Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026763, Mon, 4 Jan 2016 21:14:39 +0000

Re: Red Riding Hood revisited: Kassel's "the Woodsman" and VN's
I checked what I had at this point on AdaOnline, Jansy, and something peculiar happened: the first time I clicked on the hyperlink at 106.02, French mustard, only the first and last of the two notes below appeared in the lower left-hand annotations frame; when I clicked on “the yellow index was a trouvaille,” all four appeared; I can’t think why this would happen.

106.02:<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada117.htm#106.02> French mustard: Chauvinist Mlle Larivière would naturally consider no other kind.

106.02-03:<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada117.htm#106.02> green, yellow, orange, red, pink riding hoods: Jay Alan Edelnant, “Nabokov’s Black Rainbow: An Analysis of the Rhetorical Function of the Color Imagery in Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle” (unpub. doctoral diss., Northwestern University, 1979), p. 84, notes that this sequence implies “green thumb” and “pinkie.” MOTIF: rainbow<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/motifs.htm#rainbow>.

106.02-04:<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada117.htm#106.02> yellow . . . yellow index was a trouvaille: Darkbloom: “a trouvaille: a felicitous find”: from the use of yellow paper for indexes (of businesses in telephone books, etc.) and, frequently, of yellow paint for index signs for streets and buildings. Cf. 247.25-26: “That ‘leavesdropper’ is a splendid trouvaille, girl.”

106.03:<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada117.htm#106.03> red, pink riding hoods: MOTIF: fairy tale<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/motifs.htm#fairytale>.

The first note simply means that the mustard Mlle Larivière chose was French because, as a Québecoise, she is proud of French culture and dismissive of any other kind.

Yes, the “lapse into delicious sin” seems to me no more than Ada’s once again biting her fingernails.

On the other hand, a) why does she lapse into this “delicious sin” precisely at Christmas 1884, when, presumably, she is at home from Brownhill College? b) this is especially puzzling when the scratching produced by the mosquito Culex chateaubriandi Brown is associated with the incest itself associated throughout Ada with Chateaubriand, and with a play on cousin as the French for both “cousin” and “mosquito.” The itch, in other words, seems to be sexual.

Ada will write in her 1890 letter to Van (334): "Van, you are responsible (or Fate through you is responsible, ce qui revient au même) for having let loose something mad in me when we were only children, a physical hankering, an insatiable itch. The fire you rubbed left its brand on the most vulnerable, most vicious and tender point of my body. Now I have to pay for your rasping the red rash too strongly, too soon.” That itch is clearly related to the itch caused by Culex chateaubriandi Brown and presumably to her resuming biting her fingernails again at Christmas 1884.

Ada declares to Van just as they part at the end of Ardis the First, when he asks her will she be faithful: “my love, my Van, I’m physical, horribly physical, I don’t know, I’m frank, qu’y puis-je? Oh dear, don’t ask me,there;s a girl in my school who is in love with me, I don’t know what I’m saying—“. He then meets Ada’s Brownhill schoolmate Cordula de Prey at a cocktail party in September 1884. The fairy-tale association of “red, pink riding hoods” seems strong around Demon's first mention of “Cordula, who is sure to recompense you for playing Blindman’s Buff all summer with the babes of Ardis Wood” (163). When Cordula meets Van, she says she was “quite jealous of you” and Van writes that “He had read somewhere (we might recall the precise title if we tried, not Tiltil, that’s in Blue Bead . . . ) that a man can recognise a Lesbian, young and alone .. . by a combination of three characteristics” (164). When Van visits Brownhill in the fall of 1884, with Cordula designated Ada’s chaperone, he vents his jealousy of her, presuming her to be the girl in love with him. But Ada’s lesbian lover at Brownhill turns out to be Vanda Broom. Does Ada’s biting her fingernails in Christmas 1884 suggest masturbation to itch the red rash kept alive at Brownhill by Vanda?

I don’t know. Something of this sort seems to be implied, so thanks for the question, Jansy; but the answer doesn’t yet have the satisfying click of VN’s solutions.

Brian Boyd

On 4/01/2016, at 3:12 pm, Jansy Mello <jansy.mello@OUTLOOK.COM<mailto:jansy.mello@OUTLOOK.COM>> wrote:

JM:Charles Kinbote’s mockery of …Erich Fromm’s interpretation of the child’s red cap, always bothered and amused me at the same time… I think the author returned to his critical mood about the red-capped child making a convolute allusion to it (should it be in fact an allusion, not something new): “On her twelfth birthday, July 21, 1884, the child had stopped biting her fingernails (but not her toenails) in a grand act of will (as her quitting cigarettes was to be, twenty years later). True, one could list some compensations — such as a blessed lapse into delicious sin at Christmas, when Culex chateaubriandi Brown does not fly. A new and conclusive resolution was taken on New Year’s Eve after Mlle Larivière had threatened to smear poor Ada’s fingertips with French mustard and tie green, yellow, orange, red, pink riding hoods of wool around them (the yellow index was a trouvaille). Ada or Ardor, I, ch.17.

JM: How are we to understand twelve year-old Ada’s “lapse into delicious sin” at a time when there are no mosquitoes bites to scratch: does the narrator simply mean “the sin” of “biting fingernails”? Brian Boyd’s note on “French mustard” was no great help to me [106.02:<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada117.htm#106.02> French mustard: Chauvinist Mlle Larivière would naturally consider no other kind.] Can anyone explain what he means ?
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