NABOKV-L post 0024011, Tue, 23 Apr 2013 22:03:10 +0000

Re: BIRTHDAY: Rattner and Star Tsars
In honor of VN's birthday, being gloriously celebrated in Galya Diment's class with a toothsome 114th birthday cake, all I can do is pick up on Abdel Bouazza's mention of Ratttner in his footnote below, as a character in Wyndham Lewis's The Apes of God, and offer this note from the next instalment to my "Annotations to Ada," on Part 1 Chapter 37, which should be out in The Nabokovian within a week or two. When in due course this instalment goes live on AdaOnline, it will be updated with a reference to Abdel's noting of Vladimir's reading of Wyndham's book featuring Julius R.

Brian Boyd
230.04: reading Rattner on Terra: The first mention of the leading scholar of Terra, “the great Rattner” (317.10); Van will later be elected “to the Rattner Chair of Philosophy in the University of Kingston” (506.25-26).
“Rattner,” although a genuine surname (the surname, for instance, of President Obama’s “Car Czar,” Steven Rattner [1952- ]), is an anagram of “N.T. Terra” or “Antiterra.”
“Rattner” also echoes the name of H.G. Wells’s “The Plattner Story,” in The Plattner Story and Others (1897), which Nabokov, who read Wells avidly as a youth, could have read in his father’s library, whose supplementary catalog (1911) lists this volume (p. 15). “The Plattner Story” describes modern languages teacher (and part-time untrained chemistry teacher) Gottfried Plattner’s being hurled by an explosion into an Other-World for nine days before another explosion there, caused by the same green powder, hurls him back to our world. As the first half of the story emphasizes, in the process he seems to have been rotated through four-dimensional space so that his insides have undergone a mirror-reversal.
The second half of the story focuses on the Other-World into which Plattner reports he was transported. According to Plattner’s account to the narrator, this parallel world, which seems to match our world topologically, is lit by a dim green sun whose rise dims the visions of his home patch of our world. As its sun’s light “grew, the spectral vision of our world became relatively or absolutely fainter. . . . This extinction of our world, when the green sun of this other universe rose, is a curious point upon which Plattner insists.” This other world is filled with globelike drifting heads with tadpole bodies, who observe individuals in our world: “to almost every human being in our world there pertained some of these drifting heads; that everyone in the world is watched intermittently by these helpless disembodiments.”
Wells’s narrator asks: “What are they—these Watchers of the Living? Plattner never learned. But two, that presently found and followed him, were like his childhood's memory of his father and mother. Now and then other faces turned their eyes upon him: eyes like those of dead people who had swayed him, or injured him, or helped him in his youth and manhood. . . . He simply tells this story: he does not endeavour to explain. We are left to surmise who these Watchers of the Living may be, or, if they are indeed the Dead, why they should so closely and passionately watch a world they have left for ever. It may be—indeed to my mind it seems just—that, when our life has closed, when evil or good is no longer a choice for us, we may still have to witness the working out of the train of consequences we have laid. If human souls continue after death, then surely human interests continue after death.” As he draws toward a conclusion, he comments on “this dark
world, with its livid green illumination and its drifting Watchers of the
Living, which, unseen and unapproachable to us, is yet lying all about us” (, accessed March 16, 2013).
The name “Rattner” also nearly scrambles the name of “The Ranter (the usually so sarcastic and captious Chose weekly)” (181.01-02), the newspaper which celebrates Van’s performance as Mascodagama. Just before elaborating on the details of his Mascodagama act, Van reports that “During his first summer vacation, Van worked under Tyomkin, at the Chose famous clinic, on an ambitious dissertation he never completed, ‘Terra: Eremitic Reality or Collective Dream?’ He interviewed numerous neurotics, among whom there were variety artists, and literary men, and at least three intellectually lucid, but spiritually ‘lost,’ cosmologists who either were in telepathic collusion (they had never met and did not even know of one another’s existence) or had discovered, none knew how or where, by means, maybe, of forbidden ‘ondulas’ of some kind, a green world rotating in space and spiraling in time, which in terms of matter-and-mind was like ours and which they described in the same specific details as three people watching from three separate windows would a carnival show in the same street” (182.16-29). This “green world” that Van analyzes at Chose is not identical with Plattner’s, but it seems to bear a close relationship both to Plattner’s and to the beliefs about Terra that Aqua and others succumb to: “Sick minds identified the notion of a Terra planet with that of another world and this ‘Other World’ got confused not only with the ‘Next World’ but with the Real World in us and beyond us” (20.27-30).
Cf. also 283.01-02: “Van was lying in his netted nest under the liriodendrons, reading Antiterrenus on Rattner”; 370.06-08: “’Rattner on Terra!’ ejaculated Lucette. ‘Van is reading Rattner on Terra. Pet must never, never disturb him and me when we are reading Rattner!’”
MOTIF: Rattner on Terra; Terra.

