating into the septum.


Demon’s fellow traveler in the lift, Valerio is red-haired. One of the waiters in “A Matter of Chance,” Max, has red hair:


Когда он улыбался, крупные зубы его вспыхивали особенно чистым блеском, и за эту русскую белую улыбку по-своему полюбили его двое других лакеев -- Гуго, коренастый, белокурый берлинец, записывавший счета, и быстрый, востроносый, похожий на рыжую лису Макс, разносивший пиво и кофе по отделениям. Но за последнее время Лужин улыбался реже.


When he smiled, his large teeth would flash with an especially clean luster, and this Russian ivory smile somehow endeared him to the other two waiters—Hugo, a thickset, fair-haired Berliner who made out the checks, and quick, red-haired, sharp-nosed Max, who resembled a fox, and whose job it was to take coffee and beer to the compartments. Lately, however, Luzhin smiled less often.


It is red-haired Max who picks up the gold ring lost by Luzhin’s wife and who witnesses Luzhin’s death:


Рыжий, востроносый Макс вышел на площадку тоже. Подметал. В углу заметил золотой луч. Нагнулся. Кольцо. Спрятал в жилетный карман. Юрко огляделся, не видел ли кто. Спина Лужина в пройме двери была неподвижна. Макс осторожно вынул кольцо; при смутном свете разглядел прописное слово и цифры, вырезанные снутри. Подумал: "По-китайски...". А на самом деле было: "1 августа 1915 г. Алексей". Сунул кольцо обратно в карман. Спина Лужина двинулась. Он не торопясь сошёл вниз. Прошёл наискось через темную платформу к соседнему полотну -- покойной, свободной походкой, словно прогуливался.

Сквозной поезд влетал в вокзал. Лужин дошёл до края платформы и легко спрыгнул. Угольная пыль хрустнула под каблуком.

И в тот же миг одним жадным скоком нагрянул паровоз. Макс, не понимая, видел издали, как промахнули сплошной полосой освещённые окна.


Red-haired, sharp-nosed Max also came out into the vestibule. He was sweeping the floor. He noticed a glint of gold in a corner. He bent down. It was a ring. He hid it in his waistcoat pocket and gave a quick look around to see if anyone had noticed. Luzhin’s back was motionless in the doorway. Max cautiously took out the ring; by the dim light he distinguished a word in script and some figures engraved on the inside. Must be Chinese, he thought. Actually, the inscription read “1-VIII-1915. ALEKSEY.” He returned the ring to his pocket. Luzhin’s back moved. Quietly he got off the car. He walked diagonally to the next track, with a calm, relaxed gait, as if taking a stroll.
A through train now thundered into the station. Luzhin went to the edge of the platform and hopped down. The cinders crunched under his heel.
At that instant, the locomotive came at him in one hungry bound. Max, totally unaware of what happened, watched from a distance as the lighted windows flew past in one continuous stripe.


A piece of nobler metal placed by Demon among the silver cupolas brings to mind the gold wedding ring lost by Luzhin’s wife. In VN’s story Luzhin commits suicide on the ninth anniversary of his wedding. When Demon finds out about his children’s affair, Van and Ada have been lovers for almost nine years:


‘However, before I advise you of those two facts, I would like to know how long this — how long this has been…’ (‘going on,’ one presumes, or something equally banal, but then all ends are banal — hangings, the Nuremberg Old Maid’s iron sting, shooting oneself, last words in the brand-new Ladore hospital, mistaking a drop of thirty thousand feet for the airplane’s washroom, being poisoned by one’s wife, expecting a bit of Crimean hospitality, congratulating Mr and Mrs Vinelander —)

‘It will be nine years soon,’ replied Van. ‘I seduced her in the summer of eighteen eighty-four. Except for a single occasion, we did not make love again until the summer of eighteen eighty-eight. After a long separation we spent one winter together. All in all, I suppose I have had her about a thousand times. She is my whole life.’

