Madame Shchemyashchikh-Zvukov, ha-ha of doubled ocean, Altar & Palermontovia in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Mon, 12/31/2018 - 13:16

Describing the torments of poor mad Aqua (the twin sister of Marina, Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother), Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) says that Aqua’s letters to Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) were sometimes signed: Madame Shchemyashchikh-Zvukov (‘Heart rending-Sounds’):

 

Actually, Aqua was less pretty, and far more dotty, than Marina. During her fourteen years of miserable marriage she spent a broken series of steadily increasing sojourns in sanatoriums. A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth — say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia — as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua’s bivouacs. She had plans at one time to seek a modicum of health (‘just a little grayishness, please, instead of the solid black’) in such Anglo-American protectorates as the Balkans and Indias, and might even have tried the two Southern Continents that thrive under our joint dominion. Of course, Tartary, an independent inferno, which at the time spread from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean, was touristically unavailable, though Yalta and Altyn Tagh sounded strangely attractive… But her real destination was Terra the Fair and thither she trusted she would fly on libellula long wings when she died. Her poor little letters from the homes of madness to her husband were sometimes signed: Madame Shchemyashchikh-Zvukov (‘Heart rending-Sounds’). (1.3)

 

In the first line of his poem Priblizhaetsya zvuk... (“A sound approaches...” 1912) Alexander Blok mentions shchemyashchiy zvuk (a heart-rending sound):

 

Приближается звук. И, покорна щемящему звуку,
Молодеет душа.
И во сне прижимаю к губам твою прежнюю руку,
Не дыша.

 

Снится - снова я мальчик, и снова любовник,
И овраг, и бурьян,
И в бурьяне - колючий шиповник,
И вечерний туман.

 

Сквозь цветы, и листы, и колючие ветки, я знаю,
Старый дом глянет в сердце моё,
Глянет небо опять, розовея от краю до краю,
И окошко твоё.

 

Этот голос - он твой, и его непонятному звуку
Жизнь и горе отдам,
Хоть во сне твою прежнюю милую руку
Прижимая к губам.

 

On the other hand, Aqua’s fanciful pseudonym brings to mind Comrade Kraynikh-Vzglyadov (‘Extreme-Views’), the film director in Ilf and Petrov’s novel Zolotoy telyonok (“The Golden Calf,” 1931) and in Ilf’s Zapisnye knizhki (“Notebooks,” 1925-37):

 

В то время из Москвы в Одессу прикатил поруганный в столице кинорежиссёр товарищ Крайних-Взглядов, великий борец за идею кинофакта. Местная киноорганизация, подавленная полным провалом своих исторических фильмов из древнеримской жизни, пригласила товарища Крайних-Взглядова под свою стеклянную сень.

– Долой павилионы! – сказал Крайних-Взглядов, входя на фабрику. – Долой актеров, этих апологетов мещанства! Долой бутафорию! Долой декорации! Долой надуманную жизнь, гниющую под светом юпитеров! Я буду обыгрывать вещи! Мне нужна жизнь, как она есть! (chapter 9)

 

The characters in “The Golden Calf” include the geography teacher who went mad because one day he looked at the map of the two hemispheres and did not find on it the Bering Strait:

 

Географ сошёл с ума совершенно неожиданно: однажды он взглянул на карту обоих полушарий и не нашёл на ней Берингова пролива. Весь день старый учитель шарил по карте. Всё было на месте: и Нью-Фаундленд, и Суэцкий канал, и Мадагаскар, и Сандвичевы острова с главным городом Гонолулу, и даже вулкан Попокатепетль, а Берингов пролив отсутствовал. И тут же, у карты, старик тронулся.

The geographer went mad quite unexpectedly: one day he looked at the map of the two hemispheres and couldn't find the Bering Strait. The old teacher spent the whole day studying the map. Everything was where it was supposed to be: Newfoundland; the Suez Canal; Madagascar; the Sandwich Islands with their capital city, Honolulu; even the Popocatepetl volcano. But the Bering Strait was missing. The old man lost his mind right then and there, in front of the map. (chapter XVI: “Jahrbuch für Psychoanalytik”)

 

Describing the difference between Terra and Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set), Van uses the word ved’ (it is, isn’t it) and calls the Bering Strait “the ha-ha of a doubled ocean:”

 

Ved’ (‘it is, isn’t it’) sidesplitting to imagine that ‘Russia,’ instead of being a quaint synonym of Estoty, the American province extending from the Arctic no longer vicious Circle to the United States proper, was on Terra the name of a country, transferred as if by some sleight of land across the ha-ha of a doubled ocean to the opposite hemisphere where it sprawled over all of today’s Tartary, from Kurland to the Kuriles! (1.3)

 

In his poem Pered sudom (“Before the Day of Judgment,” 1915) Blok repeats the word ved’ three times:

 

Что же ты потупилась в смущеньи?
Погляди, как прежде, на меня,
Вот какой ты стала - в униженьи,
В резком, неподкупном свете дня!

Я и сам ведь не такой - не прежний,
Недоступный, гордый, чистый, злой.
Я смотрю добрей и безнадежней
На простой и скучный путь земной.

Я не только не имею права,
Я тебя не в силах упрекнуть
За мучительный твой, за лукавый,
Многим женщинам суждённый путь...
 

Но ведь я немного по-другому,
Чем иные, знаю жизнь твою,
Более, чем судьям, мне знакомо,
Как ты очутилась на краю.

Вместе ведь по краю, было время,
Нас водила пагубная страсть,
Мы хотели вместе сбросить бремя
И лететь, чтобы потом упасть.

Ты всегда мечтала, что, сгорая,
Догорим мы вместе - ты и я,
Что дано, в объятьях умирая,
Увидать блаженные края...

Что же делать, если обманула
Та мечта, как всякая мечта,
И что жизнь безжалостно стегнула
Грубою верёвкою кнута?

Не до нас ей, жизни торопливой,
И мечта права, что нам лгала. -
Всё-таки, когда-нибудь счастливой
Разве ты со мною не была?

Эта прядь - такая золотая
Разве не от старого огня? -
Страстная, безбожная, пустая,
Незабвенная, прости меня!

 

Alexander Blok and Nikolay Gumilyov (the two poets who could not stand each other) died almost simultaneously in August of 1921. In his poem Otyezzhayshchemu (“To a Departing Person,” 1913) Gumilyov twice repeats the word ved’ and mentions Muza Dal’nikh Stranstviy (the Muse of Distant Travels):

 

Нет, я не в том тебе завидую
С такой мучительной обидою,
Что уезжаешь ты и вскоре
На Средиземном будешь море.

И Рим увидишь, и Сицилию,
Места любезные Виргилию,
В благоухающей, лимонной
Трущобе сложишь стих влюблённый.
 

Я это сам не раз испытывал,

Я солью моря грудь пропитывал,
Над Арно, Данта чтя обычай,
Слагал сонеты Беатриче.

Что до природы мне, до древности,
Когда я полон жгучей ревности,
Ведь ты во всём её убранстве
Увидел Музу Дальних Странствий.

Ведь для тебя в руках изменницы
В хрустальном кубке нектар пенится,
И огнедышащей беседы
Ты знаешь молнии и бреды.

А я, как некими гигантами,
Торжественными фолиантами
От вольной жизни заперт в нишу,
Её не вижу и не слышу.

 

In Ilf and Petrov’s novel Dvenadtsat’ stulyev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) one of the chapters is entitled Muza Dal’nikh Stranstviy (“The Muse of Distant Travels”). Blok is the author of Dvenadtsat' ("The Twelve," 1918).

 

Palermontovia is a portmanteau blending Palermo (the capital of Sicily, the island mentioned by Gumilyov in his poem “To a Departing Person”) with Lermontov. At the beginning of his poem Borodino (1837) Lermontov twice repeats the word ved’:

 

Скажи-ка, дядя, ведь не даром
Москва, спалённая пожаром,
Французу отдана?

Ведь были ж схватки боевые,
Да, говорят, ещё какие!
Недаром помнит вся Россия
Про день Бородина!

– HEY tell, old man, had we a cause
When Moscow, razed by fire, once was
Given up to Frenchman's blow?
Old-timers talk about some frays,
And they remember well those days!
With cause all Russia fashions lays
About the day of Borodino!

 

In Borodino there is bor (piney wood). In her last note Aqua mentions the neighboring bor:

 

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. 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. (1.3)

 

In his memoir essay A. A. Blok kak chelovek (“A. A. Blok as a Person,” 1921) Korney Chukovski says that Blok in jest called his collection Nechayannaya radost’ (“Inadvertent Joy,” 1907) Otchayannaya gadost’ (“Desperate Filth”) by Alexander Klok:

 

Сергей Городецкий рассказывает в «Воспоминаниях о Блоке», что Блок в шутку назвал свою «Нечаянную Радость» – «Отчаянной Гадостью», а себя – Александром Клоком. Его тянуло смеяться над тем, что было пережито им, как святыня. Ему действительно нравилась пародия В. П. Буренина, в которой тот втаптывал в грязь его высокое стихотворение «Шаги Командора». Показывая «Новое Время», где была напечатана эта пародия, он сказал:

– Посмотрите, не правда ли, очень смешно:


В спальне свет.
Готова ванна.
Ночь, как тетерев, глуха.
Спит, раскинув руки, донна Анна,
И по Анне прыгает блоха.

 

Мне показалось, что такое откровенное хрюкание было ему милее, чем похвалы и приветы многих презираемых им тонких эстетов.

 

Van pairs Altar (the Antiterran name of Gibraltar) with Palermontovia. In his essay Panorama Moskvy (“The Panorama of Moscow,” 1834) Lermontov says that the Kremlin is altar' Rossii (“the altar of Russia”):

 

Что сравнить с этим Кремлём, который, окружась зубчатыми стенами, красуясь золотыми главами соборов, возлежит на высокой горе, как державный венец на челе грозного владыки?..

Он алтарь России, на нём должны совершаться и уже совершались многие жертвы, достойные отечества... Давно ли, как баснословный феникс, он возродился из пылающего своего праха?..

 

According to Van, in the last game of Flavita (Russian Scrabble) that he ever played with Ada and Lucette the latter’s letters formed the word Kremlin:

 

Je ne peux rien faire,’ wailed Lucette, ‘mais rien — with my idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM...’

‘Look,’ whispered Van, ‘c’est tout simple, shift those two syllables and you get a fortress in ancient Muscovy.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Ada, wagging her finger at the height of her temple in a way she had. ‘Oh, no. That pretty word does not exist in Russian. A Frenchman invented it. There is no second syllable.’

‘Ruth for a little child?’ interposed Van.

‘Ruthless!’ cried Ada.

‘Well,’ said Van, ‘you can always make a little cream, KREM or KREME — or even better — there’s KREMLI, which means Yukon prisons. Go through her ORHIDEYA.’

‘Through her silly orchid,’ said Lucette. (1.36)

 

In Russia in the Shadows (1921), a series of articles that H. G. Wells wrote after visiting the Soviet Russia, the author of The War of the Worlds (1898) calls Lenin "the Kremlin dreamer." Another Wells novel alluded to in Ada is The Invisible Man (1897):

 

She had been casting sidelong glances, during that dreadful talk, and now saw pure, fierce Van under the tulip tree, quite a way off, one hand on his hip, head thrown back, drinking beer from a bottle. She left the pool edge, with its corpse, and moved toward the tulip tree making a strategic detour between the authoress, who — still unaware of what they were doing to her novel — was dozing in a deckchair (out of whose wooden arms her chubby fingers grew like pink mushrooms), and the leading lady, now puzzling over a love scene where the young chatelaine’s ‘radiant beauty’ was mentioned.

‘But,’ said Marina, ‘how can one act out "radiant," what does radiant beauty mean?’

‘Pale beauty,’ said Pedro helpfully, glancing up at Ada as she passed by, ‘the beauty for which many men would cut off their members.’

‘Okay,’ said Vronsky. ‘Let us get on with this damned script. He leaves the pool-side patio, and since we contemplate doing it in color —’

Van left the pool-side patio and strode away. He turned into a side gallery that led into a grovy part of the garden, grading insensibly into the park proper. Presently, he noticed that Ada had hastened to follow him. Lifting one elbow, revealing the black star of her armpit, she tore off her bathing cap and with a shake of her head liberated a torrent of hair. Lucette, in color, trotted behind her. Out of charity for the sisters’ bare feet, Van changed his course from gravel path to velvet lawn (reversing the action of Dr Ero, pursued by the Invisible Albino in one of the greatest novels of English literature). They caught up with him in the Second Coppice. Lucette, in passing, stopped to pick up her sister’s cap and sunglasses — the sunglasses of much-sung lasses, a shame to throw them away! My tidy little Lucette (I shall never forget you…) placed both objects on a tree stump near an empty beer bottle, trotted on, then went back to examine a bunch of pink mushrooms that clung to the stump, snoring. Double take, double exposure. (1.32)

 

G. A. Vronsky is a movie man, Marina’s lover who had left her for another long-lashed Khristosik (as he called all pretty starlets, 1.3) and who makes a film of Mlle Larivière’s novel Les Enfants Maudits (“The Accursed Children”). Gavronsky (as Ada calls G. A. Vronsky) hints at khavron’ya (pig) and brings to mind otkrovennoe khryukanie (unconcealed grunting), as Chukovsky calls Burenin’s parody of Blok’s poem Shagi komandora (“The Commander’s Footsteps,” 1912). In “The Twelve Chairs” Balaganov, Panikovski and Adam Kozlevich (the driver of the Antelope Gnu car) call Ostap Bender Komandor.

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Ero: thus the h-dropping policeman in Wells’ Invisible Man defined the latter’s treacherous friend.

 

In VN’s novel Transparent Things (1972) Hugh Person tells Armande (who mispronounces Hugh’s name) that she drops her haitches like pears in a blindman’s cup:

 

She rang him up around midnight, waking him in the pit of an evanescent, but definitely bad, dream (after all that melted cheese and young potatoes with a bottle of green wine at the hotel's carnotzet). As he scrabbled up the receiver, he groped with the other hand for his reading glasses, without which, by some vagary of concomitant senses, he could not attend to the telephone properly.

"You Person?" asked her voice.

He already knew, ever since she had recited the contents of the card he had given her on the train, that she pronounced his first name as "You."

"Yes, it's me, I mean 'you,' I mean you mispronounce it most enchantingly."

"I do not mispronounce anything. Look, I never received - "

"Oh, you do! You drop your haitches like - like pearls into a blindman's cup."

"Well, the correct pronunciation is 'cap.' I win. Now listen, tomorrow I'm occupied, but what about Friday - if you can be ready à sept heures précises?"

He certainly could.

She invited "Percy," as she declared she would call him from now on, since he detested "Hugh," to come with her for a bit of summer skiing at Drakonita, or Darkened Heat, as he misheard it, which caused him to conjure up a dense forest protecting romantic ramblers from the blue blaze of an alpine noon. He said he had never learned to ski on a holiday at Sugarwood, Vermont, but would be happy to stroll beside her, along a footpath not only provided for him by fancy but also swept clean with a snowman's broom - one of those instant unverified visions which can fool the cleverest man. (chapter 12)

 

“Percy” brings to mind Percy de Prey (one of Ada’s lovers who goes to the war and perishes in the Crimea on the second day of the invasion). To Aqua  Yalta (a lovely Crimean town) and Altyn Tagh sounded strangely attractive.

 

The Invisible Albino in Ada and a blindman's cup in Transparent Things bring to mind Albinus, the main character in VN’s novel Laughter in the Dark (1932) who becomes blind as a result of a car crash. In Ada Van blinds Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis) for spying on him and Ada and attempting to blackmail Ada:

 

‘I would have killed myself too, had I found Rose wailing over your corpse. "Secondes pensées sont les bonnes," as your other, white, bonne used to say in her pretty patois. As to the apron, you are quite right. And what you did not make out was that the artist had about finished a large picture of your meek little palazzo standing between its two giant guards. Perhaps for the cover of a magazine, which rejected that picture. But, you know, there’s one thing I regret,’ she added: ‘Your use of an alpenstock to release a brute’s fury — not yours, not my Van’s. I should never have told you about the Ladore policeman. You should never have taken him into your confidence, never connived with him to burn those files — and most of Kalugano’s pine forest. Eto unizitel’no (it is humiliating).’

‘Amends have been made,’ replied fat Van with a fat man’s chuckle. ‘I’m keeping Kim safe and snug in a nice Home for Disabled Professional People, where he gets from me loads of nicely brailled books on new processes in chromophotography.’ (2.11)

 

The main character in Transparent Things, Hugh Person dies in a fire (chokes to death in the Ascot hotel in Witt). The invisible narrators in Transparent Things seem to be the devils. In the seventh poem of Blok's cycle Zhizn’ moego priyatelya ("The Life of my Pal"), Greshi, poka tebya volnuyut... ("Do sin, while your innocent sins..." 1915), cherti (the devils) speak:

 

Сверкнут ли дерзостные очи -
Ты их сверканий не отринь,
Грехам, вину и страстной ночи
Шепча заветное «аминь».

...
И станешь падать — но толпою
Мы все, как ангелы, чисты,
Тебя подхватим, чтоб пятою
О камень не преткнулся ты...

Should the daring eyes sparkle at you,
do not reject their sparkling,
whispering "amen"
to sins, wine and the amorous night.

...And you'll begin to fall, but in a crowd
we all, pure as angels,
shall pick you up,
lest you stumble on the stone with your foot...

 

In Ada the phrase k chertyam sobach’im (‘to the devil’) is repeated three times. After the L disaster in the beau milieu of the 19th century the electricity was banned on Antiterra and many gadgets had gone k chertyam sobach’im (as Aqua mentally puts it):

 

She developed a morbid sensitivity to the language of tap water — which echoes sometimes (much as the bloodstream does predormitarily) a fragment of human speech lingering in one’s ears while one washes one’s hands after cocktails with strangers. Upon first noticing this immediate, sustained, and in her case rather eager and mocking but really quite harmless replay of this or that recent discourse, she felt tickled at the thought that she, poor Aqua, had accidentally hit upon such a simple method of recording and transmitting speech, while technologists (the so-called Eggheads) all over the world were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets that were to replace those that had gone k chertyam sobach’im (Russian ‘to the devil’) with the banning of an unmentionable ‘lammer.’ Soon, however, the rhythmically perfect, but verbally rather blurred volubility of faucets began to acquire too much pertinent sense. The purity of the running water’s enunciation grew in proportion to the nuisance it made of itself. It spoke soon after she had listened, or been exposed, to somebody talking — not necessarily to her — forcibly and expressively, a person with a rapid characteristic voice, and very individual or very foreign phrasal intonations, some compulsive narrator’s patter at a horrible party, or a liquid soliloquy in a tedious play, or Van’s lovely voice, or a bit of poetry heard at a lecture, my lad, my pretty, my love, take pity, but especially the more fluid and flou Italian verse, for instance that ditty recited between knee-knocking and palpebra-lifting, by a half-Russian, half-dotty old doctor, doc, toc, ditty, dotty, ballatetta, deboletta... tu, voce sbigottita... spigotty e diavoletta... de lo cor dolente... con ballatetta va... va... della strutta, destruttamente... mente... mente... stop that record, or the guide will go on demonstrating as he did this very morning in Florence a silly pillar commemorating, he said, the ‘elmo’ that broke into leaf when they carried stone-heavy-dead St Zeus by it through the gradual, gradual shade; or the Arlington harridan talking incessantly to her silent husband as the vineyards sped by, and even in the tunnel (they can’t do this to you, you tell them, Jack Black, you just tell them...). Bathwater (or shower) was too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly — or perhaps was too brutally anxious to emit the hot torrent and get rid of the infernal ardor — to bother about small talk; but the burbly flowlets grew more and more ambitious and odious, and when at her first ‘home’ she heard one of the most hateful of the visiting doctors (the Cavalcanti quoter) garrulously pour hateful instructions in Russian-lapped German into her hateful bidet, she decided to stop turning on tap water altogether. (1.3)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): ballatetta: fragmentation and distortion of a passage in a ‘little ballad’ by the Italian poet Guido Cavalcanti (1255–1300). The relevant lines are: ‘you frightened and weak little voice that comes weeping from my woeful heart, go with my soul and that ditty, telling of a destroyed mind.’

