Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021933, Fri, 12 Aug 2011 15:00:24 +0200

Re: Golliwogs

Dear Jansy,

Yes, there are traces of Golliwog in /Camera Obscura/ / /Laughter in the Dark/. Margot twice calls Albinus /doggy/?at least in the British edition [when a childhood friend of hers sadly concludes, ?She?s going to the dogs? (200), the only question is: are there other dogs and is Rex a dog too?a vicious one?] but in the American edition (100, 180) /woggy/ is substituted. Admittedly Albinus is Margot?s faithful dog (readers may be reminded of H. Mann?s and Sternberg?s Professor Rath-Unrat yapping for bewitching Lola-Lola in /Der Blaue Engel/ (1930). Calling him /woggy/ ? a pun more convincingly ascribed to Rex than to unsophisticated Margot ?makes white Albinus a golliwogg, a black rag-doll or puppet with reference to the character made popular by Bertha and Florence Upton?s illustrations and Enid Blyton?s books.

Though to the children's book character no strings are attached Margot is the puppeteer?or thinks she is since Rex pulls all the strings?or thinks he does since the novelist is the one does, etc. Such blackness tells in rather medieval fashion of the ?dark thoughts? (17) that visit Albinus and eventually cause general disaster and death. We might add that the stare of his slightly bulging eyes suggests Golliwog?s goggle eyes. Needless to say, in the 30?, Golliwog?s black skin also suggested primitive hidden appetites, such as fester in Albinus and surge in full light once he meets Margot, another rag-doll and a little savage. And this former patron of the Paradise dance-hall, so keen on jazz, will introduce him to ?Negroid music? (94)?among other things. As Harvey Darton puts it (having in mind both the Upton character and the ?deconventionalized toys for un-moral tales and moralless children?) ?golliwoggs have the last wisp of Man-Friday about them.***?

We know that, like the Enchanter longing for a desert island where to be stranded with his ?little female Friday? (/E/, 22*) and like Humbert, Albinus entertains such dreams?and ends up alone on his own ?sand of pain? (291), when he falls on his side ?like a big soft doll? (292). Both the Golliwog books and the dolls were ? like fictional Cheepy mentioned in the opening of /Kamera Obskura/ ? so popular the world over (and as far as St. Petersburg where they were probably on sale at Drew?s English shop) that Sternberg has Professor Rath find a golliwogg next to him on the pillow when he awakes after the first night spent with infamous Lola-Lola. Speaking of bedrooms, the Dreyers? boasts a ?leggy rag-doll with a black face? (/KQK/, 40**), ?both amusing and repelling? to Dreyer, an opinion not much different from his estimate of his nephew Franz soon to be found I nthe same bed. Franz is turned by dark-souled Martha into a live version of this golliwogg just as Lola-Lola makes Rath her puppet. Similarly doll-like Margot may be the little savage ? and even the little monkey ? to Albinus in the beginning but she soon turns him into the black puppet??doll?s toy? to borrow from Dorianna Karenina?s goofs. She is coached by Rex to become that alluring golliwogg and when the faker-painter asks Albinus, ?do you really think it advisable to allow that natty rag-doll to straggle on your divan when there?s a Ruysdael right above it?? (145), he is telling him that /he/ is the author of that doll (i.e. of Margot) as of some paintings on his walls?and of Cheepy in the Russian version. A doll which, together with a plush monkey, is one last trace of Cheepy in the English edition (and Cheepy is openly connected with Golliwog in ch. 16 of /Kamera Obskura/, as Aleksey Skylarenko said)./ /

/Laughter in the Dark/. New York: New Directions, 1938.
/* TheEnchanter/. Tr. by Dm. Nabokov. New York: Putnam?s Sons, 1986.
** /King, Queen, Knave. /Tr. by Dm. Nabokov, in coll. with Vl. Nabokov. New York: McGraw-Hill / London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968.
*** F.J. Harvey Darton, /Children?s Books in England/, Barnes & Noble, 1932, 308.
Nabokv-L <nabokv-l@UTK.EDU> a écrit :

Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Golliwoggs

From: Jansy <jansy@aetern.us>

Date: Tue, 9 Aug 2011 11:31:49 -0300

To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Alexey, I thought you'd sent me something about the Golliwoggs in
Camera Oscura but the clue was for the paracoincidence of diamond ring
and big fish. Thanks.

Coincidences: Stan Kelly, please note that I referred to
"fountain-mountain" coincidences. As in the Laura balloon-grasping
hedge, there's always a margin for an interpreter, like John Shade, to
fashion his story or to register a mystery, with no miracles but a
personal transformation. Even St.Augustine's "tolle, lege" seems to be
a coincidence of this order. Visual perception and the brain may
operate with digital computer-like efficiency, as you said.
Nevertheless the more advanced animals perceive things 'less
accurately' than insects and birds because the first rely on gaining
more interpretive options to adapt to an ever changing environment.
(cf. Gregory's "The Intelligent Eye) I ignore Mongolian prosody and
language so I'm doubly handicapped here - but I'll risk it anyway.
Statistical data offer us the same range of interpretation as those
we get with our "less accurate" sight..

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