NABOKV-L post 0019462, Sat, 20 Feb 2010 11:37:08 -0200

Fw: [NABOKV-L] QUERY: Red Wop Explained
corrected new posting...

----- Original Message -----
From: jansymello
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2010 5:34 AM
Subject: Fw: [NABOKV-L] QUERY: Red Wop Explained

Carolyn Kunin [to Jansy: part of Bunny-Volodya exchanges, long before Hazel was born...a jest with E.Wilson and their supreptitious envious "ban"s?] : "Give me a break! The correspondence between Wilson and VN was only published in 1979... What would VN's motive be... does it simply mean that powder/red wop is without any hidden intention, which I guess is what we all assumed before Matt Roth asked the question? But the problem remains - - what's so "wonderful" about that? Or does VN simply give Hazel a joke that had meaning only for himself and possibly Wilson? It just doesn't add up. p.s. "supreptitious"?

JM: The adjective C.K followed by a question mark surreptitiously popped into my posting. Since I often use it in Portuguese, Carolyn's doubt made me fear I'd practiced a solitary "Portuguecism" (the kind I'd always been taught to avoid in HS...) So I checked it again to realize that it was incorrectly spelled: a typo (instead of the "p", the "r").
Carolyn's persistent questioning always stimulates me into probing into formerly "assumed" routines, typos and words, and I can only thank her for that.

However, and here I enrol the aid of Poincaré: "If you are present at a game of chess, it will not suffice, for the understanding of the game, to know the rules for moving the pieces. That will only enable you to recognize that each move has been made conformably to these rules, and this knowledge will truly have very little value. Yet this is what the reader of a book on mathematics would do if he were a logician only. To understand the game is wholly another matter; it is to know why the player moves this piece rather than that other which he could have moved without breaking the rules of the game. It is to perceive the inward reason which makes of this series of successive moves a sort of organized whole. This faculty is still more necessary for the player himself, that is, for the inventor."*

Carolyn, I'm sure this quote and answer won't "add up" to you since you consistently depart from a logician's vertex, whereas I often abuse intuition. Both practices should balance each other and this is why I cannot but feel rewarded by your insistence***.
I still hold to the hunch that Nabokov intended to present a "private dig" at Edmund Wilson and that many of Nabokov's similar satires (if one may call them satires, not parodies) remain to be discovered by other dedicated scholars.

Matt Roth: [to Jansy] I'm not sure those quote marks absolutely means that VN was quoting Wilson, but it's worth checking...Also, I found another source that says red wop refers to alchol.

JM: Even if "red wop" refers to alcohol, it also applies to "anarchists" and to "w.o.p" as well. Given the context, I only chose treferences which were unrelated to your find about wines and alcohol, but this is merely a matter of interpretation, since I saw myself confronted by a choice between two different readings.

You are correct, Matt. The "quote marks" do not "absolutely mean that VN was quoting Wilson." The fact that VN writes an ingenious verselet where he attributes the words to Wilson and, when using them ten years later in another poem, uses quotation marks only for these specific twisted words is not an "absolute" proof. For me, though, it is provisionally satisfactory until I'm able to check into it further, or someone else brings new elements that demand a revision.

Ludger Tolksdorf: In an interview conducted (in English) for a German radio station in 2009, Adair himself called /And Then There Was No One /"a kind of twisted homage to Nabokov" ( In addition to the allusions mentioned in the review cited by Jansy, the novel contains several other references to Nabokov...

JM: Ludger Tolksdorf quoted Adair's novel and data about an interview, bringing up once more the subject related to this writer's "disavowal" (verwerfung), concerning the extent of Nabokov's "influence" over (or "unwanted presence in") Adair's thoughts.
Adair could be the ghost of Sebastian Knight (as he is seen by his half-brother V.) and I'm very curious to read one or two of his novels to confirm this hunch which I, here, prematurely divulge.

Poincaré on intuition in mathematics In this vast construction, of which each piece however is due to intuition, we may still to-day, without much effort, recognize the work of a logician. -

** Excerpts from former postings:

C. Kunin:I fail to see what is the link between the apparently explosive powder/red wop and Hazel?
JM: Once in a while I've the feeling that Kinbote bears traits inspired in how Nabokov sees critic E.Wilson.
By his own admission, Kinbote notices that he has something in common with Hazel (twisting of words).
Hazel twists T.S. Eliot into "Toilest" and "Powder" into "Red Wop."
I'll quote only from page 249 (letter 192, Feb.1949) VN addressed to Bunny:
Do you still work upon such sets
as for example "step" and "pets,"
as "Nazitrap" and "partizan,"
"Red Wop" and "powder," "nab" and "ban"?

PS: Thanks to Gary's quotes: She twisted words: pot, top,/ Spider, redips. And "powder" was "red wop." I realized that, indeed, "powder/red wop" stems from Edmund Wilson. Shade gives three examples and only the wop-play is crowned by quotation marks.
Nabokov and Wilson had famous opposing views on Lenin. I haven't yet had time to check when Wilson applied the redwop for the first time, I only found VN's private dig at him in his 1949 letter.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: