Q & H

Submitted by Shakeeb_Arzoo on Tue, 10/22/2019 - 15:38

For a long time I was wondering why this phrasing sounded so familiar (the scene where Quilty is murdered):

"He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us."

Apart from the instinctive farcical-comedy of the scene, I always felt an echo of something I had read before. Was casually re-reading some Joyce, when I came across this:

"As said before he ate with relish the inner organs, nutty gizzards, fried cods' roes while Richie Goulding, Collis, Ward ate steak and kidney, steak then kidney, bite by bite of pie he ate Bloom ate they ate." (Chap 11, Ulysses)

Do we have a name for this literary device? Extended periphrasis? Or is it just my ears only?


PS - Alfred Appel of course, annotates the "Because. . . ." poem that follows in the same page, from Eliot's Ash-Wednesday but apparently he didn't feel anything here.

You have wonderful ears, Shakeeb! In Ada Van Veen describes his visit to Villa Venus and mentions mollitude (cf. Molly Bloom) and the still-throbbing jolls-joyce:


Nightingales sang, when he arrived at his fabulous and ignoble destination. As usual, he experienced a surge of brutal elation as the car entered the oak avenue between two rows of phallephoric statues presenting arms. A welcome habitué of fifteen years’ standing, he had not bothered to ‘telephone’ (the new official term). A searchlight lashed him: Alas, he had come on a ‘gala’ night!

Members usually had their chauffeurs park in a special enclosure near the guardhouse, where there was a pleasant canteen for servants, with nonalcoholic drinks and a few inexpensive and homely whores. But that night several huge police cars occupied the garage boxes and overflowed into an adjacent arbor. Telling Kingsley to wait a moment under the oaks, Van donned his bautta and went to investigate. His favorite walled walk soon took him to one of the spacious lawns velveting the approach to the manor. The grounds were lividly illuminated and as populous as Park Avenue — an association that came very readily, since the disguises of the astute sleuths belonged to a type which reminded Van of his native land. Some of those men he even knew by sight — they used to patrol his father’s club in Manhattan whenever good Gamaliel (not reelected after his fourth term) happened to dine there in his informal gagality. They mimed what they were accustomed to mime — grapefruit vendors, black hawkers of bananas and banjoes, obsolete, or at least untimely, ‘copying clerks’ who hurried in circles to unlikely offices, and peripatetic Russian newspaper readers slowing down to a trance stop and then strolling again behind their wide open Estotskiya Vesti. Van remembered that Mr Alexander Screepatch, the new president of the United Americas, a plethoric Russian, had flown over to see King Victor; and he correctly concluded that both were now sunk in mollitude. The comic side of the detectives’ display (befitting, perhaps, their dated notion of an American sidewalk, but hardly suiting a weirdly illuminated maze of English hedges) tempered his disappointment as he shuddered squeamishly at the thought of sharing the frolics of historical personages or contenting himself with the brave-faced girlies they had started to use and rejected.

Here a bedsheeted statue attempted to challenge Van from its marble pedestal but slipped and landed on its back in the bracken. Ignoring the sprawling god, Van returned to the still-throbbing jolls-joyce. Purple-jowled Kingsley, an old tried friend, offered to drive him to another house, ninety miles north; but Van declined upon principle and was taken back to the Albania. (3.4)

I can definitely hear the similarity — my only hesitation to attributing a direct stylistic influence (or purposeful parody) is that I wouldn't be surprised if this device were more wide-spread, and thus not trademarkably Joycean. I'd be curious to see if it pops up in, likely, other modern poetry.

There might even be examples of this device in Nabokov's own works (prior to his reading Ulysses). The closest I could find on short notice is in Invitation to a Beheading:

“[...]Cincinnatus began counting loudly and firmly: one Cincinnatus was counting, but the other Cincinnatus had already stopped heeding the sound of the unnecessary count which was fading away in the distance; and, with a clarity he had never experienced before—at first almost painful, so suddenly did it come, but then suffusing him with joy, he reflected: why am I here? Why am I lying like this? And, having asked himself these simple questions, he answered them by getting up and looking around.” (Reading on the computer, so I don't have the page number, but it's the very end.)

Some of the other characters in Invitation switch places and blur together, but I don't have a good quote at the moment.

Not discounting your idea, just trying to see if we can find counter-evidence.

On another note...

