In VN’s story Ultima Thule (1942) Adam Falter (to whom the essence of things has been revealed) uses the idiom delo v shlyape (it’s in the bag):


-- Ну вот, Фальтер, мы, кажется, договорились. Выходит так, что если я признался бы в том, что в минуты счастья, восхищения, обнажения души я вдруг чувствую, что небытия за гробом нет; что рядом в запертой комнате, из-под двери которой дует стужей, готовится, как в детстве, многоочитое сияние, пирамида утех; что жизнь, родина, весна, звук ключевой воды или милого голоса,-- всё только путаное предисловие, а главное впереди; выходит, что если я так чувствую, Фальтер, можно жить, можно жить,-- скажите мне, что можно, и я больше у вас ничего не спрошу.

-- В таком случае,-- сказал Фальтер, опять затрясясь,-- я ещё менее понимаю. Перескочите предисловие,-- и дело в шляпе!


"There, Falter, we seem to be getting somewhere. Apparently, then, if I admitted that, in moments of happiness, of rapture, when my soul is laid bare, I suddenly feel that there is no extinction beyond the grave; that in an adjacent locked room, from under whose door comes a frosty draft, there is being prepared a peacock-eyed radiance, a pyramid of delights akin to the Christmas tree of my childhood; that everything-life, patria, April, the sound of a spring or that of a dear voice-is but a muddled preface, and that the main text still lies ahead – if I can feel that way, Falter, is it not possible to live, to live – tell me it's possible, and I'll not ask you anything more."

"In that case," said Falter, shaking again in soundless mirth, "I understand you even less. Skip the preface, and it’s in the bag!"


The main character in Ultima Thule, the painter Sineusov (who recently lost his wife), wants to know if the afterlife exists. In a letter of Apr. 13, 1895, to Suvorin Chekhov mentions this world and the next and uses the phrase tvoyo delo v shlyape (all is well with you):


Одолеваю «Семью Поланецких» Сенкевича. Это польская творожная пасха с шафраном. Если к Полю Бурже прибавить Потапенку, попрыскать варшавским одеколоном и разделить на два, то получится Сенкевич. «Поланецкие» несомненно навеяны «Космополисом» Бурже, Римом и женитьбой (Сенкевич недавно женился); тут и катакомбы, и старый чудак-профессор, вздыхающий по идеализме, и иже во святых Лев XIII с неземным лицом, и совет возвратиться к молитвеннику, и клевета на декадента, который умирает от морфинизма, поисповедавшись и причастившись, т. е. раскаявшись в своих заблуждениях во имя церкви. Семейного счастья и рассуждений о любви напущена чёртова пропасть, и жена героя до такой степени верна мужу и так тонко понимает «сердцем» бога и жизнь, что становится в конце концов приторно и неловко, как после слюнявого поцелуя. Сенкевич, по-видимому, не читал Толстого, не знаком с Нитче, о гипнотизме он толкует, как мещанин, но зато каждая страница у него так и пестрит Рубенсами, Боргезе, Корреджио, Боттичели — и это для того, чтобы щегольнуть перед буржуазным читателем своею образованностью и показать кукиш в кармане материализму. Цель романа: убаюкать буржуазию в её золотых снах. Будь верен жене, молись с ней по молитвеннику, наживай деньги, люби спорт — и твоё дело в шляпе и на том и на этом свете. Буржуазия очень любит так называемые «положительные» типы и романы с благополучными концами, так как они успокаивают её на мысли, что можно и капитал наживать и невинность соблюдать, быть зверем и в то же время счастливым.


