NABOKV-L post 0019077, Thu, 14 Jan 2010 12:25:42 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] [TOUGHT] TOoL: Asparagus,
aspirins and Proust - synesthesia through mnemonic feats
In TOoL there is a quick reference to "asparagus" when Flora's mother has to go out herself to get "aspirins" because the maid had bought asparagus in their stead. As a wordplay, it is not very apt or funny. But I remembered other references to "asparagus" and decided to explore this choice of vegetable or sound: the spinning soup in Transparent Things and a description of Proust's novel in PF.

Nabokov, in TOoL, twice mocked Proust's "involuntary memory" through its first report of a madeleine immersed in an infusion of linden (tilleuil)leaves. In his essay about Proust, Samuel Beckett counted six such experiences and wrote extensively about Proust's theories. Nabokov, so it seems to me, insists that such magical recollections may happen at will, not merely by a chance combination of ingredients.
The link of asparagus and Proust, though, is most intriguing (I only recollect, together with the madeleine, a spoon with a crinkling napkin and a vague distant glassy noise as the other triggering elements of a synesthetic memory in Proust).

Here they are:
PF (Kinbote,note to line 181)"Speaking of novels,'I said,'you remember we decided once, you, your husband and I, that Proust's rough masterpiece was a huge, ghoulish fairy tale, an asparagus dream, totally unconnected with any possible people in any historical France, a sexual travestissement and a colossal farce, the vocabulary of genius and its poetry, but no more...mechanical Dostoevskian rows and Tolstoian nuances of snobbishness repeated and expanded to an unsufferable length, adorable seascapes, melting avenues...light and shade effects rivaling those of the greatest English poets, a flora of metaphors, described - by Cocteau, I think - as 'a mirage of suspended gardens'..."
ADA: (Marina) "contented herself with...what she remembered... as being his favorite food - zelyonïya shchi... After that...there would be bread-crumbed sander (sudak) with boiled potatoes, hazel-hen (ryabchiki) and that special asparagus (bezukhanka) which does not produce Proust's After-effect, as cookbooks say."
Transparent Things: "...trying to induce a dream ...On the printed page the words "likely" and "actually" should be italicized too, at least slightly, to indicate a slight breath of wind inclining those characters (in the sense of both signs and personae)...Human life can be compared to a person dancing in a variety of forms around his own self: thus the vegetables ...encircled a boy in his dream - green cucumber, blue eggplant, red beet, Potato pere, Potato fils, a girly asparagus, and, oh, many more, their spinning ronde going faster and faster and gradually forming a transparent ring of banded colors around a dead person or planet...One should bear in mind, however, that there is no mirage without a vanishing point, just as there is no lake without a closed circle of reliable land."
From Nabokov's childhood fevers and dellirium (aspirins?) we reach a Proustian asparagus ( fairy-tales and dreams?) with an invasion of chaotic spinning sensations. So what? Any ideas?

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