Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026928, Mon, 28 Mar 2016 20:32:54 -0300

Imaginary titles... "Stink bomb"
RS Gwynn (on Imaginary Books, mon, 28 Mar 2016) wrote: “Tough to beat "The
Combed Clap of Thunder" or "The Plaster Cramp." I guess Nabokov's best
imaginary titles are in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, but I don't have
the book to hand to check. / Sam.”

Jansy Mello: It just occurred to me that Nabokov’s “imaginary titles”
appear under different guises and serve various ends. In ADA, for example, I
came across two modified titles for “real” books”, mostly a play with
sounds. Nevertheless, one of its character’s (Mlle Larivière) writings
constituted the kind of “imaginary books” mentioned in the article found in
The Paris Review (fwd by S.Blackwell to the List). SebastianÂ’s titles and
those in LATH are playful disguises for self-referential parodies.

Examples: 1. .... ‘That tattered chapbook must also belong to her, Les
Amours du Docteur Mertvago, a mystical romance by a pastor.Â’/
‘Playing croquet with you,’ said Van, ‘should be rather like using
flamingoes and hedgehogs.Â’ /
‘Our reading lists do not match,’ replied Ada. ‘That Palace in Wonderland
was to me the kind of book everybody so often promised me I would adore,
that I developed an insurmountable prejudice toward it. Have you read any of
Mlle Larivière’s stories? Well, you will. ADA 1,8

Cf. AdaOnline <http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada18.htm#53.22> 53.22-24:
...Darkbloom: “Les amours du Dr. Mertvago: play on ‘Zhivago’ (zhiv means in
Russian ‘alive’ and mertv, ‘dead’).” “Pastor” is a pun on
<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/532224pasternak.htm> Boris Pasternak
(1890-1960), who published Doctor Zhivago in 1957, and on what Nabokov
thought the book’s “sickly sweet brand of Christianism” (SO 206)
<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada18.htm#53.25> 53.25-28... Nabokov
translated AliceÂ’s Adventures in Wonderland into Russian in 1922 (published
as Anya v strane chudes, 1923)./ Cf. 129.17: “ Ada in Wonderland”; 568.06: “
Ada’s adventures in Adaland.”

2. ...Had a grotesque governess really written a novel entitled Les
Enfants Maudits? To be filmed by frivolous dummies, now discussing its
adaptation? ADA 1,32

Cf.AdaOnline <http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada132.htm#198.26> 198.26-29:
...Les Enfants Maudits seems to owe less to Maupassant (see 197.01 and n.)
than to <http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/308chateaubriand.htm>
Chateaubriand’s René (see 3.08n., 199.05-6, 201.05-08), to the action
unfolding at Ardis, and to the novel
<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/1982629enfants.htm> Les Enfants Terribles
(1929), by <http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/1982629cocteau.htm> Jean Cocteau
(1889-1963), which Cocteau adapted for a movie version of the same name
(1950) directed by <http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/1982629melville.htm>
Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973). CocteauÂ’s story focuses on two teenagers,
sixteen-year-old Elisabeth and her fourteen-year-old brother, Paul, whom she
loves with an exclusive passion. They retreat from the outer world into the
imaginative hothouse of their Room, but their friendships with others,
GĂ©rard, Michael and Agatha, shatter their enclosed world...

On another subject, now related again to “stink bombs”:

I was wondering if VN could be making a convoluted allusion to the
Maidenhair or the Gingko Biloba tree ( although he only indicates two tulip
trees), whose dropping seeds have a particularly foul smell and which plays
such a significant role in “Ada or Ardor”:

Tulip tree: two-lip tree and Bi-loba: two lobes (later, “flat-lying couple”)
(Getty images)

“The species was initially described by Carl_Linnaeus in 1771, the name
biloba derived from the Latin bis, "two" and loba, "lobed", referring to the
shape of the leaves. Two names for the species recognise the botanist
Richard_Salisbury, a placement by Nelson as Pterophyllus salisburiensis and
the earlier Salisburia adiantifolia proposed by James_Edward_Smith. The
epithet of the latter may have been intended to denote a characteristic
resembling Adiantum, the genus of maidenhair ferns.https://
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginkgo_biloba#Taxonomy_and_naming. [ ] The
old popular name "maidenhair tree" is because the leaves resemble some of
the pinnae of the maidenhair fern Adiantum_capillus-veneris.).”

“They’ve been called ‘vomit trees,’ dropping seeds referred to as ‘poo
berries’ and ‘stink bombs.’ They emit an odor commonly described as smelling
like sour milk, old cheese, rancid butter, and dog poop [ ] Most cities
pick the non-flowering male trees for landscaping to prevent the smelly
fruits from stinking up the sidewalks./And, indeed, those male trees were
planted here. But something happened between planting and now: They changed
genders./“If some trees are under stress, like the drought last year, or
like being inside an urban area with the pollution and everything, the males
shift and develop female ovaries and switch sexes to ensure their survival,”
George Pinkerton, director of maintenance for the Downtown Lincoln
Association said. “It was never the intention to plant female trees down
there.”/This gender shift is a pretty rare phenomenon.”

Quotes from ADA related to gingko biloba, a folio found in the attic, AdaÂ’s
‘infolio’/adiantofolia, a flat-lying couple on Atticus paper (similar to the
leaf of the gingko tree, see illustration above and underlined parts below).

The specimens were on one side of the folio, with Marina Dourmanoff
(sic)Â’s notes en regard.//

Ancolie Bleue des Alpes, Ex en Valais, i.IX.69. From Englishman in hotel.
‘Alpine Columbine, color of your eyes.’

Epervière auricule. 25.X.69, Ex, ex Dr Lapiner’s walled alpine garden.

Golden [ginkgo] leaf: fallen out of a bookÂ’ The Truth about TerraÂ’ which
Aqua gave me before going back to her Home. 14.XII.69. (ADA 1,1)

(Torture, my poor love! Torture! Yes! But itÂ’s all sunk and dead. AdaÂ’s late
note.) / The three of them formed a pretty Arcadian combination as they
dropped on the turf under the great weeping cedar, whose aberrant limbs
extended an oriental canopy (propped up here and there by crutches made of
its own flesh like this book) above two black and one golden-red head as
they had above you and me on dark warm nights when we were reckless, happy
children. (1,32)

<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada132.htm#204.17> 204.17-19: cedar, whose
aberrant limbs extended an oriental canopy (propped up here and there by
crutches made of its own flesh like this book): Cf. 587.34-88.04, Van and
Ada’s final manuscript of Ada: “the master copy which the flat pale parents
of the future Babes, in the brown-leaf Woods, a little book in the Ardis
Hall nursery, could no longer prop up in the mysterious first picture: two
people in one bed.”

Cf. “flat-lying couple/ Atticus paper” quote, below.

Maidenhair. Thus named because of the huge spreading Chinese tree at the
end of the platform. Once, vaguely, confused with the VenusÂ’-hair fern. She
walked to the end of the platform in TolstoyÂ’s novel. First exponent of the
inner monologue, later exploited by the French and the Irish. NÂ’est vert,
nÂ’est vert, nÂ’est vert. LÂ’arbre aux quarante Ă©cus dÂ’or, at least in the
fall. Never, never shall I hear again her ‘botanical’ voice fall at biloba,
‘sorry, my Latin is showing.’ Ginkgo, gingko, ink, inkog. Known also as
SalisburyÂ’s adiantofolia, AdaÂ’s infolio, poor Salisburia: sunk; poor Stream
of Consciousness, marée noire by now. Who wants Ardis Hall! (1,41)

What everybody thought would be VioletÂ’s supreme achievement, ideally
clean, produced on special Atticus paper in a special cursive type (the
glorified version of VanÂ’s hand), with the master copy bound in purple calf
for VanÂ’s ninety-seventh birthday, had been immediately blotted out by a
regular inferno of alterations in red ink and blue pencil. One can even
surmise that if our time-racked, flat-lying couple ever intended to die they
would die, as it were, into the finished book, into Eden or Hades, into the
prose of the book or the poetry of its blurb. (5,6)

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