NABOKV-L post 0019418, Mon, 15 Feb 2010 19:53:27 -0200

Re: Dark blue
Alexey Sklyarenko ...Tyomno-siniy means "dark-blue" in Russian. Temnosiniy is a historical name of a princely family the Barkhatnaya kniga ("Velvet Book") of Russian aristocrats.
JM: But for you, I'd never learn about all these nuances from reading the English text alone ...What about Van Veen's ancestors in connection to Guermantes?

PS: I should have consulted Boyd's notes and the List before asking. At least, even if accidentaly, the issue has been reopened in a "conversational mood."
CF. Nabokov-L (Sklyarenko,Don Johnson, Boyd...) November 13, 2002: Colors and shades: the Temnosiniy and Proust allusions

B.Boyd: A belated response to Alexey Sklyarenko's invaluable note on the Velvet Book in ADA. I keep updating my files of ADA annotations...When at 9.27-29 Van announces that "his favorite purple passage remained the one concerning the name 'Guermantes,' with whose hue . . . ," he has in mind Marcel's meditation, beginning on the second page of Le Cote de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way) and lasting for several more pages (Pleiade ed., 1954, II,10-15) on the romance, the sounds and the color of names, especially of an old aristocratic name like "Guermantes." Nor is it accidental that a chapter that begins with an echo of Tolstoy's novel should end with a reference to Proust's, right where Marcel muses: "C'etait, ce Guermantes, comme le cadre d'un roman" ("It was, this 'Guermantes,' like the scene of a novel"). Since the Guermantes name comes back to Marcel at its purest as "ce mauve si doux, trop brillant, trop neuf, dont se veloutait la cravate gonflee de la jeune duchesse" ("that purple so soft, too brilliant, too new, which gave a velvet bloom to the young Duchess's billowy scarf"), Van's "purple passage" (9.27), though quite accurate, is also a pun. Indeed, the pun is compounded, since the "purple" in "purple passage" derives from the use of cloth dyed purple, "esp., a purple robe worn as an emblem of rank or authority, specif., that worn by Roman emperors" (W2, purple), a sense extended colloquially to refer to "exalted station; great wealth. . . . 'Born in the purple.' Gibbon" (W2). But the term "purple passage" itself, while drawing on this sense, derives as a phrase from the Ars Poetica of Horace ...Since Van's own "purple passage" here, about his favorite purple passage in Proust, concerns the purple scarf of the Duchess of Guermantes, a family born in the purple, and is itself tacked on ("Re the 'dark-blue' allusion, left hanging") to the beginning of a large work, the pun is at least four-way, or as Joyce would say, not trivial but quadrivial. It's also a wonderful summary of the involved, hypersensual, snobbery-infested temporal palimpsest that is Proust.

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