NABOKV-L post 0007005, Sun, 3 Nov 2002 11:06:23 -0800

Fw: Friedman on wordplay
EDNOTE. Mary Bellino is, inter alia, the Associate Editor of NABOKOV
STUDIES, an annual journal devoted to the best in international Nabokov
scholarship. Subscription information at . Article
submissions and review copies go to Prof. Zoran Kuzmanovich at

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> From Mary Bellino (
> Jerry Friedman writes that he finds much of Nabokov's
> wordplay unsatisfying. It occurred to me recently that one
> problem with Nabokov's jokes of the macaronic type is that
> they are too easy for the polyglot and too difficult for the
> monoglot. If you are familiar with Greek and German you
> recognize instantly that "Melanie Weiss" means "Black
> White", but if you don't know those languages, you will
> never get the joke no matter how many times you reread the
> text. (That is perhaps not the best example, but it's the
> first one that came to mind.) Someone with a sort of
> internal 6-language dictionary of Russian, English, French,
> and German, plus Greek and Latin roots, would probably
> recover 95 percent of VN's multilingual wordplays, many
> without even consciously thinking about it, but the monoglot
> reader would have a completely different reading experience
> and, unless aided by commentaries, would have no means of
> detecting even the existence of these hidden gems.
> I am not complaining about this situation, which no doubt
> Nabokov intended; as someone who falls about halfway between
> the monoglot and hexaglot readers described above, I enjoy
> the jokes I can figure out and depend on more knowledgeable
> critics to explain the rest. But I'm wondering if Jerry
> Friedman had in mind this or some other aspect of Nabokov's
> wordplay--what is it exactly that leaves him cold?
> Mary