ne pïkhtite in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Wed, 02/24/2021 - 15:08

At the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) complains that Jones’ pant made his soup ripple:


'Marina,' murmured Demon at the close of the first course. 'Marina,' he repeated louder. 'Far from me' (a locution he favored) 'to criticize Dan's taste in white wines or the manners de vos domestiques. You know me, I'm above all that rot, I'm...' (gesture); 'but, my dear,' he continued, switching to Russian, 'the chelovek who brought me the pirozhki - the new man, the plumpish one with the eyes (s glazami) -'
'Everybody has eyes,' remarked Marina drily.
'Well, his look as if they were about to octopus the food he serves. But that's not the point. He pants, Marina! He suffers from some kind of odïshka (shortness of breath). He should see Dr Krolik. It's depressing. It's a rhythmic pumping pant. It made my soup ripple.'
'Look, Dad,' said Van, 'Dr Krolik can't do much, because, as you know quite well, he's dead, and Marina can't tell her servants not to breathe, because, as you also know, they're alive.'
'The Veen wit, the Veen wit,' murmured Demon.

‘Exactly,’ said Marina. ‘I simply refuse to do anything about it. Besides poor Jones is not at all asthmatic, but only nervously eager to please. He’s as healthy as a bull and has rowed me from Ardisville to Ladore and back, and enjoyed it, many times this summer. You are cruel, Demon. I can’t tell him "ne pïkhtite," as I can’t tell Kim, the kitchen boy, not to take photographs on the sly — he’s a regular snap-shooting fiend, that Kim, though otherwise an adorable, gentle, honest boy; nor can I tell my little French maid to stop getting invitations, as she somehow succeeds in doing, to the most exclusive bals masqués in Ladore.’

‘That’s interesting,’ observed Demon.

‘He’s a dirty old man!’ cried Van cheerfully.

‘Van!’ said Ada.

‘I’m a dirty young man,’ sighed Demon.

‘Tell me, Bouteillan,’ asked Marina, ‘what other good white wine do we have — what can you recommend?’ The butler smiled and whispered a fabulous name.

Yes, oh, yes,’ said Demon. ‘Ah, my dear, you should not think up dinners all by yourself. Now about rowing — you mentioned rowing... Do you know that moi, qui vous parle, was a Rowing Blue in 1858? Van prefers football, but he’s only a College Blue, aren’t you Van? I’m also better than he at tennis — not lawn tennis, of course, a game for parsons, but "court tennis" as they say in Manhattan. What else, Van?’

‘You still beat me at fencing, but I’m the better shot. That’s not real sudak, papa, though it’s tops, I assure you.’

(Marina, having failed to obtain the European product in time for the dinner, had chosen the nearest thing, wall-eyed pike, or ‘dory,’ with Tartar sauce and boiled young potatoes.)

‘Ah!’ said Demon, tasting Lord Byron’s Hock. ‘This redeems Our Lady’s Tears.’ (1.38)


In his poem V Severnom more (“In a Northern Sea”) from the cycle Vol'nye mysli ("Free Thoughts," 1907) Alexander Blok describes a sea voyage in a big-bellied and funny motorboat and mentions mnogotsventaya ryab’ (many-colored ripples) on the water:


И с длинного, протянутого в море,
Подгнившего, сереющего мола,
Прочтя все надписи: "Навек с тобой",
"Здесь были Коля с Катей", "Диодор
Иеромонах и послушник Исидор
Здесь были. Дивны божии дела", -
Прочтя все надписи, выходим в море
В пузатой и смешной моторной лодке.


Бензин пыхтит и пахнет. Два крыла
Бегут в воде за нами. Вьётся быстрый след,
И, обогнув скучающих на пляже,
Рыбачьи лодки, узкий мыс, маяк,
Мы выбегаем многоцветной рябью
В просторную ласкающую соль.


Benzin pïkhtit i pakhnet (the gasoline puffs and smells) brings to mind “I can’t tell him [Jones] "ne pïkhtite" [don’t wheeze],Marina’s words to Demon. In his poem Neznakomka (“The Unknown Woman,” 1906) Blok mentions p’yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) who cry out In vino veritas! (“in wine is truth”):


А рядом у соседних столиков
Лакеи сонные торчат,
И пьяницы с глазами кроликов
"In vino veritas!" кричат.


And drowsy lackeys lounge about
Beside the adjacent tables
While drunks with the eyes of rabbits

cry out "In vino veritas!"


In Blok’s poem Vozmezdie (“Retribution,” 1910-21) the hero’s father was nicknamed Demon, because Dostoevski (who appears in “Retribution” as a character) remarked that he resembled Byron:


Раз (он гостиной проходил)
Его заметил Достоевский.
«Кто сей красавец? — он спросил
Негромко, наклонившись к Вревской: —
Похож на Байрона». — Словцо
Крылатое все подхватили,
И все на новое лицо
Своё вниманье обратили.

На сей раз милостив был свет,

Обыкновенно – столь упрямый;

«Красив, умён» – твердили дамы,

Мужчины морщились: «поэт»...

Но, если морщатся мужчины,

Должно быть, зависть их берёт...

А чувств прекрасной половины

Никто, сам чорт, не разберёт...

И дамы были в восхищеньи:

«Он – Байрон, значит – демон...» – Что ж?

Он впрямь был с гордым лордом схож

Лица надменным выраженьем

И чем-то, что хочу назвать

Тяжелым пламенем печали.


During Van’s first tea party at Ardis Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) mentions Dostoevski:


They now had tea in a prettily furnished corner of the otherwise very austere central hall from which rose the grand staircase. They sat on chairs upholstered in silk around a pretty table. Ada’s black jacket and a pink-yellow-blue nosegay she had composed of anemones, celandines and columbines lay on a stool of oak. The dog got more bits of cake than it did ordinarily. Price, the mournful old footman who brought the cream for the strawberries, resembled Van’s teacher of history, ‘Jeejee’ Jones.

‘He resembles my teacher of history,’ said Van when the man had gone.

‘I used to love history,’ said Marina, ‘I loved to identify myself with famous women. There’s a ladybird on your plate, Ivan. Especially with famous beauties — Lincoln’s second wife or Queen Josephine.’

‘Yes, I’ve noticed — it’s beautifully done. We’ve got a similar set at home.’

‘Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?’ Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.

‘Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),’ replied Van, slegka ulïbnuvshis’ (with a slight smile). ‘Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.’

‘Ada and I share your extravagant tastes. Dostoevski liked it with raspberry syrup.’

‘Pah,’ uttered Ada. (1.5)


The action in Ada takes place on Demonia, Earth's twin planet also known as Antiterra. The Antiterran Queen Josephine seems to correspond to Josephine Beauharnais (Napoleon’s first wife, the Empress of the French). According to Marina, she cannot tell Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis) not to take photographs on the sly.


Demon Veen is the son of Dedalus Veen and Irina Garin. The surname Garin comes from gar’ (burning; cinders, ashes). In his Introduction to “Retribution” Blok uses the phrase pakhnet gar’yu (there’s a smell of burning):


Над всей Европою дракон,
Разинув пасть, томится жаждой…
Кто нанесёт ему удар?..
Не ведаем: над нашим станом,
Как встарь, повита даль туманом,
И пахнет гарью. Там — пожар.


According to Van, his father was portrayed by Vrubel (the author of Demon Seated and Demon Downcast):


Ardis, Manhattan, Mont Roux, our little rousse is dead. Vrubel's wonderful picture of Father, those demented diamonds staring at me, painted into me. (3.8)


In Chapter Three of "Retribution" Blok mentions the Demon who exhausted Vrubel:


В ком смутно брезжит память эта,
Тот странен и с людьми не схож:
Всю жизнь его — уже поэта
Священная объемлет дрожь,
Бывает глух, и слеп, и нем он,
В нём почивает некий бог,
Его опустошает Демон,
Над коим Врубель изнемог…
Его прозрения глубоки,
Но их глушит ночная тьма,
И в снах холодных и жестоких
Он видит «Горе от ума».


In his cold and cruel dreams the hero's father (nicknamed Demon) sees Gore ot uma ("Woe from Wit"). At the family dinner Demon Veen quotes Famusov's words in Griboedov's play:


'By the way, Demon,' interrupted Marina, 'where and how can I obtain the kind of old roomy limousine with an old professional chauffeur that Praskovia, for instance, has had for years?'
'Impossible, my dear, they are all in heaven or on Terra. But what would Ada like, what would my silent love like for her birthday? It's next Saturday, po razschyotu po moemu (by my reckoning), isn't it? Une rivière de diamants?'
'Protestuyu!' cried Marina. 'Yes, I'm speaking seriozno. I object to your giving her kvaka sesva (quoi que ce soit), Dan and I will take care of all that.'
Besides you'll forget,' said Ada laughing, and very deftly showed the tip of her tongue to Van who had been on the lookout for her conditional reaction to 'diamonds.' (1.38)


Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): po razschyotu po moemu: an allusion to Famusov (in Griboedov's Gore ot uma), calculating the pregnancy of a lady's friend.


As she speaks to Van, Marina mentions Griboedov and his play:


A propos de coins: in Griboedov's Gore ot uma, "How stupid to be so clever," a play in verse, written, I think, in Pushkin's time, the hero reminds Sophie of their childhood games, and says:


How oft we sat together in a corner
And what harm might there be in that?


but in Russian it is a little ambiguous, have another spot, Van?' (he shook his head, simultaneously lifting his hand, like his father), 'because, you see, - no, there is none left anyway - the second line, i kazhetsya chto v etom, can be also construed as "And in that one, meseems," pointing with his finger at a corner of the room. Imagine - when I was rehearsing that scene with Kachalov at the Seagull Theater, in Yukonsk, Stanislavski, Konstantin Sergeevich, actually wanted him to make that cosy little gesture (uyutnen'kiy zhest).'

'How very amusing,' said Van. (1.37)