Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024813, Wed, 20 Nov 2013 17:52:34 -0200

Re: mosquitoes & Turgenev in ADA

Alexey Sklyarenko:... "During the last week of July, there emerged, with diabolical regularity, the female of Chateaubriand’s mosquito. Chateaubriand (Charles), who had not been the first to be bitten by it… but the first to bottle the offender, and with cries of vindictive exultation to carry it to Professor Brown who wrote the rather slap-bang Original Description (‘small black palpi… hyaline wings… yellowy in certain lights… which should be extinguished if one keeps open the kasements [German printer!]…’ The Boston Entomologist for August, quick work, 1840) was not related to the great poet and memoirist born between Paris and Tagne (as he’d better, said Ada, who liked crossing orchids). (1.17) Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Katya: the ingenue in Turgenev’s 'Fathers and Children'." In a letter of February 24, 1893, to Suvorin Chekhov says that Fathers and Children is a glorious thing and uses the phrase komar nosa ne podtochit* (not a thing can be said against it; literally: "mosquito would not give an edge to its nose") [ ]..." as the saying is, you can't pick a hole in it."[ ] ...

Jansy Mello: Thanks, Alexey, for the wonderful trail of associations and allusions related to mosquitoes in ADA and in Russian Lit. An excellent contribution, from a dedicated scholar, for our understanding the richness of ADA's ploughing fields...
Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish in a novel those casual references to other authors from those that were deliberately planted in it. A common source or saying can be illuminating in this respect, as it's the case with the proverb that mentions mosquitoes as indicative of flawless pieces of writing. Different authors might evoke their shared image or source quite naturally, without necessarily realizing the implications which could (truly or falsely) bind them together.

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