Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025520, Sun, 6 Jul 2014 18:01:50 -0300

Departing from synesthesia, "color hearing",
vision and timelessness
While searching about articles related to "timelessness" (the crystalized
smiling landscape in CCL) I found Laci Mattinson's "Nabokov's Aesthetic
Bergsoninsm: An Intuitive, Reperceptualized Time (Winnipeg, vol 46 n.1),
from where I extracted the following lines:

"Nabokov suggests that to inhabit those timeless moments . one must ... read
not with the eye but the ear, to listen when memory speaks. The eye, says
Van, can only determine space. And, certainly, a text is a space, but one
that is temporally layered. If decalcomania for Nabokov is intended to
replicate not the visual image (the exact location or space, for which Van
critiques Marcel) but the sensation, perhaps the image must first be heard."

The author indicates ADA (and PF), in connection to space and time:

"Space is related to our senses of sight, touch, and muscular effort; Time
is vaguely connected with hearing (still, a deaf man would perceive the
'passage' of time incomparably better than a blind limbless man would the
idea of 'passage'). 'Space is a swarming in the eyes, and Time a singing in
the ears,' says John Shade, a modem poet, as quoted by an invented
philosopher ('Martin Gardiner') in The Ambidextrous Universe, page 165.
Space flutters to the ground, but Time remains between thinker and thumb,
when Monsieur Bergson uses his scissors." (Ada,part IV).

Although much of my work related to timelessness in CCL remains
inconclusive, I thought that still another connection could be fruitfully
brought up to the VN-L. I had read this passage a great many times before,
but only now did a question reach my attention. In "Strong Opinions" Nabokov
once described his synesthesia as "colored hearing" and yet, most of his
developments were related to vision, not to sound. Considering the
importance of sound and "listening" to him, as we find in his other works,
it's curious that the first impression he caused, during that early
interview (1962), privileges sight.

Here is the quote: "Color. I think I was born a painter [ ] However, the
sense of color, the love of color, I've had all my life: and also I have
this rather freakish gift of seeing letters in color. It is called color
hearing." "V is a kind of pale, transparent pink: I think it's called,
technically, quartz pink: this is one of the closest colors that I can
connect with the V. And the N, on the other hand, is a greyish-yellowish
oatmeal color." About his son Dmitri "one letter which he sees as purple,
or perhaps mauve, is pink to me and blue to my wife. This is the letter M.
So the combination of pink and blue makes lilac in his case. Which is as if
genes were painting in aquarelle."

Why did Nabokov mention that his freakish gift is called "color hearing"?

In today's VN-L post there was David Khouri's investigation about Victor's
paternity, in "Pnin" with many citations about painting and color. It made
me think, in relation to VN's "color hearing," that his answer to one
interviewer about the pronunciation of "Pnin," might add the sound dimension
that we might forget about when reacting to VN's lavish brushes. (Interveiw
R.Hughes, 1965) " the "p" is sounded, that's all. But since the "p" is mute
in English words starting with "pn", one is prone to insert a supporting
"uh" sound - "Puh-nin" - which is wrong." I couldn't find a similar
discussion about Pnin/Pnoo (and a passing mention to a round manikin advert
for Michelin tires) in "PF" (I'm almost certain there is one)

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