On 22/04/2013, at 11:12 PM, A. Bouazza <mushtary@YAHOO.COM<mailto:mushtary@YAHOO.COM>> wrote:

The following quotes offer what I would like to call “lessons in comparative fiction” in VN. They not only serve to contrast his techniques from, or to parody, those of his predecessors, but also to instruct the reader in the evolution of fiction writing.
The chronological selection is of course far from exhaustive and owes more to their memorable character than to a rereading of his entire oeuvre.
It is hardly surprising that most of these “lessons” are to be found in Ada, or Ardor.

This pair of slippers…our lovers kept in the lower drawer of the corner chest, for life not infrequently imitates the French novelists. King Queen Knave

She was the daughter of a well-known theatrical manager, a willowy, wispy, fair-haired girl with colorless eyes and pathetic little pimples just above that kind of small nose which English lady novelists call “retroussée” (note the second “e” added for safety). Laughter in the Dark *

It [the street] rose at a barely perceptible angle, beginning with a post office and ending with a church, like an epistolary novel. The Gift

“Eez eet zee verity,” said Beuret, suddenly shifting to English…and speaking it like a Frenchman in an English book, “eez eet zee verity zat…zee disposed chef of the state has been captured together with a couple of other blokes (when the author gets bored by the process –or forgets)… Bend Sinister

At the next turning, the romantic mansion appeared on the gentle eminence of old novels. Ada

[Rattner] seemed as dull as the rain that could be discerned slanting in parallel pencil lines against the darker background of a larch plantation, borrowed, Ada contended, from Mansfield Park.**

Dr. Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don't you, Smith?)

"C'est ma dernière nuit au château," she said softly, and rephrased it in her quaint English, elegiac and stilted, as spoken only in obsolete novels. "'Tis my last night with thee."

"I want to ask you," she said quite distinctly, but also quite beside herself because his ramping palm had now worked its way through at the armpit, and his thumb on a nipplet made her palate tingle: ringing for the maid in Georgian novels…

That library had provided a raised stage for the unforgettable scene of the Burning Barn; it had thrown open its glazed doors; it had promised a long idyll of bibliolatry; it might have become a chapter in one of the old novels on its own shelves; a touch
of parody gave its theme the comic relief of life.

She said: “Speaking as a character in an old novel, it seems so long, long ago, davnïm davno, since I used to play word-games here with Grace and two other lovely girls. 'Insect, incest, nicest.'”

What constricted his heart? Why did he pass his tongue over his thick lips? Empty formulas befitting the solemn novelists of former days who thought they could explain everything.

"I remember the cards," she said, "and the light and the noise of the rain, and your blue cashmere pullover—but nothing else, nothing odd or improper, that came later. Besides, only in French love stories les messieurshument young ladies."

Only by identifying her with an unwritten, half-written, rewritten difficult book could one hope to render at last what contemporary descriptions of intercourse so seldom convey, because newborn and thus generalized, in the sense of primitive organisms of art as opposed to the personal achievement of great English poets dealing with an evening in the country, a bit of sky in a river, the nostalgia of remote sounds—things utterly beyond the reach of Homer or Horace. The Original of Laura

[S]he would bicycle through the Blue Fountain Forest to a romantic refuge where a sparkle of broken glass or a lace-edged rag on the moss were the only signs of an earlier period of literature.

*A quick search through 19th and early 20th century fiction and magazines shows that male novelists were as much guilty of writing “retroussée” as lady novelists - if not more so: “He moved just a trifle, then, so that he could see more of her face; how her extraordinarily long lashes swept her cheek, and her adorable nose, which was ever so slightly retroussée.” Francis Barton Fox, The Heart of Arethusa (1918) chapter XXII.
**The name Rattner brings to mind Julius Ratner, a would-be novelist in Wyndham Lewis’s The Apes of God (1930), “a dreadful dull and flat thing,” as described by VN in his letter of July 23, 1944 to Edmund Wilson apropos his dream of Khodasevich and Lewis and Wilson as a hybrid of Churchill and himself.

A. Bouazza
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