Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002657, Sat, 20 Dec 1997 13:09:03 -0800

VN Miscellania
I have just finished reading Alberto Manguel's delightful A HISTORY OF
READING. There are a couple passing VN refs but also some more tenuously
related curios.

On p. 12 (1997 Penguin ed.) Manguel reports his adolescent experience of
looking up in his father's _Espasa-Calpe Spanish Encyclopedia_ articles
on various topics including 'Prostitution'. He concludes the paragraph
saying that "Still later, in that same library, to complete my sexual
education, I read Alberto Moravia's _The Conformist_, Guy Des Cars's The
Impure_, Grace Metalious's _Peyton Place-, Sinclair Lewis's _Main Street_
(!!??-DBJ) and Vladimir Nabokov's _Lolita_.

On p. 93. he cites VN as an illustartion of the wildly varying critical
readings of Kafka's "Metamorphosis."(Partly an allegory on adolescent
P. 169. This and the following passage cannot but evoke VN themes in

"For the sixteenth-century Spanish mystic Fray Luis de Granada,
if the world is a book, then the things of this world are letters of the
alphabet in which this book is written. In _Introduccion al simbolo de la
fe_... he asked, 'What are they to be, all the creatures of this world, so
beautiful and so well crafted, but separated and illuminated letters that
declare so rightly the delicacy and wisdom of their author?... And we as
well ... having been placed by you in front of this wonderful book of the
entire universe, so that through its creatures, as if by means of living
letters, we are to read the excellence of our Creator."

p. 184.
"...the scribe knew, as society discovered, the extraordinary
invention of the written word with all its messages, its laws, its lists,
its literatures, depended upon the scribe's ability to restore the text,
to read it. With that ability lost, the text becomes once again silent
markings. The ancient Mesopotamians believed birds to be sacred because
their footsteps on wet clay left marks that resembled cuneiform
writing, and imaged that, if they could decipher the confusion of those
signs, they would know what the gods were thinking.
(Cf. "An Evening of Russian Literature")

D. Barton Johnson
Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies
Phelps Hall
University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone and Fax: (805) 687-1825
Home Phone: (805) 682-4618