Annotations to Ada (2)

The Kyoto Reading Circle

Part 1
Chapter 6

41.2: 'browse'
Cf. Laurence, . . . was incensed to find the mellow lights on and fat-naped Pnin braced on his thin legs serenely browsing in a corner: "Excuse me, I only am grazing," as the gentle intruder (whose English was growing richer at a surprising pace) remarked, . . . (Pnin, Chapter2).

41.11: a slant of scholarly sunlight
S alliteration

42.4: three steep steps
Cf. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth (Lolita, Part I, Ch.1); As he went down the passage he encountered three steps before reaching the lift. The only purpose he could assign to them was that they warned him he was going to suffer (Transparent Things, Chapter 22).

42.24-25: (whose double he had seemed to have seen mirrored a moment ago--where?)
A glimpse of the future.

42.30: doorleaf
Nabokov's original word?

43.30: thank Log
Van speaks here not as the narrator but as a character.

44.5-6: a sham grotto, with ferns clinging to it shamelessly
"[S]hamelessly" refers to the ferns which cling to the grotto so tightly as to remind them of a shameless woman clinging to her lover. Cf. Boyd explains that the real ferns are growing "shamlessly"naturally--in the fake grotto.

44.7-8: an artificial cascade borrowed from some brook or book, or Van's burning bladder
b alliteration and the b sound of the cascade

44.18: The attic. This is the attic. Welcome to the attic.
In the beginning of the novel, Van and Ada found the fact of their birth in the very attic (p.8). "Welcome to the attic" is an address to the reader, "Welcome back to the attic."

44.21-22: with their faces against the wall like humiliated children
Spanking children's bottom or making them stand facing the wall for punishment.

44.24: Uncle Daniel's father
Ardelion who died of a stroke in 1848. Cf. 41.6: the ghost of his father who had died there of a stroke. "A stroke" could be of coronary thrombosis, of which Humbert died?

44.28-31: four years later--his Ada
Ada is to become Van's lover in four years.

44.29: its hawking-tubes
Something like missiles?

45.23-24: legless cows
The cows with their legs folded look legless.

45.27: bronzily boomed
A transferred epithet with b alliteration.

46.18-19: an anatomical term with a 'j' hanging in the middle
A word with a sexual allusion could be more suitable to Marina's vocabulary than "ojo [eye]" as which Boyd identifies the term. E.g. "Cojon [ball]," one of the well-known Spanish four-letter words, looks appropriate.

Chapter 7

47.1: sandpaper-eyed
Rough like sandpaper? Or an allusion to E.T.A.Hoffmann's The Sandman?

47.8-9: delicately but avidly (Ada, those adverbs qualified many actions of yours!)
Sexual connotation is obvious. The comment in parentheses is added by Van later.

47.10-11: her special V monogrammed silver spoon
AV is Ada's initials, and also means Ada-Van coupling. It could be the reminder of the adverb 'avidly'(47.9) and her 'mad aviary'(48.5-6).

47.18-19: not without a non-Audubon's apprehension
A complicated phrase with three negatives. Why not simply say "with a non-Audubon's apprehension"? Van might be reluctant to admit his poor knowledge on birds compared with Ada's rich taxonomy. As for John James Audubon (1785-1851), see Nabokov's review of his Butterflies, Moths and Other Studies. (Strong Opinion, 329-30). In it, Nabokov is harshly critical about Audubon's ability as a lepidopterist as well as the editor's. He is rather an illustrator than a scientist. "Does there not exist a high ridge where the mountainside of 'scientific' knowledge joins the opposite slope of 'artistic' imagination? If so, Audubon, the butterfly artist, is at sea level on one side and climbing the wrong foothill on the other." According to Aramata Hiroshi, Audubon is one of the most prominent 'naturalistic artists' in America. The whole set of his Birds of America (4 vols.) is now sure to be the most expensive—said to be worth at least 100 million yen—of all rare books. (Aramata, Zukan no Hakubutsushi, Libroport, 1984)

48.2: the brook he had observed on the eve
"an artificial cascade borrowed from some brook or book" (44.5-6)

48.4-5: After a moment of hesitation he visited the nursery water closet.
Did he hesitate because it was the "nursery" water closet? or the hesitation caused by his concern about gonorrhea?

48.8-9: General Dumanov's father acknowledged Van with grave eyes and passed him on to old Prince Zemski and other ancestors
Reference to the portraits of the ancestors along the wall. (43.3)

48.15: an inconspicuous recess concealed an assortment of spare keys
Cf. "the key was concealed in this hole here" (53.12)

48.22-23: a semi-assumed leer
'assumed'= parodic

48.23: 'soubret black and frissonet frill'
the conventional attire of a maid which, for some reason, seems to be irresistible for men. 'frisson'=shiver

48.25-26: holding one hand, starred with a tiny aquamarine
She wears a ring.

49.1-2: her attractive, though almost eyebrowless, face
Why eyebrowless? Cf. Her hair is chestnut. (See 48.24)

49.4: Blanche Her name is mentioned in Chapter1 (8.33) where she is the person who reveal
ed to Ada that Van's father is also Ada's.

49.4-6: Mlle Lariviere called her 'Cendrillon' because her stockings got so easily laddered, see, and because she broke and mislaid things, and confused flowers.
Blanche would be 'Cendrillon' in that the servant girl is always making a blunder and scolded. The reason why she "confuses flowers" might be attributed to her "color-blindness." Boyd points out that Blanche suffers from gonorrhea and her child will eventually prove blind.

49.14: Monsieur a quanze ans, je crois ...
Van is fourteen, not fifteen, in 1884.

49.22: le Docteur Chronique, I mean Crolique
Navokovian slip for 'Krolik.' (Boyd) Cf. "Marina had her own Dr.Krolik…" "Dr.Krolik, our local naturalist, ... has determined the example I brought back from Sacramento to Ardis, as the Bear-Foot ..." (8.19, 8.27-31)

49.23: Now we have to separate, the sparrow has disappeared.
When he hears these remarks, Van feels "as if he were taking part in a play in which he was the principal actor, but of which he could only recall that one scene." (49.28-30) Allusion to Romeo and Juliet? In Act 3 Scene 5, Romeo and Juliet know it is time to part because it is the lark, not nightingale that is singing. Boyd points out that Nabokov makes Van have a flirtation with Blanche before Ada just as Shakespeare has Romeo fixated on Rosalind before Juliet. (See Boyd, Forenote for Chapter 7.)

49.24: Bouteillan
See 35.32. "Bouteillan, the old bald butler who unprofessionally now wore a mustache (dyed a rich gravy brown), met [Van] with gested delight ..."

49.33-34: the green reality of the garden
The garden is not real, but rather "magical," indeed, though it might be more "real" than the deceptive mirror-images within the house.

Chapter 8

50.5-6: the white lady in your favorite lane
"a woman of marble bending over stamnos" (50.11-12) Blanche is also a "white lady."

50.6: the mountain, and the great oak
Cf. "My sister, you remember still/ The spreading oak tree and my hill?" (138:11-12)

51.5-6: Games Lucette, I hope, will be able to play next year with me, the poor pet.
Why Lucette is unavailable now is not clear. Maybe, she has to rest quietly in bed after she had pneumonia in spring.

51.12-13: 'Look,' said Van, still smarting a bit, 'there goes another haw-haw finch."
Van is still seeking his revenge to Ada after he said, "I'm not a country lad, who knows a cone from a stone." 'Haw-haw' is the representation of loud laughter.

51.22-23: the flying Italian lady
She might be associated with the image of Gina Lollobrigida, a movie actress from Italy, in Trapeze (1956). See Figure E.

51.23: the old oak aches
Both physically and mentally.

51.23: the old lover aches
The image of oak slightly changed here from a father into an old lover. Cf. "A green-spangled beauty flying to meet her strong father hanging by his feet from the trapeze."(51.17-18)

51.30: the first game
It seems questionable whether this game can actually be played. Is it a fictitious game or one which Nabokov had ever played?

52.30-31: He wondered if her walk would be more graceful when she grew up
Ada's walking seems somewhat awkward. See p. 50, l.3: "whose young hips disjointedly jerked."

53.19-21: curved tortoiseshell comb--in whose hairdo?
Blanche (a young chambermaid)'s comb. (48.23)

54.4: Adas a rhyme for "arbors" and "ardors"

55.4: catocalid
a moth (of the genus of catocala)

55.10: certified colors
The meaning of "certified" ("garanties" in French; "_________" in Russian) can not be clearly understood. It might mean innoxious to consume; or could mean primary colors with a chemical image.

56.7-8: mauve shades of Monsieur Proust
Proust describes time as mauve. Cf. p.9, ll.13-29: "'dark-blue'--Proust--his favorite purple passage remained the one concerning the name 'Guermantes,' with whose hue his adjacent ultramarine merged in the prism of his mind" (See Boyd)

Chapter 9

58.1:Was she really pretty, at twelve?
The answer to the question is never made clear.

58.15: eyelashes seemed blackened
They were mascaraed.

59.8: flat blind little cushions
Fingertips without nails.

59.29: that the child was darkly flossed. . . . he not only noticed but retained with tender terror until he freed himself of that vision--much later--and in strange ways
Cf. p217, ll.23-24: "One day he brought his shaving kit along and helped her to get rid of all three patches of body hair." Ā@Also see p.164, l.16 in Pale Fire (Penguin, 1962): "In Zembla, where most females are freckled blondes, we have the saying: belwif invurkumpf wid snew ebanumf, 'A beautiful woman should be like a compass rose of ivory with four parts of ebony.'"

60.4: a blind virgin
Not seeing clearly the body of the harlot.

60.5: mousy charms
Pubic hair.

61.10: Elsie de Nord
This refers to Elsinore, the castle in Denmark where Hamlet resides. The reference is not irrelevant because later in this chapter Marina talks of her having played the role of Ophelia.

62.15-16: The what? The rope for the fakir's bare-bottomed child to climb up in the melting blue?
Here Van remembers the episode in which he glimpsed Ada's dark floss when she tried to climb up to the roof (59.21-29).

63.18: and drank, in Russian solitude
i.e. drank in solitude as Russians do. Cf. Ardeur 89: "et buvait, buvait la russe tout seul dans sa chambre".

64.10: (First time she pronounced it--at that botanical lesson!)
As the present Van comments here, Ada calls him "Van" for the first time in the story time. We must also note that in her first speech in this book Ada calls him "Van" (8.27). According to Boyd, Nabokov deleted the following sentence: "The furniture movers have come as in the beginning of 'Poison,' that German play." Van, of course! We wonder why he discarded such a delightfully oblique allusion to the opening scene of The Gift.

64.17: a poem by Rimbaud (which she fortunately--and farsightedly--made me learn by heart . . .)
Perhaps his famous "Le Bateau ivre", which Nabokov translated into Russian.

64.18-19: though I suspect she prefers Musset and Coppe
Nabokov translated Musset's "Nuit de decembre" into Russian.

[To be continued]
Published in KRUG 3. 2 (June 2002)

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