 

Guido Cavalcanti is the main character in Gumilyovs story Radosti zemnoy lyubvi ("The Joys of Earthly Love," 1908) in which the inhabitants of the wild Tartary are mentioned:

 

В то время вся Флоренция говорила о заезжем венецианском синьоре и о его скорее влюблённом, чем почтительном, преклонении перед красотой Примаверы. Этот венецианец одевался в костюмы, напоминающие цветом попугаев; ломаясь, пел песни, пригодные разве только для таверн или грубых солдатских попоек; и хвастливо рассказывал о путешествиях своего соотечественника Марко Поло, в которых сам и не думал участвовать. И как-то Кавальканти видел, что Примавера приняла предложенный ей сонет этого высокомерного глупца, где воспевалась её красота в выражениях напыщенных и смешных: её груди сравнивались со снеговыми вершинами Гималайских гор, взгляды с отравленными стрелами обитателей дикой Тартарии, а любовь, возбуждаемая ею, с чудовищным зверем Симлой, который живёт во владениях Великого Могола, ежедневно пожирая тысячи людей; вдобавок размер часто пропадал, и рифмы были расставлены неверно.

 

In Ilf and Petrov’s “The Golden Calf” Hygienishvili (one of the inhabitants of “A Crow’s Nest”) proposes to throw out the things of the airman Sevryugov (who discovered a foreign expedition that disappeared beyond the Arctic Circle) to the landing, k chertyam sobach’im:

 

-- Да вы поймите, -- кипятилась Варвара, поднося к носу камергера газетный лист. - Вот статья. Видите? "Среди торосов и айсбергов".
-- Айсберги! - говорил Митрич насмешливо. - Это мы понять можем. Десять лет как жизни нет. Все Айсберги, Вайсберги, Айзенберги, всякие там Рабиновичи. Верно Пряхин говорит. Отобрать -- и всё. Тем более, что вот и Люция Францевна подтверждает насчет закона.
-- А вещи на лестницу выкинуть, к чертям собачьим! -- грудным голосом воскликнул бывший князь, а ныне трудящийся Востока, гражданин Гигиенишвили.

"Look here," argued Varvara, putting the newspaper right in front of the Chamberlain's nose.
“Here is the article. See? Amid ice ridges and icebergs."
“Icebergs!” sneered Mitrich. “Yes, we can understand that. Ten long years of nothing but tears. Icebergs, Weisbergs, Eisenbergs, all those Rabinovichs. Pryakhin is right. Let's just take it, end of story. Especially since Lucia Franzevna here agrees about the law."
"And his stuff can go into the stairwell, to the devil!" exclaimed the former Prince, lately a proletarian from the East, Citizen Hygienishvili, in his throaty voice. (chapter XIII: “Vasisualiy Lokhankin and his Role in the Russian Revolution”)

 

The inhabitants of Voron’ya slobodka (“A Crow’s Nest”) include nich’ya babushka (nobody’s grandmother) who is afraid of electricity and uses a kerosene lamp in her entresol apartment. At the beginning of a game of Flavita Ada’s letters form the word kerosin (kerosene):

 

Lots had been cast, Ada had won the right to begin, and was in the act of collecting one by one, mechanically and unthinkingly, her seven ‘luckies’ from the open case where the blocks lay face down, showing nothing but their anonymous black backs, each in its own cell of flavid velvet. She was speaking at the same time, saying casually: ‘I would much prefer the Benten lamp here but it is out of kerosin. Pet (addressing Lucette), be a good scout, call her — Good Heavens!’

