NABOKV-L post 0014574, Thu, 4 Jan 2007 22:10:52 +0100

Shadow Hunters & Sundials
The recent sciothery or hunt for the waxwing's shadow or, more exactly, its
whereabouts at the moment of the bird's fatal crash with the window pane,
reminded me of another shadow, which my memory has stubbornly retained
eversince my first reading of the novel, and although I have not reread it,
I am ashamed to say, since 1992, it took me, I am proud to say, only a
minute to find the specific passage:

"Luzhin immediately fell asleep in the cab: reflected gleams of whitish
light unfolded fanwise, bringing his face to life, and the soft shadow made
by his nose circled slowly over his cheek and then his lip, and again it was
dark until another light went by, stroking Luzhin's hand in passing, which
appeared to slide into a dark pocket as soon as darkness returned." The
Defense, p. 180 (Putnam's 1964).

Of course, VN's chiaroscuro imagery need to be studied, and I believe Carl
R. Proffer was the first to draw attention to the fact "that certain kinds
of images and certain ways of making images are used repeatedly," and to
attempt a sciotherical list of what he called "sun and shade images" as they
occur in Lolita (and elsewhere), Keys to Lolita, pp. 105-107 (and 121-124).
I would like to refer Jansy to pages 105-106 of this book, because they shed
light on her enumeration of VN's tessellate and reticular imagery.

Speaking of noses, who knows, perhaps Gogol's shorty story "The Portrait"
was on VN's mind (I don't have it right now, so I cannot check): when a man
sees a portrait the protagonist has painted the former remarks, "why did you
put shadow next to his nose, can't you put it somewhere else?" Or words to
that effect, in any case, it's been ages since I read that story, but I do
recall the royal fun I had and that I could not wait to read the passage out
loud to my sleepy brother.

A. Bouazza.

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