Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024877, Wed, 11 Dec 2013 09:13:51 -0800

Re: Sighting & Quiz
Interesting that in Pale Fire the insect is a cicada - in English the usual translation of the fable is "the Grasshopper and the Ant."

Can anyone tell the difference between cicada and grasshopper? They don't resemble each other, I know that much. I purchased some cloth napkins recently with a design made up of what I took to be bees (a la Napoleon), but the owner of the shop said no, they are cicadas.

Was it Nabokov or La Fontaine who changed grasshopper to cicada? and what was it originally in Aesop's Greek.


p.s. I don't know if there are any cicada songs, but there is a charming French song that begins "Un fourmis de dix-huit metres avec un chapeau sur sa tete - ca n'existe - non non - ca n'existe - non non." 

From: Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US>
Sent: Sunday, December 8, 2013 11:25 PM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Sighting & Quiz

Carolyn Kunin: Seagulls
and Cigales! I
didn't think of that! Interesting that the "quip" as you call it belongs to
Kinbote and not to Shade as I misremembered. I should have expected the artist
to prefer "alive the song."
Mary Efremov: i think aqua was madder
than marina in ada
Jansy Mello: Thanks to both C.Kunin
and Mary Efremov for having corrected my slips.
The verses about "the Frenchman in Nice" are Shade's
,and the comment about the Queen's monument is Kinbote's.*
I expect that Shade prefers "alive the song,"
like Nabokov. However, on his walk back home with Sybil, on the day of his daughter's
death, Shade discovered "an empty emerald case" close to "its companion piece, a gum-logged ant."
(line 240) and, therefore, he must be also indicating that a
cicada has managed to escape from her "case,"
whereas the ant's body (cum dead mandible) was preserved in
amber. If Hazel's death represents her being freed from her
"emerald" prison to live the immortal life of the soul, I suppose
that the poet must at least have planned to draw on a
distinction bt. the artist's material and his spiritual
I also meant to refer to Aqua's madness, not
* - Line 240: ...When
I visited Nice a quarter of a century later...Not many Englishmen walked there,
anyway, though I noticed quite a few just east of Mentone, on the quay where in
honor of Queen Victoria a bulky monument, with difficulty embraced by the
breeze, had been erected, but not yet unshrouded, to replace the one the Germans
had taken away. Rather pathetically, the eager horn of her pet monoceros
protruded through the shroud. (C.Kinbote).
Shade (lines 240-245): " ... That
Englishman in Nice,/A proud and happy linguist: je
nourris/Les pauvres cigales — meaning
that he/Fed the poor sea
gulls!/ Lafontaine was wrong:/Dead is
the mandible, alive the song."

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