NABOKV-L post 0027744, Mon, 7 May 2018 17:38:53 +0000

Subject
Re: John Shade as Japanese Fish
Date
Body
Thanks to Brian for the lovely Hokusai illustrations. Had I checked Brian's LoA notes to PF before I sent my original message, I would have seen that he lays out the allusion to Hokusai there. I tend to agree that VN probably did not know of the legend behind the image, however Gerard de Vries, off-list, reminded me that Kinbote tries to dress Shade in a "veritable dragon skin of oriental chromas, fit for a samurai" (C. 181). So Shade-as-Dragon does have a companion image in the text. Food for thought.

Cheers,
Matt

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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