NABOKV-L post 0016560, Mon, 23 Jun 2008 10:37:19 -0700

Re: children's rhymes
When JM says that one can follow a "Gogol" style ghost story in Ada, presumably he refers to N.'s lectures on the "Overcoat"? I don't remember precisely how that one worked. "Bout-bouteille-butler-Blanche-Cinderella-Sores-Ben Wright-Fartukov"--This word chain, while I recognize the words from the book, and the word play, I don't know why these should all be run together in this manner and on what terms he has discerned a ghost story floating through them. Could he gloss his gloss please, for new students? I've read tons of this kind of criticism, but I confess I've never quite understood how the reader ever could have been expected to know that they should start reading in this manner. Who is the ghost?

jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote: J.Aisenberg:
1. Nabokov's literary texture is so rich and varied that it seems like one could take anything and simply word associate until one got where one thought one wanted to go [...]. I don't recall him playing these sorts of cross-associative word games by which to build up another story besides the one dramatized.
2. I'd never wondered about the oddity of the phrase "Gory Mary"before.
3. I wonder about this method, which, in Boyd, to my mind, does not seem thoroughly rooted in context. As I recall, his theories about the Toothwort white butterfly [...] the character of Hazel Shade and her psoriasis[...]
4.Nabokov said in his letter to Katherine White about "The Vane Sisters" that he was doing work where there was one obvious story, with behind it a hidden real one, but I'm not sure a sound formula for literary exegesis it makes

Sandy Drescher: Brother Isaac arriving in the US in the late 1890's would not have considered himself an "émigré" - the term suggests an attachment and
continuity with his previous identity in the "old country" [...]. Rather, he would have been called, and called himself, an "immigrant"; his aim in life to assimilate as
quickly as possible and have his children [if not himself] become "real Americans", a title rather than a description, translated from the Yiddish equivalent.The old couple, escaping Germany just before the Holocaust, would have been called, and called themselves, "refugees"[...]Cultured Russians leaving their beloved country after the Revolution and after the Soviet era identified with both what had been left behind and the activity of their choice, distinguishing themselves from both immigrants and refugees [in French] as émigrées.One of the beauties of "Signs and Symbols" is how perfectly VN's captured this moment in history.

JM: VN did play "cross-associative word games" when he developped subplots in novels such as ADA.
There is almost a Gogol-style ghost-story to be followed after isolating references to Bout-bouteille-butler-Blanche-Cinderella-Sores-Ben Wright-Fartukov, plus mythological metamorphosis and down-to-earth transformations.
Akiko Nakata investigated references to the French Revolution in "Transparent Things"... BTW: Martin Amis, on Nicholson Baker, wrote about Baker's psoriasis, and added: " a link with Updike, who 'had the unfortunate fictional representative vacuuming out the bed every morning'.)
Although Amis is well informed he didn't add VN's name close to Baker's and Updike's at this point, so I doubt my recollection on Nabokov's own skin troubles, psoriasis and those items that linked Shade in his bath to Marat's stabbing, by Charlotte Corday.

Butterflies in Brazil enjoy litter and decaying matter, whereas many VN readers think about butterflies romantically associated to orchids and lovely flowers.
B.Boyd explored the dark recesses of Veen and peat bogs [ Nabokov Studies (8,2004): Ada, the Bog and the Garden: or, Straw, Fluff, and Peat: Sources and Places in Ada [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF] ] but I don't remember now how he explored "torf" and the process whereby decaying stuff gives rise to colored, lush new forms of life.
I think that Nabokov's "hidden real stories" are those that deal with contrasts ( the alchemical nigredo-albedo stages) in much the same way as he dealt with Pushkin ( “Pouchkine ou le vrai et le vraisemblable,” one of the few texts Nabokov composed directly in French, published in La nouvelle revue française in 1937 on the 100th anniversary of Pushkin’s death. I heard there is a translation of it by Dmitri? Where was it published?) After all, for Nabokov truth sometimes “sings in passing”, as in a poem by Pushkin, and it is “the truth of art the only one he can aim to reach here below.” ...

Sandy, what a wonderful presentation to distinguish the subtetlies surrounding historical events and social classes or groups through self-designations and specific terms ( refugee, emigré, immigrant). Does the word "emigré" suggest something more cosmopolitan than the newly rooted "immigrant"?
Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal" Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: