NABOKV-L post 0019036, Sun, 3 Jan 2010 21:42:50 -0500

Re: Nabokov and Carlyle


VN was right about Wells's Invisible Man. Griffin indeed pursued Kemp, who jumped out of a ground floor window of his home as did the housekeeper while there were two policeman in the house trying to catch Griffin.
When one of the policeman realized what he had done, he called him a hero. It's a curious moment because one doesn't know why--is the policeman assuming he gallantly helped the housekeeper to safety. (I can't recall if he did so in cockney.) The other policeman was somewhat more sceptical.
The real question is whether VN really thought The Invisible Man to be one of the greatest novels in English literature. What do you think?

Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 00:30:37 +0300
From: skylark05@MAIL.RU
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Nabokov and Carlyle

At the beginning of a Flavita (Russian scrabble) game, Ada says: "I would much prefer the Benten lamp here but it is out of kerosin" (ADA, 1.36). As I pointed out before, Benten is the Japanese goddess of sea, but also the name of Yokohama's indigenous part mentioned in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. I also happened to suggest this anagram:

BENTEN + TAMTAM + OH = BENTHAM + TEMNOTA (tam-tam is a gong mentioned, like Benten, in the "Japanese" chapter of Jules Verne's novel; tam is Russian for "there;" oh is an expletive; Bentham is Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832, English jurist and philosopher mentioned in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin; temnota is Russian for "darkness" and "ignorance")

Bentham is mentioned not only in Pushkin's novel in verse, but also in Thomas Carlyle's On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History: "you may call it [Benthamism] heroic, though a Heroism with its "eyes" put out!... Benthamism is an "eyeless" Heroism: the Human Species, like a hapless blinded Samson grinding in the Philistine Mill, clasps convulsively the pillars of its Mill; brings huge ruin down, but ultimately deliverance withal" (Lecture V. The Hero as Man of Letters. Johnson, Rousseau, Burns)

There is in the Ardis household a kitchen boy and photographer, Kim Beauharnais, who is spying on Van and Ada as they make love during their two summers (1884 and 1888) at Ardis, attempts to blackmail Ada in 1892 (2.7) and is eventually blinded by Van (2.11). Kim's surname links him to Josephine Beauharnais, Napoleon's first wife. Unlike his wife (who is known on Antiterra, the planet on which Ada is set, as "Queen [sic!] Josephine"), Napoleon is not mentioned in Ada, but he is one of the heroes in Carlyle's book.

Carlyle is a British author (who is mentioned in Nabokov's Podvig, Glory, if I'm not mistaken). Another name of Great Britain is Albion. Pushkin uses it in Eugene Onegin when in Canto Ten (burnt by the author) he describes the redrawing of the map of the world after the Napoleonic Wars: Моря достались Албиону ("The seas went to Albion"). ALBION = ALBINO (a person with pale skin, light hair, pinkish eyes, and visual abnormalities resulting from a hereditary inability to produce the pigment melanin).

Griffin, the unfortunate hero of Wells' The Invisible Man, is an albino. Wells' novel is directly alluded to in Ada (1.32): "Van changed his course from gravel path to velvet lawn (reversing the action of Dr Ero, pursued by the Invisible Albino in one of the greatest novels of English literature)."

In his "Notes to Ada" Vivian Darkbloom (anagram of "Vladimir Nabokov") comments on "Ero" as follows: "thus the h-dropping policeman in Wells' Invisible Man defined the latter's treacherous friend." As far as I remember, there are no h-dropping policemen in Wells' novel and no one who would call Griffin's old pal, Dr Kemp, "a hero." Anyway, DR ERO = ORDER = OR + RED = REWORD - W (or is French for "gold").

Speaking of heroes, one remembers Lermontov's novel A Hero of Our Time. Its young Russian author believed that his ancestor was the legendary Scottish bard Thomas Learmont. Now, Thomas Carlyle was also a Scott.

It is wonderful to start the New Year with the right book on the screen of one's computer!

Alexey Sklyarenko

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