In VN’s novel Ada (1969) a Bohemian lady calls the picture that Demon showed to her lover, Baron d’Onski (an art expert), “Eve on the Clepsydrophone:”


Next day Demon was having tea at his favorite hotel with a Bohemian lady whom he had never seen before and was never to see again (she desired his recommendation for a job in the Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston museum) when she interrupted her voluble self to indicate Marina and Aqua, blankly slinking across the hall in modish sullenness and bluish furs with Dan Veen and a dackel behind, and said:

'Curious how that appalling actress resembles "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" in Parmigianino's famous picture.'

'It is anything but famous,' said Demon quietly, 'and you can't have seen it. I don't envy you,' he added; 'the naive stranger who realizes that he or she has stepped into the mud of an alien life must experience a pretty sickening feeling. Did you get that small-talk information directly from a fellow named d'Onsky or through a friend of a friend of his?'

'Friend of his,' replied the hapless Bohemian lady. (1.2)


“Clepsydrophone” blends clepsydra (water-clock) with dorophone (hydraulic telephone, a device used on Antiterra, aka Demonia, Earth’s twin planet on which electricity was banned after the L disaster in the beau milieu of the 19th century). In the penultimate stanza of his poem L'Horloge (“The Clock”) Baudelaire mentions la clepsydre:


Souviens-toi que le Temps est un joueur avide
Qui gagne sans tricher, à tout coup! c'est la loi.
Le jour décroît; la nuit augmente; Souviens-toi!
Le gouffre a toujours soif; la clepsydre se vide.


Remember, Time is a greedy player
Who wins without cheating, every round! It's the law.
The daylight wanes; the night deepens; remember!
The abyss thirsts always; the water-clock runs low.

(tr. William Aggeler)


In the last stanza of his poem Les Petites Vieilles (“Little Old Women”) Baudelaire mentions Eves octogénaires (eighty-year-old Eves):


Ruines! ma famille! ô cerveaux congénères!
Je vous fais chaque soir un solennel adieu!
Où serez-vous demain, Eves octogénaires,
Sur qui pèse la griffe effroyable de Dieu?


Ruins! my family! O kindred minds!
I bid you each evening a solemn farewell!
Octogenarian Eves, upon whom rests
God's terrible claw, where will you be tomorrow?

(tr. William Aggeler)


Baudelaire’s poem Les Petites Vieilles (“Little Old Women”) is dedicated to Victor Hugo. In her memoir essay on Maximilian Voloshin, Zhivoe o zhivom ("A Living Word about a Living Man," 1932), Marina Tsvetaev mentions Victor Hugo and uses the phrase au beau milieu (right in the middle): 


И внезапно – au beau milieu Victor Hugo Наполеону II – уже не вкрадчиво, а срочно: – А нельзя ли будет пойти куда-нибудь в другое место? – Можно, конечно, вниз тогда, но там семь градусов и больше не бывает.


Marina Tsvetaev’s poem Bohème (1917) begins as follows:


Помнишь плащ голубой,
Фонари и лужи?
Как играли с тобой
Мы в жену и мужа.


Do you remember the blue cloak,

Street lamps and puddles?

How we played

In wife and husband.


After his duel with Demon d’Onsky (Skonky) married the Bohemian lady:


The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish — a kind of American ‘Gory Mary’ in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d’Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not ‘of his wounds’ (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston — a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)


“Eve on the Clepsydrophone” also brings to mind “The Future Eve” (1886), a novel by Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. Voloshin's essay on Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (included in Liki tvorchestva, "The Faces of Creative Work") is entitled Apofeoz mechty ("The Apotheosis of Dream," 1904). Ada introduces Van’s description of the Night of the Burning Barn (when Van and Ada make love for the first time) with the words zdravstvuyte, apofeoz (lo and behold: the apotheosis):


'All bright kids are depraved. I see you do recollect -'

'Not that particular occasion, but the apple tree, and when you kissed my neck, et tout le reste. And then - zdravstvuyte: apofeoz, the Night of the Burning Barn!' (1.18)


Et tout le reste” seems to hint at the closing line of Verlaine’s poem Art Poétique (1885):


Et tout le reste est literature.

And all the rest is literature.


Verlaine’s poem Art Poétique begins:


De la musique avant toute chose...

Of music before everything…


Chose is Van’s English University. Describing a game of poker that he played at Chose with Dick C. and the French twins, Van mentions rosy aurora shivering in green Serenity Court:

'Same here, Dick,' said Van. 'Pity you had to rely on your crystal balls. I have often wondered why the Russian for it - I think we have a Russian ancestor in common - is the same as the German for "schoolboy," minus the umlaut' - and while prattling thus, Van refunded with a rapidly written check the ecstatically astonished Frenchmen. Then he collected a handful of cards and chips and hurled them into Dick's face. The missiles were still in flight when he regretted that cruel and commonplace bewgest, for the wretched fellow could not respond in any conceivable fashion, and just sat there covering one eye and examining his damaged spectacles with the other - it was also bleeding a little - while the French twins were pressing upon him two handkerchiefs which he kept good-naturedly pushing away. Rosy aurora was shivering in green Serenity Court. Laborious old Chose. (1.28)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Shivering aurora, laborious old Chose: a touch of Baudelaire.


At the end of his poem Le Crepuscle du Matin (“Morning Twilight”) Baudelaire mentions l’aurore grelottante en robe rose et verte (the dawn, shivering in her green and rose garment) and calls Paris vieillard laborieux (laborious old man):


L'aurore grelottante en robe rose et verte
S'avançait lentement sur la Seine déserte,
Et le sombre Paris, en se frottant les yeux
Empoignait ses outils, vieillard laborieux.


The dawn, shivering in her green and rose garment,
Was moving slowly along the deserted Seine,
And somber Paris, the industrious old man,
Was rubbing his eyes and gathering up his tools.

(tr. William Aggeler)


The Burning Barn chapter of Ada begins as follows:


A sort of hoary riddle (Les Sophismes de Sophie by Mlle Stopchin in the Bibliothèque Vieux Rose series): did the Burning Barn come before the Cockloft or the Cockloft come first. Oh, first! We had long been kissing cousins when the fire started. In fact, I was getting some Château Baignet cold cream from Ladore for my poor chapped lips. And we both were roused in our separate rooms by her crying au feu! July 28? August 4? (1.19)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Mlle Stopchin: a representative of Mme de Ségur, née Rostopchine, author of Les Malheurs de Sophie (nomenclatorially occupied on Antiterra by Les Malheurs de Swann).


In her Povest' o Sonechke ("The Tale about Little Sonya," 1937) Marina Tsvetaev says that Countess de Ségur is a gifted writer who made the mistake imagining that she was a grandmother and writing only for children and highly praises Ségur’s Nouveaux Contes de Fées:


Графиня де Сегюр - большая писательница, имевшая глупость вообразить себя бабушкой и писать только для детей. Прошу обратить внимание на её сказки «Nouveaux Contes de Fées» (Bibliothèque Rose) - лучшее и наименее известное из всего ею написанного - сказки совершенно-исключительные, потому что совершенно единоличные (без ни единого заимствования - хотя бы из народных сказок). Сказки, которым я верна уже четвертый десяток, сказки, которые я уже здесь в Париже четырежды дарила и трижды сохранила, ибо увидеть их в витрине для меня - неизбежно - купить).


Swann is the title character in Marcel Proust's Du côté de chez Swann (the first novel in A la recherche du temps perdu). In her essay Moy Pushkin (“My Pushkin,” 1937) Marina Tsvetaev compares Pushkin to Proust:


Такой нежности слова к старухе нашлись только у недавно умчавшегося от нас гения - Марселя Пруста. Пушкин. Пруст. Два памятника сыновности.


According to Marina Tsvetaev, Pushkin and Proust are two monuments of filial affection. Starukha (the old woman), as Marina Tsvetaev calls Proust’s nurse, brings to mind Baudelaire’s petites Vieilles.


Marina Tsvetaev calls Proust nedavno umchavshiysya ot nas geniy (a genius who recently left us). In his poem K moryu ("To the Sea," 1824) Pushkin pairs Napoleon with Byron and says of the latter: drugoy ot nas umchalsya geniy ("another genius left us"):


И вслед за ним, как бури шум,
Другой от нас умчался гений,
Другой властитель наших дум.


And after him [Napoleon], like a storm's uproar,
Another genius left us,
Another master of our thoughts.


In his Ode to his Excellency Count Dm. Iv. Khvostov (1825) Pushkin compares Khvostov to Byron and mentions lyutyi Pit (ferocious Pitt):


Султан ярится. Кровь Эллады

И peзвocкачет, и кипит.

Открылись грекам древни клады,

Трепещет в Стиксе лютый Пит.


The sultan gets furious. Hellas's blood

is galloping fast and boiling.

The Greeks discovered ancient treasures,

ferocious Pitt trembles in Styx.


In one of the footnotes that he appended to his poem Pushkin says:


Г. Питт, знаменитый английский министр и известный противник Свободы.

G. Pitt, the famous English minister and notorious enemy of Freedom.


Describing his meeting with Greg Erminin (Grace’s twin brother) in Paris (the city also known on Antiterra as Lute), Van mentions the Avenue Guillaume Pitt:


On a bleak morning between the spring and summer of 1901, in Paris, as Van, black-hatted, one hand playing with the warm loose change in his topcoat pocket and the other, fawn-gloved, upswinging a furled English umbrella, strode past a particularly unattractive sidewalk café among the many lining the Avenue Guillaume Pitt, a chubby bald man in a rumpled brown suit with a watch-chained waistcoat stood up and hailed him. (3.2)


In Les Petites Vieilles Baudelaire calls old women “Eves octogénaires.” Van, who writes Ada in his nineties, calls himself a “strange, friendless, rather repulsive nonagenarian:”


I do not know why I should have devoted so much attention to the hoary hairs and sagging apparatus of the venerable Veen. Rakes never reform. They burn, sputter a few last green sparks, and go out. Far greater importance must be attached by the self-researcher and his faithful companion to the unbelievable intellectual surge, to the creative explosion, that occurred in the brain of this strange, friendless, rather repulsive nonagenarian (cries of ‘no, no!’ in lectorial, sororial, editorial brackets). (5.3)


In her old age Ada translates Baudelaire into English and Russian:


Ada, who amused herself by translating (for the Oranger editions en regard) Griboyedov into French and English, Baudelaire into English and Russian, and John Shade into Russian and French, often read to Van, in a deep mediumesque voice, the published versions made by other workers in that field of semiconsciousness. (5.4)


Correcting old mistakes often leads to making new ones. In his epigram on the EO illustrations in The Nevski Almanac (misquoted in my previous post “anagram revised”) Pushkin stands opershis’ zhopoy o granit (with bottom on the granite propped).


Alexey Sklyarenko

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