I haven't yet seen anyone mention this allusion to Ulysses in Pale Fire:

“Neither Shade nor I had ever been able to ascertain whence precisely those ringing sounds came—which of the five families dwelling across the road on the lower slopes of our woody hill played horseshoe quoits every other evening; but the tantalizing tingles and jingles contributed a pleasant melancholy note to the rest of Dulwich Hill’s evening sonorities—children calling to each other, children being called home, and the ecstatic barking of the boxer dog whom most of the neighbors disliked (he overturned garbage cans) greeting his master home."

"It was this medley of metallic melodies which surrounded me on that fateful, much too luminous evening of July 21 when upon roaring home from the library in my powerful car I at once went to see what my dear neighbor was doing. I had just met Sybil speeding townward and therefore nursed some hopes for the evening. I grant you I very much resembled a lean wary lover taking advantage of a young husband’s being alone in the house!"

(From note to Line 991)

One answer to "whence precisely those ringing sounds came" with their "tingles and jingles" is that, in this book about influence, they came from Joyce's Ulysses. In Ulysses, the "quoits" and their "jingling" are the sounds of Molly's bed: "the loose brass quoits of the bedstead jingled". Later, Bloom sees Boylan riding a horse-drawn carriage on his way to see Molly, and the harness goes "jingle jingle jaunted jingling" in anticipation of the rocking bed. In Pale Fire's parody (which I hope is obvious now), the jingling quoits and jingling horse harnesses are synthesized into horseshoe quoits, with Kinbote playing our "lean wary lover," having traded in Boylan's jaunty cab for a "powerful car."


Yes, the device is wide-spread. We all know very well, what Nabokov had to say about Joyce’s “influence” and Alfred Appel’s and Brian's comments ("resistance-training") on that. For a similar example, let me just quote something from one of Nabokov’s favourite poets Richard Wilbur on subconscious workings: “Yes, that can happen. Once I was composing a poem called The Death of a Toad, and at the end of the first stanza of it I had an odd feeling of self-approval, the sort of feeling I don’t usually have when I start in to write something. That made me self-mistrustful, and after a few minutes pondering I became aware that I had reproduced a sequence of adjectives out of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream-Land,” and that’s why it felt so proper to me. Needless to say, I revised. I suppose every poet ought to be wary of self-approval, it most likely indicates that there’s some kind of hidden thievery operating.” I was wondering if this device, the physical comedy that comes out of describing the perfectly normal bodily motions verbally, in words (periphrasis, for the lack of a better word) has been "named". Beckett has tons of them, as I’m sure others do too.

Now, as for the comment to Pale Fire (ll. 991) and its allusion to Ulysses (it seems very plausible) maybe our annotator, Matthew Roth can weigh in on this. Btw. Nabokov had read Ulysses way before than what people might expect, even writing to Joyce that he could undertake its translation to Russian (I don’t remember the exact page no. from VNRY right now but it was around Nov. 1933, see Michael Begnal’s essay “Joyce, Nabokov and Hungarian National Soccear Team”). But of course, it is also correct that Nabokov had thoroughly absorbed Bely’s pre-Joycean Petersburg way earlier. Yes, your quote from Beheading is correct, I was wondering where else I had read it, actually Alexey had brought this exact quote up just a few posts back.

Alexey’s familiarity with Ada is great, as expected from this brief description from Zembla (https://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/contr.htm). As for another “still-throbbing jolls-joyce”, see Strong Opinions where Nabokov says: “My English, this second instrument I have always had, is however a stiffish, artificial thing, which may be all right for describing a sunset or an insect, but which cannot conceal poverty of syntax and paucity of domestic diction when I need the shortest road between warehouse and shop. An old Rolls-Royce is not always preferable to a plain Jeep.” (see and admire The Master’s contradictions!)

PS – Wilbur’s “The Death of Toad” is a great poem, perfectly enjoyable in its own rights. For more on this poem, see Bert O. States’s essay “The Death of a Finch” (Hudson Review).

Oh yeah - another one of Nabokov's preoccupations "nightingales sang" from the quote above. See the note by Nabokov on Chekhov's short story In the Ravine: "Among European writers you may distinguish the bad one from the good one by the simple fact that the bad one has generally one nightingale at a time, as happens in conventional poetry, while the good one has several of them sing together, as they really do in nature."

The intonation in Lolita ("I rolled over him. We rolled over me") is pretty close to that in Invitation to a Beheading ("It was plain that he was upset by the loss of that precious object. It was plain. The loss of the object upset him. The object was precious"):


Но его ещё промучили минуты две. Вдруг дверь отворилась, и, скользя, влетел адвокат.

Он был взлохмачен, потен. Он теребил левую манжету, и глаза у него кружились.

- Запонку потерял, - воскликнул он, быстро, как пёс, дыша. - Задел обо что.. должно быть... когда с милой Эммочкой... шалунья всегда... за фалды... всякий раз как зайду... я, главное, слышал, как кто-то... но не обратил... смотрите, цепочка очевидно... очень дорожил... ну, ничего не поделаешь... может быть еще... я обещал всем сторожам... а досадно...

- Глупая, сонная ошибка, - тихо сказал Цинциннат. - Я превратно истолковал суету. Это вредно для сердца.

- Да нет, спасибо, пустяки, - рассеянно пробормотал адвокат. При этом он глазами так и рыскал по углам камеры. Видно было, что его огорчала потеря дорогой вещицы. Это видно было. Потеря вещицы огорчала его. Вещица была дорогая. Он был огорчён потерей вещицы.


However, they tortured him for another two minutes or so. Suddenly the door opened, and, gliding, his lawyer rushed in. He was ruffled and sweaty. He was fiddling with his left cuff and his eyes were wandering around.

'I lost a cuff link,’ he exclaimed, panting rapidly like a dog. 'Must have — rushed against some — when I was with sweet little Emmie — she’s always so full of mischief — by the coat-tails — every time I drop in — and the point is that I heard something — but I didn’t pay any — look, the chain must have — I was very fond of— well, it’s too late now — maybe I can still — I promised all the guards — it’s a pity, though.’
'A foolish, sleepy error,’ said Cincinnatus quietly. 'I misinterpreted the fuss. This sort of thing is not good for the heart.’

'Oh, thanks, don’t worry about it, it’s nothing,’ absent-mindedly muttered the lawyer. And with his eyes he literally scoured the comers of the cell. It was plain that he was upset by the loss of that precious object. It was plain. The loss of the object upset him. The object was precious. He was upset by the loss of the object. (Chapter III)


The allusion is, of course, to a scene in Saltykov-Shchedrin's Gospoda Golovlyovy ("The Golovlyov Family," 1880) when Iudushka Golovlyov looks for the cuff links of his dead brother. Iudushka's real name, Porfiriy, brings to mind Porfiriy Petrovich, the investigator in Dostoevski's "Crime and Punishment." On the other hand, Iudushka ("little Judas") is a negative, as it were, of Khristosik ("little Christ"), as G. A. Vronsky (the movie man in Ada) called all pretty starlets:


Some confusion ensued less than two years later (September, 1871 — her proud brain still retained dozens of dates) when upon escaping from her next refuge and somehow reaching her husband’s unforgettable country house (imitate a foreigner: ‘Signor Konduktor, ay vant go Lago di Luga, hier geld’) she took advantage of his being massaged in the solarium, tiptoed into their former bedroom — and experienced a delicious shock: her talc powder in a half-full glass container marked colorfully Quelques Fleurs still stood on her bedside table; her favorite flame-colored nightgown lay rumpled on the bedrug; to her it meant that only a brief black nightmare had obliterated the radiant fact of her having slept with her husband all along — ever since Shakespeare’s birthday on a green rainy day, but for most other people, alas, it meant that Marina (after G.A. Vronsky, the movie man, had left Marina for another long-lashed Khristosik as he called all pretty starlets) had conceived, c’est bien le cas de le dire, the brilliant idea of having Demon divorce mad Aqua and marry Marina who thought (happily and correctly) she was pregnant again. Marina had spent a rukuliruyushchiy month with him at Kitezh but when she smugly divulged her intentions (just before Aqua’s arrival) he threw her out of the house. (1.3)


Rukuliruyushchiy (roucoulant, cooing) comes from rukulirovat', a quaint non-Russian verb used by Saltykov-Shchedrin in Gospoda Tashkenttsy (“Gentlemen of Tashkent,” 1873):


Он так мило брал свою конфетку-maman за талию, так нежно целовал её в щёчку, рукулировал ей на ухо de si jolies choses, что не было даже резона дичиться его. ("Gentlemen of Tashkent of the Prep-School")


The boy's konfetka-maman (the candy of a mother) brings to mind konfetki (candies) that Cecilia C. (Cincinnatus's very young mother) brings her son:


- Вот - я вам принесла (вытянула, вытягивая и подкладку, фунтик из кармана пальто). Вот. Конфеток. Сосите на здоровьице.


