Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021826, Tue, 19 Jul 2011 22:53:00 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] A retake on black-ruby in "Ada"
After a new reading, Aqua's torments ("mental panic and physical pain joined black-ruby hands" and soon "panic and pain, like a pair of children in a boisterous game, emitted one last shriek of laughter and ran away to manipulate each other behind a bush as in Count Tolstoy's Anna Karenin, a novel, and again, for a while, a little while, all was quiet in the house, and their mother had the same first name as hers had") gained a fresh importance in my eyes. Aqua's and Marina's mother was named Daria Durmanov, or "Dolly" and, in Tolstoy's novel ( Anna Karenin, part 6, ch. XV), there is a mishap between another Dolly and her children, Grisha and Masha.* Black-ruby hands are transformed into panic and pain, besides their being compared to a pair of naughty kids. Those two were not Van and Ada, but perhaps another pair of siblings, as for example Dolly's children, Ivan and Marina Durmanov, Aqua being the one that was left behind like Lucette.
After the two sisters became nubile (and Ivan had died of consumption aged 20), Aqua is deceived once again when she marries his sister's lover, Walter Demon Veen, who'd fathered two of Marina's children and whose eldest was raised as if he were her own son. Raspberries are mentioned during Demon's and Marina's initial theatrical courtship.** Grisha and Masha "went into the raspberries" in Tolstoy's novel and, still on part 6, an entire chapter is devoted to the production of raspberry jam.V.Darkbloom's explanatory note draws the reader's attention away from the initial connection bt. Dolly's two children and Tolstoy's "raspberries" with black-and-ruby types of pain (mental and physical).

My curiosity remains the same: Why must dark Van Veen shun his red-haired half-sister Lucette? How to connect their story to Aqua's black-rubies?

* In Anna Karenin, there's a curiously shaped mushroom that Vassenka encourages little Masha to pick: " 'That one too, near the twig,' she pointed out to little Masha a little fungus, split in half across its rosy cap by the dry grass from under which it thrust itself. Varenka got up while Masha picked the fungus, breaking it into two white halves. 'This brings back my childhood,' she added, moving apart from the children, to Sergei Ivanovich's side." A little later, Darya Alexandrovna (Dolly) was chiding her daughter Masha in great distress: "She was walking about the room, talking angrily to a little girl, who stood in the corner bawling.
"And you shall stand all day in the corner, and have your dinner all alone, and not see one of your dolls, and I won't make you a new frock," she said, not knowing how to punish her.
"Oh, she is a disgusting child!" she turned to Levin. "Where does she get such wicked propensities?"
"Why, what has she done?" Levin said ...
"Grisha and she went into the raspberries, and there... I can't tell you really what she did. It's a thousand pities Miss Elliot's not with us. This one sees to nothing- she's a machine.... Figurez-vous que la petite?..." And Darya Alexandrovna described Masha's crime.
"That proves nothing; it's not a question of evil propensities at all, it's simply mischief," Levin assured her.

** - "In a splendid orchard several merry young gardeners wearing for some reason the garb of Georgian tribesmen were popping raspberries into their mouths." and V.Darkbloom's note: "p.16. Raspberries; ribbon: allusions to ludicrous blunders in Lowell's versions of Mandelshtam's poems (in the N.Y. Review, 23 December 1965)."
Brian Boyd, in Ada Online: 11.27: Georgian tribesmen . . . popping raspberries: Darkbloom: "Raspberries, ribbon [11.33]: allusions to ludicrous blunders in Lowell's versions of Mandelshtam's poems (in the N.Y. Review [of Books], 23 December 1965)." For Nabokov and Lowell, see 3.04n2. Lowell translated the last two lines of Mandelshtam's famous November 1933 anti-Stalin epigram ("My zhivem, pod soboiu ne chuia strany," "We live, feeling no land beneath us") for which the poet was arrested: "After each death, he is like a Georgian tribesman, / putting a raspberry into his mouth." The lines read: "Chto ni kazn' u nego, --to malina / I shirokaia grud' osetina." As is usual in Mandelshtam, the sense is highly compacted and elliptical, but the lines mean literally: "Whatever the execution, it's a raspberry / And the broad chest of an Ossete." Stalin, a Georgian, admired Georgian folklore and here seems to be imagining the sweet raspberry taste of each execution and puffing out his chest as if it proves himself once again a Georgian hero. MOTIF: translation.
11.33: kurva or "ribbon boule": see Darkbloom at 11.27n. Lowell translated Mandelshtam's phrase kurvu-Moskvu ("Moscow the Whore") as "Moscow's ribbon of boulevards" in his translation of the poem "Net, ne spriatat'sia mne ot velikoi mury" ("No, I won't hide behind the great nonsense") (written April 1931). Mandelshtam's "a ia ne risknu, / U kogo pod perchatkoi ne khvatit tepla, / Chtob ob'ekhat' vsiu kurvu-Moskvu" ("but I won't chance it, / There's not enough warmth inside my glove / To ride around the whole of Moscow the whore") becomes in Lowell's version: "I am not afraid-- / who has enough heat behind his gloves to hold the reins, / and ride around Moscow's ribbon of boulevards?" (New York Review of Books, 23 December 1965, p. 5). MOTIF: translation.
Alexey Sklyarenko also considers the raspberry theme and speaks "of Mandelshtam, the poet who is important in Ada, in my article "Flowers into Bloomers: Mistranslation as the Original Sin."

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