NABOKV-L post 0019618, Sun, 14 Mar 2010 11:35:00 -0400

Re: [NABOKOV-L] Boris Vian and Nabokovian wordplay

Excerpt from "The Deserted Village" of Oliver Goldsmith, apropos Lolita:

407 And thou, sweet poetry thou loveliest maid,
408 Still first to fly where sensual joys invade;
409 Unfit in these degenerate times of shame
410 To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame;
411 Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried,
412 My shame in crowds, my solitary pride;
413 Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe,
414 That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so;
415 Thou guide by which the nobler arts excel,
416 Thou nurse of every virtue, fare thee well!
417 Farewell, and oh! where'er thy voice be tried,
418 On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side,
419 Whether where equinoctial fervours glow,
420 Or winter wraps the polar world in snow,
421 Still let thy voice, prevailing over time,
422 Redress the rigours of th' inclement clime;
423 Aid slighted truth, with thy persuasive strain
424 Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain;
425 Teach him that states of native strength possest,
426 Though very poor, may still be very blest;
427 That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,
428 As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away;
429 While self-dependent power can time defy,
430 As rocks resist the billows and the sky.

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2010 11:34:52 +0100
From: hafidbouazza@GMAIL.COM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] Boris Vian and Nabokovian wordplay

Still searching for 'a limp spectre' in Nabokov's works, I stumbled upon a... green door! In fact, green doors. They are the doors of Elphinstone hospital (the poet Oliver Goldsmith was born near Elphin, Ireland) :

- and Aurora had hardly 'warmed her hands,' as the pickers of lavender say in the country of my birth, when I found myself trying to get into that dungeon again, knocking upon its green doors, breakfastless, stool-less, in despair.

(Lolita, II:22)


Hafid Bouazza

2010/3/13 Jansy <>

S.K-Bootle [to JM]: it remains a question of fact whether VN ever read anything by Vian. Given VN’s unbounded curiosity, and Vian’s relative prominence, the chances are indeed high...But Alexey seemed to suggest that the anagrams of v-i-a-n might be relevant, or may even have played a role in VN’s choice of reading. Not sure if you accept my rejection of this dubious approach? ...I would hope such evidence would be stronger than in the recent exchanges on Martin Amis, where the latter’s use of “limp” was rated significant.

JM: I cannot say that I either endorse or reject your rejection of Alexey's approach because, however hard I try, I cannot understand AS's theory or his anagramatic links. I learn a lot, indirectly, by his information on Russian lit. and several other indications.

Whenever possible I risk posting an item which might serve him as a clue (now,for example, I tried to open the field on Boris Vian, so as to avoid closing the issue after your remarks). There were two examples comparing sentences by M.Amis and V.Nabokov that were excellent matches. I don't know why one should discard the "limp specter" intuition that could provide us with a third example. A forum is a forum is a forum.

Take an aphorism I recently collected from "Strong Opinions" (Vintage,155) "the best part of a writer's biography is not the record of his adventures but the story of his style." I encountered, by accident, a similar sentence (but not "similar"enough), by Valéry, quoted by Edmund Wilson ("Axel's Castle", ch.3 on Paul Valéry).
Valéry, like Mallarmé before him, valued literature for its "algebraic" qualities and complexity of pattern. He wrote "Who is able to read me will find my autobiography through form. Content is of little importance."*
E.Wilson's chapter on James Joyce (part V) describes how Joyce's characters "thought and felt exclusively in terms of words" (cp.with VN's observation that Joyce gave too much verbal body to his thoughts). Wilson explains that Joyce's faulty vision interfered progressively with his apprehension of the world and that this fact was one of the elements that led him to express what would have simply remained as a private "sight", describing it in detail in order to recover his "vision" for the particular item. Wilson offers an interesting example from Portrait of the Artist beginning with "- Um dia pintalgado de nuvens marinheiras..."

* I don't have the original in French nor Wilson's rendering in English. I use "O Castelo de Axel" as my source...
The examples of sentences where Amis referred to Nabokov were not far-fetched at all, but excellent finds.

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