“Ada, or Passion” by Nabokov in brief summary

“Ada, or Passion” by Nabokov in brief summary

“Ada” is a grandiose parody of different literary genres: from the novels of Leo Tolstoy through the cycle of Marcel Proust “In search of lost time” to fiction in the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut. The novel takes place in a country that originated from the assumption that the Kulikovo battle ended in the victory of the Tatar-Mongols, and the Russians, fleeing, flew to North America – with the descendants of these immigrants living in Amerosia in the middle of the 19th century, we get acquainted. And in the place of Russia, the mysterious Tataria stretched out behind the Golden Curtain.

All of this is on the planet Antitrare, which has a twin planet Terra the Beautiful – although in its existence is believed mostly crazy. On the map of Terra, Amerosia

naturally dissolves into America and Russia. The events on Antiterror are a belated reflection of the events on Terra. Partly, therefore, in the XIX century. phones, cars and airplanes, comics and bikinis, movies and radio, writers Joyce and Proust, and so on.

But the main thing is that all this is written by Van Win, who believes that the real world is just bright events that flash in his memory. He began writing memoirs in 1957, at the age of eighty-seven, and graduated in 1967. Van’s memory is bizarre: he mixes life with dreams, art with life, is confused in dates; his ideas about geography are drawn from an ancient globe and a botanical atlas.

After Van’s death, a man named Ronald Oringer took over the manuscript. He provided the text with his notes and introduced to him the comments that arose from the main characters in the course of reading the manuscript, to some extent it helps to understand how everything really was. The book is preceded by the genealogical tree of the Wine family and a warning that almost “all people named by name in this book have died.”

Part one opens with a paraphrase of the famous beginning of “Anna Karenina”: “All happy families are happy, in general, in different ways, all unhappy, in general, are similar to each other.” Indeed, family

happiness, described in the “Hell”, is very peculiar. In 1844 in the family of General Durmanov twin sisters Aqua and Marina were born. Beauty Marina became an actress, though not too talented. On January 5, 1868, she played Tatiana Larin, and she was tempted by Demon Vin, a thirty-year-old fatal handsome man and a Manhattan banker, between the two acts. Their passionate affair ended in a year because of Marinin’s treason. And on April 23rd, 1869, the Demon married a less attractive and slightly moved by the mind of Aqua. Winter sisters spent together in the Swiss resort of Aksay: there Aqua had a dead child, and Marina, two weeks later, on January 1, 1870, gave birth to Van – he was recorded as the son of Demon and Aqua. A year later, Marina married the demon’s cousin, Dan Wyn. In 1872, the birth of her daughter, Ada, whose real father was the Demon. In 1876, Lucette was born, perhaps already from her legitimate husband.

Most of the life of the poor Akva passes in the hospitals. She is fixated on Terra the Beautiful, where she is going after death. At the last stage of the disease, everything loses its meaning, and in 1883 Aqua commits suicide by swallowing pills, Her last note is addressed to “a sweet, sweet son” Van and “poor Demon” …

In the first days of June 1884, orphan Van comes to vacation in Ardis – to visit, so to speak, to Aunt Marina. The teenager has already experienced the first platonic love and acquired the first sexual experience. The meeting in Ardis Van and Ada is then remembered differently: Ada thinks that Van has invented everything, – let’s say, in such heat she would not have worn a black jacket cut into the memory of her brother.

Life in Ardis is reminiscent of the manorial life of Russian landlords: they speak Russian and French, get up late and have plenty to eat. Ada, an amusing and out of date development, speaks fluently, in Tolstoy, “effectively manipulating subordinate clauses.” It is crammed full of information about insects and plants, and Wang, thinking abstractions, sometimes tire her specific knowledge. “Was she pretty at her twelve?” – reflects the old man and remembers “with the same torment of youthful happiness, as love for Ada has taken hold of them.”

On a picnic on the occasion of the twelve years of Ada, she is allowed to wear a “lolita” – a long skirt in red poppies and peonies, “botanists unknown to the world”, according to the arrogant statement of the birthday girl. On a picnic, Wang demonstrates his crown number – walking on his hands. Ada, like Natasha Rostov, performs Russian dances; besides, she has no equal in the game of scrabble.

Knowing how to cross orchids and mate insects, Ada does not quite imagine the union of a man and a woman and for a long time does not notice signs of excitement in the cousin. On the night when everyone leaves to look at the burning barn, the children get to know each other on the old plush sofa in the library. In the summer of 1960, the ninety-year-old Wang, “picking up a cigarette with cannabis,” asks: “Do you remember how desperate we were… and how amazed I was by your intemperance?” – “Idiot!” – recalls the eighty-eight-year-old Hell. “Sister, do you remember the summer dandy, Ladora Blue and Ardis Hall? ..” – these poems set the main melody of the novel.

The love passion is closely related to the biblical passion, the good of the Ardis library is fourteen thousand eight hundred and forty one volumes. Reading Ada under strict control, but Wang can freely use the library. Young pornographers quickly disgusted pornography, they fell in love with Rabelais and Casanova and read together a lot of books with equal enthusiasm.

One day, Van asks Lucette, an eight-year-old cousin, to learn for him, in an hour, one romantic ballad – this is the time that he needs with Ada to seclude himself in the attic.

On a sunny September morning, Van leaves Ardis – it’s time for him to continue his studies. When Ada says goodbye, one girl in school is in love with her. In Ladoga, Van, on Demon’s advice, meets Cordula, in whom she suspects a lesbian who is in love with her sister. Imagining their relationship, he experiences a “tingling perverse pleasure.”

In 1885, Wang went to the University of Chuz in England. There he betrays a real man’s entertainment – from a card game to visiting brothels of the club “Villa Venus”. They correspond with Ada, using the cipher, compiled with the help of Marvel’s poem “The Garden” and Rimbaud’s poem “Memoirs”.

By 1888, Wang managed to win fame in the circus, demonstrating the same art of walking on his hands, as well as receive a prize for the philosophical and psychological essay “On Madness and Eternal Life.” And here he is again in Ardis. Here a lot has changed. Ada realized that she would never become a biologist, and became addicted to drama. A French governess, amused by her prose, composed a novel about “mysterious children who are engaged in strange things in old parks.” The former lover of Marina, directed by Vronsky, is based on the novel “Nasty Children”, a film where the mother and daughter must play.

From Ada’s stories about her role, one can understand that she changes Van with at least three. But surely nothing is known, and the thoughts and feelings of our couple are still remarkably in tune with each other. The affinity with Ada for Van “surpasses everything else, taken together.”

In the Ardis comes the Demon. He is saddened by the “fatal impossibility to tie the vague present with the undeniable reality of memories,” for it is difficult to recognize in today’s Marina the impetuous, romantic beauty of the times of their insane romance. I must admit that he himself, with his painted mustache and hair, is far from the same… The demon tries to open his son something very important, but he can not make up his mind.

On July 21, at a picnic in honor of the sixteenth birthday, Ada Van, in a fit of jealousy, beats up the young Count de Pré. A little later he was told how the music teacher Rak had Ada. Trying to justify himself, his beloved sister accidentally confesses everything. In a state of frenzied desperation, Van leaves Ardis. It’s all over, fucked up, torn to pieces!

The insulted lover starts all the hard. In Kalugano, he starts a duel with the unfamiliar Captain Tapper. Having fallen with a wound in Priozerny hospital, Van tries to kill the Cancer lying there, which, however, safely dies himself from the same disease. Soon he perishes somewhere in Tataria, near Yalta, and the Count of Prés. Van starts an affair with his cousin Cordula and learns that there was another girl, Vanda Broome, who was a lesbian at their school. In the first days of September, Van parted with Cordula and left Manhattan. A fruit is ripening in it – a book that he will soon write.

Part two is half the length of the first. Ada attacks Wang with letters. She swears in fidelity and love for him, then, in a feminine way, inconsistently justifies her connections with Cancer and de Pre, again speaks of love… Letters “writhe in pain,” but Wang is adamant.

He writes his first novel, Letters from Terra, extracting the political details of the life of the twin planet from the delirium of the mentally ill whom he observes at the Chuz University clinic. Everything on Terra is similar to the usual story of the 20th century: the Sovereign Commonwealth of the Aspiring Republics instead of Tatarstan; Germany, which turned under the rule of Ataulf of the Future into a country of “modernized barracks”, etc. The book is published in 1891; two copies sold in England, four in America.

After completing the fall semester in 1892 in a “first-class home for the insane” at Kingston University, Wang relaxes in Manhattan. Lucette comes with a letter from Ada. From a long intellectual-erotic conversation of relatives it turns out that Ada accustomed her sister to lesbian fun. In addition, Ada had an affair with a young Johnny – she threw a lover, knowing that it contains an old bugger.

Lucette wants Wang to “print out” her, but at this moment he most wants to print a letter from Ada. The sister reports that she was going to marry a Russian farmer from Arizona and waits for Wang’s last word, Wang sends Ade such a radiogram that the next day she arrives in Manhattan. The meeting is marvelous, with the possible exception, perhaps, that Ada confesses to Wanda Broom and that Vanda gave her a sunk black jacket to her. In addition, considering the photo album bought by Ada from one blackmailer for a thousand dollars, Wang discovers new traces of her betrayals. But, in the end, the main thing is that they are together again!

