Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017479, Tue, 16 Dec 2008 14:20:43 -0200

Fw: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] Query on Alps, Bera range,
Re: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] Query on Alps, Bera range, Algonquin...BirchesS.K-B: Jansy asks how the axiom works for "non-verbal" or "symbolic/pictorial" language. To which I say: SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION IN NON-VERBAL, SYMBOLIC/PICTORIAL FORMAT! Gotchyer?
JM: There's no explanation for why my original question on signifiers, metaphor and NL doesn't concinnate with your translation: "how the axiom works for 'non-verbal' or 'symbolico/pictorial' language.".

I'll try a different method, obtained in Agatha Christie's gestual "Strange Jest.". There are words in it, though :) ...
A young couple describes to Miss Marple their uncle Harry's last words, "You'll be all right[...] And then he tapped his eye - his right eye - and winked at us. And then - he died.". He left them a bundle of love letters signed Betty Martin and a recipe of garnished gammon and spinach. Only Miss Marple can unravel the secret: the recipe was inspired in Dickens: gammon and spinach = nonsense. The jest: "All my eye and Betty Martin" indicates "this is not a true picture." Actually their inheritance had been glued on the envelope: a valuable stamp...
( I suppose my answer lies in "a valuable stamp")
Well...why, Stan, I could try to explore the untranslatability-effect of mere iteration, reiteration and repetitious repetition.Nabokov admired Robbbe-Grillet's splendid repetitions and details... Perhaps we could compare one of R-G "Three Reflected Visions" (Snapshots), but focusing on his coffepot, and VN's blue punch-bowl in Pnin?

Unfortunately the texts will be totally deformed by excerptings*, repetition is lost and only a check in the originals shall be revelatory enough. Let's give it a try, though.
A.R-G: "The coffeepot is on the table[...] The coffeepot is made of brown earthenware. It consists of a sphere topped by a cylindrical filter holder with a mushroom-shaped lid. The spout is an S with flattened curves, widening out slightly at the base. The handle has, perhaps, the shape of an ear**, or rather, the outerfold of an ear; but it would be a misshapen ear, too circular and lacking a lobe, which would thus resemble a "pitcher handle". The spout, the handle, and the mushroom lid are of a creamy color. The rest is of a very light, smooth brown, and shiny. There is nothing on the table except the waxy tablecloth, the ceramic base, and the coffeepot[...]The spherical surface of the coffeepot is a shiny, distorted reflection of the window, a sort of four-sided figure whose sides form the arcs of a circle. The line of the wooden uprights between the two window sections widem abruptly at the bottom into a vague spot. This is, no doubt, the shadow of the dressmaker's dummy." In a second section, he adds: "A good smell of hot coffee arises from the pot on the table."

V.Nabokov: ...a large bowl of brilliant aquamarine glass with a decorative design of swirled ribbing and lily pads. 'My, what a lovely thing!' cried Betty. Pnin eyed the bowl with pleased surprise as if seeing it for the first time. It was, he said, a present from Victor. [...] By some tender coincidence the bowl had come on the very day Pnin had counted the chairs and started to plan this party. It had come enclosed in a box within another box inside a third one, and wrapped up in an extravagant mass of excelsior and paper that had spread all over the kitchen like a carnival storm. The bowl that emerged was one of those gifts whose first impact produces in the recipient's mind a coloured image, a blazoned blur, reflecting with such emblematic force the sweet nature of the donor that the tangible attributes of the thing are dissolved, as it were, in this pure inner blaze, but suddenly and forever leap into brilliant being when praised by an outsider to whom the true glory of the object is unknown [...] 'Gracious, Timofey, where on earth did you get that perfectly divine bowl!' exclaimed Joan[...]Look at it! Look at this writhing pattern[...] Margaret Thayer admired it in her turn, and said that when she was a child, she imagined Cinderella's glass shoes to be exactly of that greenish blue tint; whereupon Professor Pain remarked that, primo, he would like everybody to say if contents were as good as container, and, secundo, that Cendrillon's shoes were not made of glass but of Russian squirrel fur [...].He prepared a bubble bath in the sink for the crockery, glass, and silverware, and with infinite care lowered the aquamarine bowl into the tepid foam. Its resonant flint glass emitted a sound full of muffled mellowness as it settled down to soak.[...] He groped under the bubbles, around the goblets, and under the melodious bowl, for any piece of forgotten silver - and retrieved a nutcracker. Fastidious Pnin rinsed it, and was wiping it, when the leggy thing somehow slipped out of the towel and fell like a man from a roof.[...]Pnin hurled the towel into a corner and, turning away stood for a moment staring at the blackness beyond the threshold of the open back door. A quiet, lacy-winged little green insect circled in the glare of a strong naked lamp above Pnin's glossy bald head. He looked very old, with his toothless mouth half open and a film of tears dimming his blank, unblinking eyes [...]

*- I'm applying the method, in a re-translation into English, that was outlined in Professor Dr Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld's "Portuguese Irregular Verbs."
** - Has anyone compared Sterne's "Essay on Noses" with VN's discourse on the same appendages in his biography of Gogol?

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