NABOKV-L post 0016574, Tue, 24 Jun 2008 12:19:44 -0700

Re: children's rhymes
Oh, I very much hope you continue! I thought this and your other note extremely interesting. Personally, I don't think Nabokov really had a theoretical scientific brain at all. I've read this Gogol book, and his lectures on the writer several times, and never really knew what he meant with that "four dimension" talk other than the stories being sort of groovy and sort of fantastic (as opposed, say to the "three dimensions" he said Tolstoy had to his writing), since the e.g.s Nabokov supplied of Gogolian prose really seemed like tricks of Rhetoric taken to bizzare extremes, analogies growing into whole independent stories and then fading away, repetivie modifications for comic grotesque hyper-effects, etc. And you know, Nabokov's notions of Time really have not much relationship to theories of relativity. He mocked Einstein, whom he thought a victim of the logic of his own erroneous thinking. There's a particularly crude gag about relativity somewhere in the Texture of Time
portion of Ada, I believe. Surely some other Nabokovian out there will be able to provide the exact quote!

Stan Kelly-Bootle <skb@BOOTLE.BIZ> wrote: On 23/06/2008 19:07, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

... VN considered Gogol's prose as "four-dimensional, at least. He may be compared to his contemporary, the mathematician Lobachevsky ..." ( a biography of Nikolai Gogol by Vladimir Nabokov, New Directions Paperbook,l961 (page 145).

Jansy: an intriguing and understandable reference! But slightly misleading! Lobachevsky and Bolyai certainly "[co-]invented" Non-Euclidean Geometry independently**, but not in the 4-dimensional sense apparently implied by VN. Initially, Bolyai-Lobachevski Geometry simply described TWO-dimensional spaces that follow all of Euclid's axioms & postulates EXCEPT ONE (namely the Fifth postulate concerning the existence of parallel lines in 2-dimensions). By modifying this postulate, you can arrive at flat (Euclidean) or curved (elliptic or hyperbolic, Non-Euclidean) spaces. B-L geometries can be extended to higher dimensions, BUT SO CAN EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRIES! One must avoid confusing the concepts of dimension and euclideanism!! VN had in mind, I suppose, the emerging Theory of General Relativity with its 4-dimensional locally-flat but globally-curved space-time, since this was, in fact, the first practical and stunning application of B-L geometries to the real world, but unknown
to Bolyai or Lobachevsky at the time. The impact of B-L on the history of science has been compared to that of Darwin! It is said that Gauss pre-empted B-L but hid his work -- he could not face the drastic theological/epistemological impact of denying the apodeictic "certainties" of Euclidean geometry!

Sorry to make a meal of this, but my ongoing preoccupation is delving into VN's knowledge and mastery of mathematical ideas as opposed to his firm grip on matters biological/taxonomic.

** Rumours of L plagiarizing B and vice-versa are now generally discounted. YET, many listers will know mathematician Tom Lehrer's parody:

"Who deserves the credit, who deserves the fame
Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name ..." [Hoy!]

"Plagiarize! Let no one else's work evade your eyes!
Remember why the Good Lord made your eyes,
Don't shade your eyes, but plagiarize! Plagiarize! Plagiarize!
[spoken] Only be sure always to call it, please, 'research'!"

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