Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026921, Fri, 25 Mar 2016 16:46:00 +0300

cart de van, zhidovskaya prerogativa & Three Swans in Ada
Lemorio's agents, an elderly couple, unwed but having lived as man and man
for a sufficiently long period to warrant a silver-screen anniversary,
remained unsplit at table between Yuzlik, who never once spoke to them, and
Van, who was being tortured by Dorothy. As to Andrey (who made a thready
'sign of the cross' over his un-unbuttonable abdomen before necking in his
napkin), he found himself seated between sister and wife. He demanded the
'cart de van' (affording the real Van mild amusement), but, being a
hard-liquor man, cast only a stunned look at the 'Swiss White' page of the
wine list before 'passing the buck' to Ada who promptly ordered champagne.
He was to inform her early next morning that her 'Kuzen proizvodit
(produces) udivitel'no simpatichnoe vpechatlenie (a remarkably sympathetic,
in the sense of "fetching," impression),' The dear fellow's verbal apparatus
consisted almost exclusively of remarkably sympathetic Russian common-places
of language, but - not liking to speak of himself - he spoke little,
especially since his sister's sonorous soliloquy (lapping at Van's rock)
mesmerized and childishly engrossed him. Dorothy preambled her long-delayed
report on her pet nightmare with a humble complaint ('Of course, I know that
for your patients to have bad dreams is a zhidovskaya prerogativa'), but her
reluctant analyst's attention every time it returned to her from his plate
fixed itself so insistently on the Greek cross of almost ecclesiastical size
shining on her otherwise unremarkable chest that she thought fit to
interrupt her narrative (which had to do with the eruption of a dream
volcano) to say: 'I gather from your writings that you are a terrible cynic.
Oh, I quite agree with Simone Traser that a dash of cynicism adorns a real
man; yet I'd like to warn you that I object to anti-Orthodox jokes in case
you intend making one.' (3.8)

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): cart de van: Amer., mispronunciation of carte
des vins; zhidovskaya: Russ. (vulg.), Jewish.

In his essay Ubiytsa lebedey (“The Slayer of Swans,” 1916) Merezhkovski
quotes Prospero’s words (“…We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and
our little life / Is rounded with a sleep”) in Shakespeare’s Tempest (Act
IV, scene 1) and says that war is a bad dream of mankind:

Когда-нибудь, поверь, настанет день,

Когда все эти чудные виденья,

И храмы, и роскошные дворцы,

И тучами увенчанные башни,

И самый наш великий шар земной,

Со всем, что в нём находится поныне,

Исчезнет всё, следа не оставляя.

И сами мы вещественны, как сны,

Из нас самих родятся сновиденья,

И наша жизнь лишь сном окружена.

Жизнь ― сон. Сны бывают дурные и хорошие. В
ойна ― дурной сон человечества.

Life is a dream. Dreams can be bad and good. War is a bad dream of mankind.

In his article Lev Tolstoy i tserkov’ ("Leo Tolstoy and the Church," 1908)
Merezhkovsky compares Tolstoy (the author of “War and Peace,” 1869) to the
greatest of volcanoes and the most intoxicating and sparkling of wines:

А то какие мы ни на есть ?литературные мер
завцы?, но и нам иногда смотреть тошно, как
самый огромный из вулканов превращают в к
акую-то безопасно коптящую курилку, самое
пьяное, играющее из вин ― в какую-то выдох
шую зельтерскую воду.

According to Merezhkovski, the Orthodox Church wants to transform the
greatest volcano into a safely smoking censer and the most intoxicating and
sparkling wine into a seltzer water.

Btw., Jesus Christ (who, they say, could turn water into wine) was Jewish.

In his essay Vlast’ idey (“The Power of Ideas,” 1905), a review of
Merezhkovski’s book “Tolstoy and Dostoevski” (1902), the philosopher Lev
Shestov (who was Jewish) says that he always hoped that Merezhkovski would
be the first writer to demand for prose the magna charta libertatis which is
long considered poetry’s neosporimaya prerogativa (indisputable

Я всегда надеялся, что г. Мережковский, ск
орей чем кто-нибудь другой, решится требо
вать и для прозы той magna charta libertatis, которая
уже давно считается неоспоримой прерогат
ивой поэзии. (II)

The name Shestov (assumed by Jehuda Leyb Shvartsman) comes from shest’
(six). At the dinner in the Bellevue Hotel there are seven people (Lemorio's
agents, Yuzlik, Van, Andrey and Dorothy Vinelander, Ada). 6 + 7 = 13. In
Merezhkovski’s “The Slayer of Swans” (a parable that begins with a
retelling of Villier de l’Iisle Adam’s Le Tueur de Cygnes) there are
thirteen birds (at night twelve of them are asleep and the thirteenth black
swan is on the guard):

Изучая естественные науки, знаменитый до
ктор Трибулá Бономе узнал, что лебеди пою
т, умирая. И ему захотелось послушать эту

В дремучем, покинутом парке, под тенью век
овых деревьев, нашёл он древний, священны
й пруд, где двенадцать тихих птиц скользи
ли по тёмному зеркалу вод. Чёрный лебедь с
торожил их по ночам, бодрствуя, с широко о
ткрытыми глазами; в длинном, розовом клюв
е он держал гладкий камень, который ронял
в воду при малейшей тревоге, и, услышав па
дение, разлетались лебеди.

In Mont Roux Van puts up at Les Trois Cygnes (The Three Swans):

arriving mont roux bellevue sunday

dinnertime adoration sorrow rainbows

Van got this bold cable with his breakfast on Saturday, October 10, 1905, at
the Manhattan Palace in Geneva, and that same day moved to Mont Roux at the
opposite end of the lake. He put up there at his usual hotel, Les Trois
Cygnes. (3.8)

In the lounge of Les Trois Cygnes there is an oil (replaced by another
painting when Van revisits the hotel in 1922) showing three ample-haunched

In the lounge, as seen through its entrance, the huge memorable oil - three
ample-haunched Ledas swapping lacustrine impressions - had been replaced by
a neoprimitive masterpiece showing three yellow eggs and a pair of plumber's
gloves on what looked like wet bathroom tiling. (Part Four)

In Merezhkovski’s “Slayer of the Swans” Dr Tribulat Bonhomet wears a pair
of steel gloves:

Однажды в осеннюю тёмную ночь, томимый бе
ссонницей, Бономе встал и оделся в нарочн
о приготовленное платье: огромные гуттап
ерчевые сапоги на тёплой подкладке, продо
лжавшие, без швов, непромокаемую куртку, т
акую же тёплую, с парой стальных рукавиц,
средневековым доспехом рыцарским (он при
обрел его у продавца древностей).

Leda (1894) is a poem by Merezhkovski. It ends as follows:

И вот рождается Елена,

С невинной прелестью лица,

Но вся ― коварство, вся измена,

Белее, чем морская пена, ―

Из лебединого яйца.

И слышен вопль Гекубы в Трое

И Андромахи вечный стон:

Сразились боги и герои,

И пал священный Илион.

А ты, Елена, клятвы мира

И долг нарушив, ― ты чиста:

Тебя прославит песнь Омира,

Затем, что вся надежда мира ―

Дочь белой Леды ― Красота.

The daughter of Zeus and Leda, Helen was born from a swan’s egg. As he
implores Ada to leave her husband, Van mentions Helen of Troy:

As had been peculiar to his nature even in the days of his youth, Van was
apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappointment by means of bombastic
and arcane utterances which hurt like a jagged fingernail caught in satin,
the lining of Hell.

'Castle True, Castle Bright!' he now cried, 'Helen of Troy, Ada of Ardis!
You have betrayed the Tree and the Moth!'

'Perestagne (stop, cesse)!'

'Ardis the First, Ardis the Second, Tanned Man in a Hat, and now Mount
Russet -'

'Perestagne!' repeated Ada (like a fool dealing with an epileptic).

'Oh! Qui me rendra mon Hélène -'

'Ach, perestagne!'

'- et le phalène.'

'Je t'emplie ("prie" and "supplie"), stop, Van. Tu sais que j'en vais

'But, but, but' - (slapping every time his forehead) - 'to be on the very
brink of, of, of - and then have that idiot turn Keats!'

'Bozhe moy, I must be going. Say something to me, my darling, my only one,
something that might help!'

There was a narrow chasm of silence broken only by the rain drumming on the

'Stay with me, girl,' said Van, forgetting everything - pride, rage, the
convention of everyday pity. (3.8)

In an omitted stanza of Eugene Onegin (Five: XXXVII: 13-14) Pushkin says
that his Tanya is more endearing than Homer’s Helen. Onboard Admiral
Tobakoff Van tells Lucette that he loves her “with a brother’s love and
maybe still more tenderly” (3.5), an obvious allusion to Onegin’s words to
Tatiana in Pushkin’s EO (Four: XVI: 3-4). Just as Lucette (who is as
attractive as Pushkin’s Tatiana) is more endearing than Ada (whom Van pairs
with Helen of Troy), Ada’s husband is much more sympathetic than Van (kuzen
who “produces a remarkably fetching impression”).

cart de van + sostav + ad/da = caravan + detstvo + sad

sostav \xa8C composition; structure; staff; train

ad \xa8C hell

da \xa8C yes

detstvo \xa8C childhood

sad \xa8C garden

My previous post “Proustian bed & assassin pun in Ada” (I was finishing it
in haste) should end as follows:

One of Ada’s lovers is the composer Philip Rack, Lucette’s teacher of
music whose name hints at the Spanish Inquisition. In his essay “Pushkin”
Merezhkovski compares Dostoevski, “that demon of pity and torment,” to the
Grand Inquisitor (the hero of Ivan Karamazov’s “poem” in Dostoevski’s
Brothers Karamazov) and mentions adskaya pytka (an infernal torture):

Без того уже захудалые и полумёртвые русс
кие герои, русские сильные люди ― Базаров
и Марк Волохов ― оживут ещё раз в лице Рас
кольникова, Ивана Карамазова, в уродливых
видениях ?бесов?, чтобы подвергнуться пос
ледней казни, самой утончённой адской пыт
ке в страшных руках этого демона жалости
и мучительства, великого инквизитора ― До

Poisoned by his jealous wife, Philip Rack dies in agony in the Kalugano
hospital (1.42)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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