NABOKV-L post 0002378, Wed, 24 Sep 1997 17:59:14 -0700

Re: Drescher query re "LOLITA's "Chestnut Lodge" (fwd)
From: Dolinin <>

I find Professor Naiman's very clever exegisis unconvincing for
the following reasons.
1. Nabokov's anagramms, as we know them, always obey certain strict
rules: they retain all the elements of the anagrammatized word (s)
including apostrophes and diacritics (see, for example, Gene Barabtarlo's
ingenious reading of "Mali e trano t'amesti"); they never contain the
definite article; they are always grammatically correct. Professor Naiman's
alleged anagramm violates all of the above.
2. The corresponding phrase in the Russian version of LOLITA does
not have anything that could hint at a hidden obscenity; moreover, it omits
the very mention of "Chestnut Lodge" (translated before as "Kashtanovyi
dvor" which again does not imply anything bawdy) but refers only to "the
Kasbeam motel" (kasbim skii motel). On the other hand, the "Enchanted
Hunters" anagramm is rendered in full though in Russian it consists of 27
3. Nabokov's anagramms usually have an important meaning and
function, serving as clues to some re-interpretation of the whole text and
I think it would be uncharacteristic of him to use the device just for the
adolescent fun of secretly reiterating the taboo words (whatever their age)
which belong to the construed dirty mind of Clare Quilty (cf.: Bumper,
Quimby, Kitzler, and so forth).
In fact, the original suggestion of a "Chestnut Lodge" connection
with a psychiatric clinic seems to me much more promising since the motive
of chestnuts (initially introduced in the reference to the color of Lolita
/Annabel's hair) resurfaces in Part Two of the novel at the crucial moment
when HH (together with his narration) goes NUTS and pursues Lolita, "the
winged fugitive," like Stevenson's Mr.Hyde: "A tepid rain started to drum
on the chestnut trees" (206).In Chapter 16 HH looks down from Chestnut
Crest and sees "the road winding down, and then running as straight as a
hair parting between two rows of chestnut trees" [a combined echo of the
parting in Annabel's hair on the faded photograph (13) and HH's first
glimpse of Lolita when he looks at her from above and recognizes "the same
chestnut head of hair"(39)]; and then makes out "an elf-like girl on an
insect-like bicycle, and a dog" (212)--an allusion to the scene mentioned
above in which HH pursues Lolita who has left on a bicycle and almost
knocks over a "dropsical dackel." In Chapter 22, after HH had taken Lolita
to the Elphinstone hospital, he "lay on her bed that smelled of chestnuts
and roses" (241), which probably evokes two components of "chestnut"--chest
(=coffin) and nut (=mad) and thereby death and madness, the two major
themes of the novel.
These are the only notes on chestnuts in my copy of LOLITA but I am
sure any chestnut hunter will find many more unexplored trails and scents.
I think it is pertinent that chestnut also means a stale joke and is an
oriental symbol of foresight.