NABOKV-L post 0018438, Wed, 8 Jul 2009 14:09:14 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] On plums and Bend Sinister

Dear List,

I was hoping some English-native would help me to get the meaning of Nabokov's "plums." These, for me, were little rewards that revealed secret connections, never a synonim of "weakness".

My recollection of a former reference to plums, in VN, led me to the preface in which connections and hints abound.
Unfortunately, the word VN employed in "Bend Sinister" was a different one: "It may be asked if it is really worth an author's while to devise and distribute these delicate markers whose very nature requires that they be not too conspicuous[...] Most people will not even mind having missed all this; well-wishers will bring their own symbols and mobiles, and portable radios, to my little party; ironists will point out the fatal fatuity of my explications in this foreword and advise me to have footnotes next time (footnotes always seem comic to a certain type of mind)."
So, again: are "plums" the same as "delicate markers" in Nabokov?

It is always fun to return to VN. I discovered that intertextuality is described as "commuting."
And I have a plum (sorry if it has been mentioned in the List before, as it sure must have been) in the sole sentence I discovered in BS using the word "plum."
Here it is: "Olga once said that a billion was a million with a bad cold. Shin hurts. Anything, anything, anything, anything, anything. Your boots, dragotzennyi, have a taste of candied plums. And look, my lips bleed from your spurs."

Clarence Brown (N.R) once quoted in his essay about "Lolita" (but I don't remember where this quote is found: is it in "Lolita"?)
: --"as the Bard said, with that cold in his head, to borrow and to borrow and to borrow"-- playing with "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,To the last syllable of recorded time"(Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5).
When we read of Olga's quip (billion/million), although we may not immediately remember Shakespeare, we get a second chance: VN adds a clue when he repeats the words "anything" and plays with broken associations, rythm and rhyme.

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