‘Here, I brought you this.' (She pulled a pound bag out of her coat pocket, pulling out the lining as well.) ‘Here. Some candy. Suck on it to your heart’s content.' (Chapter XII)


Btw., Roman Vissarionovich (the lawyer who lost his cuff link) seems to blend the Romanovs (the Russian imperial family) with Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin.


A namesake of Vera's sister in Goncharov's Obryv ("The Precipice," 1869), Marfinka (Cincinnatus's wife Marthe) also brings to mind Anninka and Lyubinka, the twin sisters in "The Golovlyov Family." Like Marina (the twin sister of poor mad Aqua), Anninka and Lyubinka are actresses.


A novel that Cincinnatus reads in the fortress, Quercus hints at Joyce's Ulysses.

Back to Shakeeb's observation:


It seems definitely Joycean, a seemingly absurd but poetically rhythmic interior sensation of a particular moment, etc., and it is unlikely that Nabokov would have written like this if he wrote in the 19th Century, so it could either be intentional or "cryptomnesiac."

What strikes me is that Humbert is conjugating a verb, "rolled."  Here is dictionary.com's definition of conjugate:

 1535–45; < Latin conjugālis, equivalent to con- con- + jug(um) yoke1 + -ālis -al1.


The two men, Humbert and his evil double, are "yoked" together. As in marriage, they are really One.


Within the Joyce quote, there is no "I". There is only observation of meat/taste/eat/others eat.

Humbert struggles with who/what is this "I".



Sorry to get off your main question again, but here's another related passage from Lolita (Part Two, Chapter 2):

“When, during our longer stops, I would relax after a particularly violent morning in bed, and out of the goodness of my lulled heart allow her—indulgent Hum!—to visit the rose garden or children’s library across the street with a motor court neighbor’s plain little Mary and Mary’s eight-year-old brother, Lo would come back an hour late, with barefoot Mary trailing far behind, and the little boy metamorphosed into two gangling, golden-haired high school uglies, all muscles and gonorrhea. The reader may well imagine what I answered my pet when—rather uncertainly, I admit—she would ask me if she could go with Carl and Al here to the roller-skating rink."

"I remember the first time, a dusty windy afternoon, I did let her go to one such rink. Cruelly she said it would be no fun if I accompanied her, since that time of day was reserved for teenagers. We wrangled out a compromise: I remained in the car, among other (empty) cars with their noses to the canvas-topped open-air rink, where some fifty young people, many in pairs, were endlessly rolling round and round to mechanical music, and the wind silvered the trees. Dolly wore blue jeans and white high shoes, as most of the other girls did. I kept counting the revolutions of the rolling crowd—and suddenly she was missing. When she rolled past again, she was together with three hoodlums whom I had heard analyze a moment before the girl skaters from the outside—and jeer at a lovely leggy young thing who had arrived clad in red shorts instead of those jeans or slacks.”

The device is almost split into two parts here, with the confusion of identities somewhat separated from the repeated "rolling" "revolutions." 

Worth mentioning too that this comes immediately before your original quote:

“All of a sudden I noticed that he had noticed that I did not seem to have noticed Chum protruding from beneath the other corner of the chest.”


I'm always reluctant to attach "meaning" or "interpretation" (like Q&H are one, when all is said and done) to any device that Nabokov might/might not have used with a specific purpose. Both Alain and Alexey provide different sets of examples which serve an analogous function. Again, I emphasize it's not necessarily Joycean - I wouldn't be surprised if Flaubert had cooked up something like this in his Bouvard et Pécuchet. What did this 'periphrasis' does first of all, is force the reader to re-read the sentence again because the repetition is so striking (and hilarious and absurd). It emphasizes the "textual" nature (readability) more than anything else. Second of all, it also presents a shift of perspectives, to a more theatrical one as and when required.