I am sick of Sienkiewicz’s “The Family of the Polonetskys.” It’s the Polish Easter cake with saffron. Add Potapenko to Paul Bourget, sprinkle with Warsaw eau-de-Cologne, divide in two, and you get Sienkiewicz. “The Polonetskys” is unmistakably inspired by Bourget’s “Cosmopolis,” by Rome and by marriage (Sienkiewicz has lately got married). We have the catacombs and a queer old professor sighing after idealism, and Leo XIII, with the unearthly face among the saints, and the advice to return to the prayer-book, and the libel on the decadent who dies of morphinism after confessing and taking the sacrament — that is, after repenting of his errors in the name of the Church. There is a devilish lot of family happiness and talking about love, and the hero’s wife is so faithful to her husband and so subtly comprehends “with her heart” the mysteries of God and life, that in the end one feels mawkish and uncomfortable as after a slobbering kiss. Sienkiewicz has evidently not read Tolstoy, and does not know Nietzsche, he talks about hypnotism like a shopman; on the other hand every page is positively sprinkled with Rubens, Borghese, Correggio, Botticelli — and that is done to show off his culture to the bourgeois reader and make a long nose on the sly at materialism. The object of the novel is to lull the bourgeoisie to sleep in its golden dreams. Be faithful to your wife, pray with her over the prayer-book, save money, love sport, and all is well with you in this world and the next. The bourgeoisie is very fond of so-called practical types and novels with happy endings, since they soothe it with the idea that one can both accumulate capital and preserve innocence, be a beast and at the same time be happy. . . .


Kukish v karmane (make a long nose on the sly; literally: “a fig in one’s pocket”) mentioned by Chekhov brings to mind prints Dulya (Prince Fig), a character in VN’s story Solus Rex (1940):


Нынешний король (в прошедшем обозначим его по-шахматному) приходился старику племянником, и в начале никому не мерещилось, что племяннику достанется то, что законом сулилось сыну короля Гафона, принцу  Адульфу, народное, совершенно непристойное, прозвище которого (основанное на счастливом созвучии) приходится скромно перевести так: принц Дуля. Кр. рос в отдалённом замке под надзором хмурого и тщеславного вельможи и его мужеподобной жены, страстной любительницы охоты,-- так что он едва знал двоюродного брата и только в двадцать лет несколько чаще стал встречаться с ним, когда тому уже было под сорок.


The present king (pre-accessionally, let us designate him as K in chess notation) was the old man's nephew, and in the beginning no one dreamed that the nephew would accede to a throne rightfully promised to King Gafon's son, Prince Adulf, whose utterly indecent folkname (based on a felicitous assonance) must, for the sake of decorum, be translated "Prince Fig." K grew up in a remote palace under the eye of a morose and ambitious grandee and his horsey, masculine wife, so he barely knew his cousin and started seeing him a little more often only at the age of twenty, when Adulf was near forty.


Ultima Thule and Solus Rex are the chapters in VN’s last Russian novel that remained unfinished (Sineusov in Ultima Thule and K in Solus Rex seem to be one and the same person). According to VN, the model of Prince Adulf was the ballet impresario S. P. Diaghilev:


Prince Adulf, whose physical aspect I imagined, for some reason, as resembling that of S. P. Diaghilev (1872-1929), remains one of my favorite characters in the private museum of stuffed people that every grateful writer has somewhere on the premises. I do not remember the details of poor Adulf's death, except that he was dispatched, in some horrible, clumsy manner, by Sien and his companions, exactly five years before the inauguration of the Egel bridge.


Diaghilev was also a model of Dangleleaf, a fat ballet master mentioned by Ada in VN’s novel Ada (1969):


‘I assume,’ said Van (knowing his girl), ‘that you did not want any tips from Marina for your Irina?’

‘It would have only resulted in a row. I always resented her suggestions because they were made in a sarcastic, insulting manner. I’ve heard mother birds going into neurotic paroxysms of fury and mockery when their poor little tailless ones (bezkhvostïe bednyachkí) were slow in learning to fly. I’ve had enough of that. By the way, here’s the program of my flop.’

Van glanced through the list of players and D.P.’s and noticed two amusing details: the role of Fedotik, an artillery officer (whose comedy organ consists of a constantly clicking camera)’, had been assigned to a ‘Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimossoff’ and somebody called ‘John Starling’ had been cast as Skvortsov (a sekundant in the rather amateurish duel of the last act) whose name comes from skvorets, starling. When he communicated the latter observation to Ada, she blushed as was her Old World wont.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘he was quite a lovely lad and I sort of flirted with him, but the strain and the split were too much for him — he had been, since pubescence, the puerulus of a fat ballet master, Dangleleaf, and he finally committed suicide. You see ("the blush now replaced by a matovaya pallor") I’m not hiding one stain of what rhymes with Perm.’

‘I see. And Yakim —’

‘Oh, he was nothing.’

