At Chose (Vans English University) Van begins to perform in variety shows as Mascodagama. Van (who dances on his hands) compares Mascodagamas stunt to Adas castle of cards:


We devote so much space to the description of his act not only because variety artists of the 'eccentric' race are apt to be forgotten especially soon, but also because one wishes to analyze its thrill. Neither a miraculous catch on the cricket field, nor a glorious goal slammed in at soccer (he was a College Blue in both those splendid games), nor earlier physical successes, such as his knocking out the biggest bully on his first day at Riverlane School, had ever given Van the satisfaction Mascodagama experienced. It was not directly related to the warm breath of fulfilled ambition, although as a very old man, looking back at a life of unrecognized endeavor, Van did welcome with amused delight - more delight than he had actually felt at the time - the banal acclaim and the vulgar envy that swirled around him for a short while in his youth. The essence of the satisfaction belonged rather to the same order as the one he later derived from self-imposed, extravagantly difficult, seemingly absurd tasks when V.V. sought to express something, which until expressed had only a twilight being (or even none at all - nothing but the illusion of the backward shadow of its imminent expression). It was Ada's castle of cards. It was the standing of a metaphor on its head not for the sake of the trick's difficulty, but in order to perceive an ascending waterfall or a sunrise in reverse: a triumph, in a sense, over the ardis of time. Thus the rapture young Mascodagama derived from overcoming gravity was akin to that of artistic revelation in the sense utterly and naturally unknown to the innocents of critical appraisal, the social-scene commentators, the moralists, the ideamongers and so forth. Van on the stage was performing organically what his figures of speech were to perform later in life - acrobatic wonders that had never been expected from them and which frightened children. (1.30)


According to Ada, she was building not a castle of cards, but a Pompeian Villa:


'Fine,' said Van, 'that's certainly fascinating; but I was thinking of the first time you might have suspected I was also a sick pig or horse. I am recalling,' he continued, 'the round table in the round rosy glow and you kneeling next to me on a chair. I was perched on the chair's swelling arm and you were building a house of cards, and your every movement was magnified, of course, as in a trance, dream-slow but also tremendously vigilant, and I positively reveled in the girl odor of your bare arm and in that of your hair which now is murdered by some popular perfume. I date the event around June 10 - a rainy evening less than a week after my first arrival at Ardis.'

'I remember the cards,' she said, 'and the light and the noise of the rain, and your blue cashmere pullover - but nothing else, nothing odd or improper, that came later. Besides, only in French love stories les messieurs hument young ladies.'

'Well, I did while you went on with your delicate work. Tactile magic. Infinite patience. Fingertips stalking gravity. Badly bitten nails, my sweet. Forgive these notes, I cannot really express the discomfort of bulky, sticky desire. You see I was hoping that when your castle toppled you would make a Russian splash gesture of surrender and sit down on my hand.'

'It was not a castle. It was a Pompeian Villa with mosaics and paintings inside, because I used only court cards from Grandpa's old gambling packs. Did I sit down on your hot hard hand?'

'On my open palm, darling. A pucker of paradise. You remained still for a moment, fitting my cup. Then you rearranged your limbs and reknelt.'

'Quick, quick, quick, collecting the flat shining cards again to build again, again slowly? We were abominably depraved, weren't we?'

'All bright kids are depraved. I see you do recollect -'

'Not that particular occasion, but the apple tree, and when you kissed my neck, et tout le reste. And then - zdravstvuyte: apofeoz, the Night of the Burning Barn!' (1.18)


Pompeya (Pompeii, 1891) is a poem by Merezhkovski, Italyanskaya villa (The Italian Villa, 1837) is a poem by Tyutchev. The phrase et tout le reste used by Ada occurs in the last line of Verlaines poem Art Potique (1885): Et tout le reste est littrature (And all the rest is literature). Verlaines poem begins: De la musique avant toute chose (Of music before everything). The first and the last lines of Verlaines poem were used by Shestov as the epigraph to Vlast idey (The Power of Ideas, 1905), a review of Merezhkovskis Tolstoy and Dostoevski (1902). Shestov is the author of Potestas Clavium (Power of the Keys, 1923). Russian for key and clue, klyuch also means spring, source. In that sense the word klyuchi (pl. of klyuch) is used by Tyutchev in Silentium! (1835):


٧ӧѧ, ӧ٧ާڧ ܧݧ, C
ڧѧۧ ڧާ C ާݧ.


Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.


Vans stage name hints at Vasco da Gama, the navigator who discovered the sea route from Portugal across the continent of Africa to India. Tyutchev is the author of Kolumb (Columbus, 1844).


Silentium is Greg Erminins motorcycle on which he arrives at the picnic on Adas sixteenth birthday (1.39). Greg Erminin is Jewish. And so were Lev Shestov (Jehuda Leyb Shvartsman, 1866-1938) and Osip Mandelshtam (1891-1938), the poet who also wrote Silentium (1910). Mandelshtams poem ends in the lines:


ѧߧ ֧ߧ, էڧ,

, ݧӧ, ާ٧ܧ ӧ֧ߧڧ,

, ֧է, ֧է էڧ,

֧ӧߧӧ اڧ٧ߧ ݧڧ!


Stay as foam Aphrodite C Art C
and return, Word, where music begins:
and, fused with lifes origins,
be ashamed heart, of heart!


In his poem V neprinuzhdyonnosti tvoryashchego obmena (In the Ease of Creative Exchange 1908) Mandelshtam asks who could combine Tyutchevs severity with Verlaines childishness giving to the combination his own stamp:


ߧ֧ڧߧاէ֧ߧߧ ӧ֧ԧ ҧާ֧ߧ

ӧ ֧ӧ ֧ҧ֧ӧ ֧ݧߧ

ܧѧاڧ ܧ ҧ ާ ڧܧߧ ֧ѧ,

֧էڧߧ֧ߧڧ ڧէѧ ӧ ֧ѧ?

ܧާ ڧ ѧ ӧۧӧ֧ߧߧ ӧ֧ݧڧ,

է ӧ֧ߧڧ ֧ݧ ֧ҧ֧ѧߧ ڧ!


Alexey Sklyarenko

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