Rattner's menald world & anagrammatic dreams in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Fri, 08/06/2021 - 14:49

According to Ada, she is only a pale wild girl with gipsy hair in a deathless ballad, in a nulliverse, in Rattner’s "menald world" where the only principle is random variation:


He heard Ada Vinelander’s voice calling for her Glass bed slippers (which, as in Cordulenka’s princessdom too, he found hard to distinguish from dance footwear), and a minute later, without the least interruption in the established tension, Van found himself, in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose — no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion, on a kind of lowboy. She complained he hurt her ‘like a Tiger Turk.’ He went to bed and was about to doze off for good when she left his side. Where was she going? Pet wanted to see the album.

‘I’ll be back in a rubby,’ she said (tribadic schoolgirl slang), ‘so keep awake. From now on by the way, it’s going to be Chère-amie-fait-morata’ — (play on the generic and specific names of the famous fly) — ‘until further notice.’

‘But no sapphic vorschmacks,’ mumbled Van into his pillow.

‘Oh, Van,’ she said, turning to shake her head, one hand on the opal doorknob at the end of an endless room. ‘We’ve been through that so many times! You admit yourself that I am only a pale wild girl with gipsy hair in a deathless ballad, in a nulliverse, in Rattner’s "menald world" where the only principle is random variation. You cannot demand,’ she continued — somewhere between the cheeks of his pillow (for Ada had long vanished with her blood-brown book) — ‘you cannot demand pudicity on the part of a delphinet! You know that I really love only males and, alas, only one man.’ (2.8)


menald world + Dorofey + ardor = Menard + doll + word + foyer + road


Describing his pistol duel with Captain Tapper, Van mentions Dorofey Road:


He shaved, disposed of two blood-stained safety blades by leaving them in a massive bronze ashtray, had a structurally perfect stool, took a quick bath, briskly dressed, left his bag with the concierge, paid his bill and at six punctually squeezed himself next to blue-chinned and malodorous Johnny into the latter’s Paradox, a cheap ‘semi-racer.’ For two or three miles they skirted the dismal bank of the lake — coal piles, shacks, boathouses, a long strip of black pebbly mud and, in the distance, over the curving bank of autumnally misted water, the tawny fumes of tremendous factories.

‘Where are we now, Johnny dear?’ asked Van as they swung out of the lake’s orbit and sped along a suburban avenue with clapboard cottages among laundry-lined pines.

‘Dorofey Road,’ cried the driver above the din of the motor. ‘It abuts at the forest.’

It abutted. Van felt a faint twinge in his knee where he had hit it against a stone when attacked from behind a week ago, in another wood. At the moment his foot touched the pine-needle strewn earth of the forest road, a transparent white butterfly floated past, and with utter certainty Van knew that he had only a few minutes to live. (1.42)


Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote (1939) is a story by J. L. Borges. Borges = Osberg. On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) VN’s novel Lolita (1955) is known as The Gitanilla by the Spanish writer Osberg. In his review of Van’s novel Letters from Terra the poet Max Mispel discerned the influence of Osberg as well as that of an obscene ancient Arab, expounder of anagrammatic dreams, Ben Sirine:


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)


Ben Sirine = bene + Sirin


bene - Lat., good; cf. ubi bene ibi patria (homeland is where it is good)

Sirin - VN's Russian nom de plume


Describing the family dinner in "Ardis the Second," Van mentions the foyers of theaters:


Marina, essentially a dummy in human disguise, experienced no such qualms, lacking as she did that third sight (individual, magically detailed imagination) which many otherwise ordinary and conformant people may also possess, but without which memory (even that of a profound ‘thinker’ or technician of genius) is, let us face it, a stereotype or a tear-sheet. We do not wish to be too hard on Marina; after all, her blood throbs in our wrists and temples, and many of our megrims are hers, not his. Yet we cannot condone the grossness of her soul. The man sitting at the head of the table and joined to her by a pair of cheerful youngsters, the ‘juvenile’ (in movie parlance) on her right, the ‘ingénue’ on her left, differed in no way from the same Demon in much the same black jacket (minus perhaps the carnation he had evidently purloined from a vase Blanche had been told to bring from the gallery) who sat next to her at the Praslin’s last Christmas. The dizzy chasm he felt every time he met her, that awful ‘wonder of life’ with its extravagant jumble of geological faults, could not be bridged by what she accepted as a dotted line of humdrum encounters: ‘poor old’ Demon (all her pillow mates being retired with that title) appeared before her like a harmless ghost, in the foyers of theaters ‘between mirror and fan,’ or in the drawing rooms of common friends, or once in Lincoln Park, indicating an indigo-buttocked ape with his cane and not saluting her, according to the rules of the beau monde, because he was with a courtesan. Somewhere, further back, much further back, safely transformed by her screen-corrupted mind into a stale melodrama was her three-year-long period of hectically spaced love-meetings with Demon, A Torrid Affair (the title of her only cinema hit), passion in palaces, the palms and larches, his Utter Devotion, his impossible temper, separations, reconciliations, Blue Trains, tears, treachery, terror, an insane sister’s threats, helpless, no doubt, but leaving their tiger-marks on the drapery of dreams, especially when dampness and dark affect one with fever. And the shadow of retribution on the backwall (with ridiculous legal innuendos). All this was mere scenery, easily packed, labeled ‘Hell’ and freighted away; and only very infrequently some reminder would come — say, in the trickwork close-up of two left hands belonging to different sexes — doing what? Marina could no longer recall (though only four years had elapsed!) — playing à quatre mains? — no, neither took piano lessons — casting bunny-shadows on a wall? — closer, warmer, but still wrong; measuring something? But what? Climbing a tree? The polished trunk of a tree? But where, when? Someday, she mused, one’s past must be put in order. Retouched, retaken. Certain ‘wipes’ and ‘inserts’ will have to be made in the picture; certain telltale abrasions in the emulsion will have to be corrected; ‘dissolves’ in the sequence discreetly combined with the trimming out of unwanted, embarrassing ‘footage,’ and definite guarantees obtained; yes, someday — before death with its clap-stick closes the scene. (1.38)


‘Between mirror and fan’ brings to mind 'fan-wafting ladies' mentioned by Van when he describes his novel Letters from Terra:


Ada’s letters breathed, writhed, lived; Van’s Letters from Terra, ‘a philosophical novel,’ showed no sign of life whatsoever.

(I disagree, it’s a nice, nice little book! Ada’s note.)

He had written it involuntarily, so to speak, not caring a dry fig for literary fame. Neither did pseudonymity tickle him in reverse — as it did when he danced on his hands. Though ‘Van Veen’s vanity’ often cropped up in the drawing-room prattle among fan-wafting ladies, this time his long blue pride feathers remained folded. What, then, moved him to contrive a romance around a subject that had been worried to extinction in all kinds of ‘Star Rats,’ and ‘Space Aces’? We — whoever ‘we’ are — might define the compulsion as a pleasurable urge to express through verbal imagery a compendium of certain inexplicably correlated vagaries observed by him in mental patients, on and off, since his first year at Chose. Van had a passion for the insane as some have for arachnids or orchids. (2.2)