NABOKV-L post 0017062, Wed, 17 Sep 2008 13:53:34 -0300

Fw: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] [QUERY] Sebastian Knight
Re: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] [QUERY] Sebastian KnightS.K-B, The: ... in Russian language (and Latin, too!) one survives without overt articles, def. or indef. Likewise, copula usually omitted! [...] I wrote "When I lectured in Soviet Union ..." ... and adding footnote ( and aren't footnotes problem? In Portuguese, they dance a "nota de rodapé" while a literal reading is achieved, as in French, "au pied de la lettre").
This lack or vagueness in grammatical "particularity/generality-markers" raises deep linguistic problems [...]Suffice it to say that Russian title for Goodman's [T]TOSK would not normally distinguish "The Tragedy ..." from "A Tragedy ..." ...When we come to V's TRLOSK, I would suggest that there's less ambiguity: REAL LIFE (in any language) implies THE, one-and-only, REAL LIFE (beware of Unreal imposters!)
JM: From TRLSK's cat with "celadon eyes" I went on to Samuel Johnson's ( because of the importance Hodge acquires later on) and to his critical writings about Dryden's drama on Celadon and Astrea. In Lives of the Poets: Vol 1 Samuel Johnson wrote: When the king was restored, Dryden, like the other panegyrists of usurpation, changed his opinion, or his profession, and published "Astræa Redux"; a poem on the happy Restoration and Return of his most sacred Majesty King Charles the second[...] Don Sebastian, 1690, [...]makes approaches to the possibilities of real life, and has some sentiments which leave a strong impression..."
Don Sebastian, of Dryden's play, was a real king, like Charles II. Could V.Nabokov have had Johnson's words on Dryden in his mind when he chose the name "Sebastian Knight" for his equally vanishing hero? (actually, among the eighteenth-century writers, the one name that is conspicuously absent in VN list of eighteenth century authors is, indeed, Trinity College's John Dryden, who perfected the heroic couplet later used by his disciple, Alexander Pope, and explored by fictional John Shade in PF.Samuel Johnson, writing on Dryden and his "Don Sebastian" was my first intimation of a familiarity between English 18th Century authors ( read by Nabokov) and the Portuguese king who disappeared in the North of Africa.

This is what VN had to say about Dryden: "The play of inner assonances that is so striking in EO and other poems by Pushkin occurs, not infrequently, in English verse. One remembers Dryden's beautifully couterpointed lines ( in his imitation, 1962, of Juvenal, Satires, VI) in which the confusion of intoxication is rendered by words echoing and mimicking each other (ll. 422-23; my italics): When vapours to their swimming brains advance,And double tapers on the table dance. " Isn't it reminiscent of SK's "lovely, dove and lily" fragrant line?

S.K-B: This doesn't explain why "The" has been omitted in some English bibliographies, but it might be a clue that texts have passed through Russian editorial hands?
JM: A good point. As I later realized, the title "Tragedy" only appears in very Russian V's first chapter. You complained that "Editor added missing "the's," "a's" and "is's" -- known in trade as "textual harassment," or "spoiling bad joke?".
In V.Nabokov's book, not V's, we cannot at present be certain if there were any intended jokes or just a case of editorial tactics.

S.K-B: I believe that the Anglo-Saxon "the" evolved from the demonstrative "that?" -- the "pointing" theory of naming concrete objects.Which brings us back to Jansy's comment on ADAM being granted the rights to naming the animals in what Joyce called the Book of Guinnesses...Quite strange, surely, since someone (presumably Jahweh) has already named the entities "light," "darkness," and "firmament!" So early on in our Universe, we have the birth of language (but which language, shared by God and Adam?)
JM: Ironically, Umberto Eco had to settle for " The Search of the Perfect Language" because G.Steiner had before him named his book on the same subject :"After Babel". As you know, they both discuss the issue concerning the nature of God's language while addressing Adam.
I have no idea why their arguments were so inconclusive!

S.K-B : I'm on the Welsh border where rumours of consenting bestiality persist.
JM: Samuel Johnson's cat must then have practiced "humanism" to avoid going astray?

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: