NABOKV-L post 0017520, Thu, 25 Dec 2008 18:04:41 -0200

Re: MacDiarmid, Southey, etc.
Re: [NABOKV-L] Thoughts: McDarmiad, Lochearnhead1. Stan K-B: Priscilla Meyer (FWTSHH) [pp 60-61] seems to think "Angus MacDiarmid" is a "Kinbote coinage," a made-up name by VN, hiding the identity of the very REAL Marxist poet HUGH MacDiarmid. I can attest to Hugh¹s reality (although he was born C M Grieve!) ]
2. Matt Roth : I don't have Priscilla's book with me, and she can speak for herself, but there is no doubt that Angus McD was a real fellow (or a real pseudonymous fellow) and that "incoherent transactions" comes from him, not Hugh. Is there a secondary allusion to Hugh? Hard for me to see it.
3.Jerry Friedman: Priscilla weaves a complex plot around this communist poet with hints of a Celtic USSR, with Hugh¹s "invented" LALLANS [...] being mirrored by CK¹s Zemblan[...] With unbridled "allusionism" you can postulate almost any thesis with bags of "wriggling" room against refutations. For example, has anything really changed now we have a REAL (even if pseudonymous!) Angus MacDiarmid (echoes of the EDISON FORD reification)?[...] An early quoter of the phrase "incoherent transaction" was Robert Southey[...] The book is connected with PF's themes of writing in English as a second language and of translation and (comic) mistranslation, as one of the N&Q contributors said McDiarmid's wrote in Gaelic and translated his writing himself.
4.JM (summing up before D.Z's additional comments): While reading the exchanges, quoted above, I was reminded of that one school-boy whose answer on "who was Homer" concluded: "Homer was not really Homer, but another guy with the same name..."
SKB, thru P. Meyer, notes that Angus MacD is a VN coinage that hides the identity of a real person; therefore the MacD-guy would not have been named Angus but, perhaps, Hugh. If we follow J.Friedman's argument, inspite of Hugh's reality (emphatically garanteed by SKB), the real McDiarmid was not this Hugh, but someone else. Here is JF's caveat : "has anything really changed now we have a REAL (even if pseudonymous!) Angus MacDiarmid" when he develops "PF's themes of writing in English as a second language and of translation and (comic) mistranslation."
Babel or not, we are always a prey to "incoherent transactions," even in one's native language by the way*.
I wonder if the invented "Lallans" reappeared in another guise in VN's later "Transparent Things". Here we find not Hugh's but R.'s comments on his publisher's vigor [...]: "Except that he wants me to write the wrong books. He wants [...] A Boy for Pleasure but would settle for The Slender Slut, and all I can offer him is not Tralala but the first and dullest tome of my Tralatitions" ( I don't imagine anyone concerned had considered Lacan's "Lalangue"...)
Our initial dilemma is solved by D.Zimmer's notes on the real Angus MacDiarmid, the real Hugh and Lallans, opeeneing new avenues of research by focusing on how VN brought these various themes together (Angus' English, Hugh's Lallans, Southey on Angus, Sara's Lingo-Grande, Swift's baby-talk, Houdini, Chansons de Geste, The Song of Igor's Campaign, Mcpherson's Ossian...) Stunning!

Dieter Zimmerman: "in the copious notes to my new German edition of Pale Fire (Fahles Feuer, Rowohlt, March 2008) I have glossed the whole passage about Kinbote's scholarly predilections which may give a hint as to his "real" specialty at New Wye University. As some of the points of the Southey connection may not have been noticed before, here is a quick and dirty English translation of my respective notes"[...]
[ a snippeting deforming retake]
85.16 Finnigan's Wake: ...Finnigan's Wake is Kinbote's intentionally wrong spelling of James Joyce's last novel Finnegans Wake (1939)[...] The spelling (Tim) Finnigan's Wake is the title of a comic Irish music-hall ballad from which Joyce took the title of his monster book.

85.17-18 Angus MacDiarmid: Author of an unintendedly hilarious book [...] (Edinburgh 1815). Nabokov's source probably was ...Robert Scott Fittis (London 1891).[...] Fittis quotes a page passage [...]"violence or pillage, by barbarous men of incoherent transactions."[...]Fittis also mentions that a copy of this book must have fallen tinto the hands of the poet Robert Southey (q.v. note 85.18 Southey) "who quoted and laughed over one of its queer phrases"[...] Priscilla Meyer who it seems did not know of Angus MacDiarmid argued that the name is an allusion to an author of the Scottish Renaissance, Hugh MacDiarmid (real name C.M. Grieve, 1892-1978), an admirer of Lenin, who wrote in English as well as in the synthetic Scottish dialect Lallans ("Lowlands") which he had created and went on advocating.

85.18 Southey [...]In two letters...he described the nonsensical language Sara Coleridge, the poet's wife, had invented ...Sara Coleridge's silly "Lingo-Grande" had a counterpart in the pseudo baby talk used in their letters by Swift and his mistress Esther Johnson ("Stella")-not Esther Vanhomrigh ("Vanessa")

85.21 Kongs-skugg-sia 'Kings' Mirror,' a medieval Old Norse work[...] skugg is 'shadow' and skugg-sia is 'mirror' but literally 'seeing shadows'. Thus the word reflects the notion that what you see in the mirror are the shadows of things [...]According to Kinbote, Hodinski ... "said to have forged in his spare time a famous old Russian chanson de geste, generally attributed to an anonymous bard of the twelfth century" (PF, p.246) [q.v. note p.303.10 chanson de geste].

238.27-29 Southey . rats . bishop: In his ballad God's Judgment on a Wicked Bishop (1799), the poet Robert Southey ...

303.10 chanson de geste: French, 'epic song of heroic deeds.' The "Russian chanson de geste" which is said to be a forgery by Hodinski alias Hodyna from 1795 may well be the Song of Igor's Campaign [...]a Russian imitation of Ossian. Nabokov who in 1953/1960 translated it into English was convinced of its authenticity...


* "By the way, indeed! There ought to exist some rhetorical term for that twist of nonlogic. A unique view through a black weave ran by the way" (notes R in TT).
The thing is that I was also puzzled by Victor Fet's commentary [ Theroux: Nabokov bequeaths us his translations of Alexander Blok's "The Strange Lady" and "The Railroad," although he does not hesitate to criticize that poet's long verses ("which are weak") or his famous "The Twelve," which Nabokov (who rarely, if ever, passed up the chance to air one of his anti-clerical grievances -- read him on Dostoevsky) dismisses as "dreadful, self-consciously couched in a phony 'primitive' tone, with a pink cardboard Jesus Christ glued on at the end."] : It is so utterly amazing that Alexander Theroux interprets VN's critique of Alexander Blok's image of Jesus Christ in the famous last line of "The Twelve," as VN's "anti-clerical grievance"!

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