3 points from Ada

Submitted by Shakeeb_Arzoo on Thu, 07/11/2019 - 06:37

I was just browsing through Ada and (Ada Online) when I came across three points in need of further elucidation. (http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz)

Pt. 1 Ch 3 - 27.08: in distant France, at a much less radiant and easygoing "home": the principal allusion seems to be to the suicide of Emma Bovary, in a distorted Antiterran version. In Flaubert's novel she does not die in an institutional "home."

and from the same chapter,

27.17: repeated exactly clever Eleonore Bonvard's trick, namely, opting for the making of beds and the cleaning of glass shelves.

Brian Boyd judiciously (as usual) notes the principal allusion to Emma Bovary. For me however, instantly recognizable partly because of Julian Barnes' witty and wholesome Flaubert's Parrot, a conflation of Eleanor Marx (the first English translator of Madame Bovary and unfortunately meeting a similar fate) and Emma Bovary. Just to put in perspective, the passage in question is from Chapter 14 under the section Psychology. I can quote the striking passage here, but shall skip it due to copyright reasons. (Interested people can preview the book from GoogleBooks and go to the desired section by searching for Eleanor Marx). I thought of mentioning it to Brian, but after searching NABOKV-L, I see it has been commented by the Alexey Skylarenko as far as back from 2006 and 2011 (https://thenabokovian.org/node/9987). Of course, Nabokov had used the same text for his Bovary lecture (emending upto some 10,000 entries from the translation). So, it's unlikely that Nabokov would have been unaware of it.

Secondly,

Pt. 1 Ch 19 - 120.30-33: I denounce the philistine’s post-coital cigarette both as a doctor and an artist: Here, Brian Boyd notes the further development of this incident from Pt. 2 Ch 7 (Darling, you smoke too much, my belly is covered with your ashes”)  which is excellent, but since 'philistine' is one of Nabokov's signal words, one is inevitably reminded of some examples namely, Rodolphe's posh smugness (after making love to Emma in the woods) from Part II Chap IX of Mme Bovary. In Nabokov's translation, the passage in question is:

"Silence was everywhere; a mild something seemed to come forth from the trees; she felt her heart, whose beating had begun again, and the blood coursing through her flesh like a stream of milk. Then far away, beyond the wood, on the other hills, she heard a vague prolonged cry, a voice which lingered, and in silence she heard it mingling like music with the last pulsations of her throbbing nerves. Rodolphe, a cigar in his teeth, was mending with his penknife one of the bridles that had broken."

Nabokov comments on this and the passage before this as follows (I'm paraphrasing):

i) When Emma has returned from love's swoon, you will please mark the remote note that reaches her from somewhere beyond the quiet woods - a musical moan in the distance - for all its enchantment is nothing but the glorified echo of a hideous vagabond's raucous song. And presently Emma and Rodolphe come back from their ride - with a smile on the face of the author. For that raucous song here and in Rouen will hideously mingle with Emma's death rattle less than five years later.

ii) Flaubert collects all the possible cliches of journalistic and political speech; but it is very important to note that, if the official speeches are stale "journalese," the romantic conversation between Rodolphe and Emma is stale "romantiese." The whole beauty of the thing is that it is not good and evil interrupting each other, but one kind of evil intermingled with another kind of evil.

Another one of Flaubert references, would be from Pt. 2 Ch. 8:

416.04: She complained he hurt her "like a Tiger Turk." : Brian has not begun his comprehensive annotations to this chapter yet and searching for the phrase in NABOKV-L brings up this thread (https://thenabokovian.org/node/11088). Let me just quote a letter from Flaubert where this phrase occurs (from 1854, most probably to Louise Colet):

"You ask for love, you complain that I don’t send you flowers? Flowers, indeed! If that’s what you want, find yourself some wet-eared boy stuffed with fine manners and all the right ideas. I’m like the tiger, which has bristles of hair at the end of its cock, with which it lacerates the female."

I hope that it makes sense within the context.

PS - I mentioned "similar fate" while referring to Eleanor Marx, but it's the wrong word. Emma is a fictional character while Eleanor was a real person and it would be wrong to write her off this way. In her case, she was the one who was betrayed and deceived. Further details can be found out from the last chapter of Yvonne Kapp's biography of Eleanor Marx. Just one more point, Eleanor's husband Edward Aveling didn't outlast her for much long either (just four more months), succumbing to a kidney disease.