The details of the L disaster (and I do not mean Elevated) in the beau milieu of last century, which had the singular effect of both causing and cursing the notion of 'Terra,' are too well-known historically, and too obscene spiritually, to be treated at length in a book addressed to young laymen and lemans - and not to grave men or gravemen.

Of course, today, after anti-L years of reactionary delusion have gone by (more or less!) and our sleek little machines, Faragod bless them, hum again after a fashion, as they did in the first half of the nineteenth century, the mere geographic aspect of the affair possesses its redeeming comic side, like those patterns of brass marquetry, and bric--Braques, and the ormolu horrors that meant 'art' to our humorless forefathers. For, indeed, none can deny the presence of something highly ludicrous in the very configurations that were solemnly purported to represent a varicolored map of Terra. (1.3)

 

The Antiterran L disaster seems to correspond to the mock execution of Dostoevski and the Petrashevskians that in our world happened on Jan. 3, 1850 (NS), right in the middle of the 19th century. L is Lucettes initial, and Lucette (Vans and Adas half-sister) was born on Jan. 3, 1876. On the other hand, L in the mysterious disasters name seems to hint at electricity (which was banned on Antiterra, aka Demonia, after the L disaster).

 

In Vlast idey (The Power of Ideas, 1905), a review of the second volume of Merezhkovskis Tolstoy and Dostoevski (1902), Lev Shestov quotes in full Zinaida Hippius poem Elektrichestvo (Electricity):

 

֧֧ ڧ, ߧѧܧߧ֧, ק ا ݧ֧էߧڧ ڧߧ֧ . ֧֧اܧӧܧԧ? ߧ֧ԧ ߧ ӧ ֧ ֧ߧ ֧է֧ݧקߧߧ ӧ֧: ק էԧ, ߧ֧ߧ ֧ԧ ֧ܧߧ ߧ֧ݧ٧. ا ߧѧѧݧ 5- ԧݧѧӧ ڧӧէڧ ڧӧ֧ߧڧ .. ڧڧ - "ݧ֧ܧڧ֧ӧ", ڧӧ֧ߧڧ, ܧ ֧ާ ܧѧا֧ է ѧܧ ֧֧ߧ ݧߧ էѧߧ ӧѧاѧڧ ֧ԧ ߧӧߧ ާݧ, ٧ѧܧݧڧ֧ݧߧ ֧ԧ ܧ ڧڧ֧ է է֧ ѧ. ڧӧ֧ߧڧ ߧ֧ҧݧ, ֧ԧ ڧӧ֧է ֧ݧڧܧ ӧӧڧէ ٧ߧѧڧ֧ݧߧ ݧ, ܧ ߧ ڧԧѧ֧ ܧߧڧԧ . ֧֧اܧӧܧԧ.

 

ӧ ߧڧ ӧާ֧ ӧڧ,
ߧ ҧߧѧا֧ߧ.
"է" "ߧ֧" ߧ ݧڧ,
ݧڧ - ݧ֧֧ߧ.
קާߧ ݧ֧֧ߧ
֧ߧ ާ֧ӧ;
اէק ڧ ӧܧ֧֧ߧ,
اէ ߧ ֧ԧ:
ߧ ڧܧߧ,
ߧ "է" "ߧ֧".
"է", "ߧ֧" ݧ,
ާ֧ ڧ ҧէ֧ ӧ֧. (chapter VI)

 

As pointed out by Shestov (the philosopher whose penname comes from shest, six), in his book Merezhkovski (Hippius husband) quotes up to ten times the poems closing lines: and yes and no will merge, / and their death will be a light. The title of Shestovs essay hints at Tolstoys play Vlast tmy (The Power of Darkness, 1887) C but also brings to mind Vlast zemli (The Power of the Land, 1882), a collection of sketches by Gleb Uspenski (1843-1902), the writer who, like poor Garshin (the author of Four Days and The Red Flower), went mad. Terra is Latin for land. Aqua (Marinas poor mad twin sister) passionately believed in the existence of Terra (Demonias twin planet):

 

Actually, Aqua was less pretty, and far more dotty, than Marina. During her fourteen years of miserable marriage she spent a broken series of steadily increasing sojourns in sanatoriums. A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth - say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia - as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs. She had plans at one time to seek a modicum of health ('just a little grayishness, please, instead of the solid black') in such Anglo-American protectorates as the Balkans and Indias, and might even have tried the two Southern Continents that thrive under our joint dominion. Of course, Tartary, an independent inferno, which at the time spread from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean, was touristically unavailable, though Yalta and Altyn Tagh sounded strangely attractive... But her real destination was Terra the Fair and thither she trusted she would fly on libellula long wings when she died. (1.3)

 

Shestovs essay has for epigraph the opening and closing lines of Paul Verlaines poem Art Potique (1885):

 

De la musique avant toute chose...
Et tout le reste est littrature.

 

Of music before everything

And all the rest is literature.

 

Chose (Fr., thing) is Vans English University (1.28, et passim). One of Vans Professors there is old Paar of Chose:

 

As Van Veen himself was to find out, at the time of his passionate research in terrology (then a branch of psychiatry) even the deepest thinkers, the purest philosophers, Paar of Chose and Zapater of Aardvark, were emotionally divided in their attitude toward the possibility that there existed a distortive glass of our distorted glebe as a scholar who desires to remain unnamed has put it with such euphonic wit. (Hm! Kveree-kveree, as poor Mlle L. used to say to Gavronsky. In Ada's hand.) (1.3)

 

Paar of Chose and old Paar (as he is referred to elsewhere) hint at the phrase old pair of shoes that brings to mind Bashmachkin, the main character in Gogols story Shinel (The Overcoat, 1841) whose surname comes from bashmak (shoe). According to a phrase attributed to Dostoevski , we all [the Russian novelists] came out from Gogols Overcoat.

 

Tolstoys and Uspenkis first names, Lev (Leo) and Gleb, bring to mind Lev Glebovich Ganin, the main character in VNs first novel Mashenka (Mary, 1926). Vans juvenile novel Letters from Terra (2.2) looks like a parody of Dostoevskis first novel (written in an epistolary form) Bednye Lyudi (Poor Folk, 1846) and of VNs own Mashenka. Vans penname, Voltemand, hints at the courtier in Shakespeares Hamlet C but also suggests volte-face (a turnabout, reversal of opinion or policy; at Chose Van begins to perform in variety shows dancing on his hands), a term that brings to mind salto mortale and leaps of thought mentioned by Shestov in the same chapter (practically in the same paragraph) of his review of Merezhkovskis book:

 

٧ѧԧݧڧ ֧ҧ ڧէߧ ֧ڧ֧ܧ ܧ, . ֧֧اܧӧܧڧ ҧ֧ܧߧ֧ߧ ӧ֧ "ݧ֧ܧڧ֧ӧ", ߧ ҧѧاѧ, ާߧԧܧѧߧ ֧ߧڧ էѧا ߧ֧ߧ ڧѧ֧ݧ ާا֧ էԧѧէѧ, "ݧ֧ܧڧ֧ӧ" - ݧѧҧѧ ӧ֧. է֧اѧߧڧ "ݧ֧ܧڧ֧ӧ" ا ӧڧէߧ, ܧѧܧڧ "ӧӧէ" էҧڧӧѧ֧ . ֧֧اܧӧܧڧ. էҧߧ ӧ֧ ڧէ֧ѧݧڧѧ, ҧ֧اէק, ٧ӧѧߧڧ ڧѧ֧ݧ ҧ٧ӧѧ֧ ֧ԧ է֧ݧѧ ٧ߧѧާ֧ߧڧ salto mortale, - ֧֧ܧڧ ֧֧ ӧ اڧ٧ߧ ӧ֧ݧ ڧէ֧. salto mortale ѧاѧ֧ ݧܧ ѧܧҧѧ. է֧ ߧ ѧާ է֧ݧ ѧߧߧ ا ٧ѧѧӧݧ֧ ҧڧ ֧ݧӧ֧֧ܧڧ ֧է. ҧڧާ ٧ ާ֧ݧԧ ԧڧާߧѧ ֧ߧקߧߧ էѧߧڧ֧ ݧ֧էڧ ٧ ֧ԧ էӧڧا֧ߧڧާ. ҧݧѧ ا ާݧ اܧ - ѧާ ҧ֧٧ѧߧ, ާ ާѧݧ ߧ ܧԧ է֧ۧӧڧ ڧק. էѧا ҧ֧ѧߧڧ ӧ֧, ܧѧا֧, ߧڧܧԧ ا ߧ ֧ݧѧ֧. ا, ܧݧܧ ѧ ߧѧ ا ԧӧڧݧ ӧ֧, ܧѧ ҧ ߧѧ ֧ݧ, ߧ ӧ֧ާ ֧ܧѧڧݧڧ ӧ֧ݧ ѧ٧ԧӧ!

