NABOKV-L post 0017193, Thu, 16 Oct 2008 21:54:11 -0400

THOUGHTS, if you can call them that (on misspellings,
accent marks, narcissism, metaphors)
Jerry Friedman writes:

--- On Tue, 10/14/08, jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:
> Jerry Friedman: "Forward" for "foreword"
> is a common spelling error[...] I doubt that anything about
> Kinbote's Foreword particularly impels this error.
> JM: I was suggesting a connection bt. Kinbote and his
> invention, Gradus. A written text may have a
> "suggestive" effect that strikes readers in a
> particular manner. Like Jensen's "Gradiva",
> Gradus is stealthily moving forward with an
> "aggr-essive" intent. Kinbote wants Gradus to
> coincide with Shade's penning of his poem. Such a
> "foreword thrust" is a dominant feature in Pale
> Fire. Gradus' ghostly reality is manifest in CK's
> last lines (before the Index - and when was it inserted?):

I've been thinking about just such chronological
questions. The only answer I can come up with is
that it was probably late in his writing process.

I can't argue with you about Kinbote's frequent images
of Gradus's forward motion, but lots of people who have
never read /Pale Fire/ misspell "foreword". I'd
need to see a well-controlled statistical study to be
convinced that common spelling errors are more likely
when they have some relation to what the person is
writing about. Even then you could prove nothing
about a given incidence of the error.

[snip last lines of the commentary]

> You are earnestly hoping that "some people got the o
> with the Hungarian 'long umlaut'[ Cf. SKB: note that
> o: stands here for ‘o’ with the Hungarian umlaut] but I
> don't get your "long" point.

The diacritical mark is not the ordinary umlaut or
dieresis; it's two acute accents next to each other.
In Hungarian, I've read, an acute accent on a vowel
makes it "long", and this doubled symbol indicates a
"long" umlauted vowel.

> I hope I
> understood your former reference to a "symbolic
> reading", though, brought up right after you spoke of
> "overlapping" images/sentences! I greatly enjoyed
> your observations.

Those were Joseph Aisenberg's observations. I should
ask, J. A., when you spoke of homosexuality meant to
be symbolic of narcissism (as you said incest was), did
you mean Kinbote, or the homosexuality scene in /Ada/?
(Or both, or something else?) Certainly Kinbote is
narcissistic, but I don't see his sexuality that way.
And if Van's episode is symbolic of anything, I'd think
it's self-hatred. (Or is that the reverse of the

> Do you think that Nabokov, instead of always making them
> explicit, favored "impending metaphors"? Like a
> kind of :
> "when I confront you with overlapping visions, it is
> your task to find your own metaphors to render them in
> words"?

Hm. He certainly did that, as in the blanket-tossing
scene in /Speak, Memory/, or from the sublime to the
crude, in the implied phallicness of Kinbote's
description on Zembla. I don't know enough to say
anything general about what kind of metaphors he

Jerry Friedman

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