NABOKV-L post 0018538, Sat, 22 Aug 2009 15:52:51 -0300

Re: Von Humboldt/Humbert reply to the reply of my query.
J. Bowen:[...]In my humble suggestion that there might be some correlation between the name "Humbert Humbert" and the revered explorer and alleged pederast Alexander von Humboldt, I was only inquiring as to whether the similarity of the two names had been noted before or thought to have influenced the choice of a rather unusual name for the main character of a novel [...] I did not intend to suggest that García Márquez had an unfavourable view of the explorer [...]No doubt Nabokov would have been more than familiar with the famous explorer[ ...], he would have known of the explorer's rumoured indiscretions. It is only the author's tendency to weave sly indicators of the world outside his novels that leads me to so speculate such. It is but a trifling thought among many, and no one need get too worked up."

JM: I was surprised by finding myself actually "worked up" by J.B's "trifiling thought among many." I'm not particularly fond of stories about explorers in the jungle, parrots, heroic generals, nor am I too interested concerning the personal opinion held by various famous writers. So why was I touched by a query - as it has been formulated?

For example, in JB's reply today I find the lines: "it is only the author's tendency to weave sly indicators ..." and one may argue that "sly" is not directed to Nabokov, but restricted to the appended word, "indicators". Trifling thoughts may provoke further ideas, but they can also have a disrupting effect, as if literature were equally "trifling", as if there were no responsible voices to stand behind an authorial whim, as if art encompassed "trifling" alusions that, as I feel it, end up by diminishing art. Kinbote, to mention one of VN's exuberant pederasts, is a complex creation with funny attributes related to his indiference to women, but it also functions, in part, as a parody ( never a mockery) of something ampler than Kinbote's sexual orientation or delusions. In VN's "Strong Opinions" we find many dismissive, sometimes unfair, observations about other writers ( Pound, Faulkner, Hemmingway, Mann) but, as I see it, he was never disrespectful, or "trifling" towards an individual's quirks or private misdemeanors. I hope I haven't been unfair in my emotional response to J.Bowen's explorations and misconstrued his original instigation, should this be the case I must offer him my sincerest appologies.

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: