NABOKV-L post 0023139, Sun, 29 Jul 2012 15:05:14 -0700

Zhiletka and ginger bread hmm
Ah ha! I knew I did not invent them! the zhiletka blades, I mean. Now
the rest of this, Mr Marcus, is also (tea)tray tray tray interesting
and I will research it further when the opportunity arises - ginger
bread!* who'd a thunk it!

*until now the only literary ginger bread I could have come up with
would have been in the Mary Poppins books somewhere ... But this does
also remind me that there is at least one unusual toy in Pale Fire - I
actually procured one - many many a moon ago (a 'some kind of' diver?
does anyone remember?) and gave it as a gift to our former ed., Don

Oh, yes - and Ms Poppins herself does actually make an appearance in
Pale Fire ... I have posted something to the List about it many moons

On Jul 29, 2012, at 2:00 PM, Nabokv-L wrote:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: zhiletka
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2012 13:04:20 -0700
From: Mike Marcus <mmkcm@COMCAST.NET>
CC: Mike Marcus <mmkcm@COMCAST.NET>

Alexey wrote:
"re zhiletka: Let me repeat that it means "waistcoat." We never called
a safety razor "zhiletka!" "

Has anyone pointed out that the word itself appears in Pale Fire:
"Some of the pranksters were much younger than the King, but this did
not matter since his pictures in the huts of mountain folks and in the
myopic shops of hamlets, where you could buy worms, ginger bread and
zhiletka blades, had not aged since his coronation."?

Waistcoat blades? Ouch!

What is interesting is the list of consumer products available in the
"myopic shops of hamlets" (whenever Nabokov uses the word hamlet, you
know that some allusion to either that play, Shakespeare, or
Elizabethan theater is imminent.) Yet they are definitely marginal
consumption items, hardly cheese, bread, milk -- "worms, ginger bread
and zhiletka blades". In Act IV, scene iii of Measure for Measure,
Pompey, procurer/pimp for brothel keeper Mistress Overdone is in
prison, and recognizes amongst the inmates many of her erstwhile

" ...First, here's young Master Rash; he's in
for a commodity of brown paper and old ginger,
ninescore and seventeen pounds; of which he made
five marks, ready money...."

This refers to a fraudulent practice whereby the moneylender would
supply his debtor with a loan comprising part cash and part goods, or
commodities, but the moneylender would inflate the alleged value of
the commodities for which, when he came to sell them to realize ready
cash, the debtor would raise but a fraction of what he anticipated.
Lute-strings and gray paper were examples mentioned by Nashe. Fletcher
& Massinger in 'The Spanish Curate', included ginger bread (as does
Nabokov); this listing is from a will:
"I do bequeath ye
Commodities of Pins, Brown-papers, Pack-threads,
Rost Pork, and Puddings, Ginger-bread, and Jews-trumps,
Of penny Pipes, and mouldy Pepper, take 'em ..."

Such seems to have been Nabokov's template, the enumeration of
predominantly expendable articles. Worms are integral to Hamlet,
however: the glow worm which begins to "pale his ineffectual fire",
the worms associated with Polonius' murder; and the graveyard scene,
with "my Lady's Worm's" skull (Oxfordians know that worm in French is
ver). Nabokov was definitely taken with the 'ver' combination;
perversely so.

The joke concerning the picture that does not age shows up in
'Bigarrures: or, The pleasant and witlesse and simple speeches of the
Lord Gaulard of Burgundy' by Estienne Tabourot, which was published in
French in 1586. Shakespeare's contemporary George Chapman used some of
the jokes from Bigarrures (though not, I think, this particular joke)
in his 1602 play Sir Gyles Goosecappe.

Why are the shops myopic?


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