The stage would be empty when the curtain went up; then, after five heartbeats of theatrical suspense, something swept out of the wings, enormous and black, to the accompaniment of dervish drums... A black mask covered the upper part of his heavily bearded face. The unpleasant colossus kept strutting up and down the stage for a while, then the strut changed to the restless walk of a caged madman, then he whirled, and to a clash of cymbals in the orchestra and a cry of terror (perhaps faked) in the gallery, Mascodagama turned over in the air and stood on his head. (1.30)
In Chudo s loshad'mi ("The Miracle with Horses," 1934) Marina Tsvetaev compares the horses running around the square, as if it were a circus arena, to dervishi-kruzhily (the whirling dervishes):
Кружитесь, кружитесь, деревянные лошадки! Но лошадки не деревянные, должны бежать прямо. А эти: взбесились они, что ли, наконец, — кружатся, как дервиши-кружилы, с занесённой на сторону шеей, метя рыжей гривой по старым булыжникам старой площади, не щадя ни кабриолета, ни наездницы, стоящей на одеревенелых ногах, с судорожно вытянутыми руками и разметавшейся, пуще лошадиных, гривой.
...Поэт из Дворца Искусств восклицает: — «Адская скачка!»
The poet watching this "hellish gallop" exclaims: Adskaya skachka!
For the tango that Van dances on his hands he is given a partner, a Crimean cabaret dancer:
Fragile, red-haired 'Rita' (he never learned her real name), a pretty Karaite from Chufut Kale, where, she nostalgically said, the Crimean cornel, kizil', bloomed yellow among the arid rocks, bore an odd resemblance to Lucette as she was to look ten years later. During their dance, all Van saw of her were her silver slippers turning and marching nimbly in rhythm with the soles of his hands. He recouped himself at rehearsals, and one night asked her for an assignation. She indignantly refused, saying she adored her husband (the make-up fellow) and loathed England. (1.30)
According to Van, Rita's husband is a multiple agent:
Rumors, carefully and cleverly circulated by Mascodagama's friends, diverted speculations toward his being a mysterious visitor from beyond the Golden Curtain, particularly since at least half-a-dozen members of a large Good-will Circus Company that had come from Tartary just then (i.e., on the eve of the Crimean War) - three dancing girls, a sick old clown with his old speaking goat, and one of the dancers' husbands, a make-up man (no doubt, a multiple agent) - had already defected between France and England, somewhere in the newly constructed 'Chunnel.' (ibid.)
Marina Tsvetaev's husband, Sergey Efron, was a double agent (Speak, Memory, p. 220). She first met him in 1911, when both were the guests of Maximilian Voloshin in Koktebel, in the Crimea. Voloshin's first wife, Margarita Sabashnikov, is a namesake of Van's partner. Like Van's 'Rita,' Marina Tsvetaev's Nina (Barbarossa's wife who was made by her lover the minister of circuses and who loses the control of her yellow horses) is from the Crimea:
Под вечер Барбаросса сменял свой травяной ковёр и солнцепёк на обыкновенный стул и единственную свечку и, сидя за столом перед бутылкой, которая как только пустела — наполнялась, и как только наполнялась — пустела, рассказывал всем, кто хотел его слушать, одну и ту же историю, единственную в его жизни историю: о похищении им красавицы Нины.
— В Крыму, ты же, друг, знаешь, ночи — чёрные. Так вот, не видать было ни капли («буль-буль» глотка). А дороги, ты же знаешь, все идут вниз… (жидкость в бутылке тоже шла вниз)… конечно, есть и вверх, но тогда попадаем на макушку горы, а там — ничего нет, ничего, кроме ужасной скалы, напрочь лысой, с орлом на ней, выклёвывающим глаза. Стало быть, непременно надо было выбирать те, что вели вниз, коли решили попасть в… Вот и не помню теперь, куда. В общем туда, откуда можно было бы уехать, коли я её похищал. А! я догадался: те, что идут вниз — смекаешь? — ведут к морю, а те, что вверх — понял? — ведут в горы. А коль скоро мы решили сесть на пароход, так?— то непременно надо было, чтобы была вода… Но шофёр был напрочь пьян… Напрочь… пьян. А машина уносилась… С Ниной внутри… И Нина тоже уносилась, потому что ради меня бросила отца с матерью… (Умиление, долгое «буль-буль».) Так вот, машина уносилась, с Ниной, которая уносилась, внутри… И ты не поверишь, как она неслась, эта машина! А ночь чёрная, и дороги убегают, а колёса не поспевают, и шофёр пьян, пьян, как чёрная ночь!
