The recent sciothery or hunt for the waxwing's shadow or, more exactly, its whereabouts at the moment of the bird's fatal crash with the window pane, reminded me of another shadow, which my memory has stubbornly retained eversince my first reading of the novel, and although I have not reread it, I am ashamed to say, since 1992, it took me, I am proud to say, only a minute to find the specific passage:
"Luzhin immediately fell asleep in the cab: reflected gleams of whitish light unfolded fanwise, bringing his face to life, and the soft shadow made by his nose circled slowly over his cheek and then his lip, and again it was dark until another light went by, stroking Luzhin's hand in passing, which appeared to slide into a dark pocket as soon as darkness returned." The Defense, p. 180 (Putnam's 1964).
Of course, VN's chiaroscuro imagery need to be studied, and I believe Carl R. Proffer was the first to draw attention to the fact "that certain kinds of images and certain ways of making images are used repeatedly," and to attempt a sciotherical list of what he called "sun and shade images" as they occur in Lolita (and elsewhere), Keys to Lolita, pp. 105-107 (and 121-124). I would like to refer Jansy to pages 105-106 of this book, because they shed light on her enumeration of VN's tessellate and reticular imagery.
Speaking of noses, who knows, perhaps Gogol's shorty story "The Portrait" was on VN's mind (I don't have it right now, so I cannot check): when a man sees a portrait the protagonist has painted the former remarks, "why did you put shadow next to his nose, can't you put it somewhere else?" Or words to that effect, in any case, it's been ages since I read that story, but I do recall the royal fun I had and that I could not wait to read the passage out loud to my sleepy brother.
A. Bouazza.

Search the Nabokv-L archive at UCSB

Contact the Editors

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.

Visit Zembla

View Nabokv-L Policies