After the L disaster in the middle of the 19th century electricity was banned on Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set):


The unmentionable magnetic power denounced by evil lawmakers in this our shabby country — oh, everywhere, in Estoty and Canady, in ‘German’ Mark Kennensie, as well as in ‘Swedish’ Manitobogan, in the workshop of the red-shirted Yukonets as well as in the kitchen of the red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka, and in ‘French’ Estoty, from Bras d’Or to Ladore — and very soon throughout both our Americas, and all over the other stunned continents — was used on Terra as freely as water and air, as bibles and brooms. Two or three centuries earlier she [Aqua, Marina’s mad twin sister] might have been just another consumable witch. (1.3)


In Adam Mickiewicz’s poem Cztery toasty (“Four Toasts,” 1821) the fourth toast is to elektryczność (electricity):


…A gdy zrośniem w okrąg wielki
Przez magnesowaną styczność,
Wtenczas z lejdejskiej butelki
Palniem: — wiwat elektryczność!


In his Memuary (“Memoirs,” 1953) Prince Felix Yusupov (Count Sumarokov-Elston) says that when electricity was invented, the footman in their Moyka palace who was responsible for light was so upset that he took to drink and died:


Прислуга наша была преданна и усердна. В пору, когда знали одни свечи да масляные лампы, многие наши люди занимались только освещением. Когда изобрели электричество, старший лакей-«осветитель» так расстроился, что спился и умер. (chapter 7)


In his “Memoirs” Yusupov (who was a willful child and tormented his tutors) mentions his German nurse who went mad because of unrequited love for his father’s secretary:


Оказался я с характером. И теперь без стыда не вспомню, как мучил я воспитателей. Первой была няня-немка. Сперва она растила моего брата, потом перешла ко мне. Несчастная любовь к секретарю отца свела её с ума. Думаю, мой дурной нрав довершил дело. Отец с матерью, насколько помню, поместили её в лечебницу для умалишенных, где пребывала она, пока не выздоровела. Меня же поручили старой матушкиной гувернантке мадемуазель Версиловой, женщине замечательно доброй, преданной, ставшей отчасти членом семьи. (chapter 5)


The old governess of Yusupov’s mother, Mlle Versilov, brings to mind Andrey Petrovich Versilov, in Dostoevski’s novel Podrostok (“The Adolescent,” 1875) Arkadiy Dolgoruki’s real father. The Antiterran L disaster in the beau milieu of the 19th century seems to correspond to the mock execution of Dostoevski and the Petrashevskians on January 3, 1850 (NS), in our world. In Ada January 3 is Lucette’s birthday:


According to the Sunday supplement of a newspaper that had just begun to feature on its funnies page the now long defunct Goodnight Kids, Nicky and Pimpernella (sweet siblings who shared a narrow bed), and that had survived with other old papers in the cockloft of Ardis Hall, the Veen-Durmanov wedding took place on St Adelaida’s Day, 1871. Twelve years and some eight months later, two naked children, one dark-haired and tanned, the other dark-haired and milk-white, bending in a shaft of hot sunlight that slanted through the dormer window under which the dusty cartons stood, happened to collate that date (December 16, 1871) with another (August 16, same year) anachronistically scrawled in Marina’s hand across the corner of a professional photograph (in a raspberry-plush frame on her husband’s kneehole library table) identical in every detail — including the commonplace sweep of a bride’s ectoplasmic veil, partly blown by a parvis breeze athwart the groom’s trousers — to the newspaper reproduction. A girl was born on July 21, 1872, at Ardis, her putative father’s seat in Ladore County, and for some obscure mnemonic reason was registered as Adelaida. Another daughter, this time Dan’s very own, followed on January 3, 1876.

Besides that old illustrated section of the still existing but rather gaga Kaluga Gazette, our frolicsome Pimpernel and Nicolette found in the same attic a reel box containing what turned out to be (according to Kim, the kitchen boy, as will be understood later) a tremendous stretch of microfilm taken by the globetrotter, with many of its quaint bazaars, painted cherubs and pissing urchins reappearing three times at different points, in different shades of heliocolor. Naturally, at a time one was starting to build a family one could not display very well certain intérieurs (such as the group scenes in Damascus starring him and the steadily-smoking archeologist from Arkansas with the fascinating scar on his liver side, and the three fat whores, and old Archie’s premature squitteroo, as the third male member of the party, a real British brick, drolly called it); yet most of the film, accompanied by purely factual notes, not always easy to locate — because of the elusive or misleading bookmarks in the several guidebooks scattered around — was run by Dan many times for his bride during their instructive honeymoon in Manhattan. (1.1)


The kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis, Kim Beauharnais seems to be the son of Arkadiy Dolgoruki (the narrator and main character in “The Adolescent”) and Alphonsine (a French girl in the same novel). Alfonsinka (as Arkadiy calls Lambert’s mistress) brings to mind ‘Alphonse Cinq,’ the concierge at Alphonse Four (Lucette’s hotel in Paris, the city also known on Antiterra as Lute):


The Bourbonian-chinned, dark, sleek-haired, ageless concierge, dubbed by Van in his blazer days ‘Alphonse Cinq,’ believed he had just seen Mlle Veen in the Récamier room where Vivian Vale’s golden veils were on show. (3.3)


Récamier is a character in Naden'ka (1920), a story in verse by Boris Sadovskoy, the author of Bourbon (1913) and Dvuglavyi oryol ("The Two-Headed Eagle," 1915). The latter story brings to mind Oryol dvuglavyi  ("The Two-Headed Eagle," 1914), a poem by Bryusov. The author of Pri elektrichestve (“By Electric Light,” 1912), Bryusov is portrayed in Sadovskoy’s Naden'ka as Ioann Asketov (asket is Russian for “ascetic”). Ivan Egorych Otshvyryonkov’s penname brings to mind Ioann Groznyi (Ivan the Terrible; btw., in “The Silhouettes of Russian Writers” Ayhenvald calls Dostoevski “Ivan the Terrible of Russian literature”) and Nurse Joan the Terrible (who is mentioned by Aqua in her last note):


Aujourd’hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doktor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several ‘patients,’ in the neighboring bor (piney wood) where I noticed exactly the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt. (1.3)


The last word in Bryusov’s poem Oryol dvuglavyi  is Rasputin:


Но пустота теперь на северной скале;

Крыло орла висит, и взор орлиный смутен,

А служит птичником при стихнувшем орле

Теперь Распутин.


In his Memoirs Felix Yusupov (one of Rasputin’s murderers) describes in detail what happened in his Moyka palace on the night of December 30, 1916 (NS).


Alexey Sklyarenko

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