Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017678, Tue, 10 Feb 2009 11:42:44 -0500

QUERIES: PF, several
Dear list,
Perhaps some of you can help me with following loose ends in PF.

1. In lines 275-280, Shade says that his head has "creased" Sybil's pillow
4000 times. Questions: Is Shade referring to how many times he and Sybil
have had intercourse? If so, that means they've had sex on average twice a
week for 40 years! Do we believe that? Does this imply that they sleep in
separate rooms (as did VN and Vera)? Why would the normally reserved Shade
tell the world how many times he has had sex with his wife? Seems out of

2. In his note to line 181, Kinbote seems to guess that JS and Sybil are
having a pre-dawn sexual encounter. He says that he "smiled indulgently,
for, according to my deductions, only two nights had passed since the
three-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-ninth time--but no matter." Why does the
thought of Shade and Sybil having sex cause Kinbote, who openly detests
Sybil, to smile indulgently? Is this passage meant to confirm Shade's
twice-a-week calculation? Kinbote refers to "the bedroom." Does this mean
that Shade and Sybil share a bedroom?

3. The math of Hazel's barn transcription doesn't seem to work. In Hazel's
Remarks, she says she began the alphabet eighty times but seventeen times
got no response. That should leave us with 63 positive responses, but
Hazel's transcription only contains 61 letters. We seem to be two letters
short. Did VN (or Hazel, or Kinbote?) do the math wrong?

4. Why, in lines 357 & 978, does Shade refer to Hazel as "my darling," when
throughout the rest of the poem he has addressed the poem to Sybil and,
thus, used "our" ("She'd criticize ferociously our projects"; "when we lost
our child")?

5. Is the image (from the Index) of Thurgus the Third "in a dressing gown
of green silk, and carrying a flambeau in his raised hand" supposed to make
us think of the Statue of Liberty? If so, does this reinforce the notion
that the passage from the palace to the "green room" is equivalent to
Botkin's passage from the Old World to green Arcady (New Wye)?

6. Is the Bera Range named after the King of Sodom (Genesis 14:2)?

7. Why does Shade blubber into Sybil's shoulder blade in the gloam of Lilac
Lane? Where is Lilac Lane?

8. Has anyone managed to produce a landscape map of the Shade and
Goldsworth houses? As many times as I read the note to 47-48, I cannot get
it straight.

Matt Roth

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