Before jumping to her death in the Atlantic, Lucette drinks three ‘Cossack ponies’ of Klass vodka:


She drank a 'Cossack pony' of Klass vodka - hateful, vulgar, but potent stuff; had another; and was hardly able to down a third because her head had started to swim like hell. Swim like hell from sharks, Tobakovich! (3.5)


Ada calls her and Van’s half-sister Lucette “pet:”


‘Pop in, pet (it all started with the little one letting wee winds go free at table, circa 1882). And you, Garden God, ring up room service — three coffees, half a dozen soft-boiled eggs, lots of buttered toast, loads of —’ (2.8)


In a letter of (conjecturally) Nov. 10-15, 1833, to A. S. Norov (a scholar and bibliophile) Pushkin asks Norov, if he has in his library “Perduil’yonis” (i. e. Stephanus Rasin Donicus Cosacus perduellis, publicae disquisitionis Johanno Iusto Martio i Schurtzfleisch, a Latin book on Stepan Razin, a rebellious Don Cossack, that appeared in 1674; second edition, Wittenberg, 1683):


Отсылаю тебе, любезный Норов, твоего «Стеньку»; завтра получишь Struys и одалиску. Нет ли у тебя сочинения Вебера о России («Возрастающая Россия» или что-то подобное)? а Пердуильонис, то есть: Stephanus Rasin Donicus Cosacus perduellis, publicae disquisitionis Johanno Iusto Martio i Schurtzfleisch.


Perduil’yonis is a play on perdet’ (vulg., “to fart”). In the same letter Pushkin promises Norov to send him odaliska (the odalisque) on the morrow. One is tempted to assume that this “odalisque” is Pushkin’s revised (or invented) folk song about the Persian Princess whom Stenka Razin throws overboard into the Volga:


Как по Волге-реке, по широкой
Выплывала востроносая лодка,
Как на лодке гребцы удалые,
Казаки, ребята молодые.
На корме сидит сам хозяин,
Сам хозяин, грозен Стенька Разин,
Перед ним красная девица,
Полоненная персидская царевна.
Не глядит Стенька Разин на царевну,
А глядит на матушку на Волгу.
Как промолвил грозен Стенька Разин:
«Ой ты гой еси, Волга, мать родная!
С глупых лет меня ты воспоила,
В долгу ночь баюкала, качала,
В волновую погоду выносила,
За меня ли молодца не дремала,
Казаков моих добром наделила.
Что ничем тебя еще мы не дарили».
Как вскочил тут грозен Стенька Разин,
Подхватил персидскую царевну,
В волны бросил красную девицу,
Волге-матушке ею поклонился.


A set of three songs about Stenka Razin composed by Pushkin in 1826 was first published in 1881. According to Van, Lucette let wee winds go free at table circa 1882. In 1882 Lucette (who was born on January 3, 1876) was six. Lucette commits suicide in 1901, at the age of twenty-five. In his essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (“Creation from Nothing,” 1905), Lev Shestov (the philosopher whose pseudonym comes from shest’, “six”) speaks of Chekhov’s almost twenty-five-year-long literary work:


Чтобы в двух словах определить его тенденцию, я скажу: Чехов был певцом безнадежности. Упорно, уныло, однообразно в течение всей своей почти 25-летней литературной деятельности Чехов только одно и делал: теми или иными способами убивал человеческие надежды. В этом, на мой взгляд, сущность его творчества.


According to Shestov, in the course of his almost twenty-five-year-long literary work Chekhov was stubbornly and methodically killing human hopes.


Chekhov is the author of “Ward Six.” At the Kalugano hospital (where Van recovers from the wound he received in a pistol duel with Captain Tapper) hopeless cases are kept in Ward Five (1.42). As he speaks to Demon, Van compares Dr Fitzbishop (the Kalugano surgeon who “messed up his job”) to a butcher:


'How's the wound?'

'Komsi-komsa. It now appears that the Kalugano surgeon messed up his job. The rip seam has grown red and raw, without any reason, and there's a lump in my armpit. I'm in for another spell of surgery - this time in London, where butchers carve so much better. Where's the mestechko here? Oh, I see it. Cute (a gentian painted on one door, a lady fern on the other: have to go to the herbarium).' (2.1)


In a suicide note written after Demon made him leave Ada Van mentions a butcher’s apron:


Do what he tells you. His logic sounds preposterous, prepsupposing [sic] a vague kind of 'Victorian' era, as they have on Terra according to 'my mad' [?], but in a paroxysm of [illegible] I suddenly realized he was right. Yes, right, here and there, not neither here, nor there, as most things are. You see, girl, how it is and must be. In the last window we shared we both saw a man painting [us?] but your second-floor level of vision probably prevented your seeing that he wore what looked like a butcher's apron, badly smeared. Good-bye, girl. (2.11)


Twelve years later, in 1905, Ada mentions the artist and his apron:


As to the apron, you are quite right. And what you did not make out was that the artist had about finished a large picture of your meek little palazzo standing between its two giant guards. Perhaps for the cover of a magazine, which rejected that picture. (ibid.)


Van’s little palazzo burnt down in 1919. According to Van, “rumor attributed the bright deed to the city fathers (three bearded elders and a blue-eyed young Mayor with a fabulous amount of front teeth), who could no longer endure their craving for the space that the solid dwarf occupied between two alabaster colossi; but instead of selling them the blackened area as expected, Van gleefully erected there his famous Lucinda Villa, a miniature museum just two stories high, with a still growing collection of microphotographed paintings from all public and private galleries in the world (not excluding Tartary) on one floor and a honeycomb of projection cells on the other: a most appetizing little memorial of Parian marble, administered by a considerable staff, guarded by three heavily armed stalwarts, and open to the public only on Mondays for a token fee of one gold dollar regardless of age or condition.” (2.1)


While fartuk (Russian for “apron”) consists of six letters, apron is a five-letter word. (cf. Chekhov’s “Ward Six” and Ward Five where poor Philip Rack, one of Ada’s lovers, dies).


There is fart in Fartukov, the Russian coachman in “Ardis the Second” whose name comes from fartuk. Trofim Fartukov replaced Ben Wright (“Bengal Ben”), the coachman in “Ardis the First” who is throughout associated with pets (farts):


A slight commotion took place on the box. Lucette turned around and spoke to Ada.

'I want to sit with you. Mne tut neudobno, i ot nego nehorosho pakhnet (I'm uncomfortable here, and he does not smell good).'

'We'll be there in a moment,' retorted Ada, 'poterpi (have a little patience).'

'What's the matter?' asked Mlle Larivière.

'Nothing, Il pue.'

'Oh dear! I doubt strongly he ever was in that Rajah's service,' (1.13)


In his essay Texture of Time Van mentions two memorable coachmen, Ben Wright and Trofim Fartukov:


The main difficulty, I hasten to explain, consists in the experimenter not being able to use the same object at different times (say, the Dutch stove with its little blue sailing boats in the nursery of Ardis Manor in 1884 and 1888) because of the two or more impressions borrowing from one another and forming a compound image in the mind; but if different objects are to be chosen (say, the faces of two memorable coachmen: Ben Wright, 1884, and Trofim Fartukov, 1888), it is impossible, insofar as my own research goes, to avoid the intrusion not only of different characteristics but of different emotional circumstances, that do not allow the two objects to be considered essentially equal before, so to speak, their being exposed to the action of Time. (Part Four)


The title of Van’s essay brings to mind Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (“In Search of Lost Time”), an epic whose title sounds to a Russian ear (if not smells to a Russian nose) like Pushkin’s Perduil’yonis. Mlle Larivière is the author of Les Enfants Maudits (1.32), a novel whose title blends un enfant terrible with les poètes maudits but also brings to mind Heine’s poem Enfant perdu (1851). Mlle Larivière’s penname, Guillaume de Monparnasse (sic), hints at Guy de Maupassant (1850-93). Maupassant’s story La Parure (1884) is known on Antiterra as La Rivière de Diamants by Guillaume de Monparnasse, a story that Mlle Larivière reads at the picnic on Ada’s twelfth birthday (1.13).


In his essay “Creation from Nothing” Shestov compares Chekhov to Maupassant:


Искусство, наука, любовь, вдохновение, идеалы, будущее — переберите все слова, которыми современное и прошлое человечество утешало или развлекало себя — стоит Чехову к ним прикоснуться, и они мгновенно блекнут, вянут и умирают. И сам Чехов на наших глазах блекнул, вянул и умирал — не умирало в нём только его удивительное искусство одним прикосновением, даже дыханием, взглядом убивать всё, чем живут и гордятся люди. Более того, в этом искусстве он постоянно совершенствовался и дошёл до виртуозности, до которой не доходил никто из его соперников в европейской литературе. Я без колебания ставлю его далеко впереди Мопассана. Мопассану часто приходилось делать напряжения, чтоб справиться со своей жертвой. От Мопассана сплошь и рядом жертва уходила хоть помятой и изломанной, но живой. В руках Чехова всё умирало. (I)


According to Shestov, as an artist who could with one touch - and even with a mere breath or look - kill everything that men are proud of Chekhov had no rivals in European literature and was by far superior to Maupassant.


Btw., in my previous post I forgot to point out that in the same letter of May 10, 1891, to Suvorin in which he mentions Dedlov-Kign (the writer who signed his articles with numeral 1) Chekhov says that he is not going to marry:


Жениться я не намерен. Я бы хотел теперь быть маленьким, лысым старичком и сидеть за большим столом в хорошем кабинете.

I’m not going to marry. I would like now to be a small, bald old man and sit at the big table in a good study.

Trofim Fartukov who tells Van that he would not think of touching Blanche even through a leathern apron a couple of years later marries her. In 1901 Chekhov married Olga Knipper, a leading actress of the Moscow Art Theater.


Pushkina = pushinka = Knipusha

Norov = voron = Rovno

Volga + shcheli + rusalka + gol' = vlagalishche + Rus + alkogol'


Pushkina – Natalia Nikolaevna Pushkin, née Goncharov, the poet’s wife who flirted with d’Anthès

pushinka – a bit of fluff; according to Pushkin (Eugene Onegin, Four: XXI: 8), the amiable sex is light as fluff (kak pukh legok); in the same stanza of EO (XXI: 14) Pushkin says: “with love jokes Satan”

Knipusha – Chekhov’s affectionate name for his wife

voron – raven; cf. ‘Uncross your arms, silly,’ ordered Ada and kicked off the top sheet that partly covered six legs. Simultaneously, without turning her head, she slapped furtive Van away from her rear, and with her other hand made magic passes over the small but very pretty breasts, gemmed with sweat, and along the flat palpitating belly of a seasand nymph, down to the firebird seen by Van once, fully fledged now, and as fascinating in its own way as his favorite’s blue raven. Enchantress! Acrasia! (2.8)

Rovno – city in W Ukraine, described as Knyazhye Veno in Korolenko’s story V durnom obshchestve (“In a Bad Company,” 1886)

shcheli – clefts, slits; cf. malebolge, zlye shcheli (evil slits), the eighth circle in Dante's Inferno

rusalka – mermaid; an unfinished play (1829-32) by Pushkin

gol' – the poor, utterly destitute; bare place

vlagalishche – vagina

alkogol' – alcohol


In one of her letters to Van Ada alludes to another legendary river of Old Rus:


We are still at the candy-pink and pisang-green albergo where you once stayed with your father. He is awfully nice to me, by the way. I enjoy going places with him. He and I have gamed at Nevada, my rhyme-name town, but you are also there, as well as the legendary river of Old Rus. (2.1)


Alexey Sklyarenko

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