NABOKV-L post 0018101, Mon, 30 Mar 2009 13:52:46 -0300

de fencing lessons] Thanatus
Re: [NABOKV-L] de fencing lessons]SK-B [ to JM: pretty "pair o' ducks" is a well-worn verbal trick. Spoken quickly it comes out as the Gilbert & Sullivan "pretty paradox." [...] Can we clarify this thanatos (classical and modern Greek for 'death') affair? [...] If any English texts (Freudian or otherwise) include the words 'death' or 'Death,' the modern Greek translator is likely to use 'thanatos' or 'Thanatos.' BUT according to my big Collins, Freud borrowed the Greek Thanatos as a technical term for a "universal death instinct." How do Greek translators cope with this?

JM: Aeneas misjudged Palinurus and didn't give him, at first, the proper burial he deserved.
Please, don't you misjudge me, of all peoples. I'm unfamiliar with anglophone native well-worn verbal tricks. I now seldom listen to G&Sullivan (but I love them and there's an interesting Asimov abut G&S in parallel worlds, a Tom Leherer's delightful satire too...).
I realized quite recently that jokes, even metaphors, are often culturally determined (take the kenningar). It seems that abstractions are not always spiritualized in our mind and they carry a material lastrum that pulls them back downwards into the concrete and the literal ( literal, litteral and litter).
You shouldn't trust your "big Collins," only. It may mislead you. Find a second opinion.
I haven't heard about Freud being translated into Greek but, in that case, the word thanatus would arise. As a part of the simples Greek sentences that indicates something related to death.What I meant to inform you is that FREUD NEVER NAMED THE DEATH INSTINCT, 'THANATUS' IN HIS ORIGINAL WRITINGS.
Freud wrote about "libido", "Eros", Life instincts. He wrote about Aggressive drives. He wrote about Death instincts. Not one reference to Thanatus is to be found. I tried to check in German using my humble Fischer Verlag (Psychologie) volumes, but they carry no Index. You may find this information, yourself, should you take the trouble to go directly to Freud. In English, translated by James Strachey.

Go to GENERAL SUBJECT INDEX, on volume XXIV ( The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Standard Edition, London, the Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis), you may try other Indexes offered in the same volume ( Index of Proper names, analogies, symbols in Freud). No Thanatus. Other myth-terminologies were not originally created by him ( the term "Narcisism", or example, or "Libido". Besides, "Cathexis", "Id/Ego/Superego" were introduced by Strachey for freudian " Besetzung", "Es/Ich/ Ueberich". Even "Es" was, originally, a term employed by Georg Groddeck).

Nabokov certainly read Freud, most probably in German. Freud's translated books appeared quite late in France.

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: