Vladimir Nabokov

"Lolita" patterns and specters

By Catagela_adoceta, 24 October, 2023

I have been playing with a searchable text of "Lolita".  Searches on a color that's also a plant are sometimes interesting.

In Humbert's poem that he has Quilty read, there's a line "the awfulness of love and violets". Why violets? There are 8 more occurences of "violet":

"violet shadow" where boy Humbert was about to "posess" Annabel, but didn't.
"yellowish-violet bruise" on Dolly's thigh that Humbert uses as a pretext to molest her (the "Carmen" episode). (There's only one other use of "yellowish", a terrible scene)
"lady swathed in violet veils," the "mistress" of that cocker spaniel that Dolly played with at the "E.H." hotel.
"violet-blue capsules banded with dark purple" that he tries on Lolita, and Lolita calling out "Blue! Violet blue" when she sees one.
"Professor H. might be seen with his daughter strolling to Walton Inn (famous for its violet-ribboned china bunnies" as he imagines how others see them -- this seems less overtly connected to sexual
"my own ultraviolet darling", exceeding all the rainbow girls
"She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the nymphet ..." so yes, the whiff of this nymphet smells like violets, or like the color violet, to Humbert.

Above Kasbeam they stay at Chestnut Court (where Quilty catches up with Lolita), on Chestnut Crest, with a chestnut-lined road to town, that leads back, in H.'s imagination, to Chestnut Castle, alright already, I'll search for "chestnut"!

"enlarged replicas of chestnut leaves" on the columns outside the "E.H." hotel.

Chestnut leaves in the rain when Lolita runs away from Thayer St. and has that phone booth call.
Chestnut trees and leaves seem like a marker of 3 important places -- prefigured twice and then blossom into Chestnut everything at the Crest.


"most penetrating bodkin" of Quilty's guestbook entries was an anagram of "Enchanted Hunters" at Chestnut Lodge -- is this next to the Chestnut Court? But there was a cod-piece-like red hood, presumably of Quilty's convertible, at the Chestnut Court's parking. Did Humbert write Lodge but meant Court? Or is this Lodge in another town altogether?

The only other 2 occurences of the "chestnut" mean strictly color -- Dolly's hair, and a mare whose legs are as attractive as Jean's legs to H.H.


What I am looking for is a solution for "Lolita" like Brian Boyd found for "Pale Fire" -- the spectral theory. The one that's more or less explicit in "Transparent Things" and in "The Vane Sisters" -- the dead communicate to us and change our thoughts and events in slight but consequential ways.  Dolores dies after H., so the key candidates are Charlotte and Quilty.

Charlotte is certainly there - she's in H.'s dreams at Lolita's bed in the E.H. hotel, and when he dozes off by Quilty dying in his bed; she looks up with dead eyes at him when he puts down glasses of juice (was whiskey and soda back then) on the bench as he sees Lolita with a stranger, etc. It would have been Nabokovian, I think, to have spectral Charlotte driven by love for Humbert (that last letter to him, what's left of it...).  
She's more like Marlene Dietrich, not Shelly Winters. To refocus compassion and imagination on her and her love for Humbert (and who knows what feeling she'll have for Dolly from over there, maybe protectiveness), in my hypothesis, is what the solution would do.
But first, need to show that these are not just figments of Humbert's mind.  He talks about this issue when, after John Farlow's change of life, he discusses how once you know a character, some things just don't fit.

An example from "Pale Fire", extrapolating Boyd, would go something like this:
Kinbot likes "Timon of Athens", and no wonder -- Timon hates everyone, and the only 2 women in the play -- army whores -- apear briefly, with a few lines. If he read "Coriolanus", he would have hated it -- a woman, the soldier's mother, stops the best soldier in his tracks. But perhaps he hasn't read it, and Hazel probably hasn't, but she certainly has seen or heard "Kiss Me, Kate" (1948 Broadway, 1953 film) , and "Brush up your Shakespeare", with a most ribald line about Coriolanus, and it could go like this:
Kinbote's madness: "And a street called Timon Alley; I like 'Timon Afinskiy', by Shakespeare"
Hazel's spectre: "Brush.Up. Your... kick her in ... Hahhaha, Coriolanus. How about you use Coriolanus?"
K: "Coriol... Hm, I can work with that. Coriolanus Lane"
Kinbote tells his Zembla delusions to John Shade, mentions Coriolanus, and the poet recalls how (act 2, sc. 3) Coriolanus with the plebes goes into old-fashioned yet noble rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter, and John thinks "It may be fun to write a long poem in this old rhyming pentameter".

More Ctrl-F: 
For the Carmen episode Lolita's dress is pink-on-pink, and she "completes the color scheme" with lipstick, pink, I presume. 
OK, Ctrl-F pink. After the Carmen molestation, after Lolita's pink panties are used by H., and after he is "crushing and tearing again the innocent pink napkin", "a pretty child in a dirty pink frock" hands him dead Charlotte's letters. Pink is dirty now. Pink staff at the E.H. hotel, the room's lamps have pink shades, and while H. is waiting for L. to fall asleep, he sees a very white nymphet in a white frock, an "antiphony" to his desire for L., "brown and pink".

Also, why is Humbert telling us the exact address where Charlotte ordered the mattress -- "firm located at 4640 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia"? And why is he not telling us what firm? There's a Home Depot and Staples there now; who knows what was there in 1947.



8 months 2 weeks ago

Who could have named Farlows' dogs so? Is Jean the type for Arthurian or Homerian lore? Nabokov liked the names of King Lear's dogs, because obviously named by his daughters in happier times. But who named these 2 boxers? Did Melampus the dog have a black foot? Is Quity's ghost messing with Humbert's memory? Or is there more to Jean than it seems? Are Charlotte, Jean and Q all pulling spectral strings? 

Cavall brings to mind Edith Cavell (1865-1915), a British nurse and member of La Dame Blanche (the codename for an underground intelligence network which operated in German-occupied Belgium during World War I). She was arrested and executed by the Germans on October 12, 1915.


Edith Cavell in a garden in Brussels with her two dogs before the outbreak of war.


La Dame Blanche took its name from a German legend which stated that the fall of the Hohenzollern dynasty would be announced by the appearance of a woman wearing white. Describing his visits to the Elphinstone hospital (from which Lolita is abducted by Quilty, Humbert's "brother" who comes to the hospital with a cocker spaniel), Humbert mentions une belle dame toute en bleu:


I do not think they had more than a dozen patients (three or four were lunatics, as Lo had cheerfully informed me earlier) in that show place of a hospital, and the staff had too much leisure. However - likewise for reasons of show - regulations were rigid. It is also true that I kept coming at the wrong hours. Not without a secret flow of dreamy malice, visionary Mary (next time it will be une belle dame toute en bleu floating through Roaring Gulch) plucked me by the sleeve to lead me out. I looked at her hand; it dropped. As I was leaving, leaving voluntarily, Dolores Haze reminded me to bring her next morning… She did not remember where the various things she wanted were… “Bring me,” she cried (out of sight already, door on the move, closing, closed), “the new gray suitcase and Mother’s trunk”; but by next morning I was shivering, and boozing, and dying nit he motel bed she had used for just a few minutes, and the best I could do under the circular and dilating circumstances was to send the two bags over with the widow’s beau, a robust and kindly trucker. I imagined Lo displaying her treasures to Mary… No doubt, I was a little delirious - and on the following day I was still a vibration rather than a solid, for when I looked out the bathroom window at the adjacent lawn, I saw Dolly’s beautiful young bicycle propped up there on its support, the graceful front wheel looking away from me, as it always did, and a sparrow perched on the saddle - but it was the landlady’s bike, and smiling a little, and shaking my poor head over my fond fancies, I tottered back to my bed, and lay as quiet as a saint


Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores,

On a patch of sunny green

With Sanchicha reading stories

In a movie magazine


which was represented by numerous specimens wherever Dolores landed, and there was some great national celebration in town judging by the firecrackers, veritable bombs, that exploded all the time, and at five minutes to two p.m. I heard the sound of whistling lips nearing the half-opened door of my cabin, and then a thump upon it. (2.22)


La Belle Dame sans Merci (1819) is a ballad by John Keats. In Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats (1821) P. B. Shelley compares Keats to Actaeon:


       Midst others of less note, came one frail Form,
       A phantom among men; companionless
       As the last cloud of an expiring storm
       Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
       Had gaz'd on Nature's naked loveliness,
       Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray
       With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,
       And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,
Pursu'd, like raging hounds, their father and their prey. (XXXI)


In Ovid's telling of the story of Diana and Actaeon in Metamorphoses, III, Melampus is the name of the first hound of Actaeon. Cavall was King Arthur's "favourite dog", and during a stag hunt, he was customarily the last dog to be let loose to chase after the game. 


During the second German occupation of Belgium in World War II, Walthère Dewé (1880-1944) used the experience of the Dame Blanche network (which was founded by Dewé) to start a new network, codenamed Clarence, to which several former members of Dame Blanche belonged. Dewé was shot and killed while trying to avoid capture by the Germans in January 1944. A good friend and relation of John Ray, Jr. (the author of the Foreword to Humbert's manuscript), Clarence Choate Clark, Esq., is Humbert's lawyer:


“Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male,” such were the two titles under which the writer of the present note received the strange pages it preambulates. “Humbert Humbert,” their author, had died in legal captivity, of coronary thrombosis, on November 16, 1952, a few days before his trial was scheduled to start. His lawyer, my good friend and relation, Clarence Choate Clark, Esq., now of he District of Columbia bar, in asking me to edit the manuscript, based his request on a clause in his client’s will which empowered my eminent cousin to use the discretion in all matters pertaining to the preparation of “Lolita” for print. Mr. Clark’s decision may have been influenced by the fact that the editor of his choice had just been awarded the Poling Prize for a modest work (“Do the Senses make Sense?”) wherein certain morbid states and perversions had been discussed.


In his Foreword to Humbert's manuscript John Ray, Jr. mentions Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann: 


Viewed simply as a novel, “Lolita” deals with situations and emotions that would remain exasperatingly vague to the reader had their expression been etiolated by means of platitudinous evasions. True, not a single obscene term is to be found in the whole work; indeed, the robust philistine who is conditioned by modern conventions into accepting without qualms a lavish array of four-letter words in a banal novel, will be quite shocked by their absence here. If, however, for this paradoxical prude’s comfort, an editor attempted to dilute or omit scenes that a certain type of mind might call “aphrodisiac” (see in this respect the monumental decision rendered December 6, 1933, by Hon. John M. Woolsey in regard to another, considerably more outspoken, book), one would have to forego the publication of “Lolita” altogether, since those very scenes that one might inpetly accuse of sensuous existence of their own, are the most strictly functional ones in the development of a tragic tale tending unsweri\vingly to nothing less than a moral apotheosis. The cynic may say that commercial pornography makes the same claim; the learned may counter by asserting that “H. H.”‘s impassioned confession is a tempest in a test tube; that at least 12% of American adult malesa “conservative” estimate according to Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann (verbal communication)enjoy yearly, in one way or another, the special experience “H. H.” describes with such despare; that had our demented diarist gone, in the fatal summer of 1947, to a competent psycho-pathologist, there would have been no disaster; but then, neither would there have been this book.


Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann is a negative, as it were, of Melanie Weiss, the explorer and psychoanalyst mentioned by Quilty:


Oh, another thing - you are going to like this. I have an absolutely unique collection of erotica upstairs. Just to mention one item: the in folio de-luxe Bagration Island by the explorer and psychoanalyst Melanie Weiss, a remarkable lady, a remarkable work - drop that gun - with photographs of eight hundred and something male organs she examined and measured in 1932 on Bagration, in the Barda Sea, very illuminating graphs, plotted with love under pleasant skies - drop that gun - and moreover I can arrange for you to attend executions, not everybody knows that the chair is painted yellow" (2.35).


General Bagation was felled in the battle of Borodino (1812). Borodino (1837) is a poem by Lermontov. Legend has it that, having heard of Lermontov's death, Nicholas I said: Sobake sobach'ya smert' ("The dog shall die a dog's death"). In his prophetical poem Predskazanie ("A Prediction," 1830) Lermontov (who was only fifteen) predicts the fall of the Russian monarchy:


Настанет год, России черный год,
Когда царей корона упадет;
Забудет чернь к ним прежнюю любовь,
И пища многих будет смерть и кровь;
Когда детей, когда невинных жен
Низвергнутый не защитит закон;
Когда чума от смрадных, мертвых тел
Начнет бродить среди печальных сел,
Чтобы платком из хижин вызывать,
И станет глад сей бедный край терзать;
И зарево окрасит волны рек:
В тот день явится мощный человек,
И ты его узнаешь -- и поймешь,
Зачем в руке его булатный нож:
И горе для тебя! -- твой плач, твой стон
Ему тогда покажется смешон;
И будет все ужасно, мрачно в нем,
Как плащ его с возвышенным челом.


A year will come — for Russia a black year —
When the crown so many tsars have worn, will fall;
The mob will lose the love it had for them,
And multitudes will feed on blood and death.
The law, thrown over, will no longer shield
The little children and the chaste young wives;
And Plague from stinking bodies of the dead
Will roam the streets of mourning villages,
And silently call victims from their homes;
And Hunger’s teeth will tear at this poor land;
And reddening skies will make the rivers red.

On that day will appear a powerful man.
And you will know him, and will understand
Why in his grasp he holds a shining knife.
And woe to you! Your weeping and your groans
Will only make him laugh. And everything
About him will be frightening and dark,
Like his cloak, beneath his towering brow.

(transl. Guy Daniels)


8 months 2 weeks ago

Thanks for all this, Alexey (of course, Lolita is "abducted" from the hospital only in H.'s view; she left and didn't go back to him even after Quilty threw her out).  Question: do we know the date of Jean Farlow's death? H. says died "two years later" from summer 1947, so that puts it around the time H. loses Lolita, July 4th, 1949, correct? 

In the Russian version (1967) of Lolita “Silver Spur Court, Elphinstone” becomes pod znakom Serebryanoy Shpory, v Elfinstone:


The two-room cabin we had ordered at Silver Spur Court, Elphinstone, turned out to belong to the glossily browned pine-log kind that Lolita used to be so fond of in the days of our carefree first journey; oh, how different things were now! I am not referring to Trapp or Trapps. After all - well, really… After all, gentlemen, it was becoming abundantly clear that all those identical detectives in prismatically changing cars were figments of my persecution mania, recurrent images based on coincidence and chance resemblance. Soyons logiques, crowed the cocky Gallic part of my brain - and proceeded to rout the notion of a Lolita-maddened salesman or comedy gangster, with stooges, persecuting me, and hoaxing me, and otherwise taking riotous advantage of my strange relations with the law. I remember humming my panic away. I remember evolving even an explanation of the “Birdsley” telephone call… But if I could dismiss Trapp, as I had dismissed my convulsions on the lawn at Champion, I could do nothing with the anguish of knowing Lolita to be so tantalizingly, so miserably unattainable and beloved on the very even of a new era, when my alembics told me she should stop being a nymphet, stop torturing me. (2.22)


Двухкомнатный коттедж, вперёд задержанный нами, под знаком Серебряной Шпоры, в Эльфинстоне (не дай Бог никому услышать их стон), оказался принадлежащим к лакированной, смугло-сосновой, избяной породе, которая так нравилась Лолите в дни нашей первой беззаботной поездки. Ах, всё теперь изменилось... Я говорю не о Траппе или Траппах... В конце концов... ну, сами понимаете... В конце концов, господа, становилось достаточно ясно, что все эти идентичные детективы в призматически-меняющихся автомобилях были порождением моей мании преследования, повторными видениями, основанными на совпадениях и случайном сходстве. Soyons logiques, кукарекала и петушилась галльская часть моего рассудка, прогоняя всякую мысль, что какой-нибудь очарованный Лолитой коммивояжер или гангстер из кинокомедии и его приспешники травят меня, надувают меня и разными другими уморительными способами пользуются моим странным положением перед законом. Помнится, я что-то напевал, заглушая панику. Мне даже удалось выработать теорию, объясняющую подложный вызов из "Бурдолея"... Но если я мог не думать о Траппе, как я не думал о недавних своих конвульсиях на газоне в Чампионе, я никак не мог поладить с другой мукой: знать, что Лолита так близка и вместе с тем так горестно недостижима, и так любить её, так любить как раз накануне новой эры, когда по моим волховским исчислениям она бы должна была перестать быть нимфеткой, перестать терзать меня...


Na serebryanye shpory… (“At the silver spurs [I look pensively],” 1833-34) is a poem by Lermontov:


На серебряные шпоры
Я в раздумии гляжу;
За тебя, скакун мой скорый,
За бока твои дрожу.

Наши предки их не знали
И, гарцуя средь степей,
Толстой плёткой погоняли
Недоезжаных коней.

Но с успехом просвещенья,
Вместо грубой старины,
Введены изобретенья
Чужеземной стороны;

В наше время кормят, холют,
Берегут спинную честь...
Прежде били - нынче колют!
Что же выгодней? - бог весть!


Colonel Maximovich (a White Russian who earns his living as a taxi driver in Paris and for whom Valeria Zborovski, Humbert's first wife, leaves her husband) and Mary Lore (a nurse of Basque descent at the Elphinstone hospital) bring to mind Maksim Maksimych and Princess Mary, the title characters of the second and fourth novellas in Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time (1840), respectively. Mary Lore's father, Joseph Lore is an imported shepherd, a trainer of sheep dogs. Dr Blue (the doctor at the Elphinstone hospital) makes one think of Werner (the doctor in Princess Mary) and of mundiry golubye (the Third Department men clad in blue uniform) in Lermontov's poem Proshchay, nemytaya Rossiya ("Farewell, the unwashed Russia," 1841). Gnarled McFate mentioned by Humbert in his poem "Wanted" (written in a madhouse near Quebec) reminds one of The Fatalist (the last and the best story in Lermontov's novel). Mikhail Lermontov (1814-41) was a Russian descendant of Thomas the Rhymer (c. 1220-98), known as Thomas Learmont or True Thomas, a Scottish laird and reputed prophet.


After murdering Quilty, Humbert mentions Thomas the Apostle:


The rest is a little flattish and faded. Slowly I drove downhill, and presently found myself going at the same lazy pace in a direction opposite to Parkington. I had left my raincoat in the boudoir and Chum in the bathroom. No, it was not a house I would have liked to live in. I wondered idly if some surgeon of genius might not alter his own career, and perhaps the whole destiny of mankind, by reviving quilted Quilty, Clare Obscure. Not that I cared; on the whole I wished to forget the whole messand when I did learn he was dead, the only satisfaction it gave me, was the relief of knowing I need not mentally accompany for months a painful and disgusting convalescence interrupted by all kinds of unmentionable operations and relapses, and perhaps an actual visit from him, with trouble on my part to rationalize him as not being a ghost. Thomas had something. It is strange that the tactile sense, which is so infinitely less precious to men than sight, becomes at critical moment our main, if not only, handle to reality. I was all covered with Quiltywith the feel of that tumble before the bleeding. (2.36)


I'm afraid, I cannot answer your Question. July 4, 1949? On this day (Monday) Princess Elizabeth moved from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House, her first official residence. Elizabeth II (1926-2022) was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 6 February 1952 until her death in 2022. In his Commentary to Shade's poem Kinbote (in VN's novel Pale Fire, 1962, Shade's mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) mentions the Queen of England:


And all the time he was coming nearer.

A formidable thunderstorm had greeted Gradus in New York on the night of his arrival from Paris (Monday, July 20). The tropical rainfall flooded basements and subway tracks: Kaleidoscopic reflections played in the riverlike streets. Vinogradus had never seen such a display of lightning, neither had Jacques d'Argus - or Jack Grey, for that matter (let us not forget Jack Grey!). He put up in a third-class Broadway hotel and slept soundly, lying belly up on the bedclothes, in striped pajamas - the kind that Zemblans call rusker sirsusker ("Russian seersucker suit") - and retaining as usual his socks: not since July 11, when he had visited a Finnish bathhouse in Switzerland, had he seen his bare feet.

It was now July 21. At eight in the morning New York roused Gradus with a bang and a roar. As usual he started his blurry daily existence by blowing his nose. Then he took out of its nightbox of cardboard and inserted into his Comus-mask mouth an exceptionally large and fierce-looking set of teeth: the only bad flaw really in his otherwise harmless appearance. This done, he fished out of his briefcase two petit-beurres he had saved and an even older but still quite palatable small, softish, near-ham sandwich, vaguely associated with the train journey from Nice to Paris last Saturday night: not so much thriftiness on his part (the Shadows had advanced him a handsome sum, anyway), but an animal attachment to the habits of his frugal youth. After breakfasting in bed on these delicacies, he began preparations for the most important day in his life. He had shaved yesterday - that was out of the way. His trusty pajamas he stuffed not into his traveling bag but into the briefcase, dressed, unclipped from the inside of his coat a cameo-pink, interdentally clogged pocket comb, drew it through his bristly hair, carefully donned his trilby, washed both hands with the nice, modern liquid soap in the nice, modern, almost odorless lavatory across the corridor, micturated, rinsed one hand, and feeling clean and neat, went out for a stroll.

He had never visited New York before; but as many near-cretins, he was above novelty. On the previous night he had counted the mounting rows of windows in several skyscrapers, and now, after checking the height of a few more buildings, he felt that he knew all there was to know. He had a brimming cup and a half a saucerful of coffee at a crowded and wet counter and spent the rest of the smoke-blue morning moving from bench to bench and paper to paper in the Westside alleys of Central Park.

He began with the day's copy of The New York Times. His lips moving like wrestling worms, he read about all kinds of things. Hrushchov (whom they spelled "Khrushchev") had abruptly put off a visit to Scandinavia and was to visit Zembla instead (here I tune in: "Vi nazïvaete sebya zemblerami, you call yourselves Zemblans, a ya vas nazïvayu zemlyakami, and I call you fellow countrymen!" Laughter and applause.) The United States was about to launch its first atom-driven merchant ship (just to annoy the Ruskers, of course. J. G.). Last night in Newark, an apartment house at 555 South Street was hit by a thunderbolt that smmashed a TV set and injured two people watching an actress lost in a violent studio storm (those tormented spirits are terrible! C. X. K. teste J. S.). The Rachel Jewelry Company in Brooklyn advertised in agate type for a jewelry polisher who "must have experience on costume jewelry (oh, Degré had!). The Helman brothers said they had assisted in the negotiations for the placement of a sizable note: "$11, 000, 000, Decker Glass Manufacturing Company, Inc., note due July 1, 1979," and Gradus, grown young again, reread this this twice, with the background gray thought, perhaps, that he would be sixty-four four days after that (no comment). On another bench he found a Monday issue of the same newspaper. During a visit to a museum in Whitehorse (Gradus kicked at a pigeon that came too near), the Queen of England walked to a corner of the White Animals Room, removed her right glove and, with her back turned to several evidently observant people, rubbed her forehead and one of her eyes. A pro-Red revolt had erupted in Iraq. Asked about the Soviet exhibition at the New York Coliseum, Carl Sandburg, a poet, replied, and I quote: "They make their appeal on the highest of intellectual levels." A hack reviewer of new books for tourists, reviewing his own tour through Norway, said that the fjords were too famous to need (his) description, and that all Scandinavians loved flowers. And at a picnic for international children a Zemblan moppet cried to her Japanese friend: Ufgut, ufgut, velkum ut Semblerland! (Adieu, adieu, till we meet in Zembla!) I confess it has been a wonderful game - this looking up in the WUL of various ephemerides over the shadow of a padded shoulder. (note to Line 949)


Jakob Gradus's birthday, July 5 is also Shade's and Kinbote's birthday (while Shade was born in 1898, Kinbote and Gradus were born in 1915). It seems that Kinbote writes his Commentary, Index and Foreword to Shade's poem not in "Cedarn, Utana," but in the same madhouse near Quebec where Humbert writes his poem "Wanted." In fact, the poet Shade, his commentator Kinbote and his murderer Gradus represent three different aspects of one and the same person whose "real" name is Botkin. Botkin is nikto b (none would) in reverse. Lermontov's poem Net, ya ne Bayron, ya drugoy ("No, I'm not Byron, I'm another," 1832) ends in the line Ya - ili Bog - ili nikto ("Myself- or God - or none at all"). Lord Byron gave odd names to his dogs. In his poem Vozvrashchenie na rodinu (“Coming Back to my Native Land,” 1924) Sergey Yesenin mentions a small dog that greeted him po-bayronovski (à la Byron) with barks at the gate:


По-байроновски наша собачонка
Меня встречала с лаем у ворот.


Lolita's mother dies because of a neighbor's hysterical dog. On the day of Charlotte’s death Humbert visits Dr Byron (the Haze family physician). When Humbert visits Lolita (now married to Richard F. Schiller) in Coalmont, a dog barks at him:


Hunter Road was miles away, in an even more dismal district, all dump and ditch, and wormy vegetable garden, and shack, and gray drizzle, and red mud, and several smoking stacks in the distance. I stopped at the last “house”a clapboard shack, with two or three similar ones farther away from the road and a waste of withered weeds all around. Sounds of hammering came from behind the house, and for several minutes I sat quite still in my old car, old and frail, at the end of my journey, at my gray goal, finis, my friends, finis, my fiends. The time was around two. My pulse was 40 one minute and 100 the next. The drizzle crepitated against the hood of the car. My gun had migrated to my right trouser pocket. A nondescript cur came out from behind the house, stopped in surprise, and started good-naturedly woof-woofing at me, his eyes slit, his shaggy belly all muddy, and then walked about a little and woofed once more. (2.28)


I got out of the car and slammed its door. How matter-of-fact, how square that slam sounded in the void of the sunless day! Woof, commented the dog perfunctorily. I pressed the bell button, it vibrated through my whole system. Personne. Je resonne. Repersonne. From what depth this re-nonsense? Woof, said the dog. A rush and a shuffle, and woosh-woof went the door. (2.29)


Not long before her death Charlotte tells Humbert that in the fall they are going to England:


It occurred to me that I had a fine brain in beautiful working order and that I might as well use it. If I dared not meddle with my wife’s plans for her daughter (getting warmer and browner every day in the fair weather of hopeless distance), I could surely devise some general means to assert myself in a general way that might be later directed toward a particular occasion. One evening, Charlotte herself provided me with an opening.

“I have a surprise for you,” she said looking at me with fond eyes over a spoonful of soup. “In the fall we two are going to England.”

I swallowed my spoonful, wiped my lips with pink paper (Oh, the cool rich linens of Mirana Hotel!) and said:

“I have also a surprise for you, my dear. We two are not going to England.”

“Why, what’s the matter?” she said, lookingwith more surprise than I had counted uponat my hands (I was involuntarily folding and tearing and crushing and tearing again the innocent pink napkin). My smiling face set her somewhat at ease, however.

“The matter is quite simple,” I replied. “Even in the most harmonious of households, as ours is, not all decisions are taken by the female partner. There are certain things that the husband is there to decide. I can well imagine the thrill that you, a healthy American gal, must experience at crossing the Atlantic on the same ocean liner with Lady Bumble - or Sam Bumble, the Frozen Meat King, or a Hollywood harlot. And I doubt not that you and I would make a pretty ad for the Traveling Agency when portrayed looking - you, frankly starry-eyed, I, controlling my envious admirationat the Palace Sentries, or Scarlet Guards, or Beaver Eaters, or whatever they are called. But I happen to be allergic to Europe, including merry old England. As you well know, I have nothing but very sad associations with the Old and rotting World. No colored ads in your magazines will change the situation.”

“My darling,” said Charlotte. “I really - ”

“No, wait a minute. The present matter is only incidental. I am concerned with a general trend. When you wanted me to spend my afternoons sunbathing on the Lake instead of doing my work, I gladly gave in and became a bronzed glamour boy for your sake, instead of remaining a scholar and, well, an educator. When you lead me to bridge and bourbon with the charming Farlows, I meekly follow. No, please, wait. When you decorate your home, I do not interfere with your schemes. When you decidewhen you decide all kinds of matters, I may be in complete, or in partial, let us say, disagreementbut I say nothing. I ignore the particular. I cannot ignore the general. I love being bossed by you, but every game has its rules. I am not cross. I am not cross at all. Don’t do that. But I am one half of this household, and have a small but distinct voice."

She had come to my side and had fallen on her knees and was slowly, but very vehemently, shaking her head and clawing at my trousers. She said she had never realized. She said I was her ruler and her god. She said Louise had gone, and let us make love right away. She said I must forgive her or she would die. (1.21)


8 months 2 weeks ago

My current hypothesis is this:

Quilty 's specter is putting touches on Humbert's memory as H. is writing the memoir. With the goal (or one of goals) to add arcs and references to sharpen hunt/pursuit/rivals for a lady's hand themes. Like the reference to G.B. Shaw's "Candida" in a visitors' book, all the Alice Liddell/Red Knight/Ch. Dodgson stuff, Cavell and Melampus names, with Arthurian and Ovidian (?) themes etc. 

But during the events themselves, Charlotte's ghost works around Humbert - for what? To free Lolita from him (hi, Mrs. Hayes!)? Not sure if she stays around after Lolita escapes (yes, it's June 4, 1949, Boyd mentions 4th of July as the day, in his "There's more in 'Lolita'"; there are fireworks going on per H.H.), to come back at Q.'s bedside. But Jean Farlow might be showing up before Lolita escapes - isn't Humbert's calling Q following them "like cancer" kinda weird? Idk what Jean's spirit does. Is Rita her proxy? 

And with all that, where's the message from the spirits, is there Hazel's square I9 in "Lolita"? And what's up with the mattress address? And what's the sting in "Catagela"?

I see that Catagela adoceta is a moth in the family Crambidae. It was described by Ian Francis Bell Common in 1960. It is found in Australia, where it has been recorded from Queensland. Are you from Australia? Would you tell us your name (or do you prefer to keep your incognito)?


Catagela in Lolita (“N. S. Aristoff, Catagela, NY”) seems to hint Catagela adjurella, a moth in the family Crambidae. It was described by Francis Walker in 1863. It is found in Sri Lanka, India and China. The sting in "Catagela" and N. S. Aristoff make one think of The Wasps, the fourth in chronological order of the eleven surviving plays by Aristophanes (Aristophanes. Wasps. The Complete Greek Drama, vol. 2. Eugene O'Neill, Jr. New York. Random House, 1938). Aristophanes' comedy The Clouds brings to mind VN's story Oblako, ozero, bashnya ("Cloud, Castle, Lake," 1937). Osa ("The Wasp," 1928) is a poem by Sirin (VN's Russian nom de plume that recalls Aristophane's comedy The Birds). Describing the murder of Quilty, Humbert mentions a hornet (the largest of the eusocial wasps): 


Feu. This time I hit something hard. I hit the back of a black rocking chair, not unlike Dolly Schiller’s - my bullet hit the inside surface of its back whereupon it immediately went into a rocking act, so fast and with such zest that any one coming into the room might have been flabbergasted by the double miracle: that chair rocking in a panic all by itself, and the armchair, where my purple target had just been, now void of all life content. Wiggling his fingers in the air, with a rapid heave of his rump, he flashed into the music room and the next second we were tugging and gasping on both sides of the door which had a key I had overlooked. I won again, and with another abrupt movement Clare the Impredictable sat down before the piano and played several atrociously vigorous, fundamentally hysterical, plangent chords, his jowls quivering, his spread hands tensely plunging, and his nostrils emitting the soundtrack snorts which had been absent from our fight. Still singing those impossible sonorities, he made a futile attempt to open with his foot a kind of seaman’s chest near the piano. My next bullet caught him somewhere in the side, and he rose from his chair higher and higher, like old, gray, mad Nijinski, like Old faithful, like some old nightmare of mine, to a phenomenal altitude, or so it seemed, as he rent the air - still shaking with the rich black music - head thrown back in a howl, hand pressed to his brow, and with his other hand clutching his armpit as if stung by a hornet, down he came on his heels and, again a normal robed man, scurried out into the hall. (2.36)


Russian for "hornet," shershen' makes one think of the French phrase cherchez la femme. Quilty tries to seduce Humbert with his collection of erotica and mentions the in folio de-luxe Bagration Island by the explorer and psychoanalyst Melanie Weiss. In the drawing-room of Sobakevich's house Chichikov (the main character's in Gogol's Dead Souls, 1842) sees the portraits of Greek generals and a portrait of General Bagration:


Вошед в гостиную, Собакевич показал на кресла, сказавши опять: "Прошу!" Садясь, Чичиков взглянул на стены и на висевшие на них картины. На картинах все были молодцы, все греческие полководцы, гравированные во весь рост: Маврокордато в красных панталонах и мундире, с очками на носу, Миаули, Канами. Все эти герои были с такими толстыми ляжками и неслыханными усами, что дрожь проходила по телу. Между крепкими греками, неизвестно каким образом и для чего, поместился Багратион, тощий, худенький, с маленькими знаменами и пушками внизу и в самых узеньких рамках. Потом опять следовала героиня греческая Бобелина, которой одна нога казалась больше всего туловища тех щеголей, которые наполняют нынешние гостиные.


When they entered the drawing-room Sobakevich pointed to an empty chair and again said, 'Please.' Sitting down, Chichikov glanced at the walls and the pictures hanging on them. They were all portraits of gallant heroes, Greek generals painted at full length, Mavrocordato in red trousers and uniform, with spectacles on his nose, Miaoulis, Kanaris. All these heroes had such thick calves and incredible moustaches that they sent a shiver down one's spine. Among these Greek heroes, goodness knows why, was a portrait of Bagration, a lean gaunt figure with little flags and cannons below in a very narrow frame. Then followed the portrait of the Greek heroine Bobelina whose leg seemed stouter than the whole body of a dandy such as those that fill our drawing-rooms nowadays. It seemed as though the master of the house, being himself strong and sturdy, desired to have his room decorated with people strong and sturdy also. (Chapter III)


General Bagration was felled in the battle of Borodino (1812). Borodino (1837) is a poem by Lermontov. In Chekhov's play Tri sestry ("The Three Sisters," 1901) Solyony (the bretteur who kills Baron Tusenbach in a pistol duel) imagines that he resembles Lermontov. Quilty resembles Gustave Trapp (Humbert's Swiss uncle). In October 1890, on his way back from Sakhalin Island (the site of the penal colony in the Imperial Russia), Chekhov visited Ceylon (Sri Lanka's former name). Rita is a character in Chekhov's story Volodya bol'shoy i Volodya malen'kiy ("The Two Volodyas," 1893), a young woman who can drink any amount of alcohol, never gets drunk and who tells tastelessly obscene anecdotes. Humbert picks up Rita between Toylestown and Blake, at a drakishly burning bar under the sign of the Tigermoth:


She was twice Lolita’s age and three quarters of mine: a very slight, dark-haired, pale-skinned adult, weighing a hundred and five pounds, with charmingly asymmetrical eyes, and angular, rapidly sketched profile, and a most appealing ensellure to her supple back - I think she had some Spanish or Babylonian blood. I picked her up one depraved May evening somewhere between Montreal and New York, or more narrowly, between Toylestown and Blake, at a drakishly burning bar under the sign of the Tigermoth, where she was amiably drunk: she insisted we had gone to school together, and she placed her trembling little hand on my ape paw. My senses were very slightly stirred but I decided to give her a try; I didand adopted her as a constant companion. She was so kind, was Rita, such a good sport, that I daresay she would have given herself to any pathetic creature or fallacy, an old broken tree or a bereaved porcupine, out of sheer chumminess and compassion. (1.26)


The Tyger is a poem by William Blake. Toylestown makes one think of Blake's poem London included in Songs of Experience (1794):


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. 
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear 

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls, 
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls 

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear 
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse


An acrostic can be found in the third stanza. The word "Hear" is spelled out in the first letters of each line. This acrostic is foreshadowed in the last word of the second stanza and is echoed in the last word of the first line of the fourth stanza. "And again I hear you crying" is a line in Humbert's poem "Wanted" (written in a madhouse near Quebec after Lolita was abducted from him):


Dying, dying, Lolita Haze,

Of hate and remorse, I’m dying.

And again my hairy fist I raise,

And again I hear you crying.


Humbert is a Frenchman. In Gogol's story The Notes of a Madman (1835) Poprishchin says: "All the world knows that France sneezes when England takes a pinch of snuff." Quilty is "the writer fellow in the Dromes ad:"


The dining room met us with a smell of fried fat and a faded smile. It was a spacious and pretentious place with maudlin murals depicting enchanted hunters in various postures and states of enchantment amid a medley of pallid animals, dryads and trees. A few scattered old ladies, two clergymen, and a man in a sports coat were finishing their meals in silence. The dining room closed at nine, and the green-clad, poker-faced serving girls were, happily, in a desperate hurry to get rid of us.

“Does not he look exactly, but exactly, like Quilty?” said Lo in a soft voice, her sharp brown elbow not pointing, but visibly burning to point, at the lone diner in the loud checks, in the far corner of the room.

“Like our fat Ramsdale dentist?”

Lo arrested the mouthful of water she had just taken, and put down her dancing glass.

“Course not,” she said with a splutter of mirth. “I meant the writer fellow in the Dromes ad.”

Oh, Fame! Oh, Femina! (1.27)


On the porch of The Enchanted Hunters Quilty offers Humbert a smoke:


I left the loud lobby and stood outside, on the white steps, looking at the hundreds of powdered bugs wheeling around the lamps in the soggy black night, full of ripple and stir. All I would doall I would dare dowould amount to such a trifle… Suddenly I was aware that in the darkness next to me there was somebody sitting in a chair on the pillared porch. I could not really see him but what gave him away was the rasp of a screwing off, then a discreet gurgle, then the final note of a placid screwing on. I was about to move away when his voice addressed me:

“Where the devil did you get her?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said: the weather is getting better.”

“Seems so.”

“Who’s the lassie?”

“My daughter.”

“You lieshe’s not.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said: July was hot. Where’s her mother?”


“I see. Sorry. By the way, why don’t you two lunch with me tomorrow. That dreadful crowd will be gone by then.”

“We’ll be gone too. Good night.”

“Sorry. I’m pretty drunk. Good night. That child of yours needs a lot of sleep. Sleep is a rose, as the Persians say. Smoke?”

“Not now.”

He struck a light, but because he was drunk, or because the wind was, the flame illumined not him but another person, a very old man, one of those permanent guests of old hotelsand his white rocker. Nobody said anything and the darkness returned to its initial place. Then I heard the old-timer cough and deliver himself of some sepulchral mucus. (1.28)


In an interview to the Briceland Gazette Quilty (the author of Dark Age) mentions a Persian bubble bird:


I wondered if the last statement was true. All? Did they have for instance sidewalk grenadine? I also wondered if a hunter, enchanted or otherwise, would not need a pointer more than a pew, and with a spasm of pain I recalled a scene worthy of a great artist: petite nymphe accroupie; but that silky cocker spaniel had perhaps been a baptized one. No - I felt I could not endure the throes of revisiting that lobby. There was a much better possibility of retrievable time elsewhere in soft, rich-colored, autumnal Briceland. Leaving Rita in a bar, I made for the town library. A twittering spinster was only too glad to help me disinter mid-August 1947 from the bound Briceland Gazette, and presently, in a secluded nook under a naked light, I was turning the enormous and fragile pages of a coffin-black volume almost as big as Lolita.

Reader! Bruder! What a foolish Hamburg that Hamburg was! Since his supersensitive system was loath to face the actual scene, he thought he could at least enjoy a secret part of it - which reminds one of the tenth or twentieth soldier in the raping queue who throws the girl’s black shawl over her white face so as not to see those impossible eyes while taking his military pleasure in the sad, sacked village. What I lusted to get was the printed picture that had chanced to absorb my trespassing image while the Gazette’s photographer was concentrating on Dr. Braddock and his group. Passionately I hoped to find preserved the portrait of the artist as a younger brute. An innocent camera catching me on my dark way to Lolita’s bed - what a magnet for Mnemosyne! I cannot well explain the true nature of that urge of mine. It was allied, I suppose, to that swooning curiosity which impels one to examine with a magnifying glass bleak little figures - still life practically, and everybody about to throw up - at an early morning execution, and the patient’s expression impossible to make out in the print. Anyway, I was literally gasping for breath, and one corner of the book of doom kept stabbing me in the stomach while I scanned and skimmed… Brute Force and Possessed were coming on Sunday, the 24th, to both theatres. Mr. Purdom, independent tobacco auctioneer, said that ever since 1925 he had been an Omen Faustum smoker. Husky Hank and his petite bride were to be the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Reginald G. Gore, 58 Inchkeith Ave. The size of certain parasites is one sixth of the host. Dunkerque was fortified in the tenth century. Misses’ socks, 39 c. Saddle Oxfords 3.98. Wine, wine, wine, quipped the author of Dark Age who refused to be photographed, may suit a Persian bubble bird, but I say give me rain, rain, rain on the shingle roof for roses and inspiration every time. Dimples are caused by the adherence of the skin to the deeper tissues. Greeks repulse a heavy guerrilla assault - and, ah, at last, a little figure in white, and Dr. Braddock in black, but whatever spectral shoulder was brushing against his ample form - nothing of myself could I make out. (2.26)


In his poem Vostochnye poety peli ("The Oriental Poets Sang") G. Ivanov (the author of Roses, 1931) mentions persidskiy solovey (a Persian nightingale) and the intertwining roses over the pit full of grave worms:


Восточные поэты пели
Хвалу цветам и именам,
Догадываясь еле-еле
О том, что недоступно нам.

Но эта смутная догадка
Полу-мечта, полу-хвала.
Вся разукрашенная сладко,
Тем ядовитее была.

Сияла ночь Омар-Хаяму,
Свистел персидский соловей,
И розы заплетали яму,
Могильных полную червей.

Быть может, высшая надменность:
То развлекаться, то скучать.
Сквозь пальцы видеть современность,
О самом главном — промолчать.


Your ghost theory is interesting, bit it looks to me like an early attempt (prior to 1960) to map the dark side of the moon (where the noses live, or once lived).


8 months 2 weeks ago



 Thank you for references. My name's Vitaly. I picked adoceta as the more mellifluous of Catagelas. Have never been to Australia.  I live not far from this place (ca. 1940), which Humbert and Dolly saw after Reno. Humbert preferred gin to wine, probably.

Alexey Sklyarenko

8 months 2 weeks ago

In reply to by Catagela_adoceta

Hello Vitaly! You have a Russian name. We are not compatriots, are we? Thank you for the illustration. Here is the correlated passage in Lolita:


Moreover, we inspected: Little Iceberg Lake, somewhere in Colorado, and the snow banks, and the cushionets of tiny alpine flowers, and more snow; down which Lo in red-peaked cap tried to slide, and squealed, and was snowballed by some youngsters, and retaliated in kind comme on dit. Skeletons of burned aspens, patches of spired blue flowers. The various items of a scenic drive. Hundreds of scenic drives, thousands of Bear Creeks, Soda Springs, Painted Canyons. Texas, a drought-struck plain. Crystal Chamber in the longest cave in the world, children under 12 free, Lo a young captive. A collection of a local lady’s homemade sculptures, closed on a miserable Monday morning, dust, wind, witherland. Conception Park, in a town on the Mexican border which I dared not cross. There and elsewhere, hundreds of gray hummingbirds in the dusk, probing the throats of dim flowers. Shakespeare, a ghost town in New Mexico, where bad man Russian Bill was colorfully hanged seventy years ago. Fish hatcheries. Cliff dwellings. The mummy of a child (Florentine Bea’s Indian contemporary). Our twentieth Hell’s Canyon. Our fiftieth Gateway to something or other vide that tour book, the cover of which had been lost by that time. A tick in my groin. Always the same three old men, in hats and suspenders, idling away the summer afternoon under the trees near the public fountain. A hazy blue view beyond railings on a mountain pass, and the backs of a family enjoying it (with Lo, in a hot, happy, wild, intense, hopeful, hopeless whisper – “Look, the McCrystals, please, let’s talk to them, please” – let’s talk to them, reader!”please! I’ll do anything you want, oh, please…”). Indian ceremonial dances, strictly commercial. ART: American Refrigerator Transit Company. Obvious Arizona, pueblo dwellings, aboriginal pictographs, a dinosaur track in a desert canyon, printed there thirty million years ago, when I was a child. A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an active Adam’s apple, ogling Lo and her orange-brown bare midriff, which I kissed five minutes later, Jack. Winter in the desert, spring in the foothills, almonds in bloom. Reno, a dreary town in Nevada, with a nightlife said to be “cosmopolitan and mature.” A winery in California, with a church built in the shape of a wine barrel. Death Valley. Scotty’s Castle. Works of Art collected by one Rogers over a period of years. The ugly villas of handsome actresses. R. L. Stevenson’s footprint on an extinct volcano. Mission Dolores: good title for book. Surf-carved sandstone festoons. A man having a lavish epileptic fit on the ground in Russian Gulch State Park. Blue, blue Crater Lake. A fish hatchery in Idaho and the State Penitentiary. Somber Yellowstone Park and its colored hot springs, baby geysers, rainbows of bubbling mudsymbols of my passion. A herd of antelopes in a wildlife refuge. Our hundredth cavern, adults one dollar, Lolita fifty cents. A chateau built by a French marquess in N. D. The Corn Palace in S. D.; and the huge heads of presidents carved in towering granite. The Bearded Woman read our jingle and now she is no longer single. A zoo in Indiana where a large troop of monkeys lived on concrete replica of Christopher Columbus’ flagship. Billions of dead, or halfdead, fish-smelling May flies in every window of every eating place all along a dreary sandy shore. Fat gulls on big stones as seen from the ferry City of Cheboygan, whose brown woolly smoke arched and dipped over the green shadow it cast on the aquamarine lake. A motel whose ventilator pipe passed under the city sewer. Lincoln’s home, largely spurious, with parlor books and period furniture that most visitors reverently accepted as personal belongings. (2.2)


Yes, Humbert's favorite drink was "pin" (gin & pinapple juice). Do you remember its Russian name?


To return to the classics: "Gogol's Inspector and the Comedy of Aristophanes" (1925) is an essay by Vyacheslav Ivanov (the author of the formula a realibus ad realiora). Rita's brother, the mayor and boaster of Grainball, seems to be a cross between Khlestakov and the Town Mayor (the characters in Revizor). At the end of Gogol's play the Town Mayor says that all he sees are svinye ryla (pigs' snouts) instead of faces, and nothing more. Rita is a short form of Margarita, a feminine given name that means “pearl.” It brings to mind the Latin saying [nolite mittere] margaritas ante porcos ([don't throw] pearls before swine).


Charlotte (Lolita's mother) throws pearls before Humbert. "Swine" is a receptionist at The Enchanted Hunters (a hotel in Briceland where Humbert and Lolita spend their first night together):


The pink old fellow peered good-naturedly at Lo - still squatting, listening in profile, lips parted, to what the dog’s mistress, an ancient lady swathed in violet veils, was telling her from the depths of a cretonne easy chair.

Whatever doubts the obscene fellow had, they were dispelled by that blossom-like vision. He said, he might still have a room, had one, in fact - with a double bed. As to the cot -

“Mr. Potts, do we have any cots left?” Potts, also pink and bald, with white hairs growing out of his ears and other holes, would see what could be done. He came and spoke while I unscrewed my fountain pen. Impatient Humbert!

“Our double beds are really triple,” Potts cozily said tucking me and my kid in. “One crowded night we had three ladies and a child like yours sleep together. I believe one of the ladies was a disguised man [my  static]. However - would there be a spare cot in 49, Mr. Swine?

“I think it went to the Swoons,” said Swine, the initial old clown.

“We’ll manage somehow,” I said. “My wife may join us later - but even then, I suppose, we’ll manage.”

The two pink pigs were now among my best friends. In the slow clear hand of crime I wrote: Dr. Edgar H. Humbert and daughter, 342 Lawn Street, Ramsdale. A key (342!) was half-shown to me (magician showing object he is about to palm)and handed over to Uncle tom. Lo, leaving the dog as she would leave me some day, rose from her haunches; a raindrop fell on Charlotte’s grave; a handsome young Negress slipped open the elevator door, and the doomed child went in followed by her throat-clearing father and crayfish Tom with the bags.

Parody of a hotel corridor. Parody of silence and death. (1.27)


Grainball = grain + ball = brain + Gall (Franz Joseph Gall, 1758-1828, a German neuroanatomist, physiologist, and pioneer in the study of the localization of mental functions in the brain). Describing his life with Rita, Humbert mentions his cerebellum (a major feature of the hindbrain) and an amnesiac whom he and Rita found in their bed in Grainball:


The oddly prepubescent curve of her back, her ricey skin, her slow languorous columbine kisses kept me from mischief. It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art. One rather mysterious spree that had interesting repercussions I must notice. I had abandoned the search: the fiend was either in Tartary or burning away in my cerebellum (the flames fanned by my fancy and grief) but certainly not having Dolores Haze play champion tennis on the Pacific Coast. One afternoon, on our way back East, in a hideous hotel, the kind where they hold conventions and where labeled, fat, pink men stagger around, all first names and business and booze - dear Rita and I awoke to find a third in our room, a blond, almost albino, young fellow with white eyelashes and large transparent ears, whom neither Rita nor I recalled having ever seen in our sad lives. Sweating in thick dirty underwear, and with old army boots on, he lay snoring on the double bed beyond my chaste Rita. One of his front teeth was gone, amber pustules grew on his forehead. Ritochka enveloped her sinuous nudity in my raincoat - the first thing at hand; I slipped on a pair of candy-striped drawers; and we took stock of the situation. Five glasses had been used, which in the way of clues, was an embarrassment of riches. The door was not properly closed. A sweater and a pair of shapeless tan pants lay on the floor. We shook their owner into miserable consciousness. He was completely amnesic. In an accent that Rita recognized as pure Brooklynese, he peevishly insinuated that somehow we had purloined his (worthless) identity. We rushed him into his clothes and left him at the nearest hospital, realizing on the way that somehow or other after forgotten gyrations, we were in Grainball. Half a year later Rita wrote the doctor for news. Jack Humbertson as he had been tastelessly dubbed was still isolated from his personal past. Oh Mnemosyne, sweetest and most mischievous of muses! (2.26)


At the beginning of his essay "Drevniy uzhas (The Ancient Terror), apropos of L. Bakst's painting Terror Antiquus," Vyacheslav Ivanov mentions Mnemosyne:

«Terror Antiquus»...

О древней правде говорит нам художник и, жертвуя Музам, служит великой и мудрой богине — Памяти. Но и сами Музы, как пушкинская резвая дева-Рифма, их вскормленница, — «послушны Памяти строгой». Память-Мнемосина — одна из семи Матерей, зачавших от Зевса; Память родила девять Муз. И завели сладкогласные сестры нескончаемый хоровод, утверждая ритмами установленную гармонию соразмерного мира, услаждая богов священными былями и напоминая смертным извечные образцы нетленной красоты и высокие участи предков-героев. Так пели Музы, что прекрасное — мило, а непрекрасное — немило, во всем покорствуя «Памяти строгой».

Мнемосина — Вечная Память: вот другое имя той преемственности общения в духе и силе между живущими и отшедшими, которую мы, люди овеществленного и рассеянного века, чтим под именем духовной культуры, не зная сами религиозных корней этого почитания. Культура — культ отшедших, и Вечная Память — душа ее жизни, соборной по преимуществу и основанной на предании.


In the draft of Graf Nulin ("Count Null," 1825) Pushkin says that the Count had mestnoy pamyati organ (an organ of local memory), according to Gall's system (po Galevoy primete):


Граф местной памяти орган

Имел по Галевой примете,

Он в темноте, как и при свете,

Нашел бы дверь, окно, диван.

Он чуть дыханье переводит,

Желаньем пламенным томим

(Или боязнью). Пол под ним

Скрыпит. Украдкой он подходит

К безмолвной спальне. «Здесь она!

Ждет, нетерпения полна,

Ее склонить не будет трудно!..»

Глядит, однако ж это чудно:

Дверь заперта! Герой слегка

Жмет ручку медную замка


Jack Humbertson is almost an albino. The Russian word for "albino," al'binos rhymes with nos (nose). In Gogol's story Nos ("The Nose," 1835) the nose of Major Kovalyov leaves the Major's face and develops a life of its own. The mysterious person whom Humbert and Rita find snoring in their bed seems to be somebody's run-away male organ. Recalling his life with Lolita, Humbert compares himself to a big phallus:


There was the day, during our first trip - our first circle of paradise - when in order to enjoy my phantasms in peace I firmly decided to ignore what I could not help perceiving, the fact that I was to her not a boy friend, not a glamour man, not a pal, not even a person at all, but just two eyes and a foot of engorged brawn - to mention only mentionable matters. There was the day when having withdrawn the functional promise I had made her on the eve (whatever she had set her funny little heart on a roller rink with some special plastic floor or a movie matinee to which she wanted to go alone), I happened to glimpse from the bathroom, through a chance combination of mirror aslant and door ajar, a look on her face… that look I cannot exactly describe… an expression of helplessness so perfect that it seemed to grade into one of rather comfortable inanity just because this was the very limit of injustice and frustration - and every limit presupposes something beyond it - hence the neutral illumination. And when you bear in mind that these were the raised eyebrows and parted lips of a child, you may better appreciate what depths of calculated carnality, what reflected despair, restrained me from falling at her dear feet and dissolving in human tears, and sacrificing my jealousy to whatever pleasure Lolita might hope to derive from mixing with dirty and dangerous children in an outside world that was real to her. (2.32)


The main character in Gogol's Dead Souls (1842), Chichikov is impotent (at least, in VN's opinion). Quilty tells Humbert that he is practically impotent:


I asked him whether he wanted to be executed sitting or standing.

“Ah, let me think,” he said. “It is not an easy question. Incidentally - I made a mistake. Which I sincerely regret. You see, I had no fun with your Dolly. I am practically impotent, to tell the melancholy truth. And I gave her a splendid vacation. She met some remarkable people. Do you happen to know - ”

And with a tremendous lurch he fell all over me, sending the pistol hurtling under a chest of drawers. Fortunately he was more impetuous than vigorous, and I had little difficulty in shoving him back into his chair. (1.35)


8 months 2 weeks ago

Yes, I was born and partly raised on the edges of the former Soviet empire. I do not know the Russian name for gin with pineapple juice, I did a quick research, but came up only with Russianized slings, gimlets, and juleps.

Once you start reading "Lolita" with a spectral attitude, spirits are everywhere.  "Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine." I say, Annabel's "mark" would be sunglasses, "with somebody’s lost pair of sunglasses for only witness" on their last date until the two jerks interrupted it.

She may have been instrumental bringing H. to Lolita and then Lolita wearing sunglasses in the patio marks her as Annabel's proxy. Next it is his sunglasses that H. runs to for some hand-wringing at the lake, then buys more of them for Lolita, but then it is H.'s trip to buy sunglasses  at a gas station on the way to Wace, which gives Dolly a chance to talk to Quilty. Annabel must be on Lolia's side now, or always has been.  There's also the guy in dark glasses in that nightmarish attempt to escape from buying sex with a fat non-nymphet in France; was Annabel around for that? That guy reminds me of the "violent-looking dark man" that glares at Humbert to move him along from the last nymphet of the novel. Is that Annabel telling Humbert that he's done with nymphets now?


Don't you think that John Ray's joke "The caretakers of the various cemeteries involved report that no ghosts walk." is more in Humbert's style, not Dr. Ray's? Has Humbert's sprite supervised the preparation of “Lolita” for print, making sure that John Ray doesn't harm his "Lolita", else H. 's specter would have to pull Dr. Ray apart nerve by nerve?


"During that extravagant year 1947-1948, August to August, lodgings and food cost us around 5,500 dollars; gas, oil and repairs, 1,234,..." And all other numbers are rounded.  Is this how Quilty plays, showing that he can insert numbers into Humbert's memory? I234 indeed.  have no idea what all the numbers in "Lolita" are about. Is 342 just the idea of putting the first part last? 


Is the albino amnesiac somehow the White Rabbit from the Alice/Red Knight arc? They stole his identity? I don't see any connections. Maybe I should read Through The Looking Glass. Lots of looking glasses in Room 342.

Pin is Ginanas (джинанас). VN's (or Gumbert's) invention, it is in the Russian Lolita. I like your idea about the White Rabbit (your other observations are also fine). 342 seems to hint at Earth, Mars and Venus (the third, the fourth and the second planets of the Solar System). Shall be back after writing a new sensational post about a geographical miracle in Ada.


8 months 2 weeks ago

All white, with "large transparent ears". Named Jack at the hospital. Must be the White Rabbit. "In an accent that Rita recognized as pure Brooklynese" he said, "I knew I shoulda taken that left toyn at Albukoyke". Just kidding, he didn't, but  sure sounds like Bugs. So many clues, " five glasses" "an embarassment of riches" of clues, but I've got nothing. Who are the other 2 drinkers? Mad Hatter and March Hare? Do Humbert's candy-striped underpants look like this guy?

And why is she Ritochka now? Neither H. nor Q. are Russian speakers; are Valeria or Taxovich ghosting too? What rabbit identity did H. and/or Rita supposedly steal?

Even "naked under a raincoat" or a town that we are trying to avoid but keep returning to sound like very familiar references, but I have nothing tonight.

Alexey Sklyarenko

8 months 2 weeks ago

In reply to by Catagela_adoceta

The oddly prepubescent curve of her back, her ricey skin, her slow languorous columbine kisses kept me from mischief. It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art. One rather mysterious spree that had interesting repercussions I must notice. I had abandoned the search: the fiend was either in Tartary or burning away in my cerebellum (the flames fanned by my fancy and grief) but certainly not having Dolores Haze play champion tennis on the Pacific Coast. One afternoon, on our way back East, in a hideous hotel, the kind where they hold conventions and where labeled, fat, pink men stagger around, all first names and business and booze - dear Rita and I awoke to find a third in our room, a blond, almost albino, young fellow with white eyelashes and large transparent ears, whom neither Rita nor I recalled having ever seen in our sad lives. Sweating in thick dirty underwear, and with old army boots on, he lay snoring on the double bed beyond my chaste Rita. One of his front teeth was gone, amber pustules grew on his forehead. Ritochka enveloped her sinuous nudity in my raincoat - the first thing at hand; I slipped on a pair of candy-striped drawers; and we took stock of the situation. Five glasses had been used, which in the way of clues, was an embarrassment of riches. The door was not properly closed. A sweater and a pair of shapeless tan pants lay on the floor. We shook their owner into miserable consciousness. He was completely amnesic. In an accent that Rita recognized as pure Brooklynese, he peevishly insinuated that somehow we had purloined his (worthless) identity. We rushed him into his clothes and left him at the nearest hospital, realizing on the way that somehow or other after forgotten gyrations, we were in Grainball. Half a year later Rita wrote the doctor for news. Jack Humbertson as he had been tastelessly dubbed was still isolated from his personal past. Oh Mnemosyne, sweetest and most mischievous of muses! (2.26)


A Case of Identity (1891) is one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is the third story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In this story Holmes quotes an old Persian saying: 'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.' On the porch of The Enchanted Hunters Quilty tells Humbert: “Sorry. I’m pretty drunk. Good night. That child of yours needs a lot of sleep. Sleep is a rose, as the Persians say. Smoke?” (1.28)


It takes Humbert 56 days to write Lolita. Jack Humbertson makes one think of Doctor John Watson (Holmes' assistant and chronicler). The son of Shirley Holmes (the headmistress of Camp Q), Charlie Holmes is Lolita's first lover. When Humbert revisits Ramsdale in September 1952, Mrs. Chatfield tells him that the poor boy has just been killed in Korea:


Feeling I was losing my time, I drove energetically to the downtown hotel where I had arrived with a new bag more than five years before. I took a room, made two appointments by telephone, shaved, bathed, put on black clothes and went down for a drink in the bar. Nothing had changed. The barroom was suffused with the same dim, impossible garnet-red light that in Europe years ago went with low haunts, but here meant a bit of atmosphere in a family hotel. I sat at the same little table where at the very start of my stay, immediately after becoming Charlotte’s lodger, I had thought fit to celebrate the occasion by suavely sharing with her half a bottle of champagne, which had fatally conquered her poor brimming heart. As then, a moon-faced waiter was arranging with stellar care fifty sherries on a round tray for a wedding party. Murphy-Fantasia, this time. It was eight minutes to three. As I walked though the lobby, I had to skirt a group of ladies who with mille grâces were taking leave of each other after a luncheon party. With a harsh cry of recognition, one pounced upon me. She was a stout, short woman in pearl-gray, with a long, gray, slim plume to her small hat. It was Mrs. Chatfield. She attacked me with a fake smile, all aglow with evil curiosity. (Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Laselle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done o eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?) Very soon I had that avid glee well under control. She thought I was in California. How was - ? With exquisite pleasure I informed her that my stepdaughter had just married a brilliant young mining engineer with a hush-hush job in the Northwest. She said she disapproved of such early marriages, she would never let her Phillys, who was now eighteen -

“Oh yes, of course,” I said quietly. “I remember Phyllis. Phyllis and Camp Q. Yes, of course. By the way, did she ever tell you how Charlie Holmes debauched there his mother’s little charges?”

Mrs. Chatfield’s already broken smile now disintegrated completely.

“For shame,” she cried, “for shame, Mr. Humbert! The poor boy has just been killed in Korea.”

I said didn’t she think “vient de,” with the infinitive, expressed recent events so much more neatly than the English “just,” with the past? But I had to be trotting off, I said. (2.33)


Murphy marries Stella Fantasia (Lolitas classmate). Stella is Latin for "celestial star." One of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy, Cassiopeia is easily recognizable due to its distinctive 'W' shape, formed by five bright stars. Quasi una fantasia (1889) is a poem by Afanasiy Fet, a son of Afanasiy Shenshin (a Russian landowner) and Charlotte Becker (a German inn-keeper's daughter whose first husband was Johann Foeth). The maiden name of Lolita's mother is Charlotte Becker. Fet is the author of More i zvyozdy (“The Sea and the Stars,” 1859), Sredi zvyozd ("Among the Stars," 1876) and Ugasshim zvyozdam ("To the Extinguished Stars," 1890). In the Russian Lolita (1967) Gumbert's sarcasm is much more venomous:


"В самом деле", сказал я (пользуясь дивной свободою, свойственной сновидениям). "Вот так судьба! Бедный мальчик пробивал нежнейшие, невосстановимейшие перепоночки, прыскал гадючьим ядом - и ничего, жил превесело, да ещё получил посмертный орденок. Впрочем, извините меня, мне пора к адвокату".


Gadyuchiy yad (the viper venom) mentioned by Gumbert makes one think of Conan Doyle's story The Adventure of the Speckled Band (1892). In VN's novel Otchayanie ("Despair," 1934) Hermann murders Felix (a tramp whom Hermann believes to be his perfect double) and purloins Felix's identity. The narrator and main character in Despair, Hermann mentions Conan Doyle:


Поговорим о преступлениях, об искусстве преступления, о карточных фокусах, я очень сейчас возбужден. Конан Дойль! Как чудесно ты мог завершить свое творение, когда надоели тебе герои твои! Какую возможность, какую тему ты профукал! Ведь ты мог написать еще один последний рассказ – заключение всей Шерлоковой эпопеи, эпизод, венчающий все предыдущие: убийцей в нем должен был бы оказаться не одноногий бухгалтер, не китаец Чинг и не женщина в красном, а сам Пимен всей криминальной летописи, сам доктор Ватсон, – чтобы Ватсон был бы, так сказать, виноват-сон… Безмерное удивление читателя! Да что Дойль, Достоевский, Леблан, Уоллес, что все великие романисты, писавшие о ловких преступниках, что все великие преступники, не читавшие ловких романистов! Все они невежды по сравнению со мной. Как бывает с гениальными изобретателями, мне, конечно, помог случай (встреча с Феликсом), но этот случай попал как раз в формочку, которую я для него уготовил, этот случай я заметил и использовал, чего другой на моем месте не сделал бы. Мое создание похоже на пасьянс, составленный наперед: я разложил открытые карты так, чтобы он выходил наверняка, собрал их в обратном порядке, дал приготовленную колоду другим, – пожалуйста, разложите, – ручаюсь, что выйдет! Ошибка моих бесчисленных предтечей состояла в том, что они рассматривали самый акт как главное и уделяли больше внимания тому, как потом замести следы, нежели тому, как наиболее естественно довести дело до этого самого акта, ибо он только одно звено, одна деталь, одна строка, он должен естественно вытекать из всего предыдущего, – таково свойство всех искусств. Если правильно задумано и выполнено дело, сила искусства такова, что, явись преступник на другой день с повинной, ему бы никто не поверил, – настолько вымысел искусства правдивее жизненной правды.


Let us discuss crime, crime as an art; and card tricks. I am greatly worked up just at present. Oh, Conan Doyle! How marvelously you could have crowned your creation when your two heroes began boring you! What an opportunity, what a subject you missed! For you could have written one last tale concluding the whole Sherlock Holmes epic; one last episode beautifully setting off the rest: the murderer in that tale should have turned out to be not the one-legged bookkeeper, not the Chinaman Ching and not the woman in crimson, but the very chronicler of the crime stories, Dr. Watson himself--Watson, who, so to speak, knew what was Whatson. A staggering surprise for the reader.
But what are they--Doyle, Dostoevsky, Leblanc, Wallace--what are all the great novelists who wrote of nimble criminals, what are all the great criminals who never read the nimble novelists--what are they in comparison with me? Blundering fools! As in the case of inventive geniuses, I was certainly helped by chance (my meeting Felix), but that piece of luck fitted exactly into the place I had made for it; I pounced upon it and used it, which another in my position would not have done.

My accomplishment resembles a game of patience, arranged beforehand; first I put down the open cards in such a manner as to make its success a dead certainty; then I gathered them up in the opposite order and gave the prepared pack to others with the perfect assurance it would come out.
The mistake of my innumerable forerunners consisted of their laying principal stress upon the act itself and in their attaching more importance to a subsequent removal of all traces, than to the most natural way of leading up to that same act which is really but a link in the chain, one detail, one line in the book, and must be logically derived from all previous matter; such being the nature of every art. If the deed is planned and performed correctly, then the force of creative art is such, that were the criminal to give himself up on the very next morning, none would believe him, the invention of art containing far more intrinsical truth than life's reality. (Chapter Seven)


Jack Humbertson is a blond, almost albino, young fellow. In H. G. Wells's novel The Invisible Man (1897) Griffin is a gifted old medical student with albinism who studies optical density. Albino = Albion. Doch' Al'biona ("A Daughter of Albion," 1883) is a story by Chekhov about the imperturbable English governess of a Russian landowner's children. Five used glasses bring to mind five glasses of tea mentioned by Chekhov at the end of his story Pecheneg ("The Savage," 1897):


Около сарая стояли сыновья Жмухина: старший держал ружье, у младшего был в руках серый петушок с ярким красивым гребнем. Младший изо всей силы подбросил петушка, тот взлетел выше дома и перевернулся в воздухе, как голубь; старший выстрелил, и петушок упал, как камень.

Старик, смущенный, не зная, как и чем объяснить этот странный, неожиданный окрик гостя, не спеша, пошел в дом. И сидя тут за столом, он размышлял долго о теперешнем направлении умов, о всеобщей безнравственности, о телеграфе, о телефоне, о велосипедах, о том, как все это не нужно, успокоился мало-помалу, потом закусил, не спеша, выпил пять стаканов чаю и лег спать

Zhmukhin's two sons were standing in front of the stable. The older was holding a gun, the younger had in his arms a grey cock with a bright red comb. The younger tossed the cock into the air with all his might; the bird shot up higher than the roof of the house, and turned over in the air. The elder boy shot, and it fell to the ground like a stone.

The old man stood nonplussed, and unable to comprehend his guest's unexpected exclamation. At last he turned and slowly went into the house. Sitting down to his breakfast, he fell into a long reverie about the present tendency of thought, about the universal wickedness of the present generation, about the telegraph and the telephone and bicycles, and about how unnecessary it all was. But he grew calmer little by little as he slowly ate his meal. He drank five glasses of tea, and lay down to take a nap.

In "A Mad Tea Party," Chapter VII of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Hatter asks Alice 'What day of the month is it?': 


The Hatter was the first to break the silence. 'What day of the month is it?' he said, turning to Alice: he had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.

Alice considered a little, and then said 'The fourth.'

'Two days wrong!' sighed the Hatter. 'I told you butter wouldn't suit the works!' he added looking angrily at the March Hare.


Lolita escapes from the Elphinstone hospital with Quilty on July the Fourth, 1949. Charles Dodgson began to tell the story of a little girl named Alice on an outing with Alice, Edith, and Lorina Liddell on July 4, 1862.


8 months 2 weeks ago

* Is Mona Dahl her real name?
"There was Opal Something, and Linda Hall, and Avis Chapman, and Eva Rosen,and Mona Dahl (save one, all these names are approximations, of course)."
I assumed Mona was the one that's not an "approximation", but Dr. Ray, Jr. puts it quotes, like others, "'Mona Dahl' is a student in Paris". Or is Eva's, Avis', or Linda's name real?...  And why is Avis Chapman's father's name Mr. Byrd? I know Callophrys avis Chapman is a butterfly, and "avis" means "bird", but seriously, what's up with that? Someone messing with H.'s memory again?

* I think the annotation to the albino's Brooklyn accent ought to include Mel Blanc's recollection on how he decided to give this accent to Bugs Bunny (saw it somewhere on the Web).


* Clowns And Columbines show up in vol. 4 of Le Juif Errant by Eugène Sue, 1844.

"The following snatches of conversation, passing between clowns and columbines, pantaloons and fairies, Turks and sultans, debardeurs and debardeuses, paired off more  or less properly, will give an idea of the importance of the wished-for personage."
Does Quilty's ghost still think that H. is Jewish (I thought ghosts know all history, like in Transparent Things)? Or just having fun with his earlier assumption?


* "Columbine kisses" -- what does that even mean? Were columbines among the singing flowers in Disney's Alice cartoon? This is just before the albino rabbit episode.  Harlequin-Columbine-Pierot triangle is, of course, another victory-over-rival theme that Q. is injecting into the story.


A pair of candy-striped drawers that Humbert slips on and a federal law's stinging stars (when I stood Adam-naked before a federal law and all its stinging stars) in Humbert's poem that he makes Quilty read aloud evoke the image of the American flag.


Peter Krestovski (the retired Ramsdale policeman) makes one think of Vsevolod Krestovski (1839-95), the author of Peterburgskie trushchoby ("The St. Petersburg Slums," 1864-66) who was called "The Russian Eugène Sue." Kresty is a prison in St. Petersburg (among its prisoners was VN's father). It consists of two cross-shaped buildings (hence the name, plural of krest, "cross"). Humbert writes Lolita in confinement in New York.


Saveliy Senderovich and Elena Shvarts point out that in 'Mona Dahl' (most likely, this is her real name) there is monada. In his essay O sushchestve tragedii ("On the Essence of Tragedy," 1912) Vyacheslav Ivanov opposes Apollo's monada (a symbol of unity) to Dionysus' diada (a symbol of division in unity):


Но если естественным символом единства является монада, то символ разделения в единстве, как источника всякой множественности, был издавна подсказан учением пифагорейцев: это -- двоица, или диада. Итак, монаде Аполлона противостоит дионисийская диада, -- как мужескому началу противостоит начало женское, также издревле знаменуемое в противоположность "единице мужа", числом 2. (II)


According to the teachings of the Pythagoreans mentioned by V. Ivanov (a poet who, after the death of his second wife, Lydia Zinoviev-Annibal, married his step-daughter, Vera Shvarsalon), while the masculine is symbolized by the numeral 1, the feminine is symbolized by the numeral 2. Humbert and the amnesic stranger are both 1, Rita is 2 (1 + 1 + 2 = 4). Five used glasses suggest that there was a fourth reveler (a man) on the eve in Humbert's and Rita's room.


Diada makes one think of Diana and of driada (Russian for "dryad," a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology). In Quilty's play (written in collaboration with Vivian Darkbloom) The Enchanted Hunters Lolita is cast as Diana (a woodland witch) and Mona Dahl as a vagabond poet:


By the time spring had touched up Thayer Street with yellow and green and pink, Lolita was irrevocably stage-struck. Pratt, whom I chanced to notice one Sunday lunching with some people at Walton Inn, caught my eye from afar and went through the motion of sympathetically and discreetly clapping her hands while Lo was not looking. I detest the theatre as being a primitive and putrid form, historically speaking; a form that smacks of stone-age rites and communal nonsense despite those individual injections of genius, such as, say, Elizabethan poetry which a closeted reader automatically pumps out of the stuff. Being much occupied at the time with my own literary labors, I did not bother to read the complete text of The Enchanted Hunters, the playlet in which Dolores Haze was assigned the part of a farmer’s daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or Diana, or something, and who, having got hold of a book on hypnotism, plunges a number of lost hunters into various entertaining trances before falling in her turn under the spell of a vagabond poet (Mona Dahl). That much I gleaned from bits of crumpled and poorly typed script that Lo sowed all over the house. The coincidence of the title with the name of an unforgettable inn was pleasant in a sad little way: I wearily thought I had better not bring it to my own enchantress’s notice, lest a brazen accusation of mawkishness hurt me even more than her failure to notice it for herself had done. I assumed the playlet was just another, practically anonymous, version of some banal legend. Nothing prevented one, of course, from supposing that in quest of an attractive name the founder of the hotel had been immediately and solely influenced by the chance fantasy of the second-rate muralist he had hired, and that subsequently the hotel’s name had suggested the play’s title. But in my credulous, simple, benevolent mind I happened to twist it the other way round, and without giving the whole matter much though really, supposed that mural, name and title had all been derived from a common source, from some local tradition, which I, an alien unversed in New England lore, would not be supposed to know. In consequence I was under the impression (all this quite casually, you understand, quite outside my orbit of importance) that the accursed playlet belonged to the type of whimsy for juvenile consumption, arranged and rearranged many times, such as Hansel and Gretel by Richard Roe, or The Sleeping Beauty by Dorothy Doe, or The Emperor’s New Clothes by Maurice Vermont and Marion Rumpelmeyer - all this to be found in any Plays for School Actors or Let’s Have a Play! In other words, I did not know - and would not have cared, if I did that actually The Enchanted Hunters was a quite recent and technically original composition which had been produced for the first time only three or four months ago by a highbrow group in New York. To me - inasmuch as I could judge from my charmer’s part - it seemed to be a pretty dismal kind of fancy work, with echoes from Lenormand and Maeterlinck and various quiet British dreamers. The red-capped, uniformly attired hunters, of which one was a banker, another a plumber, a third a policeman, a fourth an undertaker, a fifth an underwriter, a sixth an escaped convict (you see the possibilities!), went through a complete change of mind in Dolly’s Dell, and remembered their real lives only as dreams or nightmares from which little Diana had aroused them; but a seventh Hunter (in a green cap, the fool) was a Young Poet, and he insisted, much to Diana’s annoyance, that she and the entertainment provided (dancing nymphs, and elves, and monsters) were his, the Poet’s, invention. I understand that finally, in utter disgust at his cocksureness, barefooted Dolores was to lead check-trousered Mona to the paternal farm behind the Perilous Forest to prove to the braggart she was not a poet’s fancy, but a rustic, down-to-brown-earth lass - and a last-minute kiss was to enforce the play’s profound message, namely, that mirage and reality merge in love. I considered it wiser not to criticize the thing in front of Lo: she was so healthily engrossed in “problems of expression,” and so charmingly did she put her narrow Florentine hands together, batting her eyelashes and pleading with me not to come to rehearsals as some ridiculous parents did because she wanted to dazzle me with a perfect First Night - and because I was, anyway, always butting in and saying the wrong thing, and cramping her style in the presence of other people. (2.13)


Mona is the Venetian slang word for female genitalia. In the Russian Lolita Vivian Darkbloom (Quilty's coauthor) becomes Vivian Damor-Blok. In his poem Neznakomka ("The Stranger," 1906) Alexander Blok mentions bereg ocharovannyi (an enchanted shoreline) and ocharovannaya dal' (a charmed remoteness):


И странной близостью закованный,
Смотрю за тёмную вуаль,
И вижу берег очарованный
И очарованную даль.


And with a strange sense of intimacy enchaining me,
I peer beyond her dusky veil
and perceive an enchanted shoreline,
a charmed remoteness.


In his poem Blok mentions tipplers with the pink eyes of rabbits: 


А рядом у соседних столиков
Лакеи сонные торчат,
И пьяницы с глазами кроликов
«In vino veritas!» кричат.


And nearby, at other tables,
waiters drowsily hover,
and tipplers with the pink eyes of rabbits
shout: In vino veritas!


In Blok's "symbolist" play Balaganchik ("A Puppet Show," 1906) there is the Harlequin-Columbine-Pierrot triangle. In a letter of about/not later than June 27, 1834, to his wife Pushkin calls Smirnov, whose wife (born Alexandra Rosset, a close friend of Gogol) just gave birth to twins, krasnoglazyi krolik ("a red-eyed rabbit"):


Смирнова родила благополучно, и вообрази: двоих. Какова бабёнка, и каков красноглазый кролик Смирнов? — Первого ребёнка такого сделали, что не пролез, а теперь принуждены надвое разделить.


Alexandra Smirnov's first child was born by the cesarean section. In her letter to Humbert Lolita (who is to die in childbirth) says that she is going to have a baby and that she guesses he is going to be a big one (2.27). In Lolita's class at Ramsdale school there are four pairs of twins: Jack and Mary Beale, John and
Marion Cowan, Anthony and Viola Miranda, and Edgar and Edwin Talbot (1.11). Jack's and Mary's father, Frederick Beale is at the wheel of a truck that hits Charlotte, Lolita's mother who dies in a road accident. 

Avis Chapman also brings to mind Chekhov's humorous story Rara avis (1886). It depicts how an author who writes about crime goes to a police commissioner and asks him to present all types of thieves to him so he could get ideas for his novels. But when he asks the commissioner to point him to a couple of decent people who do the right thing, the commissioner stands there in deep thought, scratching his head (hence the story's title).


8 months 1 week ago

*very photogenic mother
My only guess is that Quilty had H. write this to announce that he (Q.) is planning to spin this story with the very photogenic Alice Liddell in mind. Hasn't anyone tried to guess what this is about? It's so glaring. 
* Mona's mole
Annabel and Lolita have a tiny dark-brown mole on the side. Mona has a tremendous chocolate-brown mole on her back. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch%27s_mark  ."Mona’s witchery" was H. being distracted by her letter in Wace while she disappeared for a bit. And "a portable witch" guides H. to the Elphinstone Hospital. Is Annabel together with Charlotte (Mrs. Hayes at Chestnut Court) working for Dolly's escape? Btw I have no doubt that if Dolly did not escape, Humbert would have chained her in the basement soon enough.
* Harlequin glasses on Jean Farlow, "Clowns and Columbines" title taken from "The Wandering Jew" adventure books, Rita's columbine kisses, and "a trick of harlequin light" in H.'s mailbox, what's with all  that? Did Jean (soon after her death) nudge H. to buy that book, kiss H. by Rita's proxy, then messed with H. when he's looking for Lolita's handwriting in his mailbox? And it's not Quilty's injection as I was guessing earlier?.. Idk.


8 months 1 week ago

Quilty likes to watch executions, isn't that kinda unexpected when he offers to arrange it for H.?

H.H.'s polar expedition always sounded strange. Looks like a friendly doctor convinced H. and a few other patients they are going on an expedition and put them "in prefabricated timber cabins" in a quiet place for a while. Magnetic pole location on  Prince of Wales’ Island was determined around 1947-48, so H.H. looked it up later, and is still annotating gaps in that "adventure" he "remembers".   

There's a Melville Sound in Canada's far north. Melville wrote "Pierre; or, The Ambiguities".  Albert Pierrepoint was a renowned English hangman. Q. would know.

So I see the freshly ghosted Q. watching H.'s memory and imagination go far north, "Oh yea, Melville Sound. 'Pierre Point in Melville Sound', hope you meet Pierrepoint's American co-professionals soon, Humbo ol'boy, you'll tell them how the weather's up there!"


8 months 1 week ago

Mr. Byrd must be a stepfather to Avis Chapman; that's what makes Lolita so upset seeing Avis sit on her stepdad's  knee without any weird stuff. Humbert refers to him as her "father", perhaps he kept her last name in mind not quite as well as how fat and ugly she was.  Yes, "avis" means "bird"; they must be a good fit.


8 months 1 week ago

Btw Mr. Pierrepoint also gets a hat tip as Mr. West, maybe a "retired executioner".


Asters show up only twice -- on that road "with its population of asters bathing in the detached warmth of a pale-blue afternoon in late summer" where H. pulls off to throw up and have his epiphany listening to children's voices in the valley (Telluride?) soon after Lolita disappears, and 3 yrs later on H.'s last visit to Ramsdale, "An aster-like anemic flower grew out of a remembered chink in the sidewalk.". Those are  where "laprobe on the sidewalk (where she had so often pointed out to me with disapproval the crooked green cracks)" lay over dead Charlotte.  I think it was nice of Charlotte's spirit to provide this moment for H. at that parapet, once Dolores was free.  


"...I sped on, and deftly turned into a narrow lane. A sparrow alighted with a jumbo bread crumb, was tackled by another, and lost the crumb." Wait, what? A propos de rien? I think Quilty stuck this sentence in, it's his rivalry theme. And then when H. is describing the day that Q. takes Lolita from the hospital, Q. has H. remember a hallucination of a sparrow "perched on the saddle" of Lolita's bike -- he's got your jumbo breadcrumb, Humbert. (The only 2 times the bird is in the book)


I wonder if a joke like "Miss Phalli" for Miss Phalen is also from Q. -- it's kinda out of place (H. is freaking out)  and not really H.'s style.


The whole paragraph of going shooting with Farlow and Kowalski is bizarre enough, but I couldn't figure it out. Two escaped convicts?? "a tiny woodpecker — completely out of season, incidentally"?  Of course then Humbert the scoundrel wounds a squirrel and the first thing Lolita says on the road after their night at the E.H. is “Oh, a squashed squirrel” And those are the only 2 squarrels in the book.






8 months ago

* So Jean's ghost must be involved at the writing level, to insert "columbine" kisses. Jean's marker is "harlequine". She thought H. was Jewish. From "Wandering Jew" adventure books she picks out "Clowns and Columbines", inserts it into H.'s memory of books for Lolita, then slides "columbine" into description of Rita to announce their umm homomorphism or what do you call it, like Annabel and Lolita. I guess that series of books was very popular. But doens't seem right that V.N. (and Jean) would give a clue that only a computer search could pick up. 

* I have a feeling Kowalsky shot Woody Woodpecker. Yes I think Q. is putting those in. I don't get the hummingbird part. Hummingbird pencil over the map of Charlotte's accident. 

* And also the albino Jack rabbit with Bugs Bunny accent. Best I can do there is Q. telling H., "I am the Red Knight, but you are not the White Knight, you are the White Rabbit." And best I can make out of thar is that the White Rabbit mistook Alice for someone else. Never knew her. Which H. kinda gets a little later. "Candy-striped davenport" is where the Carmen episode happened, and H. puts on candy-striped drawers when the almost albino is discovered. Five glasses? I have nothing.

* "A kind of thoughtful Hegelian synthesis linking up two dead women." Charlotte (as the car goes up the slope) and who? This also could be Q's joke on the margins of the mental manuscript.

* cretonne: Two cretonne chairs are bookends for H. and Lolita's relationship - the old lady with the cocker spaniel sits in one as H. is trying to get a room at E.H. and L. playing with the dog.  And H. sits in one during his last visit with Lolita at Elphinstone Hospital. And the only other time it's mentioned is Charlotte's "cretonne's and chintzes". Did Charlotte provide those chairs? And then took H. to that parapet in Telluride?

* "Not without a secret flow of dreamy malice, visionary Mary (next time it will be une belle dame toute en bleu floating through Roaring Gulch) plucked me by the sleeve to lead me out." Idk what "visionary" means here, but i think it's a funny joke by H., I just need help here. It is the end of visiting hours and the hated Nurse Lore (presumably in a blue uniform) has the gall to pluck H. by the sleeve. He thinks something like "next time it will be a nurse in blue flying through the window" - he doesn't like being plucked, but it's funny only if there's a poem that he's parodying. So I am assuming there's a french poem about a drowned belle dame toute en blue, or toute en something, floating down a river. And I briefly checked what came up - Belle Dame Sans Merci, and L'Inconnue de la Senne, and Rimbaud but I've got nothing.  And Roaring Gulch is H.'s name for the river in his parody of a western  iirc.

* "merman tears"? Is someone reminding H. about his swim with Charlotte as a merman to her merwoman? 

* Since there is a bench at Beardsley college donated by Cecilia Ramble, it would make sense for Q. teasing H. about Ramble, OH, if something happened between Q. and L. on that bench, but I haven't seen anything in the text.




8 months ago

Did everyone notice the two "bald brown"s in the book? Annabelle must have been having fun watching Humbert's meltdown after Dolly was free. She cast both her parents, her dad in the meltdown scene, and her mom Vanessa as a butterfly that flies, dipping,  between Lolita and H. right before their tennis is interrupted by Q.'s sidekicks for the "bridsley" phone call. Charlotte is also there for that scene. Annabel was helping it happen just like she did with H. buying sunglasses giving Q. and L. another opportunity.


8 months ago

Convict Concerto - Wikipedia came out after H.'s death but before John Ray was fixing up the manuscript. Did Q., with his Bugs-accented White Rabbit, added "Krestovski, who in the ’twenties had shot and killed two escaped convicts, joined us and bagged a tiny woodpecker—completely out of season, incidentally."? Seems less likely for a specter to have John Ray do it than add it to H.'s recall, but there it is. Was Dr. Ray messing with more of the manuscript than he says? Or were convicts in Woody's lore before that cartoon? Or is it an anachronism by V.N.?


8 months ago


* "A kind of thoughtful Hegelian synthesis linking up two dead women." Charlotte (as the car goes up the slope) and who? This also could be Q's joke on the margins of the mental manuscript.


On the 116th anniversary of the VN in livejournal ru_nabokov, this issue was discussed in great detail.


My opinion is that it was Charlotte and Dorothy Grammar. 

Arguments here:


( to translate it, use https://translate.yandex.ru )

I was born in 1910, in Paris. My father was a gentle, easy-going person, a salad of racial genes: a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass around in a minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and two grandfathers had sold wine, jewels and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl, daughter of Jerome Dunn, the alpinist, and granddaughter of two Dorset parsons, experts in obscure subjectspaleopedology and Aeolian harps, respectively. My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent remnants of day suspended, with the midges, about some hedge in bloom or suddenly entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.


Я родился в 1910-ом году, в Париже. Мой отец отличался мягкостью сердца, легкостью нрава - и целым винегретом из генов: был швейцарский гражданин, полуфранцуз-полуавстриец, с Дунайской прожилкой. Я сейчас раздам несколько прелестных, глянцевито-голубых открыток.

Ему принадлежала роскошная гостиница на Ривьере. Его отец и оба деда торговали вином, бриллиантами и шелками (распределяйте сами). В тридцать лет он женился на англичанке, дочке альпиниста Джерома Дунна, внучке двух Дорсетских пасторов, экспертов по замысловатым предметам: палеопедологии и Эоловым арфам (распределяйте сами). Обстоятельства и причина смерти моей весьма фотогеничной матери были довольно оригинальные (пикник, молния); мне же было тогда всего три года, и, кроме какого-то теплого тупика в темнейшем прошлом, у меня ничего от нее не осталось в котловинах и впадинах памяти, за которыми - если вы еще в силах выносить мой слог (пишу под надзором) - садится солнце моего младенчества: всем вам, наверное, знакомы эти благоуханные остатки дня, которые повисают вместе с мошкарой над какой-нибудь цветущей изгородью и в которые вдруг попадаешь на прогулке, проходишь сквозь них, у подножья холма, в летних сумерках - глухая теплынь, золотистые мошки. (1.2)


Mid-twentieth century ideas concerning child-parent relationship have been considerably tainted by the scholastic rigmarole and standardized symbols of the psychoanalytic racket, but I hope I am addressing myself to unbiased readers. Once when Avis’s father had honked outside to signal papa had come to take his pet home, I felt obliged to invite him into the parlor, and he sat down for a minute, and while we conversed, Avis, a heavy, unattractive, affectionate child, drew up to him and eventually perched plumply on his knee. Now, I do not remember if I have mentioned that Lolita always had an absolutely enchanting smile for strangers, a tender furry slitting of the eyes, a dreamy sweet radiance of all her features which did not mean a thing of course, but was so beautiful, so endearing that one found it hard to reduce such sweetness to but a magic gene automatically lighting up her face in atavistic token of some ancient rite of welcomehospitable prostitution, the coarse reader may say. Well, there she stood while Mr. Byrd twirled his hat and talked, andyes, look how stupid of me, I have left out the main characteristic of the famous Lolita smile, namely: while the tender, nectared, dimpled brightness played, it was never directed at the stranger in the room but hung in its own remote flowered void, so to speak, or wandered with myopic softness over chance objectsand this is what was happening now: while fat Avis sidled up to her papa, Lolita gently beamed at a fruit knife that she fingered on the edge of the table, whereon she leaned, many miles away from me. Suddenly, as Avis clung to her father’s neck and ear while, with a casual arm, the man enveloped his lumpy and large offspring, I saw Lolita’s smile lose all its light and become a frozen little shadow of itself, and the fruit knife slipped off the table and struck her with its silver handle a freak blow on the ankle which made her gasp, and crouch head forward, and then, jumping on one leg, her face awful with the preparatory grimace which children hold till the tears gush, she was goneto be followed at once and consoled in the kitchen by Avis who had such a wonderful fat pink dad and a small chubby brother, and a brand-new baby sister, and a home, and two grinning dogs, and Lolita had nothing. And I have a neat pendant to that little scene - also in a Beardsley setting. Lolita, who had been reading near the fire, stretched herself, and then inquired, her elbow up, with a grunt: “Where is she buried anyway?” “Who?” “Oh, you know, my murdered mummy.” “And you  know where her grave is,” I said controlling myself, whereupon I named the cemeteryjust outside Ramsdale, between the railway tracks and Lakeview Hill. “Moreover,” I added, “the tragedy of such an accident is somewhat cheapened by the epithet you saw fit to apply to it. If you really wish to triumph in your mind over the idea of death” “Ray,” said Lo for hurrah, and languidly left the room, and for a long while I stared with smarting eyes into the fire. Then I picked up her book. It was some trash for young people. There was a gloomy girl Marion, and there was her stepmother who turned out to be, against all expectations, a young, gay, understanding redhead who explained to Marion that Marion’s dead mother had really been a heroic woman since she had deliberately dissimulated her great love for Marion because she was dying, and did not want her child to miss her. I did not rush up to her room with cries. I always preferred the mental hygiene of noninterference. Now, squirming and pleading with my own memory, I recall that on this and similar occasions, it was always my habit and method to ignore Lolita’s states of mind while comforting my own base self. When my mother, in a livid wet dress, under the tumbling mist (so I vividly imagined her), had run panting ecstatically up that ridge above Moulinet to be felled there by a thunderbolt, I was but an infant, and in retrospect no yearnings of the accepted kind could I ever graft upon any moment of my youth, no matter how savagely psychotherapists heckled me in my later periods of depression. But I admit that a man of my power of imagination cannot plead personal ignorance of universal emotions. I may also have relied too much on the abnormally chill relations between Charlotte and her daughter. But the awful point of the whole argument is this. It had become gradually clear to my conventional Lolita during our singular and bestial cohabitation that even the most miserable of family lives was better than the parody of incest, which, in the long run, was the best I could offer the waif.


