NABOKV-L post 0017267, Mon, 3 Nov 2008 21:30:07 -0200

Your submission re: [NABOKV-L] as with Nabokov's "light of my
life, fire of my loins." ...
Re: Your submission re: [NABOKV-L] as with Nabokov's "light of my life, fire of my loins." ...Stan K-B: "chess-problemists of VN’s vintage (i.e., pre-computer graphics systems!) would certainly own a set of chess-piece-logo printing blocks and an inked pad. Using these on a blank 8 x 8 grid, you could quickly record any chess position. Each block would print a square with a piece shape. NOTE: not just the piece-logo, but the piece AND its square.[...] You can see that this expands the notion of “signing” a letter with a stamped chess emblem. Four choices for a King, as the mood dictates! But, I’m left wondering why Sebastian doesn’t sign with his eponymous piece? And why not a White Knight?"

JM: Concerning the choice of a black or a white knights, Sebastian's black chess-piece is echoed later on, when his half-brother V. visits Pahl Pahlich Rechnoy, while searching for Nina. The door was opened by a man who "held a chessman ? a black knight ? in his hand" [...]A heavily built man was sitting sideways at a table on which an oilcloth chessboard was spread, with pieces too large for the squares[...] Pahl Pahlich chucked the black knight on to the table and its head came off. Black carefully screwed it on again [...] Pahl Pahlich introduced them: 'This is my cousin,' Black bowed [...] 'I could take your rook now if I wished,' said Black darkly, 'but I have a much better move.' He lifted his queen and delicately crammed it into a cluster of yellowish pawns ? one of which was represented by a thimble. Pahl Pahlich made a lightning swoop and took the queen with his bishop. Then he roared with laughter. 'And now,' said Black calmly, when White had stopped roaring, 'now you are in the soup. Check, my dove.'
Not being a chess-player, I cannot interpret the significance of these particular moves, although later the reader learns that "White"'s wife once kissed "Black" because he could write his name upside-down. Mme Lecerf told V.that she once kissed a man just because he, like "Black", signed his name in reverse.
SK's character, Perceval Q, might be related to the medieval knight Perceval, who vanquished a red knight and began to wear a red armour after this victory, but he later changed his attire.

Stan K-B on ED/SES's note[ I'm forwarding this reply directly to Sandy Klein, because even though it is very interesting and witty, it isn't really related to VN] stating that "on this occasion, I'm a tad miffed by your decision [...]Joe Biden's use of the everyday idiom "gird your loins" [...]VN's entirely different, erotic “fire-of-my-loins” usage.My response clarified and distinguished the two usages, throwing some light on VN’s most-quoted first sentence of his most-famous novel."

JM: I'm glad that this miffing matter was reconsidered and we were allowed a Kinbotean peek.
Sandy Klein recent posting, with C.Hart's description of how VN "recalls a former editor to whom he used to send “indignatory quests”, followed by his reaction: "Indignatory quests? Is this English? No, it’s Nabokovian." is a good example to illustrate how VN's famous sentence "fire of my loins" may equally be "very Nabokovian", therefore it is not easily translated in the same spirit into other languages. In Portuguese, for example, a direct rendering of "loins" would apply to the kidneys or to a steak (sirloin!!!). One of its translators avoided the issue and wrote:"labareda em minha carne" (ardor of my flesh? blazes in my feet?).

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: