The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish - a kind of American 'Gory Mary' in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not 'of his wounds' (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston - a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)

 

Charming Monsieur de Pastrouil seems to blend Louis Pasteur (1822-95), a French chemist and bacteriologist, with Uncle Struy, a character in Undina. Starinnaya povest (1831-36), Zhukovskis rendering in hexameter of a prose novella (Undine, 1811) by the German author Friedrich de La Motte Fouqu.

 

In Chekhov's story Palata  6 (Ward No. 6, 1892) the discoveries of Pasteur and of Koch are mentioned:

 

ѧէڧܧѧݧߧ ڧ٧ݧ֧ڧӧѧ֧ ڧڧݧڧ. ֧ڧ ߧѧݧ֧էӧ֧ߧߧ, ԧڧߧڧ٧, ܧڧ ѧ֧ , ԧڧԧڧ֧ߧ ѧڧڧܧ, ߧѧ ܧѧ ٧֧ާܧѧ ާ֧էڧڧߧ? ڧڧѧڧ ֧ ֧֧֧ߧ֧ ܧݧѧڧڧܧѧڧ֧ ҧݧ֧٧ߧ֧, ާ֧էѧާ ѧ٧ߧѧӧѧߧڧ ݧ֧֧ߧڧ ѧӧߧ֧ߧڧ ֧, ҧݧ, ֧ݧ ݧҧ.

 

A radical cure for syphilis had been discovered. And the theory of heredity, hypnotism, the discoveries of Pasteur and of Koch, hygiene based on statistics, and the work of Zemstvo doctors! Psychiatry with its modern classification of mental diseases, methods of diagnosis, and treatment, was a perfect Elborus in comparison with what had been in the past. (chapter VII)

 

Elborus is an old spelling of Elbrus, a mountain in the Caucasus range (the highest peak in Europe). In her essay Poet-alpinist (The Alpinist Poet, 1935) Marina Tsvetaev tells about Nikolay Gronsky (1909-34), a young poet who died in an accident at Pasteur, a metro station in Paris:

 

ӧѧէѧ ֧ӧԧ ߧҧ ݧԧ ԧէ, ڧҧݧڧ٧ڧ֧ݧߧ ݧ ӧާ ӧ֧֧, ߧѧѧݧߧڧ ѧߧڧ ѧڧاܧԧ ާ֧ «Pasteur» ڧާ֧ڧ ֧է ѧѧاڧ ֧է֧ԧ ֧ߧ ާݧէԧ ֧ݧӧ֧ܧѡ

էߧ ާ ٧ߧѧܧާѧ, ݧѧۧߧ ܧѧ٧ѧӧѧ ԧէ ߧ ѧߧڧ ާ֧ «Pasteur», ѧܧѧ٧ӧѧݧ, ߧ ݧڧߧڧ ֧ էݧԧ ѧӧѧݧ ֧ԧ ѧ «ѧܧ ӧ֧קݧ ѧӧ֧ܧ».

ڧ ֧ԧ ҧݧ ܧۧߧ, ҧ֧ ݧ֧է ѧ ڧݧ ѧէѧߧڧ. ާߧ֧ߧڧ էߧԧ ԧ ا֧ߧܧԧ ֧է: ߧڧܧԧէ ߧ ӧڧէ֧ݧ ѧܧԧ ާקӧԧ. ݧ֧اѧ ӧ֧ ܧѧ ӧ.

ԧڧҧ֧ާ ݧܧ ڧݧߧڧݧ էӧѧէѧ ݧ֧. ӧѧݧ ֧ԧ ڧܧݧѧ ѧӧݧӧڧ ߧܧڧ. ҧݧ ܧڧ .

 

Marina Tsvetaev points out that Gronsky died at the age of twenty-five. Vans and Adas half-sister Lucette is twenty-five when she commits suicide by jumping into the Atlantic from the Admiral Tobakoff.

 

Gronsky is the author of Bella Donna, a long poem that appeared in Poslednie novosti (a Russian-language newspaper that came out in Paris) after the authors death. In her essay Marina Tsvetaev explains that Bella Donna in Gronskys poem is a mountain range in Savoy, not a poisonous plant:

 

֧, էѧߧߧ ݧѧ, ֧ݧݧ ߧߧ ԧߧѧ ֧ ѧӧۧ, ߧѧ٧ӧѧߧߧѧ ѧ ڧ-٧ ѧާ ӧܧ, ѧާ ߧ֧ڧߧ ާ ѧާ ֧ܧѧߧ ӧ֧ڧߧ. «֧ݧݧ ߧߧ» ߧܧԧ ާ ԧѧ, ߧѧڧѧ ֧ ѧݧڧߧڧ. ѧ֧ߧڧ ҧ֧ݧݧѧէߧߧ ٧է֧ ߧ ק. ߧاߧ ٧ߧѧ էݧ ӧ֧ߧԧ ߧѧѧӧݧ֧ߧڧ ߧѧ֧ԧ ӧҧѧا֧ߧڧ.

 

Onboard the Admiral Tobakoff Lucette mentions Belladonna, the movie magazine:

 

'Your father,' added Lucette, 'paid a man from Belladonna to take pictures - but of course, real fame begins only when one's name appears in that cine-magazine's crossword puzzle. We all know it will never happen, never! Do you hate me now?' (3.5)

 

On the eve of Lucettes suicide Van and Lucette watch in the Tobakoff cinema hall Don Juans Last Fling, a movie in which Ada played the gitanilla.

 

According to Marina Tsvetaev, among the things that were found after Gronskys death were sea binoculars and a manuscript about Don Juan:

 

ߧ֧ԧ ߧѧݧ ާܧ ҧڧߧܧݧ ܧڧ -ѧߧ.

 

Describing his last day with Lucette onboard the Tobakoff, Van mentions binoculars:

 

The level of the water slanted and swayed in his bath imitating the slow seesaw of the bright-blue, white-flecked sea in the porthole of his bedroom. He rang up Miss Lucinda Veen, whose suite was on the Main Deck amidships exactly above his, but she was absent. Wearing a white polo-neck sweater and tinted glasses, he went to look for her. She was not on the Games Deck from where he looked down at some other red-head, in a canvas chair on the Sun Deck: the girl sat writing a letter at passionate speed and he thought that if ever he switched from ponderous factitude to light fiction he would have a jealous husband use binoculars to decipher from where he stood that outpour of illicit affection. (3.5)

 

In a letter to Anna Teskov written soon after Gronskys death Marina Tsvetaev (whose husband was a double agent) says that she was Gronskys first lover. In her poem Ya seychas lezhu nichkom (I am now lying prone 1913) Marina Tsvetaev addresses her uchenik (pupil) and compares herself to Salamandra i Undina (Salamander and Undine):

 

ҧ ѧݧ ا ާڧ
ݧڧ, ާ ֧ߧڧ?

 

٧ݧ ֧֧ҧ
ѧݧѧާѧߧէ ߧէڧߧ.
ҧ ֧ݧ ߧ ܧӧ
ԧ֧ԧ ܧѧާڧߧ.

 

The legendary salamander is usually ascribed an affinity with fire, sometimes specifically elemental fire. Marina (Vans, Adas and Lucettes mother) is destroyed by fire:

 

Three elements, fire, water, and air, destroyed, in that sequence, Marina, Lucette, and Demon. Terra waited. (3.1)

 

Colonel St. Alin, a scoundrel, clearly hints at Stalin. In her memoir essay on Marina Tsvetaev (Novyi Zhurnal, 1967) Zinaida Shakhovskoy says that Marina Tsvetaev's pride protected her from duplex lingua and that even under the knife she would not have said a word of praise to Stalin:

 

է ٧ѧڧѧݧ ֧ էӧ٧ էѧا ߧا ߧ ܧѧ٧ѧݧ ҧ ߧ ӧѧݧߧԧ ݧӧ ѧݧڧߧ.

 

The name Gronsky rhymes with dOnsky (the real name of Demons adversary) and with Gavronsky (as Ada calls G. A. Vronsky, the movie man and one of Marinas lovers):

 

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 Adas hand.) (1.3)

 

Describing Gronskis death, Marina Tsvetaev mentions elektrichestvo (electricity):

 

ѧڧߧڧ ٧ѧާ٧ڧ, ߧѧѧݧߧڧ ѧߧڧ ӧܧݧڧ ݧ֧ܧڧ֧ӧ, ߧ ݧاѧڧ, ܧѧܧ- ڧߧߧ, ҧߧѧاڧӧѧ֧ ֧ҧ ާާ֧ߧ ާ֧ݧڧ֧ߧӧܧڧ ܧѧѧ, ߧڧ֧ԧ ߧ ֧էڧߧڧާѧݧ ֧֧ߧڧ ק ֧ӧ֧֧ ѧ, ӧ ӧ֧ާ ܧ ߧ, ӧ֧֧ߧڧ ӧѧ֧, ֧ ӧ ܧӧ. ӧܧѧߧ ֧֧ܧѧڧӧѧߧڧ ا ܧӧ ߧ ާԧݧ, է֧ ѧ ӧ֧֧ ѧէѧӧڧ ާ֧, ߧ ڧէ ٧ߧѧߧڧ.

 

On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earths twin planet on which Ada is set) electricity was banned after the L disaster in the middle of the 19th century:

 

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 great 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. Ved (it is, isnt it) sidesplitting to imagine that Russia, instead of being a quaint synonym of Estoty, the American province extending from the Arctic no longer vicious Circle to the United States proper, was on Terra the name of a country, transferred as if by some sleight of land across the ha-ha of a doubled ocean to the opposite hemisphere where it sprawled over all of todays Tartary, from Kurland to the Kuriles! (1.3)

 

Elborus + Gavronsky + eccentricity + Skonky + Struy + Ai = electricity + Gronsky + Nabokov + Russia + sky + century

 

Describing one hundred memorial floramors (palatial brothels) built by David van Veen (a wealthy architect of Flemish extraction) all over the world (except Tartary) after the death of his grandson Eric (the author of an essay entitled Villa Venus: an Organized Dream), Van mentions eccentricity:

 

Eccentricity is the greatest grief's greatest remedy. The boy's grandfather set at once to render in brick and stone, concrete and marble, flesh and fun, Eric's fantasy. He resolved to be the first sampler of the first houri he would hire for his last house, and to live until then in laborious abstinence. (2.3)

 

According to Van, Erics project derived from reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather had bought near Vence from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole. Vronski is the name of Annas lover in Tolstoys Anna Karenin (1877).

 

Skonky (Baron dOnskys one-way nickname) means  girl who is a complete whore.

 

Ai is the champagne that Van, Ada and Lucette drink at Ursus (the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major):

 

The uha, the shashlik, the Ai were facile and familiar successes; but the old songs had a peculiar poignancy owing to the participation of a Lyaskan contralto and a Banff bass, renowned performers of Russian romances, with a touch of heart-wringing tsiganshchina vibrating through Grigoriev and Glinka. And there was Flora, a slender, hardly nubile, half-naked music-hall dancer of uncertain origin (Rumanian? Romany? Ramseyan?) whose ravishing services Van had availed himself of several times in the fall of that year. (2.8)

 

Ursus is a character in Victor Hugo's L'Homme qui Rit ("The Laughing Man," 1869). In her memoir essay on Voloshin, Zhivoe o zhivom ("A Living Word about a Living Man," 1932), Marina Tsvetaev uses the phrase au beau milieu (right in the middle) as applied to Victor Hugo's poem Napolon II (1832): 

 

ӧߧ֧٧ѧߧ C au beau milieu Victor Hugo ѧݧ֧ߧ II C ا ߧ ӧܧѧէڧӧ, ߧ: C ߧ֧ݧ٧ ݧ ҧէ֧ ۧ ܧէ-ߧڧҧէ էԧ ާ֧? C اߧ, ܧߧ֧ߧ, ӧߧڧ ԧէ, ߧ ѧ ֧ާ ԧѧէ ҧݧ ߧ ҧӧѧ֧.

 

According to Marina Tsvetaev, she invited Voloshin to a room downstairs where the temperature is never above sem gradusov (seven degrees). In VNs novel Pale Fire (1962) Gradus is the name of Shades murderer.

 

In her essay about Gronsky Marina Tsvetaev attempts to prove that a great poet can appear in emigration, after all:

 

ا էӧ֧ߧѧէѧ ݧ֧, ܧѧاէ ԧէ ӧ ҧݧ֧٧ߧ֧ߧߧ֧ ֧է֧קߧߧ֧, ڧէק ާڧԧѧڧ : ާا֧ ݧ ާڧԧѧڧ ӧ٧ߧڧܧߧ , ڧݧ ߧ ާا֧, ֧ާ ߧ ާا֧, ֧ݧ ާا֧ ֧ާ ֧ԧ ߧ֧? , ݧ էӧ-ק ߧ ߧѧڧ ԧݧѧ٧ѧ ѧ٧ݧ֧֧ӧڧ ڧ֧ܧڧ ާݧߧ ٧֧, ֧֧ߧߧ ӧ֧էڧۧ ֧էڧߧԧݧѧߧާ ӧѧ֧ҧߧާ ڧԧӧ: ާڧԧѧڧ ҧ ߧ ާا֧, ڧҧ ߧ֧ ӧ, ֧է ٧ܧ. ֧ ܧߧ֧.

ܧѧ ӧ ا էӧ֧ߧѧէѧڧݧ֧ߧ֧ ܧ֧ߧߧ ӧ٧ѧا֧ߧڧ, ߧߧ ܧѧا ߧ է֧ݧ, ܧѧܧڧ ӧ, ֧է, ٧ ܧߧ ܧѧ٧ѧݧڧ ݧܧ ܧߧѧӧ֧ԧ ڧܧݧѧ ߧܧԧ.

 

Alexey Sklyarenko

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