‘No, I mean, Yakim, at least, did not, as his rhymesake did, take a picture of your brother embracing his girl. Played by Dawn de Laire.’

‘I’m not sure. I seem to recall that our director did not mind some comic relief.’

‘Dawn en robe rose et verte, at the end of Act One.’

‘I think there was a click in the wings and some healthy mirth in the house. All poor Starling had to do in the play was to hollo off stage from a rowboat on the Kama River to give the signal for my fiancé to come to the dueling ground.’ (2.9)


In Chekhov’s play Tri sestry (“The Three Sisters,” 1901) known on Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) as Four Sisters (2.1, et passim) Tuzenbakh (Irina’s fiancé) is killed in a pistol duel with Solyony. In Chekhov’s story Duel’ (“The Duel,” 1891) von Koren mentions kukish v karmane:


- Не знаю, что ты хочешь! - сказал Самойленко, зевая. - Бедненькой по простоте захотелось поговорить с тобой об умном, а ты уж заключение выводишь. Ты сердит на него за что-то, ну и на неё за компанию. А она прекрасная женщина!

- Э, полно! Обыкновенная содержанка, развратная и пошлая. Послушай, Александр Давидыч, когда ты встречаешь простую бабу, которая не живёт с мужем, ничего не делает и только хи-хи да ха-ха, ты говоришь ей: ступай работать. Почему же ты тут робеешь и боишься говорить правду? Потому только, что Надежда Фёдоровна живёт на содержании не у матроса, а у чиновника?

- Что же мне с ней делать? - рассердился Самойленко. - Бить её, что ли?

- Не льстить пороку. Мы проклинаем порок только за глаза, а это похоже на кукиш в кармане. Я зоолог, или социолог, что одно и то же, ты - врач; общество нам верит; мы обязаны указывать ему на тот страшный вред, каким угрожает ему и будущим поколениям существование госпож вроде этой Надежды Ивановны.

- Фёдоровны. - поправил Самойленко. - А что должно делать общество?

- Оно? Это его дело. По-моему, самый прямой и верный путь, это - насилие. Manu militari её следует отправить к мужу, а если муж не примет, то отдать её в каторжные работы или какое-нибудь исправительное заведение.

- Уф; - вздохнул Самойленко; он помолчал и спросил тихо: - Как-то на днях ты говорил, что таких людей, как Лаевский, уничтожать надо... Скажи мне, если бы того... положим, государство или общество поручило тебе уничтожить его, то ты бы... решился?

- Рука бы не дрогнула.


"I don't know what you want," said Samoylenko, yawning; "the poor thing, in the simplicity of her heart, wanted to talk to you of scientific subjects, and you draw a conclusion from that. You're cross with him for something or other, and with her, too, to keep him company. She's a splendid woman."

"Ah, nonsense! An ordinary kept woman, depraved and vulgar. Listen, Aleksandr Davidych; when you meet a simple peasant woman, who isn't living with her husband, who does nothing but giggle, you tell her to go and work. Why are you timid in this case and afraid to tell the truth? Simply because Nadezhda Fyodorovna is kept, not by a sailor, but by an official."

"What am I to do with her?" said Samoylenko, getting angry. "Beat her or what?

"Not flatter vice. We curse vice only behind its back, and that's like making a long nose at it round a corner. I am a zoologist or a sociologist, which is the same thing; you are a doctor; society believes in us; we ought to point out the terrible harm which threatens it and the next generation from the existence of ladies like Nadezhda Ivanovna."

"Fyodorovna," Samoylenko corrected. "But what ought society to do?"

"Society? That's its affair. To my thinking the surest and most direct method is--compulsion. Manu militari she ought to be returned to her husband; and if her husband won't take her in, then she ought to be sent to penal servitude or some house of correction."

"Ouf!" sighed Samoylenko. He paused and asked quietly: "You said the other day that people like Laevsky ought to be destroyed. . . . Tell me, if you . . . if the State or society commissioned you to destroy him, could you . . . bring yourself to it?"