The eagle that lives on the top of a mountain and pecks out one's eyes brings to mind Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis whom Van blinds with an alpenstock (2.11). According to Barbarossa (the red-bearded poet Ivan Rukavishnikov who likes to tell the story of Nina's abduction), the driver of the car that carried Nina seaward was "drunk, as the black night." Because Revolution smashed all glasses, Barbarossa drinks straight from the bottle:
И вот: рыжее на зелёном, пламя на изумруде — борода на траве: муж Нины — мечтал. Мечтал и попивал прямо из бутылки — Революция перебила все стаканы, а Реставрации, этой великой возместительницы и латальщицы, ещё не было — пил взаправду «прямо из», совсем как младенец пьёт молоко, и столь же — даже более — жадно. Точно борода возбуждала в нём жажду.
Butylka (Russ., bottle) brings to mind Bouteillan, the French butler at Ardis whose name comes from bouteille (Fr., bottle). In several scenes we see Bouteillan drive a car:
Marina came in a red motorcar of an early 'runabout' type, operated by the butler very warily as if it were some fancy variety of corkscrew. (1.13)
Van's black trunk and black suitcase, and black king-size dumbbells, were heaved into the back of the family motorcar; Bouteillan put on a captain's cap, too big for him, and grape-blue goggles; 'remouvez votre bottom, I will drive,' said Van - and the summer of 1884 was over.
'She rolls sweetly, sir,' remarked Bouteillan in his quaint old-fashioned English. 'Tous les pneus sont neufs, but, alas, there are many stones on the way, and youth drives fast. Monsieur should be prudent. The winds of the wilderness are indiscreet. Tel un lis sauvage confiant au désert -'
'Quite the old comedy retainer, aren't you?' remarked Van drily.
'Non, Monsieur,' answered Bouteillan, holding on to his cap. 'Non. Tout simplement j'aime bien Monsieur et sa demoiselle.'
'If,' said Van, 'you're thinking of little Blanche, then you'd better quote Delille not to me, but to your son, who'll knock her up any day now,'
The old Frenchman glanced at Van askance, pozheval gubami (chewed his lips), but said nothing. (1.25)
Demon (whose "new car sounds wonderful") compares Bouteillan to his native wine:
'Bonsoir, Bouteillan. You look as ruddy as your native vine - but we are not getting any younger, as the amerlocks say, and that pretty messenger of mine must have been waylaid by some younger and more fortunate suitor.'
'Proshu, papochka (please, Dad),' murmured Van, who always feared that his father's recondite jests might offend a menial - while sinning himself by being sometimes too curt.
But - to use a hoary narrational turn - the old Frenchman knew his former master too well to be bothered by gentlemanly humor. His hand still tingled nicely from slapping Blanche's compact young bottom for having garbled Mr Veen's simple request and broken a flower vase. (1.38)
When Demon asks Van if he likes the girls of Blanche's type, Van prefers to tell a lie:
'- Well, I'm resting after my torrid affair, in London, with my tango-partner whom you saw me dance with when you flew over for that last show - remember?'
'Indeed, I do. Curious, you calling it that.'
'I think, sir, you've had enough brandy.' (ibid.)
A Torrid Afair is the title of Marina's only cinema hit:
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. (ibid.)
Marina had a brief romance with G. A. Vronsky, the movie man (who probably directed her cinema hit). In Tolstoy's Anna Karenin Vronski is Anna's lover. At the races with Vronski's participation Anna's husband tells Betsy Tverskoy: Moya skachka trudnee ("My race is more difficult"). One is reminded of adskaya skachka (the hellish gallop) in Marina Tsvetaev's story.
Marina Tsvetaev's Barbarossa drinks vodka even more avidly than an infant drinks moloko (milk). But then 'everyone has his own taste,' as the British writer Richard Leonard Churchill mistranslates a trite French phrase (chacun à son gout) twice in the course of his novel about a certain Crimean Khan once popular with reporters and politicians, 'A Great Good Man' - according, of course, to the cattish and prejudiced Guillaume Monparnasse about whose new celebrity Ada, while dipping the reversed corolla of one hand in a bowl, was now telling Demon, who was performing the same rite in the same graceful fashion. (ibid.)
moloko + Sosso + sedlo + lait = molokosos + sosed + Lolita (Sosso - Khan Sosso, the current ruler of the Golden Horde; sedlo - saddle; lait - Fr., milk; molokosos greenhorn; sosed - neighbor)
Rita is also a character in VN's Lolita. Demon's aunt Kitty ("who married the Banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy, the writer") had a ranch near Lolita, Texas:
You had gone to Boston to see an old aunt - a cliché, but the truth for the nonce - and I had gone to my aunt's ranch near Lolita, Texas. (1.2)
Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Lolita, Texas: this town exists, or, rather, existed, for it has been renamed, I believe, after the appearance of the notorious novel.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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