NABOKV-L post 0027741, Tue, 1 May 2018 08:07:31 -0700

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Re: John Shade as Japanese Fish
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Brian, wouldn't you say also that, whether Nabokov knew of the legend
or not, attainment and awe are implied in the image of fish scaling
(unintentional pun) a waterfall? Clearly, this is an homage to
Hokusai, but with particular meaning for PF.

Kinbote is below, looking up in awe at his hero ascending through
prodigious effort. Like the fish, the genius has an in-born urge to
achieve what he is here to do. He is going his own way even when the
tide of humanity is against him. This seems like a perfect metaphor
for the relation of Kinbote and Shade. Perhaps K is Hokusai's fish
that hasn't quite made it.

On 4/30/18, Brian Boyd <b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz> wrote:
> I asked Véra Nabokov was the fish image in Pale Fire a homage to Hokusai?
> With a smile, she said Yes. So I think that settles the matter.
>
>
> I have loved Hokusai's work for over forty years. He's incomparably the
> greatest Japanese artist. I had three Hokusai prints in my part of the On
> the Origin of Art
> exhibition?<https://mona.net.au/museum/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/on-the-origin-of-art>
> at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, 2016-17, including the
> Great Wave (the last and culminating piece in the show).
>
>
> Here's the better known of his carp in waterfall (two fish--one could
> imagine that the lower one is not going to make it; but we can suspect that
> Nabokov knew only the image, not the legend) and a Hokusai carp image I like
> even more, almost monochrome, with two turtles also enjoying the water and
> its ripples.
>
>
> Brian Boyd
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU> on behalf of Roth,
> Matthew <mroth@MESSIAH.EDU>
> Sent: Tuesday, 1 May 2018 6:18 a.m.
> To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> Subject: [NABOKV-L] John Shade as Japanese Fish
>
> Near the end of Kinbote's note to line 691 ("the attack"), he pictures JS
> "squirming up the college hall stairs as a Japanese fish up a cataract"
> (250). Kinbote seems to think we will understand the image, and indeed it
> turns out that the carp ascending a waterfall is a common image in Japanese
> art. There is even a story to go with the image, as told here by M. McLean
> from his 1889 book, Echoes of Japan:
>
> The Carp Ascending The Waterfall.
> It is a common sight to see, on Japanese works of art, and in picture-books,
> a carp trying to swim against a strong current or waterfall. This
> allegorical picture has a very interesting history, and is derived from a
> Chinese story. In some part of China there is a strong current, called
> Rio-mon, or Dragon's Gate. This stream is looked upon as sacred; so that, if
> any fish succeeds in scaling it, it becomes a dragon. The passage is very
> difficult, it being rocky and steep, and every fish except the carp fails in
> the attempt.
>
> Other versions make clear that only one of a thousand carp ascends to the
> top and is transformed. The others remain mere fish in the pool below. I see
> at least three connections to PF in this story. First, it is a story of
> animal metamorphosis-a theme associated with Hazel (wood duck, trying on
> furs, Vanessa). It is also a story of the passage into immortality-certainly
> a theme of the novel, played out in myriad ways. Thirdly, we might see a
> transmuted version of the Gradus ad Parnassum, as Shade ascends the academic
> stairs. Did he make it to the top? I think he did. Perhaps others can do
> more with the image/allusion.
>
> Cheers,
> Matt Roth
>
> PS. I have attached a representative image of the koi's ascent
>
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