According to Ada, Vanda Broom (Ada’s lesbian schoolmate at Brownhill) was shot dead in Ragusa:


Would she like to stay in this apartment till Spring Term (he thought in terms of Terms now) and then accompany him to Kingston, or would she prefer to go abroad for a couple of months — anywhere, Patagonia, Angola, Gululu in the New Zealand mountains? Stay in this apartment? So, she liked it? Except some of Cordula’s stuff which should be ejected — as, for example, that conspicuous Brown Hill Alma Mater of Almehs left open on poor Vanda’s portrait. She had been shot dead by the girlfriend of a girlfriend on a starry night, in Ragusa of all places. It was, Van said, sad. Little Lucette no doubt had told him about a later escapade? Punning in an Ophelian frenzy on the feminine glans? Raving about the delectations of clitorism? ‘N’exagérons pas, tu sais,’ said Ada, patting the air down with both palms. ‘Lucette affirmed,’ he said, ‘that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions.’ (2.6).


Ragusa is the Italian name of Dubrovnik (a seaport in S Croatia, on the Adriatic). On the other hand, Ragusa is a city in southern Italy, on the island of Sicily. The biggest city in (and the capital of) Sicily is Palermo. As he speaks of Aqua’s “War of the Worlds,” Van mentions Altar (the Antiterran name of Gibraltar) and Palermontovia:


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. (1.3)


The Latin name of Palermo is Panormus. In his essay Panorama Moskvy (“The Panorama of Moscow,” 1834) Lermontov (whose name is present in Palermontovia) calls the Kremlin altar’ Rossii (“the altar of Russia”) and compares it to phoenix (the legendary bird that is reborn from ashes):


Что сравнить с этим Кремлём, который, окружась зубчатыми стенами, красуясь золотыми главами соборов, возлежит на высокой  горе, как державный венец на челе грозного владыки?..

Он алтарь России, на нём должны совершаться и уже совершались многие жертвы, достойные отечества... Давно ли, как баснословный феникс, он возродился из пылающего своего праха?..


The War of the Worlds (1898) is a novel by H. G. Wells. In Russia in the Shadows (1921), a series of articles that H. G. Wells wrote after visiting the Soviet Russia, the author of The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man (another Wells novel alluded to in Ada, 1.32) calls Lenin "the Kremlin dreamer."


According to Van, in the last game of Flavita (Russian Scrabble) that he ever played with Ada and Lucette the latter’s letters formed the word Kremlin:


Je ne peux rien faire,’ wailed Lucette, ‘mais rien — with my idiotic Buchstaben, REMNILK, LINKREM...’

‘Look,’ whispered Van, ‘c’est tout simple, shift those two syllables and you get a fortress in ancient Muscovy.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Ada, wagging her finger at the height of her temple in a way she had. ‘Oh, no. That pretty word does not exist in Russian. A Frenchman invented it. There is no second syllable.’

‘Ruth for a little child?’ interposed Van.

‘Ruthless!’ cried Ada.

‘Well,’ said Van, ‘you can always make a little cream, KREM or KREME — or even better — there’s KREMLI, which means Yukon prisons. Go through her ORHIDEYA.’

‘Through her silly orchid,’ said Lucette. (1.36)


Vanda is the name of an orchid. As he speaks to Van, Demon jokingly calls cream “Crêmlin:”


‘I don’t know if you know,’ said Van, resuming his perch on the fat arm of his father’s chair. ‘Uncle Dan will be here with the lawyer and Lucette only after dinner.’

‘Capital,’ said Demon.

‘Marina and Ada should be down in a minute — ce sera un dîner à quatre.’

‘Capital,’ he repeated. ‘You look splendid, my dear, dear fellow — and I don’t have to exaggerate compliments as some do in regard to an aging man with shoe-shined hair. Your dinner jacket is very nice — or, rather it’s very nice recognizing one’s old tailor in one’s son’s clothes — like catching oneself repeating an ancestral mannerism — for example, this (wagging his left forefinger three times at the height of his temple), which my mother did in casual, pacific denial; that gene missed you, but I’ve seen it in my hairdresser’s looking-glass when refusing to have him put Crêmlin on my bald spot; and you know who had it too — my aunt Kitty, who married the Banker Bolenski after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy, the writer.’

Demon preferred Walter Scott to Dickens, and did not think highly of Russian novelists. As usual, Van considered it fit to make a corrective comment:

‘A fantastically artistic writer, Dad.’ (1.38)


In his novel Voyna i mir (“War and Peace,” 1869) Tolstoy describes the Great Moscow Fire of 1812 and, of course, mentions the Kremlin. As he speaks of poor Aqua’s torments and death, Van makes several allusions to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin (1875-77) and to his short story Yagody (“The Berries,” 1906):


Then the anguish increased to unendurable massivity and nightmare dimensions, making her scream and vomit. She wanted (and was allowed, bless the hospital barber, Bob Bean) to have her dark curls shaved to an aquamarine prickle, because they grew into her porous skull and curled inside. Jigsaw pieces of sky or wall came apart, no matter how delicately put together, but a careless jolt or a nurse’s elbow can disturb so easily those lightweight fragments which became incomprehensible blancs of anonymous objects, or the blank backs of ‘Scrabble’ counters, which she could not turn over sunny side up, because her hands had been tied by a male nurse with Demon’s black eyes. But presently panic and pain, like a pair of children in a boisterous game, emitted one last shriek of laughter and ran away to manipulate each other behind a bush as in Count Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin, a novel, and again, for a while, a little while, all was quiet in the house, and their mother had the same first name as hers had. (1.3)


Sly Aqua twitched, simulated a yawn, opened her light-blue eyes (with those startlingly contrasty jet-black pupils that Dolly, her mother, also had), put on yellow slacks and a black bolero, walked through a little pinewood, thumbed a ride with a Mexican truck, found a suitable gulch in the chaparral and there, after writing a short note, began placidly eating from her cupped palm the multicolored contents of her handbag, like any Russian country girl lakomyashchayasya yagodami (feasting on berries) that she had just picked in the woods. She smiled, dreamily enjoying the thought (rather ‘Kareninian’ in tone) that her extinction would affect people about ‘as deeply as the abrupt, mysterious, never explained demise of a comic strip in a Sunday paper one had been taking for years. It was her last smile. (ibid.)


According to VN, he wrote the Post Scriptum to the Russian edition (1967) of Lolita on November 7, 1965, in Palermo. At the end of his Post Scriptum VN mentions Moscow:


В моём магическом кристалле играют радуги, косо отражаются мои очки, намечается миниатюрная иллюминация - но он мало кого мне показывает: несколько старых друзей, группу эмигрантов (в общем предпочитающих Лескова), гастролёра-поэта из советской страны, гримёра путешествующей труппы, трёх польских или сербских делегатов в многозеркальном кафе, а совсем в глубине - начало смутного движения, признаки энтузиазма, приближающиеся фигуры молодых людей, размахивающих руками... но это просто меня просят посторониться - сейчас будут снимать приезд какого-то президента в Москву.

Владимир Набоков.
7-го ноября 1965 г.


Alexey Sklyarenko

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