Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025136, Fri, 28 Feb 2014 09:22:42 -0800

Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] topology/fugal time; Kinbote/Gradus
Dear Jansy,

The fugues in Pale Fire are various. There is the fugue in the sense of chase/pursuit in Gradus' pursuit of Charles/Shade and that of Andronnikov and Niagarin who pursue the poem/novel/"crown jewels"; there is Charles's pursuit of a way out of Zembla (aka the coup or cerebral stroke). Then there is the pun on the early term for multiple personality, "fugue state"; and then there is the nature of time itself which links and bobolinks in whirling whorls and vortexes that characterize time in the novel that makes it so difficult to tell what happens when (what happens first, second, etc.).

That's about the best I can do. I did discuss the "fugue state"* in the past, so should be traceable in the archives - you might also try "William James." I think our old editor, DBJ (chto delai, Don?) found proof that VN had read William James on fugue states. It should all be in the archives.


Ah - nice incorporation! but did I endow Gradus with the body of Kinbote? They are his suppressed personalities, not bodies. 

*A fugue state, formally dissociative fugue or psychogenic fugue is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (ranging from hours to days), but can last months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity.

From: Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US>
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:49 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] topology/fugal time; Kinbote/Gradus

Carolyn Kunin: Like the odd incomprehensible description of the topology of New Wye, the fugal nature of time in the novel would take some serious work to unravel, which has not yet been done [  ]Gradus - well, I don't really take him into account, being as he is the shade of Shade's shade[  ]Not sure I understand "Nice incorporation."*
Jansy Mello: I concluded that you wrote “Kinbote” on purpose to emphasize, with a bit of irony, that Gradus is, as you said, “the shade of Shade’s shade.” This is why I congratulated you on endowing Gradus with the body (“corpus”) of Kinbote.
Can you write more about what you consider “the fugal nature of time in the novel”? C.Kinbote speaks of “counterpoint” while criticizing some of J.Shade’s verses. You are indicating something quite different and very promising.  
Related to recent posting[ JM:This cannot be a coincidence! There is a direct link between the sampel, the waxwing and the assassin Gradus, or that’s what it appears to meatthis first (too enthusiastic and hasty) glance through theSpanish/Portuguese word“ampelis”//…Hamadryads.], we find a lot more information about the “ampelis,” in connection to Gradus:
Matt Roth: A few thoughts on D. Barton Johnson's "A Field Guide to Nabokov's Pale Fire," in the Stanford Slavic Studies 33 (2007): [   ] DBJ makes several interesting observations at the conclusion of the article. One, of course, is that Kinbote is surprisingly accurate in his ornithological descriptions (despite what VN said in an interview after the fact).  He writes that the reader "faces the problem of accounting forBotkin's knowledge of local fauna. The birds that Kinbote/Botkin mentions are in their proper places at the proper times. And, not so incidentally, he sometimes seem to know too much, e.g., the original Linnaean generic name Ampelis for waxwings, a term that has not been in use . . . since about 1900 when Bombycilla became the standard term. Even stranger, he knows that the former means "of the vineyard," a fact that enables him to create the bizarre vignette that Gradus/Vinogradus comes from a long line of liquor dealers"
(669).One solution to this particular problem--though perhaps not to the more general one introduced here--might be that Kinbote does have a dictionary with him in Cedarn.  This dictionary is NOT Webster's 2nd, but it does have some of Webster's 2nd's definitions (see "unicursal bicircular quartic"). If we do look at the definition of waxwing in W2, we find "any of several American and Asiatic passerine birds of the genus Bombycilla (syn. Ampelis)," etc.  So Ampelis could have been in Kinbote's dictionary.  Furthermore, if Kinbote then tried to look up Ampelis (a guide word in W2, btw), he might have found the following:
 ampelo-, ampel-.  A combining form, Greek ampelo-, ampel- from ampelos, vine, as in ampelographist, ampelography.
 ampelopsin.  An anthocyanin found in the Virgina creeper
 Ampelopsis.  1. A genus of woody climbers of the grape family (Vitacaea). 2. A plant of the genus Parthenocissus, esp. P. tricuspidata, the Japanese ivy, and P. quinquefolia, the Virginia creeper.
 Now this is very interesting! While this makes it clear that Kinbote could have learned the basic meaning at the root of Ampelis (vine), there seems to be another connection lurking here.  In the Foreword (p. 22) Kinbote says "A few days later, as I was about to leave Parthenocissus Hall--or Main Hall (or now Shade Hall, alas), I saw him waiting outside, etc." Given the geography of New Wye (probably northern Virginia, around Harrisonburg) the Parthenocissus covering the wall of Main/Shade Hall is absolutely the Virginia creeper (scourge of my own back acre here in Pennsylvania, btw). Thus, the word at the root of Vinogradus is also connected to Shade not just by the waxwing (sampel/ampelis) but by Parthenocissus quinquefolia which covers the Hall which will come to bear Shade's name. What does this mean? Well, it could be Shade's ghost making more connections, or I might argue that this is more proof that Shade, Gradus and Kinbote are one and the
same, or some will simply say that it is the great pattern-maker himself, VN, just showing off.
Matt Roth ..."one assumption from my post on Ampelis & Parthenocissus. I said that the Parthenocissus in question was "absolutely" Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) but "ivy" of the Ivy League colleges like Cornell is Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata (also mentioned in the W2 definition of Ampelopsis). The overall point remains the same, but I probably spoke too soon when I assumed Virginia creeper." 
JM: More than two references on parthenocissus are searchable in the Nabokov-Archives ( from which I selected two samples):
 1. item #98, July 2003 on "Parthenocissus Hall" Parthenocissus is a grape vine, and as as such VN is either trying to give an image as a place where wine is drunk, where rumors are exchanged or a vine covered building...or all three?
 2. August 2006, on "Pruning dates" Victor Fet: "Partenocissus is a Latin name for creepers -- ivies of grape family (Vitaceae), of Asian and North American origin. In Russian it is called "devichii vinograd" (maiden's grape), which is of course a connection both to maidens (or virginity) and Gradus!". Jerry Friedman: ...."either a "Virginia Creeper, /Parthenocissus quinquefolia/" or  "Boston Ivy", /Parthenocissus tricuspidata/"... JM: Perhaps the "virginal maid" accompanyment could not be avoided by Nabokov and it came as a special bonus, i.e., as something that anyone may interpret according to his particular sense of humor without distorting the main picture. In short, Wordsmith's Main Hall  was initially "Vinogradus" and later it became "Shade Hall".
And, more specifically related to the bird, not to the plant, a synthesis:
https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A2=nabokv-l;49969273.0803 Friday, 7 Mar 2008:
M. Roth:  In the Foreword (p. 22) Kinbote says "A few days later, as I was about to leave Parthenocissus Hall--or Main Hall (or now Shade Hall, alas)... the Parthenocissus covering the wall of Main/Shade Hall is absolutely the Virginia creeper. Thus, the word at the root of Vinogradus is also connected to Shade not just by the waxwing (sampel/ampelis) but by Parthenocissus quinquefolia which covers the Hall which will come to bear Shade's name.
*- Reference to: “You must be meaning Gradus, not Kinbote himself (note to lines 1-4): “The poem was begun at the dead center of the year, a few minutes after midnight July 1, while I played chess with a young Iranian enrolled in our summer school; and I do not doubt that our poet would have understood his annotator’s temptation to synchronize a certain fateful fact, the departure from Zembla of the would-be regicide Gradus, with that date. Actually, Gradus left Onhava on the Copenhagen plane on July 5.”   Of course! Nice ‘incorporation’…”


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