Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 3, Chapter 7 (annotations forthcoming)

He greeted the dawn of a placid and prosperous century (more
than half of which Ada and I have now seen) with the beginning
of his second philosophic fable, a “denunciation of space” (never
to be completed, but forming in rear vision, a preface to his
502.05 Texture of Time). Part of that treatise, a rather mannered affair,
but nasty and sound, appeared in the first issue (January, 1904)
of a now famous American monthly, The Artisan, and a com-
ment on the excerpt is preserved in one of the tragically formal
letters (all destroyed save this one) that his sister sent him by
502.10 public post now and then. Somehow, after the interchange oc-
casioned by Lucette’s death such nonclandestine correspondence
had been established with the tacit sanction of Demon:
And o’er the summits of the Tacit
502.15 He, banned from Paradise, flew on:
Beneath him, like a brilliant’s facet,
Mount Peck with snows eternal shone.
It would seem indeed that continued ignorance of each other’s
existence might have looked more suspicious than the following
502.20 sort of note:

[ 502 ]

Agavia Ranch

February 5, 1905

I have just read Reflections in Sidra, by Ivan Veen, and
I regard it as a grand piece, dear Professor. The “lost
503.05 shafts of destiny” and other poetical touches reminded
me of the two or three times you had tea and muffins at
our place in the country about twenty years ago. I was,
you remember (presumptuous phrase!), a petite fille
modèle practicing archery near a vase and a parapet and
503.10 you were a shy schoolboy (with whom, as my mother
guessed, I may have been a wee bit in love!), who duti-
fully picked up the arrows I lost in the lost shrubbery of
the lost castle of poor Lucette’s and happy, happy Ad-
ette’s childhood, now a “Home for Blind Blacks”—both
503.15 my mother and L., I’m sure, would have backed Dasha’s
advice to turn it over to her Sect. Dasha, my sister-in-law
(you must meet her soon, yes, yes, yes, she’s dreamy and
lovely, and lots more intelligent than I), who showed me
your piece, asks me to add she hopes to “renew” your
503.20 acquaintance—maybe in Switzerland, at the Bellevue in
Mont Roux, in October. I think you once met pretty Miss
“Kim” Blackrent, well, that’s exactly dear Dasha’s type.
She is very good at perceiving and pursuing originality
and all kinds of studies which I can’t even name! She
503.25 finished Chose (where she read History—our Lucette
used to call it “Sale Histoire,” so sad and funny!). For
her you’re le beau ténébreux, because once upon a time,
once upon libellula wings, not long before my marriage,
she attended—I mean at that time, I’m stuck in my
503.30 “turnstyle”—one of your public lectures on dreams,
after which she went up to you with her latest little
nightmare all typed out and neatly clipped together,
and you scowled darkly and refused to take it. Well,
she’s been after Uncle Dementiy to have him admonish

[ 503 ]

le beau ténébreux to come to Mont Roux Bellevue Hotel,
in October, around the seventeenth, I guess, and he only
laughs and says it’s up to Dashenka and me to arrange
504.05 So “congs” again, dear Ivan! You are, we both think,
a marvelous, inimitable artist who should also “only
laugh,” if cretinic critics, especially lower-upper-middle-
class Englishmen, accuse his turnstyle of being “coy” and
“arch,” much as an American farmer finds the parson
504.10 “peculiar” because he knows Greek.
Dushevno klanyayus’ (“am souledly bowing”, an in-
correct and vulgar construction evoking the image of a
“bowing soul”) nashemu zaochno dorogomu professoru
504.15 (“to our ‘unsight-unseen’ dear professor”), o kotorom
mnogo slïshal (about whom have heard much) ot dobrago
Dementiya Dedalovicha i sestritsï (from good Demon
and my sister).
S uvazheniem (with respect),
504.20 Andrey Vaynlender

Furnished Space, l’espace meublé (known to us only as
furnished and full even if its contents be “absence of substance”
—which seats the mind, too), is mostly watery so far as this
globe is concerned. In that form it destroyed Lucette. Another
504.25 variety, more or less atmospheric, but no less gravitational and
loathsome, destroyed Demon.
Idly, one March morning, 1905, on the terrace of Villa
Armina, where he sat on a rug, surrounded by four or five lazy
nudes, like a sultan, Van opened an American daily paper
504.30 published in Nice. In the fourth or fifth worst airplane disaster
of the young century, a gigantic flying machine had inexplicably
disintegrated at fifteen thousand feet above the Pacific between
Lisiansky and Laysanov Islands in the Gavaille region. A list

[ 504 ]

of “leading figures” dead in the explosion comprised the adver-
tising manager of a department store, the acting foreman in the
sheet-metal division of a facsimile corporation, a recording firm
executive, the senior partner of a law firm, an architect with
505.05 heavy aviation background (a first misprint here, impossible to
straighten out), the vice president of an insurance corporation,
another vice president, this time of a board of adjustment what-
ever that might be—
“I’m hongree,” said a maussade Lebanese beauty of fifteen
505.10 sultry summers.
“Use bell,” said Van, continuing in a state of odd fascination
to go through the compilation of labeled lives:
—the president of a wholesale liquor-distributing firm, the
manager of a turbine equipment company, a pencil manufac-
505.15 turer, two professors of philosophy, two newspaper reporters
(with nothing more to report), the assistant controller of a
wholesome liquor distribution bank (misprinted and misplaced),
the assistant controller of a trust company, a president, the
secretary of a printing agency—
505.20 The names of those big shots, as well as those of some eighty
other men, women, and silent children who perished in blue
air, were being withheld until all relatives had been reached;
but the tabulatory preview of commonplace abstractions had
been thought to be too imposing not to be given at once as an
505.25 appetizer; and only on the following morning did Van learn that
a bank president lost in the closing garble was his father.
“The lost shafts of every man’s destiny remain scattered all
around him,” etc. (Reflections in Sidra).
The last occasion on which Van had seen his father was at
505.30 their house in the spring of 1904. Other people had been
present: old Eliot, the real-estate man, two lawyers (Gromb-
chevski and Gromwell), Dr. Aix, the art expert, Rosalind
Knight, Demon’s new secretary, and solemn Kithar Sween, a
banker who at sixty-five had become an avant-garde author;

[ 505 ]

in the course of one miraculous year he had produced The
Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding
habits, and Cardinal Grishkin, an overtly subtle yam extolling
the Roman faith. The poem was but the twinkle in an owl’s
506.05 eye; as to the novel it had already been pronounced “seminal”
by celebrated young critics (Norman Girsh, Louis Deer, many
others) who lauded it in reverential voices pitched so high that
an ordinary human ear could not make much of that treble
volubility; it seemed, however, all very exciting, and after a
506.10 great bang of obituary essays in 1910 (“Kithar Sween: the man
and the writer,” “Sween as poet and person,” “Kithar Kirman
Lavehr Sween: a tentative biography”) both the satire and
the romance were to be forgotten as thoroughly as that acting
foreman’s control of background adjustment—or Demon’s
506.15 edict.
The table talk dealt mainly with business matters. Demon had
recently bought a small, perfectly round Pacific island, with a
pink house on a green bluff and a sand beach like a frill (as seen
from the air), and now wished to sell the precious little palazzo
506.20 in East Manhattan that Van did not want. Mr. Sween, a greedy
practitioner with flashy rings on fat fingers, said he might buy
it if some of the pictures were thrown in. The deal did not come
Van pursued his studies in private until his election (at thirty-
506.25 five!) to the Rattner Chair of Philosophy in the University
of Kingston. The Council’s choice had been a consequence of
disaster and desperation; the two other candidates, solid schol-
ars much older and altogether better than he, esteemed even
in Tartary where they often traveled, starry-eyed, hand-in-
506.30 hand, had mysteriously vanished (perhaps dying under false
names in the never-explained accident above the smiling ocean)
at the “eleventh hour,” for the Chair was to be dismantled if it
remained vacant for a legally limited length of time, so as to
give another, less-coveted but perfectly good seat the chance

[ 506 ]

to be brought in from the back parlor. Van neither needed nor
appreciated the thing, but accepted it in a spirit of good-natured
perversity or perverse gratitude, or simply in memory of his
father who had been somehow involved in the whole affair. He
507.05 did not take his task too seriously, reducing to a strict minimum,
ten or so per year, the lectures he delivered in a nasal drone
mainly produced by a new and hard to get “voice recorder”
concealed in his waistcoat pocket, among anti-infection Venus
pills, while he moved his lips silently and thought of the lamplit
507.10 page of his sprawling script left unfinished in his study. He
spent in Kingston a score of dull years (variegated by trips
abroad), an obscure figure around which no legends collected
in the university or the city. Unbeloved by his austere col-
leagues, unknown in local pubs, unregretted by male stu-
507.15 dents, he retired in 1922, after which he resided in Europe.

[ 507 ]

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