Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016364, Wed, 7 May 2008 11:16:31 EDT

Re: SIGNS: final conclusions? More than I dared hope.

In a message dated 07/05/2008 13:19:15 GMT Standard Time,

It may be that our discussion of "Signs and Symbols" has reached a natural
ending, or that there are passages in the second and third sections that are
still unplumbed. Is there anything else that bothers, delights, or perplexes
you? Anthony, do you have any additional questions for us, or any comments
on the fruits (however we spell them) of our wide-ranging discussion so far?

Dear List,

I am delighted, and deeply grateful to Susan Elizabeth Sweeney who suggested
it, that this fascinating discussion has taken place in the weeks before the
Inner Circle Seminar this Sunday 11 May 2008 in Regent's College, London, to
celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication (in slightly mutilated
form) of "Signs and Symbols" on 15 May 1948 in The New Yorker. Some of the
contributions have been of great sensitivity and erudition. What a birthday

All the more am I delighted to announce that what I scarcely dared hoped
would happen does appear, prima facie, to have happened. In the course of this
international debate from all ends of the earth, a neighbour of mine who lives
a mile or so away, but of whose existence I was unaware until she
tentatively said she would like to come to the seminar, telephoned me last Sunday and
quietly mentioned that she had solved the riddle of "Signs and Symbols".

She explained her finding to me, and yesterday we met and discussed it for
two hours. I am not at liberty to disclose it here. But she will reveal it at
this Sunday's seminar. It is an entirely reasonable but hitherto undetected
explanation of what Naboov called the "inside" of this extraordinary short
story. It opens up depths that we sensed were there but couldn't quite

For those, like myself, who regret not having been present at the
20th-century seminar in the Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge when Andrew Wiles, in
June 1993, revealed his proof of Fermat's last theorem, Sunday's seminar at
Regent's College Conference Centre, London promises to be a 21st-century
compensation. There are still places. If you want to come, contact me now at
_stadlen@aol.com_ (mailto:stadlen@aol.com) or +44 (0) 20 8888 6857.

In addiiton, as a coda, I have myself made a modest discovery, which I have
not seen elsewhere. I have been emphasizing that nobody but Sandy Drescher
and myself seems to have considered the simple possibility, the "mere
possibility of improvement", that the third telephone call is from the boy himself.
However, it seems that Nabokov himself had a view as to the origin of the third
telephone call. I shall present my evidence for this, too, on Sunday.

Once again, I thank you for all your contributions, and I thank the editors
for inviting them. Do continue sending them in as they occur to you. This
singular story deserves and demands this collaborative effort.

Anthony Stadlen

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