NABOKV-L post 0011564, Sun, 26 Jun 2005 15:56:07 -0700

Fw: Eco´s Queen Loana, Speak Memory and Ada - J-3

----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: don barton johnson
Sent: Sunday, June 26, 2005 10:53 AM
Subject: Fw: Eco´s Queen Loana, Speak Memory and Ada - J-3

This is the third time I mail you this posting.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2005 9:07 PM
Subject: Fw: Eco´s Queen Loana, Speak Memory and Ada - J-2

----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:18 PM
Subject: Eco´s Queen Loana, Speak Memory and Ada

Dear List,

Prompted by Umberto Eco´s reminiscent mood and his reference to children´s books I ended up with ADA´s explorations in the attic of Ardis, with a misterious link between two names, Nicolette and Pimpernel ( Nicolas and Primprenelle) - and now quite distant from Eco.

Thanks to "google" I was able to discover the name of Baroness E. Orczy, who created The Scarlet Pimpernel series. Among the list of her other works and several Pimpernel adventures there was a reference to both Pimpernel and Nicolette as the only works to have been published by her in 1922 : "Nicolette: A Tale of Old Provence" and "The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel" (1922)

The year of 1922 is very important in ADA: not only Andrey Vinelander dies, but Van begins to write his essay on Time and both he and Ada are finally reunited.

Although a reference to future events which would take place in 1922 being made while the two children are exploring the attic in 1884 would be in the spirit of "Ada"´s circular time and VN´s favouring prolepsis, I still think that Nabokov´s mention to Nicolette and Pimpernel in relation to children´s books written by Mme Orczy is too complicated and far-fetched. And yet, with time in my hands and the "google" I decided to pursue it further.

According to the Sunday supplement of a newspaper that had just begun to feature on its funnies page the now long defunct Goodnight Kids, Nicky and Pimpernella (sweet siblings who shared a narrow bed), and that had survived with other old papers in the cockloft of Ardis Hall, the Veen-Durmanov wedding took place on St Adelaida's Day, 1871. Twelve years and some eight months later, two naked children, one dark-haired and tanned, the other dark-haired and milk-white, bending in a shaft of hot sunlight that slanted through the dormer window under which the dusty cartons stood, happened to collate that date (December 16, 1871) with another (August 16, same year) anachronistically scrawled in Marina's hand across the corner of a professional photograph (in a raspberry-plush frame on her husband's kneehole library table) identical in every detail - including the commonplace sweep of a bride's ectoplasmic veil, partly blown by a parvis breeze athwart the groom's trousers - to the newspaper reproduction. A girl was born on July 21, 1872, at Ardis, her putative father's seat in Ladore County, and for some obscure mnemonic reason was registered as Adelaida. Another daughter, this time Dan's very own, followed on January 3, 1876.
Besides that old illustrated section of the still existing but rather gaga Kaluga Gazette, our frolicsome Pimpernel and Nicolette found in the same attic a reel box containing what turned out to be (according to Kim, the kitchen boy, as will be understood later) a tremendous stretch of microfilm taken by the globetrotter....(NB: globetrotter "Uncle" Dan)

The first reference in ADA to the year of 1922 appears in connection to uncle Dan and one day after the Burning Barn. Uncle Dan was also later described as dressing a cartoonlike striped shirt ( like the drawings of the Goodnight kids?) and read newspapers assiduosly. He is also associated to a baguenaudier plant.
"but I was not obliged (mused Van, in 1922, when he saw those baguenaudier flowers again) to stand his chinless profile with its curly red sideburn..."

The cycle of Van´s meetings with ADA are described here:
"He liked composing his works (Illegible Signatures, 1895; Clairvoyeurism, 1903; Furnished Space, 1913; The Texture of Time, begun 1922), in mountain refuges, and in the drawing rooms of great expresses, and on the sun decks of white ships, and on the stone tables of Latin public parks(...) He would realize all at once that three, seven, thirteen years, in one cycle of separation, and then four, eight, sixteen, in yet another, had elapsed since he had last embraced, held, bewept Ada".
Van muses about time: "The Past, then, is a constant accumulation of images (...) It is now a generous chaos out of which the genius of total recall, summoned on this summer morning in 1922, can pick anything he pleases: diamonds scattered allover the parquet in 1888; a russet black-hatted beauty at a Parisian bar in 1901; a humid red rose among artificial ones in 1883 (...) Does the coloration of a recollected object (or anything else about its visual effect) differ from date to date? Could I tell by its tint if it comes earlier or later, lower or higher, in the stratigraphy of my past?"

The two kids which were compared to Van and Ada in their explorations of the Ardis Attic were told stories before bed-time by a big bear called Nounours.
Beside the symbolism of the bear, the suggestion of the Goodnight-kids ( Bonne nuit les petits: Pimprenelle et Nicolas ) point to two different plants ( primprenelle and pimpernel), a botanical fact of which VN would certainly be aware. Cf. his lines quoted above as "our frolicsome Pimpernel and Nicolette" and "the now long defunct Goodnight Kids, Nicky and Pimpernella", instead of Pimprenelle....

The Primprenelle is a rosacean "Poterium sanguisorba" ("salad burnet) while the Scarlet Pimpernel - also known as Shepherd's Barometer. Poor Man's Weatherglass. Adder's Eyes or (Old English) Bipinella - is a Primulaceae, "Anagallis arvensis".

The third plant, the "baguenaudier" was brought together by the link "Uncle Dan´s objects in the attic" ( would there be a "locked chest" there too?)and "1922".

This plant comes from a "bladder-senna tree" and seems to be important for butterflies. It also gives name to a mathematical puzzle "involving disentangling a set of rings from a looped double rod, originally used by French peasants to lock chests (Steinhaus 1999)" . The word "baguenaudier" means "time-waster" in French, and the puzzle is also called the Chinese rings or Devil's needle puzzle".

Is this exploit also a "time-waster" baguenaudier hinting at a closed chest in the attic?