Современные наши понятия об отношениях между отцом и дочерью сильно испакощены схоластическим вздором и стандартизированными символами психоаналитической лавочки; надеюсь, однако, что нижеследующие строки обращаются к беспристрастным читателям. Как-то раз, когда отец одной из ее подруг (толстенькой Авис Чапман) громким гудком подал с улицы сигнал, что он приехал забрать свою дурнушку, я почувствовал себя обязанным пригласить его в гостиную; он присел на минутку, и, пока мы беседовали, Авис ластилась к нему и в конце концов грузно примостилась у него на коленях. Не помню, между прочим, отметил ли я где-нибудь, что у Лолиты была для чужих совершенно очаровательная улыбка, - мохнатое прищуривание глаз и милое, мечтательное сияние всех черт лица, - улыбка, которая ничего, конечно, не значила, но которая была так прекрасна, так самобытно нежна, что трудно ее объяснить атавизмом, магической геной, непроизвольно озаряющей лицо в знак древнего приветственного обряда (гостеприимной проституции, скажет читатель погрубее). Она стояла поодаль, когда мистер Чапман сел и заговорил, вертя шляпу в руках, а затем - ах, смотрите, как глупо с моей стороны, я опустил главнейшую особенность знаменитой Лолитовой улыбки, а именно: ее сладкая, как нектар, переливающаяся ямочками игра никогда не бывала направлена на гостя, а держалась, так сказать, собственной далекой цветущей пустоты или блуждала с близорукой вкрадчивостью по случайным предметам - и было так сейчас. В ту минуту, как толстая Авис приблизилась и стала мешать своему папе вертеть шляпу, Лолита тихо сияла, разглядывая и потрагивая фруктовый нож, лежавший на краю стола, к которому она прислонялась далеко, далеко от меня. Авис теперь ухватилась за отцовскую шею и ухо, а он, привычной рукой, полуобнял свое неуклюжее и крупное чадо, и вдруг я заметил, как улыбка Лолиты стала гаснуть, превратилась в оцепеневшую тень улыбки, и фруктовый нож соскользнул со стола и серебряным черенком случайно ударил ее в щиколку, да так больно, что она охнула, согнулась вдвое и тотчас потом, прыгая на одной ноге, с лицом, искаженным той ужасной вступительной гримасой, которую ребенок задерживает на растянутых губах перед ревом, Лолита исчезла из комнаты и за ней побежала и стала утешать ее на кухне добренькая Авис, у которой был такой отличный, жирный, розовый отец и маленький щекастый брат, и только что родившаяся сестричка, и домашний уют и две шотландских овчарки, умеющие улыбаться, а у Лолиты ничего не было.

Я заготовил изящное дополнение к этой сценке: мы все еще в Бердслее, Лолита, сидящая с книгой у камина, потягивается, крякает и спрашивает: "Где ее, собственно говоря, похоронили?" - "Кого?" - "Ах, ты знаешь, мою зарезанную мать". - "Ты прекрасно знаешь, где находится ее могила", ответил я, с большой выдержкой, и назвал кладбище - недалеко от Рамздэля, между железной дорогой и холмом, с которого видно озеро. "А кроме того", добавил я, "трагедию ее случайной смерти не следовало бы опошлять такого рода эпитетом, к которому ты находишь нужным прибегать. Ежели ты действительно хочешь победить в себе самой идею смерти -" "Завел шарманку", сказала Лолита и томно покинула комнату. Я долго глядел в огонь сквозь жгучие слезы. Потом поднял с пола ее книгу. Какаято бездарная чепуха "для юношества". Угрюмая маленькая Мара не ожидала, что ее мачеха окажется веселой, понятливой, рыжеволосой молодой женщиной, которая объяснила Маре, что покойная мать Мары совершила героический подвиг тем, что умышленно не выказывала никакой любви к обожаемой на самом деле дочери. Героическая мать умирала от неизлечимой болезни и не желала, чтобы девочка потом грустила по ней. Другой бы на моем месте с воплями помчался наверх к Лолите; я же всегда выбирал нравственную гигиену невмешательства. Но ныне, Извиваясь как червь, и заклиная былое, я вспоминаю, что в этот раз и в другие разы я взял в привычку не обращать внимания на состояние Лолиты, дабы не расстраивать подлого Гумберта. Когда моя мать в промокшем платье, освещаемом грозой среди стремительно наплывающего тумана (так я воображал ее смерть), побежала, с трудом дыша, вверх по гребню горы над Молинетто, где ее сразила молния, я был младенцем, и впоследствии мне не удавалось задним числом привить себе никакой общепринятой сиротской тоски, как бы свирепо ни трепали меня психотераписты в позднейшие периоды депрессии. Но признаюсь, что человек со столь мощным воображением, как мое, не может ссылаться на незнание общечеловеческих эмоций. Возможно также, что я слишком положился на ненормальную холодность отношений между Шарлоттой и ее дочерью. Но ужасная сущность всего этого вопроса вот какая. Моя шаблонная Лолита за время нашего с ней неслыханного, безнравственного сожительства постепенно пришла к тому, что даже самая несчастная семейная жизнь предпочтительна пародии кровосмесительства - а лучше этого в конечном счете я ничего и не мог дать моей бездомной девочке. (2.32)


In comparison to Rita (a girl whom Humbert picks up between Montreal and New York, or more narrowly, between Toylestown and Blake), Valechka (Humbert's first wife, née Valeria Zborovski) is a Schlegel, and Charlotte (Lolita's mother) a Hegel:


She had a natty little coupé; and in it we traveled to California so as to give my venerable vehicle a rest. Her natural speed was ninety. Dear Rita! We cruised together for two dim years, from summer 1950 to summer 1952, and she was the sweetest, simplest, gentles, dumbest Rita imaginable. In comparison to her, She had a natty little coupé; and in it we traveled to California so as to give my venerable vehicle a rest. Her natural speed was ninety. Dear Rita! We cruised together for two dim years, from summer 1950 to summer 1952, and she was the sweetest, simplest, gentles, dumbest Rita imaginable. In comparison to her, Valechka was a Schlegel, and Charlotte a Hegel. There is no earthly reason why I should dally with her in the margin of this sinister memoir, but let me say (hi, Rita - wherever you are, drunk or hangoverish, Rita, hi!) that she was the most soothing, the most comprehending companion that I ever had, and certainly saved me from the madhouse. I told her I was trying to trace a girl and plug that girl’s bully. Rita solemnly approved of the planand in the course of some investigation she undertook on her own (without really knowing a thing), around San Humbertino, got entangled with a pretty awful crook herself; I had the devil of a time retrieving herused and bruised but still cocky. Then one day she proposed playing Russian roulette with my sacred automatic; I said you couldn’t, it was not a revolver, and we struggled for it, until at last it went off, touching off a very thin and very comical spurt of hot water from the hole it made in the wall of the cabin room; I remember her shrieks of laughter. (2.26). There is no earthly reason why I should dally with her in the margin of this sinister memoir, but let me say (hi, Rita - wherever you are, drunk or hangoverish, Rita, hi!) that she was the most soothing, the most comprehending companion that I ever had, and certainly saved me from the madhouse. I told her I was trying to trace a girl and plug that girl’s bully. Rita solemnly approved of the planand in the course of some investigation she undertook on her own (without really knowing a thing), around San Humbertino, got entangled with a pretty awful crook herself; I had the devil of a time retrieving herused and bruised but still cocky. Then one day she proposed playing Russian roulette with my sacred automatic; I said you couldn’t, it was not a revolver, and we struggled for it, until at last it went off, touching off a very thin and very comical spurt of hot water from the hole it made in the wall of the cabin room; I remember her shrieks of laughter. 


У нее оказался изящный двухместный автомобильчик, и в нем-то мы ездили в Калифорнию, так как мой маститый Икар нуждался в отдыхе. Правила обыкновенно она - с прирожденной скоростью в девяносто миль в час. Милая Рита! Мы с ней разъезжали в продолжение двух туманных лет с перерывами, и невозможно вообразить другую такую славную, наивную, нежную, совершенно безмозглую Риточку! По сравнению с ней, Валерия была Шлегель, а Шарлотта - Гегель! По правде сказать, нет ровно никакой причины заниматься мне ею на полях этих мрачных мемуаров, но все-таки хочу сказать (алло, Рита - где бы ты ни была, пьяная или трезвая, Рита, алло!), что эта моя самая утешительная, самая понятливая подруга, несомненно, спасла меня от смирительной рубашки. Я объяснил ей, что хочу отыскать сбежавшую возлюбленную и угробить ее кота. Рита с важным видом одобрила этот план - и, предприняв, в окрестностях Сан-Гумбертино, кое-какие собственные расследования (хотя ни черта о деле не знала), сама спуталась с каким-то бандитом; мне стоило адских усилий вызволить ее - в подержанном и подшибленном виде, но вполне бодренькую. А другой раз, найдя мой священный пистолет, она предложила поиграть в "русскую рулетку"; я возразил, что нельзя, в пистолете нет барабана; мы стали за него бороться, и наконец раздался выстрел, причем пуля ушла в стену нашего номера, и оттуда забил очень тонкий и очень забавный фонтанчик горячей воды; помню, как она стонала от смеха. (2.26)


Rita is a short form of Margarita, a feminine given name that means “pearl.” It brings to mind the saying [nolite mittere] margaritas ante porcos ([don't throw] pearls before swine). Margarita prokralas' v svetyolku ("Margarita sneaked into the sitting-room," 1926) is a poem by Bunin:


Маргарита прокралась в светелку,

Маргарита огня не зажгла,

Заплетая при месяце косы,

В сердце страшную мысль берегла.

Собиралась рыдать и молиться,

Да на миг на постель прилегла

И заснула. - На спящую Дьявол

До рассвета глядел иа угла.

На рассвете он встал:  «Маргарита,

Дорогое дитя, покраснел,

Скрылся месяц за синие горы,

И петух на деревне пропел, 

- Поднимись и молись, Маргарита,

Ниц пади и оплачь свой удел:

Я недаром с такою тоскою

На тебя до рассвета глядел!»

Что ж ты, Гретхен, так неторопливо

Под орган вступила в двери храма?

Что ж, под гром органа, так невинно

Так спокойно? Вот уж скоро полдень,

Солнца луч все жарче блещет в купол:

Колокольчик зазвенит навстречу

Жениху небесному, - о Гретхен,

Что ж ты не бледнеешь, не рыдаешь,

Неневестной Лилии подобна?

Бог прощает многое – ужели

Любящим, как ты, он все прощает?


Bunin's autobiographical story Gegel', frak, metel' ("Hegel, Tail-Coat, Blizzard," 1950) brings to mind VN's story Oblako, ozero, bashnya ("Cloud, Castle, Lake," 1937). Humbert is tempted to drown Charlotte in Hourglass Lake (Ochkovoe ozero).


Mat' ("Mother," 1906) is a novel by Maxim Gorki (the penname of Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov, 1868-1936). Humbert's frist wife Valeria leaves her husband for Colonel Maximovich, a White Russian:


We were coming out of some office building one morning, with her papers almost in order, when Valeria, as she waddled by my side, began to shake her poodle head vigorously without saying a word. I let her go on for a while and then asked if she thought she had something inside. She answered (I translate from her French which was, I imagine, a translation in its turn of some Slavic platitude): “There is another man in my life.”

Now, these are ugly words for a husband to hear. They dazed me, I confess. To beat her up in the street, there and then, as an honest vulgarian might have done, was not feasible. Years of secret sufferings had taught me superhuman self-control. So I ushered her into a taxi which had been invitingly creeping along the curb for some time, and in this comparative privacy I quietly suggested she comment her wild talk. A mounting fury was suffocating me - not because I had any particular fondness for that figure of fun, Mme Humbert, but because matters of legal and illegal conjunction were for me alone to decide, and here she was, Valeria, the comedy wife, brazenly preparing to dispose in her own way of my comfort and fate. I demanded her lover’s name. I repeated my question; but she kept up a burlesque babble, discoursing on her unhappiness with me and announcing plans for an immediate divorce. “Mais qui est-ce? ” I shouted at last, striking her on the knee with my fist; and she, without even wincing, stared at me as if the answer were too simple for words, then gave a quick shrug and pointed at the thick neck of the taxi driver. He pulled up at a small café and introduced himself. I do not remember his ridiculous name but after all those years I still see him quite clearly - a stocky White Russian ex-colonel with a bushy mustache and a crew cut; there were thousands of them plying that fool’s trade in Paris. We sat down at a table; the Tsarist ordered wine, and Valeria, after applying a wet napkin to her knee, went on talking - into  me rather than to me; she poured words into this dignified receptacle with a volubility I had never suspected she had in her. And every now and then she would volley a burst of Slavic at her stolid lover. The situation was preposterous and became even more so when the taxi-colonel, stopping Valeria with a possessive smile, began to unfold his views and plans. With an atrocious accent to his careful French, he delineated the world of love and work into which he proposed to enter hand in hand with his child-wife Valeria. She by now was preening herself, between him and me, rouging her pursed lips, tripling her chin to pick at her blouse-bosom and so forth, and he spoke of her as if she were absent, and also as if she were a kind of little ward that was in the act of being transferred, for her own good, from one wise guardian to another even wiser one; and although my helpless wrath may have exaggerated and disfigured certain impressions, I can swear that he actually consulted me on such things as her diet, her periods, her wardrobe and the books she had read or should read. “I think,”—he said, “She will like Jean Christophe?” Oh, he was quite a scholar, Mr. Taxovich.

I put an end to this gibberish by suggesting Valeria pack up her few belongings immediately, upon which the platitudinous colonel gallantly offered to carry them into the car. Reverting to his professional state, he drove the Humberts to their residence and all the way Valeria talked, and Humbert the Terrible deliberated with Humbert the Small whether Humbert Humbert should kill her or her lover, or both, or neither. I remember once handling an automatic belonging to a fellow student, in the days (I have not spoken of them, I think, but never mind) when I toyed with the idea of enjoying his little sister, a most diaphanous nymphet with a black hair bow, and then shooting myself. I now wondered if Valechka (as the colonel called her) was really worth shooting, or strangling, or drowning. She had very vulnerable legs, and I decided I would limit myself to hurting her very horribly as soon as we were alone.

But we never were. Valechkaby now shedding torrents of tears tinged with the mess of her rainbow make-up,started to fill anyhow a trunk, and two suitcases, and a bursting carton, and visions of putting on my mountain boots and taking a running kick at her rump were of course impossible to put into execution with the cursed colonel hovering around all the time. I cannot say he behaved insolently or anything like that; on the contrary, he displayed, as a small sideshow in the theatricals I had been inveigled in, a discreet old-world civility, punctuating his movements with all sorts of mispronounced apologies (j’ai demande pardonne excuse meest-ce que j’ai puis may Iand so forth), and turning away tactfully when Valechka took down with a flourish her pink panties from the clothesline above the tub; but he seemed to be all over the place at once, le gredin, agreeing his frame with the anatomy of the flat, reading in my chair my newspaper, untying a knotted string, rolling a cigarette, counting the teaspoons, visiting the bathroom, helping his moll to wrap up the electric fan her father had given her, and carrying streetward her luggage. I sat with arms folded, one hip on the window sill, dying of hate and boredom. At last both were out of the quivering apartmentthe vibration of the door I had slammed after them still rang in my every nerve, a poor substitute for the backhand slap with which I ought to have hit her across the cheekbone according to the rules of the movies. Clumsily playing my part, I stomped to the bathroom to check if they had taken my English toilet water; they had not; but I noticed with a spasm of fierce disgust that the former Counselor of the Tsar, after thoroughly easing his bladder, had not flushed the toilet. That solemn pool of alien urine with a soggy, tawny cigarette butt disintegrating in it struck me as a crowning insult, and I wildly looked around for a weapon. Actually I daresay it was nothing but middle-class Russian courtesy (with an oriental tang, perhaps) that had prompted the good colonel (Maximovich! his name suddenly taxies back to me), a very formal person as they all are, to muffle his private need in decorous silence so as not to underscore the small size of his host’s domicile with the rush of a gross cascade on top of his own hushed trickle. But this did not enter my mind at the moment, as groaning with rage I ransacked the kitchen for something better than a broom. Then, canceling my search, I dashed out of the house with the heroic decision of attacking him barefisted; despite my natural vigor, I am no pugilist, while the short but broad-shouldered Maximovich seemed made of pig iron. The void of the street, revealing nothing of my wife’s departure except a rhinestone button that she had dropped in the mud after preserving it for three unnecessary years in a broken box, may have spared me a bloody nose. But no matter. I had my little revenge in due time. A man from Pasadena told me one day that Mrs. Maximovich née Zborovski had died in childbirth around 1945; the couple had somehow got over to California and had been used there, for an excellent salary, in a year-long experiment conducted by a distinguished American ethnologist. The experiment dealt with human and racial reactions to a diet of bananas and dates in a constant position on all fours. My informant, a doctor, swore he had seen with his own eyes obese Valechka and her colonel, by then gray-haired and also quite corpulent, diligently crawling about the well-swept floors of a brightly lit set of rooms (fruit in one, water in another, mats in a third and so on) in the company of several other hired quadrupeds, selected from indigent and helpless groups. I tried to find the results of these tests in the Review of Anthropology ; but they appear not to have been published yet. These scientific products take of course some time to fructuate. I hope they will be illustrated with photographs when they do get printed, although it is not very likely that a prison library will harbor such erudite works. The one to which I am restricted these days, despite my lawyer’s favors, is a good example of the inane eclecticism governing the selection of books in prison libraries. They have the Bible, of course, and Dickens (an ancient set, N. Y., G. W. Dillingham, Publisher, MDCCCLXXXVII); and the Children’s Encyclopedia  (with some nice photographs of sunshine-haired Girl Scouts in shorts), and A Murder Is Announced  by Agatha Christie; but they also have such coruscating trifles as A vagabond in Italy  by Percy Elphinstone, author of Venice Revisited , Boston, 1868, and a comparatively recent (1946) Who’s Who in the Limelight actors, producers, playwrights, and shots of static scenes. In looking through the latter volume, I was treated last night to one of those dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love. I transcribe most of the page:

Pym, Roland. Born in Lundy, Mass., 1922. Received stage training at Elsinore Playhouse, Derby, N. Y. Made debut in Sunburst . Among his many appearances are Two Blocks from Here, The Girl in Green, Scrambled Husbands, The Strange Mushroom, Touch and Go, John Lovely, I Was Dreaming of You. 

Quilty, Clare, American dramatist. Born in Ocean City, N. J., 1911. Educated at Columbia University. Started on a commercial career but turned to playwriting. Author of The  Little Nymph, The Lady Who Loved Lightning  (in collaboration with Vivian Darkbloom), Dark Age, The strange Mushroom, Fatherly Love,  and others. His many plays for children are notable. Little Nymph  (1940) traveled 14,000 miles and played 280 performances on the road during the winter before ending in New York. Hobbies: fast cars, photography, pets.

Quine, Dolores. Born in 1882, in Dayton, Ohio. Studied for stage at American Academy. First played in Ottawa in 1900. Made New York debut in 1904 in Never Talk to Strangers.  Has disappeared since in [a list of some thirty plays follows].

How the look of my dear love’s name even affixed to some old hag of an actress, still makes me rock with helpless pain! Perhaps, she might have been an actress too. Born 1935. Appeared (I notice the slip of my pen in the preceding paragraph, but please do not correct it, Clarence) in The Murdered Playwright.  Quine the Swine. Guilty of killing Quilty. Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!


Однажды утром (ее бумаги были уже почти приведены в порядок) мы выходили из какого-то официального здания, как вдруг вижу, что переваливающаяся со мной рядом Валерия начинает энергично и безмолвно трясти своей болоночной головой. Сначала я на это не обращал никакого внимания, но затем спросил, почему ей, собственно, кажется, что там внутри что-то есть? Она ответила (перевожу с ее французского перевода какой-то славянской плоскости): "В моей жизни есть другой человек".

Незачем говорить, что мужу не могут особенно понравиться такие слова. Меня, признаюсь, они ошеломили. Прибить ее тут же на улице - как поступил бы честный мещанин - было нельзя. Годы затаенных страданий меня научили самообладанию сверхчеловеческому. Итак, я поскорее сел с ней в таксомотор, который уже некоторое время пригласительно полз вдоль панели, и в этом сравнительном уединении спокойно предложил ей объяснить свои дикие слова. Меня душило растущее бешенство - о, не потому чтоб я испытывал какие-либо нежные чувства к балаганной фигуре, именуемой мадам Гумберт, но потому что никому, кроме меня, не полагалось разрешать проблемы законных и незаконных совокуплений, а тут Валерия, моя фарсовая супруга, нахально собралась располагать по своему усмотрению и моими удобствами и моею судьбой. Я потребовал, чтоб она мне назвала любовника. Я повторил вопрос; но она не прерывала своей клоунской болтовни, продолжая тараторить о том, как она несчастна со мной и что хочет немедленно со мной разводиться. "Mais qui est-ce?" заорал я наконец, кулаком хватив ее по колену, и она, даже не поморщившись, уставилась на меня, точно ответ был так прост, что объяснений не требовалось. Затем быстро пожала плечом и указала пальцем на мясистый затылок шофера. Тот затормозил у небольшого кафэ и представился. Не могу вспомнить его смехотворную фамилию, но после стольких лет он мне видится еще совсем ясно - коренастый русак, бывший полковник Белой Армии, пышноусый, остриженный ежиком. (Таких, как он, не одна тысяча занималась этим дурацким промыслом в Париже.) Мы сели за столик, белогвардеец заказал вина, а Валерия, приложив к колену намоченную салфетку, продолжала говорить - в меня, скорее, чем со мной: в сей величественный сосуд она всыпала слова с безудержностью, которой я и не подозревал в ней, причем то и дело разражалась залпом польских или русских фраз в направлении своего невозмутимого любовника. Положение получалось абсурдное, и оно сделалось еще абсурднее, когда таксомоторный полковник, с хозяйской улыбкой остановив Валерию, начал развивать собственные домыслы и замыслы. Выражаясь на отвратительном французском языке, он наметил тот мир любви и труда, в который собирался вступить рука об руку с малюткой женой. Она же теперь занялась своей внешностью, сидючи между ним и мной: подкрашивала выпученные губки, поправляла клевками пальцев (при этом утраивая подбородок) передок блузки и так далее, а он между тем говорил о ней, не только как если бы ее не было с нами, но так, как если бы она была сироткой, которую как раз переводили ради ее же блага от одного мудрого опекуна к другому, мудрейшему; и хотя испытываемый мною беспомощный гнев преувеличивал и коверкал, может быть, все впечатления, я могу поклясться, что полковник преспокойно советовался со мной по поводу таких вещей, как ее диета, регулы, гардероб и книжки, которые она уже читала или должна была бы прочитать. "Мне кажется", говорил он, "ей понравится "Жан Кристоф" - как вы думаете?" О, он был сущий литературовед, этот господин Таксович.

Я положил конец его жужжанию тем, что предложил Валерии уложить свои жалкие пожитки немедленно, на что пошляк полковник галантно заявил, что охотно сам перенесет их в свою машину. Вернувшись к исправлению должности, он повез Гумбертов, мосье и мадам, домой, и во весь путь Валерия говорила, а Гумберт Грозный внутренне обсуждал с Гумбертом Кротким, кого именно убьет Гумберт Гумберт - ее, или ее возлюбленного, или обоих, или никого. Помнится, я однажды имел в руках пистолет, принадлежавший студенту-однокашнику, в ту пору моей жизни (я, кажется, об этой поре не упомянул, но это неважно), когда я лелеял мысль насладиться его маленькой сестрой (необыкновенно лучистой нимфеткой, с большим черным бантом) и потом застрелиться. Теперь же я спрашивал себя, стоила ли Валечка (как ее называл полковник) того, чтобы быть пристреленной, задушенной или утопленной. У нее были очень чувствительные руки и ноги, и я решил ограничиться тем, что сделаю ей ужасно больно, как только мы останемся наедине.

Но этого не суждено было. Валечка - уже к этому времени проливавшая потоки слез, окрашенные размазанной радугой ее косметики - принялась набивать вещами коекак сундук, два чемодана, лопавшуюся картонку, - и желание надеть горные сапоги и с разбега пнуть ее в круп было, конечно, неосуществимо, покамест проклятый полковник возился поблизости. Не то, чтобы он вел себя нагло или что-нибудь в этом роде: напротив, он проявлял (как бы на боковой сцене того театра, в который меня залучили) деликатную старосветскую учтивость, причем сопровождал всякое свое движение неправильно произносимыми извинениями (же деманд пардон... эске же пуи...) и с большим тактом отворачивался, пока Валечка сдирала свои розовые штанишки с веревки над ванной; но мерзавец находился, казалось, одновременно всюду, приспособляя состав свой к анатомии квартиры, читая мою газету в моем же кресле, развязывая узлы на веревке, сворачивая себе папиросу, считая чайные ложечки, посещая уборную, помогая своей девке завернуть электрическую сушилку для волос (подарок ее отца) и вынося на улицу ее рухлядь. Я сидел, сложив руки, одним бедром на подоконнике, погибая от скуки и ненависти. Наконец оба они вышли из дрожавшей квартиры - вибрация двери, захлопнутой мною, долго отзывалась у меня в каждом нерве, что было слабой заменой той заслуженной оплеухи наотмашь по скуле, которую она бы получила на экране по всем правилам теперешних кинокартин. Неуклюже играя свою роль, я прошествовал в ванную, дабы проверить, не увезли ли они моего английского одеколона; нет, не увезли; но я заметил с судорогой злобного отвращения, что бывший советник царя, основательно опорожнив мочевой пузырь, не спустил воду. Эта торжественная лужа захожей урины с разлезающимся в ней вымокшим темно-желтым окурком показалась мне высшим оскорблением, и я дико огляделся, ища оружия. На самом деле, вероятно, ничто иное, как русская мещанская вежливость (с примесью пожалуй чего-то азиатского) подвигнуло доброго полковника (Максимовича! - его фамилия вдруг прикатила обратно ко мне), очень чопорного человека, как все русские, на то, чтобы отправить интимную нужду с приличной беззвучностью, не подчеркнув малую площадь чужой квартиры путем низвержения громогласного водопада поверх собственной приглушенной струйки. Но это не пришло мне на ум в ту минуту, когда, мыча от ярости, я рыскал по кухне в поисках чего-нибудь повнушительнее метлы. Вдруг, бросив это, я ринулся из дома с героическим намерением напасть на него, полагаясь на одни кулаки. Несмотря на природную мою силу, я однако вовсе не боксер, меж тем как низкорослый, но широкоплечий Максимович казался вылитым из чугуна. Пустота улицы, где отъезд моей жены не был ничем отпразднован, кроме как в грязи горевшей стразовой пуговицей (оброненной после того, что она хранила ее три никому не нужных года в сломанной шкатулке), вероятно, спасла меня от разбитого в кровь носа. Но все равно: в должный срок я был отомщен. Человек из Пасадены сказал мне как-то, что миссис Максимович, рожденная Зборовская, умерла от родов в 1945-ом году. Она с мужем каким-то образом попала из Франции в Калифорнию; там, в продолжение целого года, за отличный оклад, они служили объектами опыта, производившегося известным американским этнологом. Опыт имел целью установить человеческие (индивидуальные и расовые) реакции на питание одними бананами и финиками при постоянном пребывании на четвереньках. Мой осведомитель, по профессии доктор, клялся мне, что видел своими глазами обоих - тучную Валечку и ее полковника, к тому времени поседевшего и тоже сильно потолстевшего, - прилежно ползающими по полированным полам, через ряд ярко освещенных помещений (в одном были фрукты, в другом вода, в третьем подстилки и т. д.), в обществе нескольких других наемных четвероногих, набранных из бедствующих и беззащитных слоев. Я тогда же пробовал отыскать в антропологическом журнале результаты этих испытаний, но по-видимому они еще не были опубликованы. Разумеется, этим научным плодам нужно время для полного созревания. Надеюсь, что отчет будет иллюстрирован хорошими фотографиями, когда он появится, хотя не очень вероятно, чтобы тюремные библиотеки получали такого рода ученые труды. Та, которой я принужден ныне пользоваться, служит отличным примером нелепого эклектизма, руководящего выбором книг в учреждениях этого рода. Туг есть Библия, конечно, и есть Диккенс (старое многотомное издание Дилингама, Нью-Йорк, MDCCCLXXXVII); есть и "Детская Энциклопедия" (в которой попадаются довольно милые фотографии солнечноволосых гэрл-скаутов в трусиках), есть и детективный роман Агаты Кристи "Объявлено Убийство"; но, кроме того, есть такие пустячки, как "Бродяга в Италии" Перси Эльфинстона, автора "Снова Венеция", Бостон, 1868, и сравнительно недавний (1946) "Who's Who in the Limelight" - перечень актеров, режиссеров, драматургов и снимки статических сцен. Просматривая вчера последнюю из упомянутых книг, я был награжден одним из тех ослепительных совпадений, которых логик не терпит, а поэт обожает. Переписываю большую часть страницы:

Пим, Роланд. Родился в Лунди, Массачусетс, 1922. Получил сценическое образование в Эльсинорском Театре, Дерби, Нью-Йорк. Дебютировал в "Прорвавшемся Солнце". Среди множества других пьес, в которых он играл, были: "В Соседнем Квартале", "Девушка в Зеленом", "Перетасованные Мужья", "Странный Гриб", "На волоске", "Джон Ловли", "Ты Снилась Мне".

Куильти, Клэр. Американский драматург. Родился в Ошан Сити, Нью-Джерси, 1911. Окончил Колумбийский Университет. Начал работать по коммерческой линии, но потом обратился к писанию пьес. Автор "Маленькой Нимфы", "Дамы, Любившей Молнию" (в сотрудничестве с Вивиан Дамор-Блок), "Темных Лет", "Странного Гриба", "Любви Отца" и других. Достойны внимания его многочисленные пьесы для детей. "Маленькая Нимфа" (1940) выдержала турне в 14.000 миль и давалась 280 раз в провинции за одну зиму, прежде чем дойти до Нью-Йорка. Любимые развлечения: полугоночные автомобили, фотография, домашние зверьки.

Квайн, Долорес. Родилась в 1882-ом году, в Дэйтоне, Огайо. Изучала сценическое искусство в Американской Академии. Дебютировала в Оттаве, в 1900-ом году. Дебют в Нйю-Йорке состоялся в 1904-ом году в "Не разговаривай с Чужими". С тех пор пропала в таких-то пьесах...

Какой беспомощной мукой терзаюсь при одном виде имени моей милой любви, даже тут, при фамилии какойто гнусной старой комедиантки! Ведь может быть и она стала бы актрисой! Родилась в 1935-ом году, выступала (кстати вижу, что в конце предыдущего параграфа у меня описка - но пожалуйста не поправляйте, уважаемый издатель) в "Убитом Драматурге". Квайн-Швайн. Убил ты Куилты. О, Лолита моя, все что могу теперь, - это играть словами. (1.8)


8 months ago

Thank you, Sergei, the Dorothy Grammar solution makes sense.

Alexey Sklyarenko

8 months ago

In reply to by Catagela_adoceta

Dorothy Grammer 1952 perfect murder?


8 months ago

Yes, Alexey, as a pair with Charlotte of Hegelian thesis-antithesis, synthesized in H. in his car coming to rest on the slope as police catch up, Sergei's response above.  

Alexey Sklyarenko

8 months ago

In reply to by Catagela_adoceta

A Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150 – c. 1220) is the chief authority for the legend of Amleth. The characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet include the Ghost. Dorothy G. brings to mind Goethe's epic poem Hermann and Dorothea (1797). In the Russian Lolita Gumbert calls Dorothy Grammar "Doroteya." Charlotte is the central female character in Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774). 


On the other hand, the odd circumstances of the death of H. H.'s mother make one think of thunderstruck Onegin:


Она ушла. Стоит Евгений,
Как будто громом поражен.
В какую бурю ощущений
Теперь он сердцем погружен!
Но шпор незапный звон раздался,
И муж Татьянин показался,
И здесь героя моего,
В минуту, злую для него,
Читатель, мы теперь оставим,
Надолго... навсегда. За ним
Довольно мы путем одним
Бродили по свету. Поздравим
Друг друга с берегом. Ура!
Давно б (не правда ли?) пора!


She has gone. Eugene stands

as if by thunder struck.

In what a tempest of sensations

his heart is now immersed!

But there resounds a sudden clink of spurs,

and there appears Tatiana's husband,

and here my hero,

at an unfortunate minute for him,

reader, we now shall leave

for long... forever.... After him

sufficiently along one path

we've roamed the world. Let us congratulate

each other on attaining land. Hurrah!

It long (is it not true?) was time. (EO, Eight: XLVIII)


Tatiana's husband brings to mind Dick Schiller (Lolita's husband). Describing Lenski in Chapter Two of EO, Pushkin mentions the sky of Schiller and of Goethe. At the grave of Dmitri Larin (Tatiana's and Olga's father) Lenski mornfully utters "Poor Yorick!"


In the Russian Lolita Humbert mentions Princess N who will never go with Onegin to Italy:


Я часто замечал, что мы склонны наделять наших друзей той устойчивостью свойств и судьбы, которую приобретают литературные герои в уме у читателя. Сколько бы раз мы ни открыли "Короля Лира", никогда мы не застанем доброго старца забывшим все горести и подымавшим заздравную чашу на большом семейном пиру со всеми тремя дочерьми и их комнатными собачками. Никогда не уедет с Онегиным в Италию княгиня N. Никогда не поправится Эмма Бовари, спасенная симпатическими солями в своевременной слезе отца автора. Через какую бы эволюцию тот или другой известный персонаж ни прошел между эпиграфом и концом книги, его судьба установлена в наших мыслях о нем; и точно так же мы ожидаем, чтобы наши приятели следовали той или другой логической и общепринятой программе, нами для них предначертанной. Так, Икс никогда не сочинит того бессмертного музыкального произведения, которое так резко противоречило бы посредственным симфониям, к которым он нас приучил. Игрек никогда не совершит убийства. Ни при каких обстоятельствах Зет нас не предаст. У нас все это распределено по графам, и чем реже мы видаемся с данным лицом, тем приятнее убеждаться, при всяком упоминании о нем, в том, как послушно он подчиняется нашему представлению о нем. Всякое отклонение от выработанных нами судеб кажется нам не только ненормальным, но и нечестным. Мы бы предпочли никогда прежде не знать соседа - отставного торговца сосисками, - если бы оказалось, что он только что выпустил сборник стихов, не превзойденных никем в этом веке. (2.27)


8 months ago

In reply to by Catagela_adoceta


Thanks for that interesting Russian discussion.  Although I did not read all of it, I agree with the writer “nomonday” Edited at 2015-04-23 08:00 pm (UTC))


While the author himself saw the ending like this:

“my hero is overwhelmed by a sensual flame, a storm of emotions, and then, in the end, this is love - love, let’s say, human and divine. My hero renounces his passion, but although Lolita is no longer a nymphet, she is now the love of his life.”

Edited at 2015-04-23 08:00 pm (UTC)



It seems to me that VN often allowed for dual solutions on different levels of the text. In other words, Nabokov’s Hegelian spiral that “nomonday” quotes reflects the whole arc of the novel: 

First arc thesis: True Love with Annabel

Second antithesis: Obsession and lust with Lolita whom he treats as merely a stand-in projection in his mind, not real

Third synthesis: Transcendent epiphany of love for Lolita


I think maybe the whole scene of Charlotte and Dorothy Grammar in the graveyard and its nearness to the two dead women is meant to be a red herring. Charlotte is not really an important character, but a means to further the plot with Lolita. Dorothy Grammar is not important at all, so why even have her?  Why have this scene? Ans: to be a red herring! It works on a certain level, but to what end in the overall sense of the novel, especially given the importance of the denouement. 


