Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025487, Fri, 27 Jun 2014 14:23:52 -0300

Dr Krolik in Ada

From a quote at the List: “… Ada is crazy about everything that crawls:
'Je raffole de tout ce qui rampe (I'm crazy about everything that crawls),'
she said. (1.8) She calls Dr Krolik (her beloved entomologist) "dear

'Dr Krolik received from Andalusia and kindly gave me five young larvae of
the newly described very local Carmen Tortoiseshell. They are delightful
creatures, of a beautiful jade nuance with silvery spikes, and they breed
only on a semi-extinct species of high-mountain willow (which dear Crawly
also obtained for me).' (ibid.)”

Jansy Mello: I’ve been wondering about the sound of “crawly/ Krolik” in
ADA because it may hide a reference to the crank (?), mystic, Rasputinlike
figure of

Aleister Crowley (Oct. 12, 1875\xa8CDec. 1, 1947) \xa8C “ however one judges him
\xa8C was a fascinating man who lived an amazing life. He is best known as
being an infamous occultist and the scribe of The Book of the Law, which
introduced Thelema to the world. Crowley was an influential member in
several occult organizations, including the Golden Dawn, the A∴A∴, and
Ordo Templi Orientis. He was a prolific writer and poet, a world traveler,
mountaineer, chess master, artist, yogi, social provocateur, drug addict and
sexual libertine. The press loved to demonize him and dubbed Crowley “The
wickedest man in the world.”


Crowley’s name appears linked to Mme Blavatsky’s and to the Portuguese
poet Fernando Pessoa’s (here lies the origin of my curiosity). V.Nabokov
himself hasn’t been related to any writings on Crowley but, at times, to
various occultists and to Mme Blavatsky (indicating a critical or satirical
position on his part) - but the only reference I could locate, in the VN-L,
derives from an exchange between Jim Twiggs and Jerry Friedman, related to
PF, in 2011:

On February 20, Jerry Friedman wrote: As Jim notes, Karshan says Shade
didn't believe his own theory at the end of Canto 3, but Karshan doesn't
give the evidence for that. I'm not sure what it could be. Shade was an
atheist from childhood on, but his story in Canto 3 suggests a change of

JT: Unlike Jerry, I believe Karshan does present arguments--two of them, one
each on pp. 206 and 207--about Shade’s reasoning, arguments which, to me at
least, carry a good deal of weight.

I was about to comment on these arguments when I read Thomas Karshan’s post
this morning. At this point, I’ll wait to see what he might have to say on
the matter.

One thing I’m especially curious about is how TK, and also JF and anyone
else who cares to comment, might connect Shade’s “text not texture”
insight with his stated belief at the end of the poem that Hazel “somewhere
is alive.” In most of the examples given of the game players in action (ll.
820-829), these “gods” don’t seem much different from the wanton boys in
King Lear. And anyhow, what started off as thoughts about “life
everlasting” has turned into thoughts about design (and the possibility of
poetry). Unless I’ve missed or forgotten something, it’s not till the end
of the poem that immortality re-enters the picture. Once again, what’s the

JF: On the subject of reputable philosophers, I'm not going to add to my
"onslaught" about what Nabokov believed, but I will say that I don't see why
Shade should be closer to them than to Mme. Blavatsky. Yeats really did
follow Blavatsky among others, and that did not keep him from being a far
better poet than Shade.

JT: I agree that there’s no reason why Shade, as opposed to VN, should be
closer to reputable philosophers than to Blavatsky and her ilk. He (Shade)
would be an interesting character in either case. As for Yeats and VN, the
question of VN’s own beliefs is of some importance because Brian Boyd has
made it so:

[D. Barton Johnson] asks “if it would make any difference whether Nabokov’
s otherworldly philosophy were shopworn. To me it certainly would. Eliot’s
craving for the authority of tradition, Yeats’s refuge in the irrational,
to me seriously diminish their art. Nabokov is of such interest partly
because he is such a clear and independent thinker, and his style is the way
it is because he has such clarity and independence of thought. --Johnson and
Boyd, “Prologue: The Otherworld,” in Nabokov’s World, Vol. 1: The Shape
of Nabokov’s World” (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002), p. 23.

In a roundabout way, Blavatsky (not a synesthete) influenced Scriabin and in
the Wikipedia, on a chapter on Synesthesia I found out more (excerpts about
VN, Blavatsky, Fernando Pessoa):

[ ] Vladimir Nabokov -Author (April 22, 1899 \xa8C July 2, 1977). Grapheme →

In his autobiography, Speak Memory (1966), the Russian writer Vladimir
Nabokov tells us of his

"fine case of colored hearing. Perhaps 'hearing' is not quite accurate,
since the color sensation seems to be produced by the very act of my orally
forming a given letter while I imagine its outline. The long a of the
English alphabet (and it is this alphabet I have in mind farther on unless
otherwise stated) has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French a
evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard g (vulcanized
rubber) and r (a sooty rag bag being ripped). Oatmeal n, noodle-limp l, and
the ivory-backed hand mirror of o take care of the whites. I am puzzled by
my French on which I see as the brimming tension-surface of alcohol in a
small glass. Passing on to the blue group, there is steely x, thundercloud
z, and huckleberry k. Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and
shape, I see q as browner than k, while s is not the light blue of c, but a
curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl. Adjacent tints do not merge,
and diphthongs do not have special colors of their own, unless represented
by a single character in some other language (thus the fluffy-gray,
three-stemmed Russian letter that stands for sh [Ш], a letter as old as the
rushes of the Nile, influences its English representation)."

" ... In the green group, there are alder-leaf f, the unripe apple of p, and
pistachio t. Dull green, combined somehow with violet, is the best I can do
for w. The yellows comprise various e's and i's, creamy d, bright-golden y,
and u, whose alphabetical value I can express only by 'brassy with an olive
sheen.' In the brown group, there are the rich rubbery tone of soft g, paler
j, and the drab shoelace of h. Finally, among the reds, b has the tone
called burnt sienna by painters, m is a fold of pink flannel, and today I
have at last perfectly matched v with 'Rose Quartz' in Maerz and Paul's
Dictionary of Color. The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy,
rainbow, is in my private language the hardly pronounceable: kzspygv"

― From Vladimir Nabokov, p. 34-35.[35]

Nabokov's mother, Elena Ivanovna, was a synesthete, as was also his wife, V
éra, and his son Dmitri Nabokov.[36]

Pseudo-synesthetes] Alexander Scriabin (6 January 1872 \xa8C 27 April 1915)
probably was not a synesthete, but, rather, was highly influenced by the
French and Russian salon fashions. Most noticeably, Scriabin seems to have
been strongly influenced by the writings and talks of the Russian mystic,
Helena P. Blavatsky, founder of theTheosophical Society and author of such
works as Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.[55] The synesthetic motifs
found in Scriabin's compositions \xa8C most noticeably in Prometheus, composed
in 1911 \xa8C are developed from ideas from Isaac Newton, and follow a circle
of fifths.[55][56][57]

Proposed others which are still under review: [ ] Fernando Pessoa,
Portuguese poet/writer (1888-1935)

I’ve read nothing by Crowley nor by Mme Blavatsky but the way connections
grow in the internet I fear my name shall be also linked to theirs should
this message get posted online by our EDs… It is highly probable that VN
had heard about Crowley, who made a disappearance act in Lisbon or in Spain:
a suicide note was later found suggesting that he was dead (the poet
Fernando Pessoa, as I read somewhere, continued in touch with Crowley
“after his demise.”)

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