NABOKV-L post 0017406, Sat, 29 Nov 2008 16:03:25 -0200

[NABOKOV]: phones in ADA and Galileo's experimentation: Marina's
While reading an article about Galileo's inventions, I found a reference to the "clepsydra" as the instrument Galileo employed to measure the progress of dropping inert bodies and the "time-lapse". It is similar to the hourglass, but it measures seconds with water, instead of sand. The weight of the water, in Galileo's 1604 experiment, was equivalent to the passage of time (Cf. "The ten most beautiful experiments", 2008, George Johnson.

ADA: "Curious how that appalling actress resembles "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" in Parmigianino's famous picture'."

Brian Boyd's Annotations: 14.05: Clepsydrophone: a "clepsydra" is a water clock; W2 explains its derivation from Greek kleptein (conceal) and hydor (water). In view of Marina's concealing the fact of her lover when Demon calls (16.15-16), the etymology seems pointed (nowhere else are "dorophones" called "clepsydrophones"). Cf. "we shall presently dispose of 'flowing' time, water-clock time, water-closet time" (539.27-28); "clepsydras" (544.08). MOTIF: dorophone, technology.


I don't know if VN was familiar with the clepsydra through Galileo's epoch-making demonstration. VN at least twice mentioned other quaint instruments using liquids (The cartesian devil, already illustrated in past postings by C.Kunin). Both Aqua and Marina ( both bear liquid names), also Lucette, are joined by various experiences related to water.

The use of "doro" ( related to hydro, ladore, durée, dorée,adorée) and VN's insistence with bubbling chattering or dropping water ( from The Vane Sisters, Lolita onto Ada) suggests its link with "time" ( at least, with "duration" and the philosophy of Bergson. We may include, from Lolita, the "Hourglass lake".

(btw: the twisted "ampersand" sign (&) VN once described shaping a rubberband stimulated me to think of electricity (amber, lettrocalamity, "ampère") and sandglass (ie:hourglass and "our glass").

Further quotes: I, Demon, rattling my crumpled wings and cursing the automatic dorophone, could not live without you [...]Now that is the sketch made by a young artist in Parma, in the sixteenth century, for the fresco of our destiny, in a prophetic trance, and coinciding,[...] with an image repeated in two men's minds.

[...] technologists ...were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets [...] in a dream[...] Demon's former valet explained to Van that the 'dor' in the name of an adored river equaled the corruption of hydro in 'dorophone.' Van often had word dreams.

[...] yes, the polliphone./It had died, but buzzed as soon as he recradled the receiver, and Lucette knocked discreetly at the same time.'La durée... For goodness sake, come in without knocking.[...]You don't know if it's dorée or durée?

[...}With a quick gesture he centrifuged them [...] and despite his pretty cousin's protests [...] campophoned for his car. Then he clattered, in Lucette's wake, down the cataract of the narrow staircase, katrakatra (quatre à quatre). Please, children not katrakatra (Marina).

[...] He still hoped the Ladore dorophone would be in working order before his departure. Le château que baignait le Dorophone. Anyway, he assumed the aerogram would reach her in a couple of hours. Lucette said 'uhn-uhn,' it would first fly to Mont-Dore - sorry, Ladore
[...] brutal elation as the car entered the oak avenue between two rows of phallephoric statues presenting arms. A welcome habitué of fifteen years' standing, he had not bothered to 'telephone' (the new official term).

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: