Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024867, Fri, 6 Dec 2013 14:30:13 -0200

Re: Sighting & Quiz
Carolyn Kunin [to Jansy] "Sapo or Sapho? Actually Frogs are the French which I usually capitalize, but am sometimes too lazy. But you have not answered my two frogs (uncapitalized questions) - 1) How do you understand "dead the mandible, alive the song" (I quote from memory so may be off); and 2) What has it to do with the Englishman in Nice whose French isn't up to "I am feeding the seagulls"?; oh, and let me add a 3) Doesn't that young woman encountered by King Charlie during his escape from Zembla have breasts resembling your favorite dessert?"

Jansy Mello: What an excellent memory you have. In fact, my seemingly absurd linkage of "montblanc" and "blancmange" must be related to some strange metonymic processes that have been active in VN's "Pale Fire" (I mean: mountain=breast). Not only Shade's White Fountain, the Lady's White Mountain and Mont Blanc are related (as quoted in previous postings) but, following Kinbote: "Zemblan mountain girls are as a rule mere mechanisms of haphazard lust, and Garh was no exception. As soon as she had settled beside him, she bent over and pulled over and off her tousled head the thick gray sweater, revealing her naked back and blancmangé breasts, and flooded her embarrassed companion with all the acridity of ungroomed womanhood." The progression of references equally inspired quotes from "Dear Bunny, dear Volodya" about the Jungfrau (wonderful historical research, Anthony Stadlen*) and the American "Tetons." Amazing.
In TOoL fountains are erections and the same word is also used (elsewhere) to indicate mountains (or Jungfrau or Teton breasts) and monuments**.

In Portuguese (also in Spanish and in Basque) "sapo" initially indicated a specific kind of toad ( Bufo bufo, from the Anura order and Bufonidae family), but the etymology of the word has been lost. In all our fairy-tales "sapo" refers to the toad. There's certainly no relation to Sappho (inspite of the alluring breasts which emerged in the associations linked to VN).

You exemplified your secondary employ of frog (i.e:questions) after the direct reference to the insult addressed at the French. You number (2) frog is most interesting: what links the English linguist in Nice and the theme of seagulls/cigales in connection to La Fontaine's fable about the "La Cigale et la Fourmi." Aside from the obvious mention of "cigales," there's a veiled protuberance (CK's notes on Queen Victoria's shrouded unicorn) and, of course, the equally subreptitions emergent "fountain" in the fabulist's name (La Fontaine, Lafontaine: The Fountain), who Kinbote's contradicts with his quip about "dead the mandible, alive the song," since in the original fable the individual cicada dies together with the immortal song of its species, while the busy silent ant lives on.

* A.Stadlen: "The bizarre -- even Nabokovian -- thing is that some years ago, in an effort to identify the young patient whom Freud mentions in his letters to Fliess, I inspected hotel registers, cure-lists, etc. I also asked the staff and proprietors of a number of Interlaken hotels whether I might view any lavatories installed at the time in question from which one might, in however contorted a position, observe the Jungfrau. These good people assured me politely -- without any hint of a suggestion that my request was an odd one -- that, in the late nineteenth century, while every hotel was built with its best rooms facing the Jungfrau, the lavatories were all at the rear of the building, thus affording no possibility whatever of glimpsing that mountain. In the end, another historian of psychoanalysis (Peter Swales), after much inconclusive research by both of us, identified the young patient (Oskar Fellner) from an archive in Vienna".

A query concerning a recent quote from "Lolita": "... glorious diamond peak upon peak, giant conifers, le montagnard émigré in his bear skin glory..." Who is HH(VN) indicating as a "montagnard émigré" from the perspective of a childhood fascination?

** - btw: In a psychoanalytic session "blancmangé breasts, mandibles, fountains, mountains, erections and a Queen's veiled phallus" might be particularly meaningful. In literature we have 'only words to play with' when the intention is to imitate a truly psychoanalytic interpretation.
As in the poet's words: But in the case/ Of my white fountain what it did replace/ Perceptually was something that, I felt,/Could be grasped only by whoever dwelt/ In the strange world where I was a mere stray. (curiously, Lacan describes the analyst's position as the "place of the dead" - but that's a different story altogether!)

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