Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024596, Tue, 17 Sep 2013 11:32:46 +0300

Re: Chekhov's gun/ Tchékhow's clystère: second thoughts
> I’m not absolutely convinced on the point for a number of reasons, but if
> it is right, why did VN choose “clystère” (=enema) as the metonym for
> Chekhov’s “secondary activity”?
Bloodletting and enemas were among the very few procedures in premodern
medicine, and I have encountered the term "clyster" as a derogatory
nickname for physicians before the 19th century. VN talks about "learned
doctors crowding around the Malade Imaginaire with their dog-Latin and
gigantic belly-pumps" (Nikolai Gogol, p. 2). On second thought, I should
tone down my paraphrasing VN's remark and not say he had claimed Chekhov to
have dabbled in medicine (I still can't recall where). It would still be
fair to read "clystère de Tchékhov"=hobby-horse (an obsolete and slightly
pejorative variant of 'hobby'), which makes also sense in the sentence from

And if I may be pedantic: enema is the procedure, clyster (in English sp.)
is the syringe and/or the nozzle it was performed with.
Peter Ratiu

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