Now:  "It was plain that he was upset by the loss of that precious object. It was plain. The loss of the object upset him. The object was precious. He was upset by the loss of the object." It seems very much like a grammatical exercise, very similar to what we might have done at school. Here the first, longer sentence is sliced up - and dealt with in the consecutive ones (modifying the subject and object of sentences). It would be interesting to find homologous constructions from Petersburg. Now, for the one that Alain quotes, "All of sudden I noticed that he had noticed that I did not seem to have noticed Chum..." is a more complex one (for me) because it plays with intentions. A similar sort of construction may run like this: "A thinks that B thinks that C has been thinking of D". While storytelling, we often run into such devices and I would rather put them in a common repository of techniques a good author may have.


PS - Recent psychologists, I believe refer to mental exercise as ToMM, interested parties can look up Baron-Cohen.

Btw. it would be nice to draw some more attention to Kinbote's being "a lean wary lover taking advantage of a young husband" as an allusion to Ulysses. It would be very much like Kinbote to allude to Blazes Boylan and Molly, a show-off of his erudition, a snatching of our poet's pale fire. May be a separate post? I suspect that the sound of horseshoes is more deeply embedded in the texture of the novel, though.

>The schoolbook "grammatical exercise" of "precious object" seems very similar to the "conjugating" exercise of Q&H. 


>It seems to me that "lean and wary lover" is a fairly generic plot and stalking is not part of the Ulysses plot (is it?). This quote sounds more like Shakespeare's Julius Caesar's ("Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look") indicating plotting. 

Shakeeb Arzoo, I was thinking something similar today, I can't imagine any good reason for Nabokov to make a purposeful allusion to Joyce in the "I rolled" scene (and from what I understand, that has never been your point here). Besides conveying a confusion of identity, I think the device and all the "rolling" and "revolving" is somewhat sensual, possibly portraying the feeling of "coronary thrombosis," whose symptoms (skimming wikipedia) include "sharp pains around the chest area, breathing difficulties, dizziness, and fainting."

For good measure, I searched the text for "eye roll" and reminded myself how much Lolita makes this gesture, and that Quilty does it when he's shot (though I definitely don't think this adds anything to the reading of the "I rolled" scene).

Speaking of grammar books (which crossed my mind) and repetition and Joyce, I'm reminded of the beginning of Portrait:

"Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo."

As an aside: for "A noticed that B noticed that A noticed," I'm reminded of a lesson on game theory: two people are selected from an audience, come on stage, and are each given a hat to wear (the wearer can see the other's hat but cannot see their own hat). Both hats are pink. The instructor says "at least one of the hats is pink." The audience knows this to be true. Person A knows this to be true. Person B knows this to be true. But A doesn't know that B knows. And A doesn't know that B knows that A knows. And vice versa. The point being: when A knows that B knows that A knows (and on to infinity for all parties involved...) — this is our definition of "common knowledge."

As for Joyce's quoits in PF, I'll start a new thread shortly, thanks :)

In Priglashenie na kazn' (see the quote above in my post "lost cuff links") the eyes of Roman Vissarionovich (the lawyer) kruzhilis' (rolled), as he enters Cincinnatus's cell and says that he has lost his cuff link.

Sorry for revisiting this post after so much time has passed (the old pre-pandemic times), but there's an even more complicated retelling of this little nugget that Alain had initially proposed (as an aside) which seems to be an appropriate diversion in the current scenario.

Proposal:  C affirms that S denies that R declares that A is a liar.

"Provided A has made a statement" quips in SC, "then the proposal's truth-value is verifiable."

Now this much-accomplished SC likes to repeat an Indian parable about "certain larvae of dragonflies deposited at the bottom of a pond". The parable titled "Not lost but gone before", which he had learnt in his childhood, some fifty years before, says that:

A constant source of mystery for these larvae was what happens to them when, on reaching the stage of chrysalis, they pass through the surface of the pond, never to return. And each larva, as it approaches the chrysalis stage and feels compelled to rise to the surface of the pond, promises to return and tell those that remain behind what really happens, and to confirm or deny a rumor attributed to a frog that when a larva emerges on the other side of their world it becomes a marvelous creature with a long slender body and iridescent wings. But on emerging from the surface of the pond as a fully formed dragonfly, it is unable to penetrate the surface no matter how much it tries and how long it hovers. And the history books of the larvae do not record any instance of one of them returning to tell them what happens to it when it crosses the dome of their world. And the parable ends with the cry,

     . . .Will none of you in pity,
To those you left behind, disclose the secret?

To the memory of DBJ.

Source: New York Times, 1974.

SC - S. Chandrasekhar.