LATH: Hazel & Fleur

Submitted by MARYROSS on Sun, 11/29/2020 - 17:10

LATH: Hazel & Fleur


As I mentioned in my two previous posts (Junkers=Jung & Esmeralda=G. Emerald), it seems to me that LATH’s conflation of VN’s novels was VN’s way of signaling the key themes that link them – possibly themes that had been overlooked (his “catalogue raisonne of the roots and origins” of his fiction). Here is another allusion in Esmeralda and Her Parandrus to PF’s conflation with Lolita:


“The mad scholar in Esmeralda and Her Parandrus wreathes Botticelli and Shakespeare together by having Primavera end as Ophelia with all her flowers.” (Novels 1969-1974, p.683,)


LATH’s narrator, Vadim, describes his second wife, Annette, as having a “Botticellian face” (p.661). Humbert describes Lolita similarly:


“She had one of those tender complexions that after a good cry get all blurred and inflamed, and morbidly alluring. I regretted keenly her mistake about my private aesthetics, for I simply love that tinge of Botticellian pink, that raw rose about the lips, those wet, matted eyelashes;” (LO, p.60)


“…although actually her looks had faded, I definitely realized, so hopelessly late in the day, how much she looked – had always looked – like Botticelli’s russet Venus – the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty.” (LO, p.246)


Annette’s personality, however, is more like Shakespeare’s Ophelia than spunky Lolita: melancholy, vague, vulnerable, and a bit mad. In PF, melancholy, rejected Hazel suicides by drowning, like Ophelia. Hazel does not have the Botticellian “nymphet” allure. She is however anagrammatically linked to Lolita: : Mathew Roth points out that Hazel = L. Haze. They are opposites. In Pale Fire, Hazel’s opposite in the Zemblan mirror is Fleur. The wording of the above quote from LATH is interesting: “having Primavera end as Ophelia.” “Primavera” seems to refer to PF’s Fleur, while Shakespeare’s sui-drowned Ophelia refers to Hazel. Does Fleur, then, end as Hazel?


“Primavera” was the Roman goddess of Spring. As painted by Sandro Botticelli (see attachment), the three figures on the right refer to the myth of the nymph, Flora, turning into the goddess, Primavera (alternate reading is Chloris becomes Flora, but I think, for PF, the former makes more sense).  In the myth, the March West Wind, Zephyrus, abducts Flora. They marry and have children, thus turning the maid into the Mother – Primavera (Mother Nature in her fecundity; The wind disseminates the flower seeds).  In PF, this pro-creative event is precluded. Poor Fleur fails to entice Prince Charles. When he last sees her, she is in the garden (i.e. “with all her flowers”), but now a faded flower herself – an old maid. Zephyrus is there, too: “A sudden breeze groped among the glycines. Defiler of flowers.” (C433-434). Hazel suicides on the night of a “wild March wind.”


I have argued that, from the Jungian paradigm of archetypes, the characters of PF seem to have Jungian anima/animus gender issues (Vanessa atalanta: Butterfly of Doom, Notes 75).  Kinbote, especially, being homosexual, has “sterile” pleasures. Kinbote says, “Hazel Shade resembled me in certain respects.” How? Kinbote is a man dominated by his anima. He is homosexual. Hazel, like the mythic virgins alluded to in PF (i.e. Atalanta and Vanessa) is “animus” dominated. She is likely a lesbian as well (Gerard de Vries). Fleur, though the ultimate alluring anima, seems the Zemblan counterpart of Hazel. In a sense, though, the two meet a similar end –maids who will never marry. There is a theme of sterility linked with doom in Pale Fire, as emblemized by the Vanessa atalanta, the “butterfly of doom.”

Sterility indicates an incompletion of the natural course of life. This counters PF's major theme of “transcendence” (of self, death, and Art), which is why I am titling my WIP “Archetypes, Alchemy, and Failed Transcendence: Jungian Influences in Nabokov’s Pale Fire.” The Jungian path of “individuation” requires the union of opposites (think: ‘contrapuntal theme’) of the conscious and unconscious, the most crucial being the contra-sexual archetypes of the anima and animus.


“The anima represents the connection with the spring or source of life the unconscious. When no such connection exists, or when it is broken a state of stagnation or torpor results, often so disturbing that it causes the person involved to seek out a psychiatrist.” (Emma Jung: Animus and Anima, Spring Publications, Inc. Putnam, CT 1957, p.67)


Returning to LATH-Annette-Primavera, after proposing to Annette, Vadim notices a butterfly:


“Look at the harlequin,”’ I murmured, pointing cautiously with my elbow.

            …the creature was painted a smiling red with yellow intervals between black blotches; a row of blue crescents ran along the inside of the toothed wing margins.

… ‘As a former kindergarten teacher I can tell you,’ said helpful Annette, ‘that it’s a most ordinary nettlefly…’ (p.647)


From Wikipedia: The primary host plant for the red admiral is the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), but it can also be found on the false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrical).

I want to add that Annette, although not a suicide, like Ophelia, also drowns with flowers: The Rustic Rose cottage in Rosedale is swept away in a flood.


Lucette, Van's "impeccable paranymph" also suicides by drowning, after being rejected. Her elemental association however is the mermaid. In fact, Van calls her "our mermaid, Esmeralda." Fleur is also associated with mermaids.


In Speak Memory, VN writes of Tamara, his first love novelized in Mary (and as Tamara in LATH):

"We lost ourselves in mossy woods and bathed in a fairy-tale cove and

swore eternal love by the crowns of flowers that, like all little Russian mermaids, she was

so fond of weaving.… (SM 239-240)


It seems that many of VN's novels are conflated here; "interlaced," as Vadim writes:

“In this memoir my wives and my books are interlaced monogrammatically like some sort of watermark, or ex libris design; and in writing this oblique autobiography – oblique, because dealing mainly not with pedestrian history but with the mirages of romantic and literary matters..." (p.628, Novels 69-74)

"...the contours of my American production looked blurry to me; and they looked that way because I knew I would always keep hoping that my next book – not simply the one in progress, like Ardis – but something I had never attempted yet, something miraculous and unique, would at last answer fully the craving, the aching thirst that a few disjunct paragraphs in Esmeralda and her Parandrus and The Kingdom were insufficient to quench." (p. 731, Novels 69-74)


Note the word "blurry" which I have highlighted. "Blurry" is a word Carl Jung uses to describe the alluring anima; also "vague, indistinct, languid, hazy" etc. The two quotes above from Lolita, e. g., describe her as "blurred." It seems that Vadim has been trying to get at the essence of the nymphet, the alluring anima. In The Kingdom by the Sea, the poet and his abducted nymphet live happily ever after. As in Ada, the only problem being social mores.

I neglected to add that both Fleur and Hazel are described with the word “blurry”:



“[He] regarded her merely as a sibling, fragrant and fashionable with a painted pout and a maussade, blurry, Gallic way of expressing the little she wished to express.” (C80)


“A blurry shape stepped off the reedy bank/ Into a crackling gulping swamp, and sank.” (P. 499-500)


Here is a nice description of the Jungian alluring anima from Emma Jung:


“Among the beings in question the best suited for such an investigation are the nymphs, swan maidens, undines and fairies, familiar from so many legends and tales. As a rule, they are of enticing beauty but only half human; they have fish tails, like the nixie, or turn into birds, like the swan maidens. Often they appear as more than one… [Fleur in her multiple mirrors]”

(Emma Jung: Animus and Anima, Spring Publications, Inc. Putnam, CT 1957, p.67)