"My hand would not tremble." (chapter VIII)


In Chekhov’s story Laevsky mentions klok zemli (a plot of ground):


Боже мой, - вздохнул Лаевский, - до какой степени мы искалечены цивилизацией! Полюбил я замужнюю женщину; она меня тоже... Вначале у нас были и поцелуи, и тихие вечера, и клятвы, и Спенсер, и идеалы, и общие интересы... Какая ложь! Мы бежали, в сущности, от мужа, но лгали себе, что бежим от пустоты нашей интеллигентной жизни. Будущее наше рисовалось нам так: вначале на Кавказе, пока мы ознакомимся с местом и людьми, я надену вицмундир и буду служить, потом же на просторе возьмём себе клок земли, будем трудиться в поте лица, заведём виноградник, поле и прочее.


"My God!" sighed Laevsky; "how distorted we all are by civilisation! I fell in love with a married woman and she with me. . . . To begin with, we had kisses, and calm evenings, and vows, and Spencer, and ideals, and interests in common. . . . What a deception! We really ran away from her husband, but we lied to ourselves and made out that we ran away from the emptiness of the life of the educated class. We pictured our future like this: to begin with, in the Caucasus, while we were getting to know the people and the place, I would put on the Government uniform and enter the service; then at our leisure we would pick out a plot of ground, would toil in the sweat of our brow, would have a vineyard and a field, and so on.” (chapter I)


In her last note Aqua (Marina’s poor mad twin sister) uses the phrase klok of a chelovek (a piece of man):


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 bar (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. 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. Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek, neither a he, nor she, but ‘a tit of it’ as poor Ruby, my little Van, used to say of her scanty right breast. I, poor Princesse Lointaine, très lointaine by now, do not know where I stand. Hence I must fall. So adieu, my dear, dear son, and farewell, poor Demon, I do not know the date or the season, but it is a reasonably, and no doubt seasonably, fair day, with a lot of cute little ants queuing to get at my pretty pills.


[Signed] My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (‘now is out of hell’) (1.3)


Chekhov’s story Zhenshchina s tochki zreniya p’yanitsy (“Woman as Seen by a Drunkard,” 1885), in which girls under sixteen are compared to aqua distillatae (distilled water), was signed Brat moego brata (My brother’s brother). Zhenshchina (“A Woman,” 1914) is a poem by Alexander Blok. In his poem Neznakomka (“Incognita,” 1906) Blok mentions p’yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits). The characters in Ada include Dr Krolik, Ada’s beloved entomologist and teacher of natural history (who is often mentioned but never appears in the novel). In German Falter means “moth.”


According to Van Veen (the narrator and main character in Ada), Sig Heiler (“Herr Doktor Sig,” Aqua’s last doctor), liked when he was being dreamt of as a “Papa Fig:”


In less than a week Aqua had accumulated more than two hundred tablets of different potency. She knew most of them — the jejune sedatives, and the ones that knocked you out from eight p.m. till midnight, and several varieties of superior soporifics that left you with limpid limbs and a leaden head after eight hours of non-being, and a drug which was in itself delightful but a little lethal if combined with a draught of the cleansing fluid commercially known as Morona; and a plump purple pill reminding her, she had to laugh, of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale (dear to Ladore schoolgirls) puts to sleep all the sportsmen and all their bloodhounds at the opening of the hunting season. Lest some busybody resurrect her in the middle of the float-away process, Aqua reckoned she must procure for herself a maximum period of undisturbed stupor elsewhere than in a glass house, and the carrying out of that second part of the project was simplified and encouraged by another agent or double of the Isère Professor, a Dr Sig Heiler whom everybody venerated as a great guy and near-genius in the usual sense of near-beer. Such patients who proved by certain twitchings of the eyelids and other semiprivate parts under the control of medical students that Sig (a slightly deformed but not unhandsome old boy) was in the process of being dreamt of as a ‘papa Fig,’ spanker of girl bottoms and spunky spittoon-user, were assumed to be on the way to haleness and permitted, upon awakening, to participate in normal outdoor activities such as picnics. (1.3)


It seems that the model of Sig Heiler was C. G. Jung, the author of Psychology and Alchemy (1944). In a letter of May 7, 1889, to Suvorin Chekhov compares psychology to alchemy:


Я прочёл «Ученика» Бурже в Вашем изложении и в русском переводе («Северный вестник»). Дело мне представляется в таком виде. Бурже талантливый, очень умный и образованный человек. Он так полно знаком с методом естественных наук и так его прочувствовал, как будто хорошо учился на естественном или медицинском факультете. Он не чужой в той области, где берётся хозяйничать, — заслуга, которой не знают русские писатели, ни новые, ни старые. Что же касается книжной, учёной психологии, то он её так же плохо знает, как лучшие из психологов. Знать её всё равно, что не знать, так как она не наука, а фикция, нечто вроде алхимии, которую пора уже сдать в архив.


I have read Bourget’s “Disciple” in the Russian translation. This is how it strikes me. Bourget is a gifted, very intelligent and cultured man. He is as thoroughly acquainted with the method of the natural sciences, and as imbued with it as though he had taken a good degree in science or medicine. He is not a stranger in the domain he proposes to deal with — a merit absent in Russian writers both new and old. As to the bookish, scientific psychology, he knows it as badly as the best among the psychologists. To know it is the same as not to know, because it is not a science but a fiction, something like alchemy which it is time to leave out of account.


Pora sdat’ v arkhiv (it is time to leave out of account), a phrase used by Chekhov, brings to mind arkhivy ada (the archives of hell) mentioned by Pushkin at the end of his poem O vy, kotorye lyubili… (“O you, who loved…” 1821):


Картины, думы и рассказы
Для вас я вновь перемешал,
Смешное с важным сочетал
И бешеной любви проказы
В архивах ада отыскал...


For you I mixed up again

pictures, thoughts and stories,

combined the funny with the serious

and in the archives of hell

discovered the pranks of frenzied love.


In Pushkin’s novella Egipetskie nochi (“The Egyptian Nights,” 1835) Charski uses the phrase delo v shlyape:


На другой день Чарский в тёмном и нечистом коридоре трактира отыскивал 35-ый номер. Он остановился у двери и постучался. Вчерашний итальянец отворил её.

— Победа!— сказал ему Чарский,— ваше дело в шляпе. Княгиня ** даёт вам свою залу; вчера на рауте я успел завербовать половину Петербурга; печатайте билеты и объявления. Ручаюсь вам если не за триумф, то по крайней мере за барыш...


The next day, in the dark and dirty corridor of a tavern, Charski discovered the number 35. He stopped at the door and knocked. It was opened by the Italian of the day before.

"Victory!" said Charski to him: "it’s in the bag. The Princess N——, offers you her salon; yesterday, at the rout, I succeeded in enlisting the half of St. Petersburg; get your tickets and announcements printed. If I cannot guarantee a triumph for you, I'll answer for it that you will at least be a gainer in pocket. . . ." (chapter II)


The Italian improvisatore in Pushkin’s novella brings to mind the Italian doctor (the poor author of The Heroics of Insanity who became the prey of Falter’s Medusa) in Ultima Thule. In his Table-Talk (1835-36) Pushkin tells an anecdote about Barkov, a poet who used the phrase delo v shlyape to play a prank on Sumarokov (a rival poet):


Барков заспорил однажды с Сумароковым о том, кто из них скорее напишет оду. Сумароков заперся в своем кабинете, оставя Баркова в гостиной. Через четверть часа Сумароков выходит с готовой одою и не застаёт уже Баркова. Люди докладывают, что он ушёл и приказал сказать Александру Петровичу, что-де его дело в шляпе. Сумароков догадывается, что тут какая-нибудь проказа. В самом деле, видит он на полу свою шляпу, и — — —


Shlyapa is Russian for “hat.” Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) and Baron d’Onsky (Marina’s lover) have the same London hatter (1.2). The name d’Onsky seems to hint at Onegin’s donskoy zherebets (Don stallion) in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (Two: V: 4) and brings to mind Chekhov’s story Loshadinaya familiya (“A Horsey Name,” 1885). A horsey name in Chekhov’s story turns out to be Ovsov (in the English version “Hayes”). In VN’s novel Lolita (1955) Lolita’s “real” surname (that rhymes with Haze) seems to be Hayes. The name of Lolita’s mother, Charlotte, brings to mind Sharlotta Ivanovna, a character in Chekhov’s play Vishnyovyi sad (“The Cherry Orchard,” 1904). To Demon’s question “does Ada like horses” Van replies that she likes balls, orchids, and The Cherry Orchard:


‘It is incredible that a young boy should control his father’s liquor intake,’ remarked Demon, pouring himself a fourth shallow. ‘On the other hand,’ he went on, nursing the thin-stemmed, gold-rimmed cup, ‘open-air life may be pretty bleak without a summer romance, and not many decent girls haunt the neighborhood, I agree. There was that lovely Erminin girl, une petite juive très aristocratique, but I understand she’s engaged. By the way, the de Prey woman tells me her son has enlisted and will soon be taking part in that deplorable business abroad which our country should have ignored. I wonder if he leaves any rivals behind?’

‘Goodness no,’ replied honest Van. ‘Ada is a serious young lady. She has no beaux — except me, ça va seins durs. Now who, who, who, Dad, who said that for "sans dire"?’

‘Oh! King Wing! When I wanted to know how he liked his French wife. Well, that’s fine news about Ada. She likes horses, you say?’

‘She likes,’ said Van, ‘what all our belles like — balls, orchids, and The Cherry Orchard.’ (1.38)


Describing the Night of the Burning Barn (when he and Ada make love for the first time), Van compares himself to Firs (the old deaf retainer in The Cherry Orchard):


That night because of the bothersome blink of remote sheet lightning through the black hearts of his sleeping-arbor, Van had abandoned his two tulip trees and gone to bed in his room. The tumult in the house and the maid’s shriek interrupted a rare, brilliant, dramatic dream, whose subject he was unable to recollect later, although he still held it in a saved jewel box. As usual, he slept naked, and wavered now between pulling on a pair of shorts, or draping himself in his tartan lap robe. He chose the second course, rattled a matchbox, lit his bedside candle, and swept out of his room, ready to save Ada and all her larvae. The corridor was dark, somewhere the dachshund was barking ecstatically. Van gleaned from subsiding cries that the so-called ‘baronial barn,’ a huge beloved structure three miles away, was on fire. Fifty cows would have been without hay and Larivière without her midday coffee cream had it happened later in the season. Van felt slighted. They’ve all gone and left me behind, as old Fierce mumbles at the end of the Cherry Orchard (Marina was an adequate Mme Ranevski). (1.19)


In his poem Gostyu (“To a Visitor,” 1922) Hodasevich compares malen’kaya dobrota (a little kindness) to shlyapa (a hat) that should be left in the entrance hall and mentions angel, demon and chelovek (human being):


Входя ко мне, неси мечту,
Иль дьявольскую красоту,
Иль Бога, если сам ты Божий.
А маленькую доброту,
Как шляпу, оставляй в прихожей.

Здесь, на горошине земли,
Будь или ангел, или демон.
А человек — иль не затем он,
Чтобы забыть его могли?


Enter bringing me a dream,
or some gorgeousness from hell,
or bring me God if you're from Him,
but little acts of meaning well,
leave on the hatstand in the hall.

Here on this pea we call the earth,
either be angel or be demon,
but to be human — what's the worth
of that, except to be forgotten?

(tr. Peter Daniels)


In Ultima Thule Sineusov addresses his dead wife and calls her angel moy (my angel):


Могли ли мы думать, что хозяин всей этой красоты когда-нибудь перестанет её видеть? Ангел мой... Пока что, приняв мои руки в свои, сжимая их, морща переносицу и вглядываясь, в меня тёмными

прищуренными глазами, он выдерживал ту паузу, прерывающую жизнь, которую выдерживает собирающийся чихнуть, не совсем ещё зная, удастся ли это,-- но вот удалось, вспыхнуло прошлое, и он громко назвал меня по имени.


Could we conceive that the master of all this splendor would ever cease to see it? My angel.... Meanwhile, taking my hands in his, squeezing them, puckering the skin between his brows and fixing me with dark, narrowed eyes, he [Falter] was observing that life-suspending pause observed by those who are about to sneeze but are not quite sure if they will succeed ... but he succeeded, the past burst into light, and he loudly pronounced my nickname.


Nabokov + Erminin + sad = Bonomini + skverna + ad


Erminin – the Erminin twins in Ada; in Paris Van tells Greg Erminin that his father preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel (3.2)

sad – garden

Bonomini – in the English version of Ultima Thule the name of the Italian doctor

skverna – pollution; filth

ad – hell


Alexey Sklyarenko

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