After visiting the best restaurant in Manhattan, Ada provokes his brother and sister to love the three of us. “Two young demons” bring the virgin Lucette almost to the loss of reason, and she escapes from them. Van and Ada enjoy happiness together.

At the beginning of February 1895, Dan Win died. Interrupting the next trip, the Demon comes to Manhattan to settle the affairs of his cousin. An incurable romantic, he believes that Van lives in the same attic with the same Cordula… There is no limit to his horror and despair when he finds Hell in a pink negligee! The last trump card of the Demon is the mystery of the birth of lovers. But, alas, Van and Ada know about everything for about ten years, and they do not give a shit. However, in the end, Wang obeys his father – lovers part.

Part three is twice shorter than the second. Sometimes Wang visits Marina, calling her now mother. She lives in a luxury villa on the Cote d’Azur, but at the beginning of 1890 she dies of cancer in the clinic of Nice, According to her will, the body betrays the fire. Van does not come to the funeral to not see Ada and her husband.

On June 3rd, 1901, Wang, in his scholarly deeds, goes on a steamer “Admiral Tabakoff” to England. On the same flight, Lucette, in love with him, secretly sits down. She tells Van that Ada’s wedding was going on according to the Orthodox rite, that the deacon was drunk and that Demon was crying even more inconsolably than at Marina’s funeral.

In the hope of turning the moment of bodily intimacy into an eternal spiritual bond, Lucette again and again tries to seduce Wang. But, seeing his reaction to the film “The Last Novel of Don Juan” with Ada in the role of a lovely Dolores, understands that nothing will come of it. Wang intends to explain to the girl in the morning that he has the same difficult situation as her, but he lives, works and does not go crazy. However, there is no need for notation – swallowing tablets and drinking them with vodka, poor Ajusett rushed to the black abyss of the ocean at night.

On the morning of March 1905, Van Vin, who had recently become the head of the philosophy department, sat on a carpet in the company of naked beauties. From the newspapers he learns that his father Demon, the son of Dedalus, died in an airplane accident. So, Marina absorbed the fire, Lucette – water, Demon – the air. Almost all obstacles to the reunification of brother and sister disappeared. Soon Ada’s husband falls ill with pneumonia and spends the next seventeen years in the hospital.

Part four, which is half of the third, is devoted mainly to the treatise “The Cloth of Time,” over which Van, resigning and settling in Switzerland, works in 1922. “The past is a generous chaos of images from which you can choose whatever you want. “The future does not exist…” So, thinking about the nature of Time, Van on the night of the thirteenth on the fourteenth of July in the pouring rain rushes by car to Monte Ru. There they must meet with Ada, whose husband died in April… “Nothing remains of her angular grace,” Wang describes this meeting, comparing fifty-year-old Ada with a twelve-year-old girl, although I have often seen her as an adult woman. However, the “insulting effect of age” of the time researcher is not so worried.

“We will never be able to know Time,” Ada says, “our feelings are simply not calculated to comprehend it… It’s like…” The comparison hangs in the air, and the reader is free to continue it.

Part five is half the fourth and is 1/16 of the first, which clearly demonstrates the work of Time and the memory of Wang. He joyfully welcomes life – on the day of his ninety-sixth birthday. From July 1922, brother and sister live together, mostly in Aksay, where Wang was born. They are guarded by Dr. Lagos, “lover of salty jokes and a great erudite”: it is he who supplies Van with erotic literature that fuels the imagination of the memoirist.

Although passionate desires sometimes overpowered Wang, he basically managed to avoid debauchery. At seventy-five years he had enough blitz tournaments with Ada, at eighty-seven he finally became a complete impotent. At the same time, a seventeen-year-old secretary appeared in their house: she would marry Ronald Orange, who would publish Van’s memoirs after his death. In 1940, according to the novel “Letter from Terra” a film was shot, and Van glorified: “Thousands of more or less unbalanced people believed… in the identity of Terra and Antitra, hidden by the government.” This is how Antitra, the subjective world of Van, and the more normal world of Terra close.

And now there is a flicker of the death of the heroes: they will closely cling to each other and merge into one single – in Vanadi.

The last paragraphs of the novel are reviewed by him: Wang is called “the irresistible libertine”, Ardisov’s chapters are compared with Tolstoy’s trilogy. It is noted “the grace of the picturesque details… butterflies and night violets… a frightened doe in the park of the family estate, and much, much more.”

The second edition of “Ada” came out with notes signed by “Vivian Darkblom”. Their tone is ironically condescending – so joked in his comments to “Eugene Onegin” Pushkin.


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“Ada, or Passion” by Nabokov in brief summary