NABOKV-L post 0005890, Tue, 3 Apr 2001 10:16:06 -0700

[Fwd: Re: Boyd on best text of Pale Fire]
Many thanks to Brian Boyd for his lucid explanation of the states of the
various texts of Pale Fire (and VN's other works) and his list of
additional "possible errors." The misspelling of "triptych" in line 381
of the poem appears to have been carried over from the Putnam edition. I
noticed it because I was comparing that passage with the commentary
passage about Sudarg of Bokay's "really fantastic" triptych mirror
(Putnam 111/LoA 516) -- these are the only two uses of the word in the
novel, I believe.

That "chtonic" is Hazel's mispronunciation of "chthonic" is an
eminently reasonable suggestion, but I wonder whether it can be
pronounced that way without adding an extrametrical syllable to the
line. I tried it and couldn't quite suppress the schwa --it comes out
"kuh-tonic." Interestingly, Nabokov pronounces it just this way in the
92nd St Y reading, with a very brief schwa and a definite hard "t" (the
reading is available at It was
news to me (as it may have been to Nabokov) that the American
pronunciation of the word is "thonic" rather than "chthonic" (Webster's
2 and 3); I assume that anyone who knew Russian would most likely retain
the initial diphthong. But if Nabokov had looked up the American
pronunciation in his trusty Webster's 2, it's quite possible that (as
Foster suggests) he intended Hazel to say "kuh-tonic," since the extra
syllable in the line gives a stuttering effect that sounds exactly like
someone trying to pronounce a word she isn't familiar with.

At any rate, Brian Boyd is quite right that continuing to bring out VN's
unpublished works, interviews, and so forth is more important that these
textual niceties, as fascinating as they are.

Mary Bellino