The similarity of the car crashes is to illustrate that HH has “run aground,” his whole life trajectory has come to this “end of the trail” scenario. This allows him at last to have the epiphany of who he is, what he has done, and a sense of completion that ends in a new level of consciousness, as VN notes above.


I think the "two dead women" are more likely to really refer to Annabel and Lolita. It does not matter that Lolita is not at that moment dead. HH knows that she will be by the time this is read.


Vitaly: Not sure this works with your ghost theory. I don't see ghosts as being important to the overall meaning and structure of Lolita in the same way they are in TT, The Vane Sisters, or Signs and Symbols where the meaning of the story turns on them. But then, I feel the same way about Pale Fire. 


8 months ago

Nabokov, as creator of puzzles and chess problems remarked more than once (iirc) that a key requirement of a chess problem is a unique solution. In "Lolita", I think it is sufficient to note all the occurrences of "ghosts" and "specters" in the narrative, and to do a search on "aster" to be convinced. The white rabbit's message to H., "you never knew her, you didn't even use her name with her", is a appropriate message that V.N. in his role as a teacher, from his triade of magician/storyteller/teacher can teach us. "Lolita" was never her name, but the name for someone that H. dreamed up.


7 months 4 weeks ago

Specters and ghosts are found in much of VN's work, so you may be on to something. I am not as familiar with Lolita – my main interest is PF. I just feel that how they operate in the structure of the novel should support the main theme. Otherworldly intervention can, without much trouble, explain anything. The Vane Sisters and Signs and Symbols have coded messages as intrinsic ideas, and are to be appreciated for that level of ingenuity. I'm just not sure that is the case with Lolita.


 I feel Hazel Shade is definitely important, even central, to PF. She may even return as a Vanessa atalanta (like "Olga's rosy soul" does in BS). I have a problem with Boyd's idea that Shade then returns to generously help Kinbote write the insane usurping commentary. Does Kinbote go to a happy ever after, too? What does that mean for Jack Grey? Does his blithe spirit die into a happy ever after? to what point? I have trouble with Boyd's "generosity" notion; Nabokov's endings are always ironic and ambiguous. 


I want to add, about the "two dead women," that if that refers to Charlotte and D. Grammar, I don't think HH's crash adds up to an actual Hegelian synthesis. They are merely three separate instances of car crashes. There is no resolution or synthesis.  



The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to me - not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience - that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong side of the road. In a way, it was a very spiritual itch. Gently, dreamily, not exceeding twenty miles an hour, I drove on that queer mirror side. Traffic was light. Cars that now and then passed me on the side I had abandoned to them, honked at me brutally. Cars coming towards me wobbled, swerved, and cried out in fear. Presently I found myself approaching populated places. Passing through a red light was like a sip of forbidden Burgundy when I was a child. Meanwhile complications were arising. I was being followed and escorted. Then in front of me I saw two cars placing themselves in such a manner as to completely block my way. With a graceful movement I turned off the road, and after two or three big bounces, rode up a grassy slope, among surprised cows, and there I came to a gentle rocking stop. A kind of thoughtful Hegelian synthesis linking up two dead women. (2.36)


Humbert just murdered Quilty. A little earlier Dorothy Grammar was killed by her husband:


Ramsdale revisited. I approached it from the side of the lake. The sunny noon was all eyes. As I rode by in my mud-flecked car, I could distinguish scintillas of diamond water between the far pines. I turned into the cemetery and walked among the long and short stone monuments. Bonzhur, Charlotte. On some of the graves there were pale, transparent little national flags slumped in the windless air under the evergreens. Gee, Ed, that was bad luck - referring to G. Edward Grammar, a thirty-five-year-old New York office manager who had just been arrayed on a charge of murdering his thirty-three-year-old wife, Dorothy. Bidding for the perfect crime, Ed had bludgeoned his wife and put her into a car. The case came to light when two county policemen on patrol saw Mrs. Grammar’s new big blue Chrysler, an anniversary present from her husband, speeding crazily down a hill, just inside their jurisdiction (God bless our good cops!). The car sideswiped a pole, ran up an embankment covered with beard grass, wild strawberry and cinquefoil, and overturned. The wheels were still gently spinning in the mellow sunlight when the officers removed Mrs. G’s body. It appeared to be routine highway accident at first. Alas, the woman’s battered body did not match up with only minor damage suffered by the car. I did better. (2.33)


Now, this is the thoughtful Hegelian synthesis. Two dead women (thesis and antithesis in the Hegelian triad) are Humbert's mother and Lolita's mother. What confuses me are Charlotte's words to Humbert "Little Lo, I’m afraid, does not enter the picture at all, at all:"


The Humberts walked on, sandaled and robed.

“Do you know, Hum: I have one most ambitious dream,” pronounced Lady Hum, lowering her headshy of that dreamand communing with the tawny ground. “I would love to get hold of a real trained servant maid like that German girl the Talbots spoke of; and have her live in the house.”

“No room,” I said.

“Come,” she said with her quizzical smile, “surely, cheri,  you underestimate the possibilities of the Humbert home. We would put her in Lo’s room. I intended to make a guestroom of that hole anyway. It’s the coldest and meanest in the whole house.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, the skin of my cheekbones tensing up (this I take the trouble to note only because my daughter’s skin did the same when she felt that way: disbelief, disgust, irritation).

“Are you bothered by Romantic Associations?” queried my wifein allusion to her first surrender.

“Hell no,” said I. “I just wonder where will you put your daughter when you get your guest or your maid.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Humbert, dreaming, smiling, drawing out the “Ah” simultaneously with the raise of one eyebrow and a soft exhalation of breath. “Little Lo, I’m afraid, does not enter the picture at all, at all. Little Lo goes straight from camp to a good boarding school with strict discipline and some sound religious training. And then - Beardsley College. I have it all mapped out, you need not worry.”

She went on to say that she, Mrs. Humbert, would have to overcome her habitual sloth and write to Miss Phalen’s sister who taught at St. Algebra. The dazzling lake emerged. I said I had forgotten my sunglasses in the car and would catch up with her. (1.20)


In the same chapter Humbert (who is tempted to drown Charlotte in Hourglass Lake) mentions a perfect murder - the famous dispatch of a Mme Lacour in Arles:


No man can bring about the perfect murder; chance, however, can do it. There was the famous dispatch of a Mme Lacour in Arles, southern France, at the close of last century. An unidentified bearded six-footer, who, it was later conjectured, had been the lady’s secret lover, walked up to her in a crowded street, soon after her marriage to Colonel Lacour, and mortally stabbed her in the back, three times, while the Colonel, a small bulldog of a man, hung onto the murderer’s arm. By a miraculous and beautiful coincidence, right at the moment when the operator was in the act of loosening the angry little husband’s jaws (while several onlookers were closing in upon the group), a cranky Italian in the house nearest to the scene set off by sheer accident some kind of explosive he was tinkering with, and immediately the street was turned into a pandemonium of smoke, falling bricks and running people. The explosion hurt no one (except that it knocked out game Colonel Lacour); but the lady’s vengeful lover ran when the others ranand lived happily ever after.

It seems to imply that poor Charlotte does not enter the picture at all, at all (in other words, she is not a part of the Hegelian triad). In comparison to Rita (the girl who offers Humbert her help in tracing Lolita and plugging her bully), Valeria (Humbert's first wife) is a Schlegel and Charlotte is a Hegel. Rita "enters the picture:"


I would be a knave to say, and the reader a fool to believe, that the shock of losing Lolita cured me of pederosis. My accursed nature could not change, no matter how my love for her did. On playgrounds and beaches, my sullen and stealthy eye, against my will, still sought out the flash of a nymphet’s limbs, the sly tokens of Lolita’s handmaids and rosegirls. But one essential vision in me had withered: never did I dwell now on possibilities of bliss with a little maiden, specific or synthetic, in some out-of-the-way place; never did my fancy sink its fangs into Lolita’s sisters, far far away, in the coves of evoked islands. That  was all over, for the time being at least. On the other hand, alas, two years of monstrous indulgence had left me with certain habits of lust: I feared lest the void I lived in might drive me to plunge into the freedom of sudden insanity when confronted with a chance temptation in some lane between school and supper. Solitude was corrupting me. I needed company and care. My heart was a hysterical unreliable organ. This is how Rita enters the picture. (2.25)


From John Ray's Foreword to Humbert's manuscript we know that "Rita" has recently married the proprietor of a hotel in Florida. Humbert's father owned a hotel (the splendid Hotel Mirana that revolved around Humbert as a kind of private universe) in the Riviera. In his poem Le Bateau ivre ("The Drunken Boat," 1871) that was translated into Russian (as P'yanyi korabl') by VN Rimbaud mentions unbelievable Floridas:


J’ai heurté, savez-vous, d’incroyables Florides
Mêlant aux fleurs des yeux de panthères à peaux
D’hommes ! Des arcs-en-ciel tendus comme des brides
Sous l’horizon des mers, à de glauques troupeaux !


I struck against, you know, unbelievable Floridas
Mingling with flowers panthers' eyes and human
Skin! Rainbows stretched like bridal reins
Under the horizon of the seas to greenish herds!


Kogda grammatika p'yana ("When the grammar is drunk") is a line in Balmont's poem Izviv ("A Twist," 1912):


Он прав, напев мертвящий твой,
Но слишком он размерен, —
Затем что мысли ход живой,
Как очерк тучки кочевой,
Всегда чуть-чуть неверен.
Когда грамматика пьяна
Без нарушенья меры, —
Душа как вихрем взнесена,
В те призрачные сферы,
Где в пляске все размеры, —
Где звонко бьются в берега,
Переплетаясь, жемчуга,
Сорвавшиеся с нитей, —
И взор твой, млея и светясь,
Следит, как в этот звёздный час,
Плывёт пред ликом Бога
Вся Млечная дорога.


In his essay Balmont-lirik (“Balmont the Lyric Poet”) included in Kniga otrazheniy (“The Book of Reflections,” 1906) Nik. T-o (I. Annenski's penname) mentions algebra:


Да и не хотим мы глядеть на поэзию серьёзно, т. е. как на искусство. На словах поэзия будет для нас, пожалуй, и служение, и подвиг, и огонь, и алтарь, и какая там ещё не потревожена эмблема, а на деле мы всё ещё ценим в ней сладкий лимонад, не лишённый, впрочем, и полезности, которая даже строгим и огорчённым русским читателем очень ценится. Разве можно думать над стихами? Что же тогда останется для алгебры? (II)


"How can one brood over verses? What will then remain for algebra?"


Balmont translated into Russian (in 1921) E. A. Poe's poem Annabel Lee. Annabel Leigh was Humbert's childhood love. Annabel's mother, fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh (born Vanessa van Ness), brings to mind the cow-like mother of a little girl whom Humbert sees in the lobby of The Enchanted Hunters (a hotel in Briceland where Humbert and Lolita spend their first night together):


In and out of my heart flowed my rainbow blood. I would give her till half-past-nine. Going back to the lobby, I found there a change: a number of people in floral dresses or black cloth had formed little groups here and there, and some elfish chance offered me the sight of a delightful child of Lolita’s age, in Lolita’s type of frock, but pure white, and there was a white ribbon in her black hair. She was not pretty, but she was a nymphet, and her ivory pale legs and lily neck formed for one memorable moment a most pleasurable antiphony (in terms of spinal music) to my desire for Lolita, brown and pink, flushed and fouled. The pale child noticed my gaze (which was really quite casual and debonair), and being ridiculously self-conscious, lost countenance completely, rolling her eyes and putting the back of her hand to her cheek, and pulling at the hem of her skirt, and finally turning her thin mobile shoulder blades to me in specious chat with her cow-like mother. (1.28)


Describing his arrest, Humbert mentions surprised cows.


The essays in Annenski's Vtoraya kniga otrazheniy ("The Second Book of Reflections,” 1909) include Problema Gamleta (“The Problem of Hamlet”). The chief authority for the legend of Amleth  is Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150 – c. 1220), a Danish historian who was Shakespeare's major source of information.


An embankment covered with beard grass, wild strawberry and cinquefoil mentioned by Humbert when he describes the murder of Dorothy Grammar bring to mind Balmont's poem Pridorozhnye travy ("Roadside Weeds," 1903). In his “Inscriptions on the Book Quiet Songs” (1904), Annenski calls Balmont Poet "Pridorozhykh Trav" ("the Poet of Roadside Weeds"):


Тому, кто зиждет архитрав
Над гулкой залой новой речи,
Поэту «Придорожных Трав»
Никто — взамен банальной встречи.


To the one who builds the architrave

Above the sonorous hall of new speech,

To the poet of “Roadside Weeds”

Nobody – instead of a banal meeting.


Btw., Grammatika lyubvi ("The Grammar of Love," 1915) is a story by Bunin, the author of Gegel', frak, metel' ("Hegel, a Tailcoat, a Blizzard," 1950), a memoir story.

In Leland de la Durantaye’s emendations (The Nabokovian, #58, 2007, pp.15-16), he had suggested that the “other" dead woman was Mrs. Grammar:

307. "A kind of thoughtful Hegelian synthesis linking up two dead women." At this moment in the story Humbert has just bumped to a stop, in a field, observed by approaching policeman. Appel treats his reader to a longish note where we read that the two women in question are Charlotte Haze and Lolita: "the death of Charlotte is remembered here...blending with the whole story of Lolita, from the cows on the slope (p. 112) to her assumed death" (AL, 450). Somewhat irrelevantly, Appel continues: "This 'Hegelian synthesis' realizes Quilty's 'Elizabethan' play-within-the-novel, The Enchanted Hunters, which featured Lolita as a bewitching 'farmer's daughter who imagines herself to be a woodland witch, or Diana' (p. 200), and seven hunters, six of them 'red-capped, uniformly attired'" (ibid.). Appel concludes that, "when Humbert asks a pregnant and veiny-armed Lolita to go away with him, he demonstrates that the mirage of the past (the nymphic Lolita as his lost 'Annabel') and the reality of the present (the Charlotte-like woman Lolita is becoming) have merged in love, a 'synthesis linking up two dead women'" (ibid.). This is energetic but faulty reasoning. The first woman is indeed Charlotte, and the passage on page 97 shows this clearly as the vehicle of her destruction bumps similarly to a stop on an incline. The second woman however is not Lolita (Appel's evidence is that during an early drive Humbert notes cows on a hillside and Lolita informs him, "I think I'll vomit if I look at a cow again" [AL, 112]). Some twenty pages earlier, Humbert recounts "Ramsdale revisited" and his visit to Charlotte's grave. During his stroll through the graveyard Humbert recalls and recounts the case of "G. Edward Grammar, a thirty-five-year-old New York office manager who had just been arraigned on a charge of murdering his thirty-three-year-old wife, Dorothy. Bidding for the perfect crime, Ed had bludgeoned his wife and put her into a car. The case came to light when two county policeman on patrol saw Mrs. Grammar's new big blue Chrysler...speeding crazily down a hill, just inside their jurisdiction... The car sideswiped a pole, ran up an embankment covered with beard grass, wild strawberry and cinquefoil, and overturned...It appeared to be a routine highway accident at first. Alas, the woman's battered body did not match up with only minor damage suffered by the car. I did better" (AL, 287-288). Humbert's reference, easy to misunderstand, is a macabre reference to what he refers to for the first time, if indirectly, as his "murder" of Charlotte (Humbert, another husband "bidding for the perfect crime," has done better in the disposal of his wife). The "synthesis linking up two dead women" is formed by one woman who was killed by a car that then rolled up to a stop on an embankment (Charlotte), and another was killed and then placed into a car which rolled up onto an embankment. It is highly unlikely that Humbert means Lolita as this second woman (baroquely fused with her mother in Appel's strange description), because he does not envision her as dead, and he goes to great lengths, up to and in the last lines of the novel, to stress how he feels she is still a part of "blessed matter" (AL, 309). The photostat version has a deleting line in Nabokov's hand through the initial version of this note accompanied by comments which are illegible.

Jonathan Silbert, your comment got me thinking about this “Hegelian synthesis.” I have not read, nor could I find Leland de la Durantaye’s explication of “Mrs. Grammar”, but I thank him and you for it!  I’ve worked out the syllogism in a way that I think makes sense for both his and Appel’s interpretations. That is, Mrs. Grammar is the second woman, but ultimately in the synthesis, Lolita becomes the third dead woman because Humbert realizes that he is guilty of “killing” her. That completes the syllogism.



Man plots to murder wife; plot is “foiled” by a deus ex machina car that kills his intended victim and then runs into an embankment; man is exculpated.


Man plots to murder wife; man commits murder intended to look like a car crash down an embankment, but is foiled; man gets caught.


Murderer intends self-murder when he realizes he has “killed” his” love”; plot foiled when car runs into embankment; man gets caught, but for a different crime.


The main elements are:

Man, murder, wife/love, car accident, embankment, foiled plot, innocent/guilty.

In the antithesis, man (Humbert) gets an inkling of guilt that he, in plotting his wife’s murder, was in fact capable of being a murderer. But he does not allow the full implication to sink in. 

The synthesis is that the man (Humbert) is NOT innocent, as he believed in the thesis, and ignored in the antithesis. 

In the synthesis, after killing Quilty, Humbert is already not just a man but a murderer; He tries and fails to kill himself in a car crash; he now knows that he is guilty – not so much of Quilty’s murder but of destroying not his wife, but his “love,” Lolita. 

So, that makes 3 dead women in a complete syllogism.


Following his awareness of the “Hegelian synthesis,” Humbert remembers an epiphany he had after Lolita left him. He drives his car up a mountain road, surveys the valley below, hears the jumbled noise of children at play, and realizes that Lolita’s voice was absent from that concord.”

This is immediately followed by, “This then is my story.” A good story is like a synthesis: desire/ foiled desire/resolution. 

Humbert is at the “end of the road” at this point; He has "driven himself" into the ground. This sequence begins with Humbert getting in his car. He says that his intention to drive on the wrong side of the road was “not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience.” True to form, Nabokov belies his antipathy to symbols. A well-known dream symbol is one’s life procession as “driving a car.”  Driving a car, of course, takes up the major part of the novel. Three times the car has driven into a ditch. Story over.

This then makes perfect sense why VN invented the “Mrs. Grammar” sequence. It is essential for the car/life trajectory syllogistic theme of the novel.