Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0013470, Sun, 8 Oct 2006 21:17:07 EDT

Re: The Nature of Electricity: "Number nine-hundred-ninety-nine"

In a message dated 09/10/2006 00:06:54 GMT Standard Time,

I am not too familiar with the forum's history, and no doubt someone has
noted that the number of lines - 999 - inverts, as is appropriate for a
novel structured on mirroring, the notorious number of Revelations 666,
denoting the beast, who, among other things, has power over all tongues
(13:7). Many things can be deduced from this, given Nabokov's elusive
metaphysics, if the two numbers are related intentionally. 999 inverts
666, a number of apocalyptic closure as opposed to 999 which begs for an
extra digit, denied it, to achieve completion, and thus gestures towards
an open universe.etc etc

I did write to this forum on 23 December 2004 (after a discussion of
Alexander Dolinin's essay on 'The Signs and Symbols in Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols”
') as follows:

<< I should like to thank Andrew Brown for his kind and considered response
to what I wrote.

May I add: Whoever makes the third telephone call, the mere fact that the
mother has pointed out the presumed error the girl is making focusses our
attention (thanks to Alexander Dolinin) on the 6 that is being dialled, whether by
one or two people, three times in succession. Three sixes could be
understood either "Christianly" as 666 (i.e. Death) or "Jewishly" (by Gematria) as
6+6+6 = 18 = Chaim = Life (Hebrew). The sixes are thus completely ambiguous. One
can deduce precisely nothing from them.

Surely both these symbolisms are beside the point, except the point that
they and the other beside-the-point signs and symbols are, ultimately at least,
beside the point.

My own point was simply that, while of course we don't know who was "really"
making the third call, there is, corresponding to the boy's presumed
"referential mania" of attributing human agency to non-human events and referring
them to himself, a kind of reciprocal "NON-referential mania" into which we
readers can be seduced by the story, whereby we overlook even the possibility
that a post-midnight telephone call to his parents might originate from the boy
himself as human agent. I wondered if this might have been one of VN's
points, too. >>

Anthony Stadlen

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