Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025707, Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:08:14 -0300

Humbert, the huntsman
Some conjectures are only silly adventures that carry us nowhere, some may
stimulate others to search for better ideas or more detailed facts. I ignore
if there's a real connection between the names "Arthur" and "Humbert," but I
rediscovered B.Boyd's article indicating passages from the Arthurian legend
in "Lolita"* (which VN read and can be found in the shelves of Sebastian
Knight: Malory's Le Morthe d'Arthur)

Various sites inform about the etymology of names and they give unconfirmed
references related to "Arthur" and to "Humbert": in both we come across
references to "bear" [obviously an important animal for Russians, Germans
(Berlin), Swiss (Berne) and even in Ada's "Flaubert/bear" and the "Ursus",
perhaps even in Pale Fire's heavenly constellations]. A coincidence? A
whimsical use by VN?

Googling brings up a certain Saint Hubert, who is the patron saint of
hunters. His conversion took place during a hunting expedition when he was
unable to kill a stag associated to a Christian crucifix. There are several
references to "does", but not to a stag.** However, any association between
the hunter St. Hubert and Humbert Humbert (Disney's Humbert repents and
spares Snow White) appears to me in very (very!) bad taste - unless the
choice of the name Humbert in the novel is indicative of HH's final
repentance and redemption (something quite controversial).


*- Brian Boyd writes in "Lolita, what we know, what we don't": "There is
much, much more we need to learn about Lolita. [ ] We need to get
annotating, we need to get interpreting. We still don't know Lolita."
This conclusion is presented a few paragraphs after: "Vivian Darkbloom, as
we know, is a woman and an anagram of "Vladimir Nabokov," but Vivian is also
the woman who in Arthurian legend and in Tennyson's retelling is able to
usurp Merlin's magic and entrap him within his own spell. After Wace,
Lolita's next rendezvous with Quilty is at Elphinstone, which surely evokes
the elfin stone out of which Arthur at last draws the sword Excalibur when
no one else can, and which proves to be the place where Lolita is at last
pulled out from Humbert's clutches on Independence Day."

** - "She gave me one of those wounded - doe looks that irritated me so
much."(Charlotte) ! Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me;
try to discern the doe in me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity
/She was again fast asleep, my nymphet, but still I did not dare to launch
upon my enchanted voyage(Humbert); A great user of roadside facilities, my
unfastidious Lo would be charmed by toilet signs - Guys-Gals, John-Jane,
Jack-Jill and even Buck's-Doe's (HH-Lo); For her birthday I bought her a
bicycle, the doe-like and altogether charming machine already mentioned
(HH-Lo); "the accursed playlet belonged to the type of whimsy for juvenile
consumption, arranged and rearranged many times, such as Hansel and Gretel
by Richard Roe, or The Sleeping Beauty by Dorothy Doe, or The Emperor's New
Clothes by Maurice Vermont and Marion Rumpelmeyer [ ] I did not know - and
would not have cared, if I did - that actually The Enchanted Hunters was a
quite recent and technically original composition." (HH-Quilty)

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