Despite an athletic strength of will, ironization of excessive emotion, and contempt for weepy weaklings, Van was aware of his being apt to suffer uncurbable blubbering fits (rising at times to an epileptic-like pitch, with sudden howls that shook his body, and inexhaustible fluids that stuffed his nose) ever since his break with Ada had led to agonies, which his self-pride and self-concentration had never foreseen in the hedonistic past. A small monoplane (chartered, if one judged by its nacreous wings and illegal but abortive attempts to settle on the central green oval of the Park, after which it melted in the morning mist to seek a perch elsewhere) wrenched a first sob from Van as he stood in his short 'terry' on the roof terrace (now embellished by shrubs of blue spiraea in invincible bloom). He stood in the chill sun until he felt his skin under the robe turn to an armadillo's pelvic plates. Cursing and shaking both fists at breast level, he returned into the warmth of his flat and drank a bottle of champagne, and then rang for Rose, the sportive Negro maid whom he shared in more ways than one with the famous, recently decorated cryptogrammatist, Mr Dean, a perfect gentleman, dwelling on the floor below. With jumbled feelings, with unpardonable lust, Van watched her pretty behind roll and tighten under its lacy bow as she made the bed, while her lower lover could be heard through the radiator pipes humming to himself happily (he had decoded again a Tartar dorogram telling the Chinese where we planned to land next time!). Rose soon finished putting the room in order, and flirted off, and the Pandean hum had hardly time to be replaced (rather artlessly for a person of Dean's profession) by a crescendo of international creaks that a child could decipher, when the hallway bell dingled, and next moment whiter-faced, redder-mouthed, four-year-older Ada stood before a convulsed, already sobbing, ever-adolescent Van, her flowing hair blending with dark furs that were even richer than her sister's. (2.6)


Pandean is pertaining to the god Pan, or his pipes. In his poem Polden (Noon, 1829) Tyutchev mentions velikiy Pan (great Pan) quietly dozing in the cave of nymphs:


֧ߧڧӧ էڧ ݧէ֧ߧ ާԧݧڧ,
֧ߧڧӧ ܧѧڧ ֧ܧ,
ݧѧ٧ ݧѧާ֧ߧߧ ڧ
֧ߧڧӧ ѧ ҧݧѧܧ.


ӧ ڧէ, ܧѧ ާѧ,
֧ާ اѧܧѧ ҧ֧ާݧ֧,
ѧ ֧֧ ӧ֧ݧڧܧڧ ѧ
֧֧ ߧڧާ ܧۧߧ է֧ާݧ֧.


Misty noon breathes idly.

Idly waters play.

Pure skies are sun-scorched.

Cloud-wisps idly melt away.


Clasped in hot embrace,

nature drowns in sultry doze.

Pan himself seeks calm,

deep in the quiet of caves,

deep in nymph-repose.

(transl. F. Jude)


Umer velikiy Pan (Great Pan is Dead, 1894) is a poem by Valeriy Bryusov. It was Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman, who procured neat Rose and kept her strictly for Veen and Dean:


Lucette had gone (leaving a curt note with her room number at the Winster Hotel for Young Ladies) when our two lovers, now weak-legged and decently robed, sat down to a beautiful breakfast (Ardis' crisp bacon! Ardis' translucent honey!) brought up in the lift by Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman, always ill-shaven and gloomy, but a dear old boy (he it was who, having procured neat Rose last June, was being paid to keep her strictly for Veen and Dean). (2.6)


In her memoir essay on Bryusov, Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925), Marina Tsvetaev (who had an elder half-sister Valeria) says that Bryusov was trizhdy rimlyanin (a threefold Roman):


ݧӧ ӧݧ ߧѧ ӧ: ӧݧ, ӧ, ӧݧ. ڧ֧էڧߧӧ ߧ ݧܧ ٧ӧܧӧ - ާݧӧ: ӧݧ - ڧ, ӧ - ڧ, ӧݧ - ڧ. ڧاէ ڧާݧߧڧߧ ҧ ѧݧ֧ڧ : ӧݧ֧ ӧݧ - ٧ڧ, ӧݧܧ (homo homini lupus est) اڧ٧ߧ.


Van tells Ada that he saw her circling above him on libelulla wings (2.6). Libelulla is Latin for dragon-fly. In his poem Vesyolyi zov vesenney zeleni ("The merry call of the vernal green" 1911) Bryusov mentions a tapirs heavy gait and the light trepidations of dragon-flies:


֧ ҧݧ֧, ӧ֧ , ӧ֧ ԧӧ ާڧ,
ҧݧѧ٧ߧ ާݧ, ѧ ԧק, -
اܧ ѧڧ
ݧקԧܧڧ ֧֧ ֧ܧ١

As a schoolboy, Van was madly in love with Mrs Tapirovs daughter (1.4). In 1888, in Kalugano Van recalls his first love and wonders if the girls name was Rose:


When Van arrived in front of the music shop, he found it locked. He stared for a moment at the harps and the guitars and the flowers in silver vases on consoles receding in the dusk of looking-glasses, and recalled the schoolgirl whom he had longed for so keenly half a dozen years ago - Rose? Roza? Was that her name? Would he have been happier with her than with his pale fatal sister? (1.42)


Vans classmates at his boarding-school in Riverlane include Cheshire, the rugby ace:


The aging woman who sold barley sugar and Lucky Louse magazines in the corner shop, which by tradition was not strictly out of bounds, happened to hire a young helper, and Cheshire, the son of a thrifty lord, quickly ascertained that this fat little wench could be had for a Russian green dollar. Van was one of the first to avail himself of her favors. (1.4)


Among the profiles of boys that adorn the flyleaf of Vans anthology of best short poems in English there is Cheshcat:


'Oh, Van, how lovely of you,' said Lucette, slowly entering her room, with her bemused eyes scanning the fascinating flyleaf, his name on it, his bold flourish, and his own wonderful drawings in ink - a black aster (evolved from a blot), a doric column (disguising a more ribald design), a delicate leafless tree (as seen from a classroom window), and several profiles of boys (Cheshcat, Zogdog, Fancytart, and Ada-like Van himself). (1.23)


The Cheshire Cat is a character in Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Lewis Carroll wrote this book for Henry Liddells daughter Alice. In 1855-91 Henry Liddell was dean of Christ Church, Oxford.


According to Lucette, Cheshire sends her racing tips:


'Your friend Dick Cheshire sends me presents and racing tips.' (3.3)


In his memoir essay on Bryusov (included in Necropolis, 1939) Khodasevich mentions Bryusov's interest in horse-races:


ѧ, ߧѧڧާ֧,  1921 . ӧާ֧ѧ ܧѧܧ- ӧܧ ߧѧ٧ߧѧ֧ߧڧ ѧܧާ - ߧ ާ֧ߧ֧ ӧѧاߧ էݧاߧ ܧ, . .... ݧѧӧߧ ѧӧݧ֧ߧڧ ߧߧ٧ѧӧէӧ (ѧ ߧ ѧߧߧ, ߧ֧ܧѧ ݧԧڧܧ ҧݧ: ѧާ ֧ӧ ܧ ӧ, ӧڧӧڧ֧ ֧ѧ, - էӧ ѧ ݧѧէ էߧ ڧ ֧ڧѧݧߧ اߧѧݧ: ߧ "ѧ ܧѧܧ", ߧ "ߧߧ٧ѧӧէӧ  ". ֧ ӧ, ܧѧ ܧѧ٧ӧѧ, ҧ ݧѧէߧڧ - ݧҧڧ֧ݧ. ԧէ- ӧڧէ֧ է֧ܧڧ ڧާ ӧ ާѧ֧, ݧ ߧѧݧߧ֧ߧߧ ҧ֧ԧӧާ է֧ݧѧާ ӧ֧ѧݧ֧ߧڧާ.) 
? ֧ߧ էڧݧ ѧ էѧا, ڧէ ߧԧ ߧ, ӧѧ ֧ѧ, ӧ֧է ܧѧާѧߧڧ ٧ ӧѧߧӧݧ֧ߧڧ ѧݧڧ٧ѧ.


The Cheshire Cat is famous for its mischievous grin still visible when its body disappears. According to Marina Tsvetaev, she realized that Bryusov was a wolf the moment Bryusov smiled (or, rather, grinned) at her:


- ߧѧڧ, ֧֧ - ֧ާڧӧѧߧߧ ֧ߧ? ӧ֧ߧ ާ֧ ٧ѧݧ - էҧѧ - ӧߧ֧٧ѧߧѧ - ӧݧ - ݧҧܧ ӧ. «ݧҧܧ» - ݧӧߧ, ӧߧ֧٧ѧߧ ҧߧѧا֧ߧڧ ѧܧ ا ڧ֧٧ߧӧ֧ߧڧ ٧ҧ. ݧҧܧ? ݧҧܧ! ݧܧ ߧ ߧѧ, ӧݧ. (ܧѧ, ܧݧѧ, ֧.)

ӧ֧ӧ էԧѧէѧݧѧ, - ӧݧ.


The main character of VNs story Volshebnik (The Enchanter, 1939) is compared to the wolf in Charles Perraults Little Red Riding Hood. The protagonist of The Enchanter has a lot in common with Humbert Humbert, the narrator and main character in VNs Lolita (1955). Charlotte (Lolitas mother) calls her husband Hum:


I have always wanted to ask you, she said (businesslike, not coquettish), why is this thing locked up? Do you want it in this room? Its so abominably uncouth.

Leave it alone, I said. I was Camping in Scandinavia.

Is there a key?


Oh, Hum

Locked up love letters. (1.21)


Scandinavia mentioned by Humbert Humbert brings to mind the hysterical lad from Upsala (Fancytart) in Vans boarding-school:


Every dormitory had its catamite. One hysterical lad from Upsala, cross-eyed, loose-lipped, with almost abnormally awkward limbs, but with a wonderfully tender skin texture and the round creamy charms of Bronzino's Cupid (the big one, whom a delighted satyr discovers in a lady's bower), was much prized and tortured by a group of foreign boys, mostly Greek and English, led by Cheshire, the rugby ace; and partly out of bravado, partly out of curiosity, Van surmounted his disgust and coldly watched their rough orgies. (1.4)


Vans adversary in a pistol duel that he fights in Kalugano, Captain Tapper, and the two seconds are homosexual. The Captains name brings to mind Kuprins story Tapyor (The Ballroom Pianist, 1900). Its characters include Anton Rubinstein, the pianist and composer whose most famous opera is The Demon (1871). Demon is the society nickname of Vans and Adas father. Captain Tapper (a member of the Do-Re-La country club) asks Van if he is Demons son:


Visiting cards were exchanged. 'Demon's son?' grunted Captain Tapper, of Wild Violet Lodge, Kalugano. 'Correct,' said Van. 'I'll put up, I guess, at the Majestic; if not, a note will be left for your second or seconds. You'll have to get me one, I can't very well ask the concierge to do it.' (1.42)


On the other hand, Tapyor (1885) is a story by Chekhov. Its main character is a hysterical man who suffers a nervous breakdown. The fianc in Chekhovs story is a merchant's son Eskimosov (a parvenu and mauvais genre). His name brings to mind Kim Eskimossoff, the actor who played Fedotik in the Yakima stage version of Chekhovs Four Sisters (as Chekhovs play The Three Sisters is known on Antiterra):


Van glanced through the list of players and D.P.s and noticed two amusing details: the role of Fedotik, an artillery officer (whose comedy organ consists of a constantly clicking camera), had been assigned to to a 'Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimossoff' and somebody called 'John Starling' had been cast as Skvortsov (a sekundant in the rather amateurish duel of the last act) whose name comes from skvorets, starling. When he communicated the latter observation to Ada, she blushed as was her Old World wont.

'Yes,' she said, 'he was quite a lovely lad and I sort of flirted with him, but the strain and the split were too much for him - he had been, since pubescence, the puerulus of a fat ballet master, Dangleleaf, and he finally committed suicide. You see ("the blush now replaced by a matovaya pallor") I'm not hiding one stain of what rhymes with Perm.' (2.9)


In a poem that he composed in a Quebec sanatorium after Lolitas abduction Humbert Humbert mentions the starling that in Sternes Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768) repeats I cant get out:


Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?

Why are you hiding, darling?

(I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze

I cannot get out, said the starling). (2.25)


Alexey Sklyarenko

Google Search
the archive
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.