A longish pause not unlike a fellow actor’s dry-up, came in response to his well-rehearsed speech. (2.11)


Like Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin, Alexey Luzhin goes to the end of the platform. In VN’s novel Zashchita Luzhina (“The Luzhin Defense,” 1930) the hero (a chess grand master who recovers from a nervous breakdown that he suffered after his game with Turati) enjoys Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin:


Путешествие Фогга и мемуары Холмса Лужин прочёл в два дня и, прочитав, сказал, что это не то, что он хотел,-- неполное, что ли, издание. Из других книг ему понравилась "Анна Каренина" -- особенно  страницы о земских выборах и обед, заказанный Облонским. Некоторое впечатление произвели на него и "Мёртвые души", причём он в одном месте неожиданно узнал целый кусок, однажды в детстве долго и мучительно писанный им под диктовку. Кроме так называемых классиков, невеста ему приносила и всякие случайные книжонки лёгкого поведения -- труды галльских новеллистов. Всё, что только могло развлечь Лужина, было хорошо--  даже эти сомнительные новеллы, которые он со смущением, но с интересом читал. Зато стихи (например, томик Рильке, который она купила по совету приказчика) приводили его в состояние тяжёлого недоумения и печали. Соответственно с этим профессор  запретил давать Лужину читать Достоевского, который, по словам профессора, производит гнетущее действие на психику современного человека, ибо, как в страшном зеркале...

Luzhin read Fogg's journey and Holmes' memoirs in two days, and when he had read them he said they were not what he wanted — this was an incomplete edition. Of the other books, he liked Anna Karenin — particularly the pages on the zemstvo elections and the dinner ordered by Oblonski. Dead Souls also made a certain impression on him, moreover in one place he unexpectedly recognized a whole section that he had once taken down in childhood as a long and painful dictation. Besides the so-called classics his fiancée brought him all sorts of frivolous French novels. Everything that could divert Luzhin was good — even these doubtful stories, which he read, though embarrassed, with interest. Poetry, on the other hand (for instance a small volume of Rilke's that she had bought on the recommendation of a salesman) threw him into a state of severe perplexity and sorrow. Correspondingly, the professor forbade Luzhin to be given anything by Dostoevski, who, in the professor's words, had an oppressive effect on the psyche of contemporary man, for as in a terrible mirror — (chapter 10)


Mrs Arfour (Mrs R4) brings to mind Turati, Luzhin’s opponent in whose name there is tura (“castle, rook”).


Demon visits Van in order to tell him about Uncle Dan’s death. When he was rejected by Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother), Daniel Veen set off in a counter-Fogg direction on a triple trip round the globe:


One afternoon in the spring of 1871, he proposed to Marina in the Up elevator of Manhattan’s first ten-floor building, was indignantly rejected at the seventh stop (Toys), came down alone and, to air his feelings, set off in a counter-Fogg direction on a triple trip round the globe, adopting, like an animated parallel, the same itinerary every time. In November 1871, as he was in the act of making his evening plans with the same smelly but nice cicerone in a café-au-lait suit whom he had hired already twice at the same Genoese hotel, an aerocable from Marina (forwarded with a whole week’s delay via his Manhattan office which had filed it away through a new girl’s oversight in a dove hole marked RE AMOR) arrived on a silver salver telling him she would marry him upon his return to America. (1.1)


In Gogol’s Myortvye dushi (“Dead Souls,” 1842) Chichikov's serf Petrushka has his own peculiar smell:


Кроме страсти к чтению, он имел ещё два обыкновения, составлявшие две другие его характерические черты: спать не раздеваясь, так, как есть, в том же сюртуке, и носить всегда с собою какой-то свой особенный воздух, своего собственного запаха, отзывавшийся несколько жилым покоем, так что достаточно  было ему только пристроить где-нибудь свою кровать, хоть даже в необитаемой дотоле комнате, да перетащить туда шинель и пожитки, и уже казалось, что в этой комнате лет десять жили люди.


In addition to his love of poring over books, he could boast of two habits which constituted two other essential features of his character—namely, a habit of retiring to rest in his clothes (that is to say, in the brown jacket above-mentioned) and a habit of everywhere bearing with him his own peculiar atmosphere, his own peculiar smell—a smell which filled any lodging with such subtlety that he needed but to make up his bed anywhere, even in a room hitherto untenanted, and to drag thither his greatcoat and other impedimenta, for that room at once to assume an air of having been lived in during the past ten years. (chapter II)


In his novel Gogol famously compares a clerk in the service of Themis to Virgil and Chichikov and Manilov, to Dante:


