NABOKV-L post 0017498, Fri, 19 Dec 2008 01:14:42 -0200

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[NABOKOV-L] Moonshining in Bend Sinister and TRLSK
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Dear List,

The label of a jar containing peeled Brazil-nuts for my Xmas baking showed a lunatic bee holding a sign: "rich in selenium".
I was reminded of Tim Henderson's query on an arrant thieving moon in BS, so I wikichecked "selenium" ( for the fun) and "Brazil-nuts"( its a mysterious item in TRLSK: "all things in that bedroom seemed to have just jumped back in the nick of time as if caught unawares, and now were gradually returning my gaze [...] This was particularly the case with the low, white-robed armchair near the bed; I wondered what it had stolen. Then by groping in the recesses of its reluctant folds I found something hard: it turned out to be a Brazil nut, and the armchair again folding its arms resumed its inscrutable expression.")
A thieving white-robed armchair hiding a Brazil nut? Why a Brazil nut? ( I'm not in full agreement with Page Stegner's hypothesis seeing in it an indication of the Portuguese Don Sebastião). Was VN amused because he knew that what is called the "nut", in a Brazil nut, is actually only its fat seed?
Did he ever learn that it was rich in "selenium" and...does it matter?

It was then that I came across aspecial harmony or romance in simple non-human things... "Selenium (Greekb ?????? selene meaning "Moon") was discovered in 1817 by Jöns Jakob Berzelius who found the element associated with tellurium (named for the Earth)"; "The Brazil nut tree's yellow flowers contain very sweet nectar and can only be pollinated by an insect strong enough to lift the coiled hood on the flower and with tongues long enough to negotiate the complex coiled flower. The orchids produce a scent that attracts small male long-tongued orchid bees (Euglossa spp), as the male bees need that scent to attract females. The large female long-tongued orchid bee pollinates the Brazil nut tree. Without the orchid, the bees do not mate, and therefore the lack of bees means the fruit does not get pollinated."
Would this notion of a complicated interdependence bt. plant and insect, moon and earth be equally hidden by Sebastian's furniture? Was it related to Sebastian, his fateful love and a third enchained element?
So much for TRLSK.
My former and frustrated investigation in BS had left a nostalgic sensation of moon and mouring, so I returned to it. No further clues. Still, two other verbal and poetic curiosities:
the mobled moon ( wiki: with the head wrapped up or muffled, as in "She lies laid out in stark stiffness in that secondbest bed, the mobled queen", James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922. Moble, in French, means "furniture")
a fingernail moon (GMHopkins' moonrise: "The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the candle"...? Shade's parings?)

That's a nice start for Xmas baking!
Jansy


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