Vladimir Nabokov

Gor'ko (bitter), sladko (sweet), and Ada's mosquitoes

By md143rbh7f, 18 April, 2021

Regarding the following passage:

"Sladko! (Sweet!)" Pushkin used to exclaim in relation to a different species in Yukon.

Is it possible that Nabokov's particular usage of "sladko" (sweet) here is a reference to the Russian wedding custom of wedding-goers loudly exclaiming "gor'ko! (bitter!), to encourage the couple to kiss, at which point the taste becomes "sladko" (sweet)? Especially given that the entire chapter is about lips, kissing, and the insatiable appetites of both Van and the mosquitoes for Ada's skin.

Apologies if this has been pointed out before; I searched online for annotations but did not see this particular interpretation.

- M


3 years 2 months ago

Ah, it appears I did not search thoroughly enough—I just discovered this post from Alexey Sklyarenko: https://thenabokovian.org/index.php/node/2219

The consummation of the mosquito kiss seems to me to be a particularly salient piece of imagery, though admittedly there are a few nits. For example, the sweetness is not directly tied to the act of kissing as much as scratching the itch; the mosquito's kiss, in this case, creates the bitterness.