- Вот он вас проведёт в присутствие! - сказал Иван Антонович, кивнув головою, и один из священнодействующих, тут же находившихся, приносивший с таким усердием жертвы Фемиде, что оба рукава лопнули на локтях и давно лезла оттуда подкладка, за что и получил в своё время коллежского регистратора, прислужился нашим приятелям, как некогда Виргилий прислужился Данту, и провёл их в комнату присутствия, где стояли одни только широкие кресла и в них перед столом, за зерцалом и двумя толстыми книгами, сидел один, как солнце, председатель. В этом месте новый Вергилий почувствовал такое благоговение, что никак не осмелился занести туда ногу и поворотил назад, показав свою спину, вытертую, как рогожка, с прилипнувшим где-то куриным пером.


Upon that one of the toilers in the service of Themis—a zealot who had offered her such heartfelt sacrifice that his coat had burst at the elbows and lacked a lining—escorted our friends (even as Virgil had once escorted Dante) to the apartment of the Presence. In this sanctum were some massive armchairs, a table laden with two or three fat books, and a large looking-glass. Lastly, in (apparently) sunlike isolation, there was seated at the table the President. On arriving at the door of the apartment, our modern Virgil seemed to have become so overwhelmed with awe that, without daring even to intrude a foot, he turned back, and, in so doing, once more exhibited a back as shiny as a mat, and having adhering to it, in one spot, a hen's feather. (chapter VII)


In Aldanov's novel Klyuch (“The Key,” 1928) the lawyer Kremenetski (Musya’s father) imagines how he will defend Zagryatski (whom the police suspects of poisoning Fisher, a rich banker who led a dissipated life). Thinking of his future speech at court, Kremenetski calls Zagryatski "Fisher's cicerone in the whirlwind of metropolitan revelry, in the drunken ecstasy of debaucheries" and compares him to "a kind of Virgil of that unattractive Dante:"


Зaгряцкий был "чичероне Фишерa в вихре столичного рaзгулa, в пьяном угaре кутежей, своего родa Вергилий при этом мaлопривлекaтельном Дaнте, - с горькой усмешкой говорил нa суде Кременецкий, - дa простит мне неподобaющее срaвнение тень великого поэтa"… ("The Key," Part One, chapter XXVI)


In Aldanov’s trilogy (“The Key,” “The Escape,” “The Cave”) Musya’s favorite author is Dostoevski (the writer whom the German professor forbids Luzhin to read). At the end of his essay on Dostoevski (in “The Silhouettes of Russian Writers”) Ayhenvald calls Dostoevski zhivaya Bozhestvennaya komediya (“a live Divine Comedy”) whose most powerful and terrible part is Inferno:


И гнетущей загадкой встаёт он перед нами, как олицетворенная боль, как чёрное солнце страдания. Были доступны ему глубокие мистерии человеческого, и не случайность он, не просто эпизод психологический, одна из возможных встреч на дороге или на бездорожьях русской жизни, не пугающий мираж чеховского монаха или бредовое приключение ночной души: нет, он - трагическая необходимость духа, так что каждый должен переболеть Достоевским и, если можно, его преодолеть. Трудна эта моральная задача, потому что сам он был точно живая Божественная комедия; в ней же нет сильнее и страшнее – Ада.


The last word in Ayhenvald’s essay on Dostoevski is Ada (Gen. of Ad, “Inferno”). Aqua’s last note was signed “My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (now is out of hell).” In her last note Aqua (Demon’s mad wife who committed suicide) mentioned Nurse Joan the Terrible:


Aujourd'hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doktor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several 'patients,' in the neighboring bor (piney wood) where I noticed exactly the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt. (1.3)


In his essay Ayhenvald calls Dostoevski Ivan Groznyi russkoy literatury (“Ivan the Terrible of Russian literature”):


Мучитель и мученик, Иван Грозный русской литературы, он казнит нас лютой казнью своего слова и потом, как Иван Грозный, живой человеческий анчар, ропщет и молится, и зовет Христа, и Христос приходит к этому безумцу и мудрецу, к этому юродивому, и тогда он плачет кровавыми слезами и упоённо терзает себя своими веригами, своими каторжными цепями, которые наложили на него люди и которых он уже и сам не мог сбросить со своей измученной души.


Alexis Avenue also seems to hint at the tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich (the father of Peter I). In his essay Evgeniy Onegin i ego predki (“Eugene Onegin and his Forefathers,” 1887) the historian Klyuchevski says that Onegin’s great-grandfather lived in the second half of the 17th century, at the end of the reign (1645-76) of the tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich:


Прадеда нашего героя надобно искать во второй половине XVII в., около конца Алексеева царствования, в том промежуточном слое дворянских фамилий, который вечно колебался между столичного знатью и провинциальным рядовым дворянством.


In a conversation with Ada Van mentions his fencing master, Pierre Legrand (whose name hints at Peter the Great):


'Ada girl, adored girl,' cried Van, 'I'm a radiant void. I'm convalescing after a long and dreadful illness. You cried over my unseemly scar, but now life is going to be nothing but love and laughter, and corn in cans. I cannot brood over broken hearts, mine is too recently mended. You shall wear a blue veil, and I the false mustache that makes me look like Pierre Legrand, my fencing master.' (2.8)


In her last note Aqua mentions a trick mustache:


The hands of a clock, even when out of order, must know and let the dumbest little watch know where they stand, otherwise neither is a dial but only a white face with a trick mustache. (1.3)


On the other hand, in Sluchaynost’ Aleksey Luzhin’s eyebrows resemble perevyornutye usy (the mustache turned upside-down):


В ресторане трое лакеев накрывали к обеду. Один, с серой от стрижки головой и чёрными бровями, вроде перевернутых усов, думал о баночке, лежащей в боковом кармане.


Three waiters were laying the tables in the diner. One of them, with close-cropped hair and beetling brows, was thinking about the little vial in his breast pocket.


Max Mispel’s review of Van’s novel Letters from Terra appeared in the Manhattan magazine The Village Eyebrow:


The only other compliment was paid to poor Voltemand in a little Manhattan magazine (The Village Eyebrow) by the poet Max Mispel (another botanical name — ‘medlar’ in English), member of the German Department at Goluba University. Herr Mispel, who liked to air his authors, discerned in Letters from Terra the influence of Osberg (Spanish writer of pretentious fairy tales and mystico-allegoric anecdotes, highly esteemed by short-shift thesialists) as well as that of an obscene ancient Arab, expounder of anagrammatic dreams, Ben Sirine, thus transliterated by Captain de Roux, according to Burton in his adaptation of Nefzawi’s treatise on the best method of mating with obese or hunchbacked females (The Perfumed Garden, Panther edition, p.187, a copy given to ninety-three-year-old Baron Van Veen by his ribald physician Professor Lagosse). His critique ended as follows: ‘If Mr Voltemand (or Voltimand or Mandalatov) is a psychiatrist, as I think he might be, then I pity his patients, while admiring his talent.’ (2.2)


Van’s first novel corresponds to Sirin’s first novel Mashen’ka (“Mary,” 1926).



All Van could think of saying was ‘I am not alone’ (je ne suis pas seul), but Demon was brimming too richly with the bad news he had brought to heed the hint of the fool who should have simply walked on into the next room and come back one moment later (locking the door behind him — locking out years and years of lost life), instead of which he remained standing near his father’s chair. (2.10)


In my recent post “Russian roulette, Irish loo & Monaco in Ada; waterproof, Valeria & Rita in Lolita” I forgot to point out that in Chekhov’s story Volodya bol’shoy i Volodya malen’kiy (The Two Volodyas, 1893) little Volodya in his student days often repeated the phrase “Pardon, je ne suis pas seul:


Он тоже имел необыкновенный успех у женщин, чуть ли не с четырнадцати лет, и дамы, которые для него изменяли своим мужьям, оправдывались тем, что Володя маленький. Про него недавно кто-то рассказывал, будто бы он, когда был студентом, жил в номерах, поближе к университету, и всякий раз, бывало, как постучишься к нему, то слышались за дверью его шаги и затем извинение вполголоса: «Pardon, je ne suis pas seul».


He, too, had been renowned for his success with women almost from the age of fourteen, and the ladies who deceived their husbands on his account excused themselves by saying that he was only a boy. Someone had told a story of him lately that when he was a student living in lodgings so as to be near the university, it always happened if one knocked at his door, that one heard his footstep, and then a whispered apology: "Pardon, je ne suis pas seul."


*“nine p.m.” seems to be a misprint and should be “nine a.m.”


Alexey Sklyarenko

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