NABOKV-L post 0007157, Mon, 25 Nov 2002 10:23:23 -0800

query re ADA and Kant
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dana L. Dragunoiu" <ddraguno@Princeton.EDU>
To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
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> Dear List:
> I write to ask if anyone can help me make sense of
> two lines in *Ada* that have puzzled me for some time.
> The reference takes place during Lucette's visit to
> Van at Kingston. When Lucette mentions the closet
> in which she claims that Van and Ada used to lock
> her up at least ten times, Van replies: "Nu uzh i
> desyat' (exaggeration). Once--and never more. It
> had a keyless hole as big as Kant's eye. Kant was
> famous for his cucumicolor iris" (298 [in the Lib of
> America edition]).
> I'd like to know what his reference to Kant's eye is
> about. One page earlier, Van distorts a few lines
> from Kant's *Prolegomena,* as identified in the
> Notes to Ada by Brian Boyd. "Cucumicolor" is a
> reference to "green [as the color of cucumbers, the
> root of 'cucu']," and Lucette's eyes, of course, are
> green. Professor Boyd has also suggested that this
> might have to do with Kant's categories, insofar as
> color was not a category of understanding that Kant
> included in his critical philosophy. It has also
> been suggested to me that it might have to do with
> green as the color of envy, which fits the context,
> but somehow isn't satisfactory as an interpretation.
> If anyone could shed light upon the matter, I would
> greatly appreciate it.
> Sincerely yours,
> Dana Dragunoiu
EDNOTE. "Van's conversation contains at least two other highly suspect, if
inconclusive, bilingual allusions to the chapter's thematic motif. Lucette
has just referred to the divan in the library. She recalls that at its heel
end there was a closet in which Van and Ada locked her while engaged in
their ebats on the divan (N19). Van remarks that the closet had "a keyless
hole as big as Kant's eye" and adds parenthetically, that Kant was famous
for his cucumicolor iris" (373). This rather odd statement refers to
Lucette's green eye peering through the closet keyhole. Lurking in the
phonetic background, however, is the vagrant thought that the French
pronunciation of Kant ... is a near homophone of "con" and that the
peculiar locution "cucumicolor iris" has, with the exception of the "t"
supplied by the earlier "Kant," all of the letters of the omnipresent
Note 19. In a later conversation with Van, Ada says of Lucette "... we
shan'te afraid of her witnessing our ebats (pronouncing on purpose,
with triumphant hooliganism, for which my prose,too,is praised, the first
vowel is a la Russe" (395). The recommended pronunciation yields the
fundamental Russian obscenity "yebat'."
This bit of profound scholarship may be found in article called "The
Scrabble Game in ADA, or Taking Nabokov clitorally." It is reprinted in D.
Barton Johnson, _Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of Vladimir Nabokov._