Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025331, Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:41:15 -0400

Re: BIRTHDAY: Tartine au miel
Jansy Mello wrote:
"in preparing an homage to his birthday we also need to remember his writings about human cruelty, loss, shadows and the pangs of mortality - the wasp preying on stolen honey - for only then is Vladimir Nabokov's full consciousness ready for its cycle of serial rebirths through the senses of his readers.

Nabokov's works being serially reborn through the senses of his readers--what an amazing idea. A great birthday present.

Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:14:58 -0400
From: nabokv-l@HOLYCROSS.EDU
Subject: [NABOKV-L] BIRTHDAY: Tartine au miel

[EDNOTE. Jansy Mello sends this birthday tribute. SES]

again, we will celebrate the anniversary of VN's birth, 115 years ago
this year, with greetings, toasts, jokes, parodies, homages, and
Nabokoviana. This year, in particular, I invite you to contribute a
quotation from a moment of happy celebration--or just plain happiness,
involving tartine au miel or otherwise--in any of VN's texts. ED note, 2014.
(When I kiss you here, he said to her years later, I always remember that blue morning on the balcony when you were eating a tartine au miel; so much better in French.)
"A star, a snowflake, a drop of honey/ I enclose in my verse"


David Rampton and Brian Boyd have argued at various points (here, in
particular, concerning "Ada" and the "tartine au miel" scene)**
V.Nabokov's lyricism is often entwined with satire, its purity colored
by hidden sexual allusions. We cannot extract "honey" from his poems and
novels without noticing the different origins and indications concealed
in the word, moving from fragrant clover to the greedy wasp, always in
attendance, like the sting of death in Arcadia or the subtle motions of
love and sexuality.


"But that mimosa grove - the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honey-dew,
and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside
limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since - until at last,
twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another."

"I felt proud of myself. I had stolen the honey of a spasm without impairing the morals of a minor. Absolutely no harm done."

Look at the Harlequins:

"Absurd and very embarrassing. The two cold-thighed, cheesy-necked girleens were now engaged in a quarrelsome game as to who should sit on my left knee, that side of my lap where the honey was, trying to straddle ."

"Hammock and honey:
eighty years later he could still recall with the young pang of the
original joy his falling in love with Ada. Memory met imagination
halfway in the hammock of his boyhood's dawns.""The classical beauty of clover honey,
smooth, pale, translucent, freely flowing from the spoon and soaking my
love's bread and butter in liquid brass. The crumb steeped in nectar[ ]
And the wasp."
" She considered him. A fiery droplet in the wick of her mouth considered him."

between scenes and novels invite us to question our former innocence,
as in young Ada's luminous game with other golden drops: "Then the player delicately scooped out the earth with his stick or fingers within the roundlet. The level of that gleaming infusion de tilleul would magically sink in its goblet of earth and finally dwindle to one
precious drop. That player won who made the most goblets in, say,
twenty minutes./ Van asked suspiciously if that was all./No, it was not.
As she dug a firm little circle around a particularly fine goldgout, Ada squatted and moved, squatting,with her black hair falling over her ivory-smooth moving knees while her haunches and hands worked, one hand holding the stick, the other brushing back bothersome strands of hair."

For example, see the LATH sentence related to "squatting" girleens and a special kind of honey: "Absurd and very embarrassing.that side of my lap where the honey was."
Cf. also the magic of involuntary memory in the reference to Proust's
"madeleine" ("so much better in French") dipped in a golden goblet like
an infusion of linden blossoms, recurring later in Van Veen's "hammock
and honey" reminiscences and in Humbert's prim retrieval of
honey-skinned Annabel in Loleeta.
And the wicked fiery honey on Ada's mouth carries us towards a subatomic level of image/word games (the "shadows of words").

According to Brian Boyd's Ada Online: 75.34: the wick of her mouth: W2, "wick": "A corner, esp. of the eye or mouth; an angle. Now Dial[ect]."
But it is still possible to notice that the more usual meaning of
"wick" is a part of the image since it has been announced by the bread
crumb "steeped in honey." [Wick: a bundle of fibers or a
loosely twisted, braided, or woven cord, tape, or tube usually of soft
spun cotton threads that by capillary attraction draws up to be burned a
steady supply of the oil in lamps or the melted tallow or wax in
candles.Middle English weke, wicke, from Old English wēoce; akin to Old
High German wiohha wick, Middle Irish figid he weaves First Known Use:
before 12th century ; 2. transitive
verb: to cause (fluid or moisture) to be pulled away from a surface
(such as your skin); to absorb or drain (as a fluid or moisture) like a
wick http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wick

it's true that Nabokov's writings celebrate the wonders of life and his
ecstatic moments while encircled by flitter-flutter butterflies, in
preparing an homage to his birthday we also need
to remember his writings about human cruelty, loss, shadows and the
pangs of mortality - the wasp preying on stolen honey - for only then is
Vladimir Nabokov's full consciousness ready for its cycle of serial
rebirths through the senses of his readers.


* - Vladimir Nabokov: Poetry and the Lyric Voice

Paul D. Morris. University of Toronto Press, 2011.

** - Vladimir Nabokov: A Critical Study of the Novels. David Rampton, Cambridge University Press.

Cambridge Studies in Russian Literature, Cambridge University Press (August 31, 1984) p.123-125.
also in other works by David Rampton: Vladimir Nabokov: A Literary Life
(Literary Lives) - David Rampton (Dec 24, 2012); Vladimir Nabokov
(Modern Novelists) - David Rampton (Oct 1993) ]

Vladimir Nabokov The American Years - Brian Boyd p.540/541

this stage of the novel, Van has .been initiated into her [Ada's]
private 'philosophy.' He spends nights haunted by his longing for Ada,
and on this particular morning wakes up resolute.but when he sees her
his desire has to remain as mute as it is here. // The scene is shot
through with the tension between anticipation of an impossible dream and
fond recollection [ ] The crumb steeped in nectar, the throbbing wasp,
the oilcloth, the honey-smeared butter define in an instant the space
within which silent expectation stirs."
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

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