Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 5, Chapter 5 (annotations forthcoming)

Ada, who resented the insufficiency of her brother’s fame, felt
soothed and elated by the success of The Texture of Time
(1924). That work, she said, always reminded her, in some
odd, delicate way, of the sun-and-shade games she used to play
579.05 as a child in the secluded avenues of Ardis Park. She said she
had been somehow responsible for the metamorphoses of the
lovely larvae that had woven the silk of “Veen’s Time” (as
the concept was now termed in one breath, one breeze, with
“Bergson’s Duration,” or “Whitehead’s Bright Fringe”). But a
579.10 considerably earlier and weaker work, the poor little Letters
from Terra, of which only half a dozen copies existed—two in
Villa Armina and the rest in the stacks of university libraries—
was even closer to her heart because of its nonliterary associa-
tions with their 1892–93 sojourn in Manhattan. Sixty-year-old
579.15 Van crustily and contemptuously dismissed her meek sugges-
tion to the effect that it should be republished, together with
the Sidra reflections and a very amusing anti-Signy pamphlet
on Time in Dreams. Seventy-year-old Van regretted his disdain
when Victor Vitry, a brilliant French director, based a com-
579.20 pletely unauthorized picture on Letters from Terra written by
“Voltemand” half a century before.

[ 579 ]

Vitry dated Theresa’s visit to Antiterra as taking place in
1940, but 1940 by the Terranean calendar, and about 1890 by
ours. The conceit allowed certain pleasing dips into the modes
and manners of our past (did you remember that horses wore
580.05 hats—yes, hats—when heat waves swept Manhattan?) and gave
the impression—which physics-fiction literature had much ex-
ploited—of the capsulist traveling backward in terms of time.
Philosophers asked nasty questions, but were ignored by the
wishing-to-be-gulled moviegoers.
580.10 In contrast to the cloudless course of Demonian history in
the twentieth century, with the Anglo-American coalition man-
aging one hemisphere, and Tartary, behind her Golden Veil,
mysteriously ruling the other, a succession of wars and revolu-
tions were shown shaking loose the jigsaw puzzle of Terrestrial
580.15 autonomies. In an impressive historical survey of Terra rigged
up by Vitry—certainly the greatest cinematic genius ever to
direct a picture of such scope or use such a vast number of
extras (some said more than a million, others, half a million
men and as many mirrors)—kingdoms fell and dictatordoms
580.20 rose, and republics, half-sat, half-lay in various attitudes of dis-
comfort. The conception was controversial, the execution flaw-
less. Look at all those tiny soldiers scuttling along very fast
across the trench-scarred wilderness, with explosions of mud
and things going pouf-pouf in silent French now here, now
580.25 there!
In 1905, Norway with a mighty heave and a long dorsal
ripple unfastened herself from Sweden, her unwieldy co-
giantess, while in a similar act of separation the French parlia-
ment, with parenthetical outbursts of vive émotion, voted a
580.30 divorce between State and Church. Then, in 1911, Norwegian
troops led by Amundsen reached the South Pole and simul-
taneously the Italians stormed into Turkey. In 1914 Germany
invaded Belgium and the Americans tore up Panama. In 1918
they and the French defeated Germany while she was busily

[ 580 ]

defeating Russia (who had defeated her own Tartars some time
earlier). In Norway there was Siegrid Mitchel, in America
Margaret Undset, and in France, Sidonie Colette. In 1926 Abd-
el-Krim surrendered, after yet another photogenic war, and
581.05 the Golden Horde again subjugated Rus. In 1933, Athaulf
Hindler (also known as Mittler—from “to mittle,” mutilate)
came to power in Germany, and a conflict on an even more
spectacular scale than the 1914–1918 war was under way, when
Vitry ran out of old documentaries and Theresa, played by his
581.10 wife, left Terra in a cosmic capsule after having covered the
Olympic Games held in Berlin (the Norwegians took most of
the prizes, but the Americans won the fencing event, an out-
standing achievement, and beat the Germans in the final foot-
ball match by three goals to one).
581.15 Van and Ada saw the film nine times, in seven different lan-
guages, and eventually acquired a copy for home use. They
found the historical background absurdly farfetched and con-
sidered starting legal proceedings against Vitry—not for having
stolen the L.F.T. idea, but for having distorted Terrestrial poli-
581.20 tics as obtained by Van with such diligence and skill from
extrasensorial sources and manic dreams. But fifty years had
elapsed, and the novella had not been copyrighted; in fact,
Van could not even prove that “Voltemand” was he. Reporters,
however, ferreted out his authorship, and in a magnanimous
581.25 gesture, he allowed it to be publicized.
Three circumstances contributed to the picture’s exceptional
success. One factor was, of course, that organized religion, dis-
approving of Terra’s appeal to sensation-avid sects, attempted
to have the thing banned. A second attraction came from a
581.30 little scene that canny Vitry had not cut out: in a flashback
to a revolution in former France, an unfortunate extra, who
played one of the under-executioners, got accidentally decapi-
tated while pulling the comedian Steller, who played a re-
luctant king, into a guillotinable position. Finally, the third, and

[ 581 ]

even more human reason, was that the lovely leading lady,
Norwegian-born Gedda Vitry, after titillating the spectators
with her skimpy skirts and sexy rags in the existential sequences,
came out of her capsule on Antiterra stark naked, though, of
582.05 course, in miniature, a millimeter of maddening femininity danc-
ing in “the charmed circle of the microscope” like some lewd
elf, and revealing, in certain attitudes, I’ll be damned, a pinpoint
glint of pubic floss, gold-powdered!
L.F.T. tiny dolls, L.F.T. breloques of coral and ivory, ap-
582.10 peared in souvenir shops, from Agony, Patagonia, to Wrinkle-
balls, Le Bras d’Or. L.F.T. clubs sprouted. L.F.T. girlies minced
with mini-menus out of roadside snackettes shaped like space-
ships. From the tremendous correspondence that piled up on
Van’s desk during a few years of world fame, one gathered
582.15 that thousands of more or less unbalanced people believed (so
striking was the visual impact of the Vitry-Veen film) in the
secret Government-concealed identity of Terra and Antiterra.
Demonian reality dwindled to a casual illusion. Actually, we
had passed through all that. Politicians, dubbed Old Felt and
582.20 Uncle Joe in forgotten comics, had really existed. Tropical
countries meant, not only Wild Nature Reserves but famine,
and death, and ignorance, and shamans, and agents from dis-
tant Atomsk. Our world was, in fact, mid-twentieth-century.
Terra convalesced after enduring the rack and the stake, the
582.25 bullies and beasts that Germany inevitably generates when
fulfilling her dreams of glory. Russian peasants and poets had
not been transported to Estotiland, and the Barren Grounds,
ages ago—they were dying, at this very moment, in the slave
camps of Tartary. Even the governor of France was not Charlie
582.30 Chose, the suave nephew of Lord Goal, but a bad-tempered
French general.

[ 582 ]

(back to Part Five, Chapter 4)
(forward to Part Five, Chapter 6)

(This page is part of ADAonline, which depends on frames for navigation. If you have been referred to this page without the surrounding frameset, follow this link.)