The seven letters she had taken, S,R,E,N,O,K,I, and was sorting out in her spektrik (the little trough of japanned wood each player had before him) now formed in quick and, as it were, self-impulsed rearrangement the key word of the chance sentence that had attended their random assemblage. (1.36)

 

According to Van, Revelation can be more perilous than Revolution:

 

Revelation can be more perilous than Revolution. Sick minds identified the notion of a Terra planet with that of another world and this ‘Other World’ got confused not only with the ‘Next World’ but with the Real World in us and beyond us. Our enchanters, our demons, are noble iridescent creatures with translucent talons and mightily beating wings; but in the eighteen-sixties the New Believers urged one to imagine a sphere where our splendid friends had been utterly degraded, had become nothing but vicious monsters, disgusting devils, with the black scrota of carnivora and the fangs of serpents, revilers and tormentors of female souls; while on the opposite side of the cosmic lane a rainbow mist of angelic spirits, inhabitants of sweet Terra, restored all the stalest but still potent myths of old creeds, with rearrangement for melodeon of all the cacophonies of all the divinities and divines ever spawned in the marshes of this our sufficient world.

Sufficient for your purpose, Van, entendons-nous. (Note in the margin.) (1.3)

 

Revelation and Revolution begin with an R and bring to mind Mr. R., the writer in Transparent Things. In his last letter to his publisher Mr. R. mentions devils:

 

Dear Phil,
This, no doubt, is my last letter to you. I am leaving you. I am leaving you for another even greater Publisher. In that House I shall be proofread by cherubim - or misprinted by devils, depending on the department my poor soul is assigned to. So adieu, dear friend, and may your heir auction this off most profitably. (chapter 21)

 

Mr. R.'s poor soul is assigned to hell where he is misprinted by devils (judging by the novel’s last sentence: "Easy, you know, does it, son"). In her last note [signed:  My sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (‘now is out of hell’)] Aqua says:

 

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. (1.3)

 

"Cute little ants" bring to mind a riddle that Van whispered in Ada's ear on their first night in "Ardis the Second:"

 

He had spent most of the day fast asleep in his room, and a long, rambling, dreary dream had repeated, in a kind of pointless parody, his strenuous ‘Casanovanic’ night with Ada and that somehow ominous morning talk with her. Now that I am writing this, after so many hollows and heights of time, I find it not easy to separate our conversation, as set down in an inevitably stylized form, and the drone of complaints, turning on sordid betrayals that obsessed young Van in his dull nightmare. Or was he dreaming now that he had been dreaming? Had a grotesque governess really written a novel entitled Les Enfants Maudits? To be filmed by frivolous dummies, now discussing its adaptation? To be made even triter than the original Book of the Fortnight, and its gurgling blurbs? Did he detest Ada as he had in his dreams? He did.

Now, at fifteen, she was an irritating and hopeless beauty; a rather unkempt one, too; only twelve hours ago, in the dim toolroom he had whispered a riddle in her ear: what begins with a ‘de’ and rhymes more or less with a Silesian river ant? She was eccentric in habits and clothing. She cared nothing for sunbathing, and not a tinge of the tan that had californized Lucette could be traced on the shameless white of Ada’s long limbs and scrawny shoulder blades.

A remote cousin, no longer René’s sister, not even his half-sister (so lyrically anathematized by Monparnasse), she stepped over him as over a log and returned the embarrassed dog to Marina. The actor, who quite likely would run into some body’s fist in a forthcoming scene, made a filthy remark in broken French.

‘Du sollst nicht zuhören,’ murmured Ada to German Dack before putting him back in Marina’s lap under the ‘accursed children.’ ‘On ne parle pas comme ça devant un chien,’ added Ada, not deigning to glance at Pedro, who nevertheless got up, reconstructed his crotch, and beat her to the pool with a Nurjinski leap. (1.32) 

 

Happy New Year!