 

Voltemands novel is negatively reviewed by the First Clown in Elsinore (a distinguished London weekly). VNs novels Mashenka, Korol, dama, valet (King, Queen, Knave, 1928) and Zashchita Luzhina (The Luzhin Defense, 1930) were criticized by G. Ivanov (a good poet who wrote bad prose, including Raspad atoma, Disintegration of an Atom, 1938, a little book highly praised by Merezhkovski) in an offensive article. As a poet Ivanov was especially influenced by Blok and Hippius. One of his poems, Ni svetlym imenem bogov (Neither in the Bright Name of Gods 1931), is an elaboration of Hippius Electricity:

 

ӧ֧ݧ ڧާ֧ߧ֧ ҧԧ,

קާߧ ڧާ֧ߧ֧ ڧէ!

... ڧ ҧ֧֧ԧ

ާ է֧֧ӧ, ݧ֧ ӧէ..

 

ڧ ݧӧѧ֧, ܧѧ ӧ֧,

ݧѧާ ѧݧ ҧاڧԧѧ֧.

֧ާ֧ߧ ާ٧ܧ ٧ӧ,

ڧڧ ԧڧҧѧ֧.

ާ ا ߧ ާ, ӧ֧.

է ا ߧ է, ߧ֧.

 

... ߧ ӧѧߧ ڧ ԧҧ

ߧ ӧ֧ߧ ҧݧ ӧҧէ

ӧ֧ݧ ڧާ֧ߧ֧ ҧԧ,

קާߧ ڧާ֧ߧ֧ ڧէ!

 

ߧ ֧ܧѧߧ, ާԧݧ.

ߧ ا ߧ ڧߧ.

ҧ ٧ݧ, էҧ ٧ݧ

ߧ֧ ߧ֧ѧ٧ӧߧ ݧڧߧ.

ҧ ٧ݧ, էҧ ٧ݧ

ާ, ѧܧѧݧ֧ߧߧ էҧ֧ݧ.

 

And darkness isnt darkness anymore, but light.

And yes is not anymore yes, but no.

 

In his poem Ivanov compares the world to a candle and mentions its immortal music. In another poem Ivanov (whom VN used to call shuler, a cardsharp) stole Grigoriy Landaus aphorism primer tavtologii: bednye lyudi (an example of tautology: poor people). Bednye lyudi is the title of Dostoevskis first novel. On the other hand, in the old Russian alphabet the letter L was called lyudi. Thus, in a draft of Pushkins Eugene Onegin Tatiana Larin signs her letter to Onegin (written in French) with her initials: Tvyordo, Lyudi.

 

At Chose Van plays poker with a shuler:

 

'Same here, Dick,' said Van. 'Pity you had to rely on your crystal balls. I have often wondered why the Russian for it - I think we have a Russian ancestor in common - is the same as the German for "schoolboy," minus the umlaut' - and while prattling thus, Van refunded with a rapidly written check the ecstatically astonished Frenchmen. Then he collected a handful of cards and chips and hurled them into Dick's face. The missiles were still in flight when he regretted that cruel and commonplace bewgest, for the wretched fellow could not respond in any conceivable fashion, and just sat there covering one eye and examining his damaged spectacles with the other - it was also bleeding a little - while the French twins were pressing upon him two handkerchiefs which he kept good-naturedly pushing away. Rosy aurora was shivering in green Serenity Court. Laborious old Chose. (1.28)

 

Avrora (Aurora, 1934) is a story by G. Ivanov. At the end of his poem Vzdokhni, vzdokhni eshchyo, chtob dushu vzvolnovat (Sigh, sigh again so as to agitate the soul) Ivanov mentions roses that cold aurora sheds from the darkness:

 

ѧ ԧڧҧ֧ݧ اէ֧ߧ, ԧڧҧѧ֧ ާ

ԧҧ ݧاڧӧ, ٧ ݧߧ ӧ٧,

ӧ֧, ݧק, ٧, ڧ ާ

ڧ ݧէߧѧ ӧ...

 

Green Serenity Court brings to mind Sirin, VNs Russian nom de plume.

 

Alexey Sklyarenko

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