NABOKV-L post 0017307, Wed, 12 Nov 2008 19:35:24 +0000

Re: Poetry: Language and Love ...

On 12/11/2008 00:58, "Sandy P. Klein" <spklein52@HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

> <>
> Poetry: Language and Love
> by Alexander Nazaryan
> Vladimir Nabokov, Brian Boyd, Stanislav Shvabrin, eds., Verses and Versions:
> Three Centuries of Russian Poetry
> (Harcourt, 2008)
> Love for Vladimir Nabokov was hardly a matter of the heart. He once suggested
> that a writer should work with ³the imagination of a scientist,² and even his
> finest prose‹probably Lolita and Speak, Memory‹is more distinguished for a
> lapidary concern with the nuance of language than the humanistic and religious
> grappling of the great Russian novelists who proceeded him. Lolita may be a
> coquette, but it is the boundless possibility of English that is the true
> object of Humbert Humbert¹s lust. An exemplary polymath, Nabokov found himself
> enthralled more by the near-infinite cornucopia afforded by words; the lives
> drawn by them sometimes seem secondary.

In the interests of the Nabokovian linguistic precision being touted by
reviewer Alexander Nazaryan, a key notion in modern linguistics is that the
³cornucopia afforded by words² is not ³near-infinite² but truly infinite.
Indeed, we can state quite precisely that the number of finite sentences
over a finite alphabet is aleph-0 (Cantor¹s countable infinity). There¹s
literally ³no end² to the list of possible sentences; and we can arrange
them all lexicographically and assign each a unique positive integer 1, 2,
3, ... This is what we mean by a ³countable² (or ³denumerable²) infinity:
any set whose members can be put into a 1-1 correspondence with the infinite
set 1, 2, 3, ... This is not way-out arcane stuff, but first-year collegiate
bread¹n¹butter maths from the late 19th century. What is arcane and
enthralling is that, given an arbitrary mapping of integers to
letters/words/sentences, the entire Nabokovian published corpus can be found
embedded in sequences of the digits of (Greek) PI!

Moving quickly to Nazaryan¹s conjecture that HH¹s real lust was for words
rather than for nymphets. Really? That would lead to a drastic re-reading of
³Lolita² the novel! We would now seem to have HH inventing his carnal
adventures; are Lo and his other victims merely figments of a frustrated but
highly literate imagination? If so, surely Nabokov (the onlie begetter!)
would have provided clues for such a hypothesis? As presented, VN offers the
coherent narrative of a real luster after young, physical flesh. True, HH is
not your average paedo. He relishes flowery, literary thoughts about his
nymphets, but these are not substitutes for the real thing: the exploits he
describes with equal relish (and accuracy?)

Stan Kelly-Bootle

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