NABOKV-L post 0006016, Sun, 10 Jun 2001 17:06:34 -0700

Subject
[Fwd: Tintin and Nabokov]
Date
Body
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Regarding Nabokov and TinTin:

I am only now a new enthusiast of Tintin, so do not know of any direct
connections between VN and Herge, but I have "The Calculus Affair" open
before me and can refresh some memories: on page 48, Tintin gets called
by
Haddock:

TT: Hello?...Oh, it's you, Captain...What?

HA: Blistering barnacles, I said that at the first opportunity we'll
ditch
those coleoptera! That's agreed, isn't it?

TT: I...er...Oh yes. You're referring to those two butterflies you
caught by
the lake, in Geneva. But those aren't coleoptera, Captain, they're
lepidoptera.

HA: What are you jabbering about? Lepidoptera? Lepidoptera to you, too!
I...Hello?...Hello?...

TT: Crumbs! How can I make him understand that our telephone is bound to
be
tapped?

--CLICK-- (TT hangs up, gets called again)

TT: Hello?...Yes...Yes...we were cut off. I...er...don't worry about the
butterflies, Captain...let's talk about the simply wonderful hospitality
of
this exquisite country. What good taste! What tact! And then their...u
mm...their courtesy. And above all their...how shall I put it? Their
friendliness, friendiness which is entirely...er...friendly...umm...

HA: You...But...What...Let...Look here...I...blister...Thunder...

SECRET POLICEMAN: Keep on recording. This could be interesting.

So does this seem familar? Of course it does! Herge parodies here the
same
telephone stock scenarios which VN does in PALE FIRE, where Gradus and
his
controllers make a very expensive long distance phone call, with two
different sets of code words, and end up confusing each other
completely. In
LOLITA there is a playful phrase referring to the enormous telephone
bills
run up by newspapermen -- and TinTin is a journalist who never files a
story!
I am sure there are numerous other such Nabakovian examples: VN and
Herge,
like Evelyn Waugh or Grahm Greene, loved the imaginary and real worlds
of
mid-20th century foreign correspondenting, spying, and the creation of a
certain idea of "cool."

It is interesting to note that "The Calculus Affair" seems to date from
1956,
the year of the Hungarian Revolution, the Suez Incident,
de-Stalinization in
the USSR, etc. Needless to say, spoofing Eastern European potentates has
been
part of good fun for a long time: Herge's Borduria and Syldavia and VN's
Zembla are badly governed and "Balkan" countries of the same type.
Kinbote is
heartbroken when he reads Shade referring to a Balkan rather than a
Zemblan
king.

Another "Calculus" reference that is the most appropriate of all
considering
recent news, the pack of MACEDONIA cigarettes which is the crucial clue!
After spending the past few years covering the collapse of what had been
Yugoslavia, I felt a Proustian pang seeing that!

I think it can be fairly said that VN and Herge did an entirely accurate
job
describing the absurdity, poetry, and tragedy of small countries that
just
aren't taken seriously.

cheers,

Alan Chin