Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023589, Wed, 16 Jan 2013 17:22:00 +0000

Re: Centaur in Ada

“From the sublime to the ridiculous” (or in Fritz Spiegl’s “mock-Cockney”
version, “From the sublime to the COR-BLIMEY”) is NOT strictly a PROVERB.
You need to identify the two entities being compared before you can claim to
be waxing proverbially! In Fritz’s case, it was his reaction when I showed
him a computerised catalogue where Mozart’s Don Giovanni had been
abbreviated to MOZDONG. (The punched-card field allocated only 7 columns to

I think the usage too widespread to grant any significance to googled
“matches,” whether from Pushkin or Freud. I also think linking horses to
chestnuts to brain-shapes to VN’s lament over torture is “stretching it a

Alexey: A simpler bridge (but why?) might be the idiomatic use of каштан for
“dirty work?” (assuming my amateur dictionary browsing does not mislead)
Stan Kelly-Bootle

On 15/01/2013 03:15, "Jansy" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

> A.Sklyarenko:"Updike's Chiron (I've read it 23 years ago) is mentioned in Ada
> (1.21): emphatic Miss Vertograd had noticed that she and giggling Verger...
> shared also a spectacular skin disease that had been portrayed recently by a
> famous American novelist in his Chiron. Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'):
> Chiron: doctor among centaurs: an allusion to Updike's best novel.[ ] Since
> human brain resembles a walnut, this quote seems relevant: the human brain can
> become the best torture house of all those it has invented, established and
> used in millions of years, in millions of lands, on millions of howling
> creatures. (Ada, 1.3)
> Jansy Mello: Thanks, AS for the tip about the reference to Updike's Chiron in
> ADA, and the leap that leads one from the horse to the bull (Taurus)
> Wikipedia: "The Greek word kentauros is generally regarded as of obscure
> origin The etymology from ken – tauros, "piercing bull-stickers" was a
> uhemerist suggestion in Palaephatus' rationalizing text on Greek mythology, On
> Incredible Tales (Περὶ ἀπίστων): mounted archers from a village called Nephele
> eliminating a herd of bulls that were the scourge of Ixion's kingdom.[19]
> Another possible related etymology can be "bull-slayer".[20] Some[who?] say
> that the Greeks took the constellation of Centaurus, and also its name
> "piercing bull", fromMesopotamia, where it symbolized the god Baal who
> represents rain and fertility, fighting with and piercing with his horns the
> demon Motwho represents the summer drought. In Greece, the constellation of
> Centaurus was noted by Eudoxus of Cnidus in the fourth century BC and by
> Aratus in the third century"
> In your next posting, you mentioned that: "Pushkin called Peter I velikiy
> Pyotr (Peter the Great). Ot velikogo do smeshnogo tol'ko odin shag (it is only
> a step from the sublime to the ridiculous)." This proverb is quoted by Lev
> Kassil in his memoir essay on Mayakovski (Na kapitanskom mostike, On the
> Captain's Bridge, 1934):"
> Nabokov must have been aware of Pushkin's opinion about Peter I and, perhaps,
> even of Sigmund Freud's familiarity with the same sentence quoted in one of
> his examples about dream interpretation.*
> ..............................................................................
> ...
> * - Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.
> 1920.Part Two: The Dream - VII. Manifest Dream Content and Latent Dream
> Thought [www.bartleby.com/283/7.html -]
> A sceptical patient has a longer dream, in which certain people happen to tell
> her about my book concerning laughter and praise it highly. Then something is
> mentioned about a certain“‘canal,’ perhaps another book in which ‘canal’
> occurs, or something else with the word ‘canal’ … she doesn’t know … it is all
> confused.”
> Now you will be inclined to think that the element “canal” will evade
> interpretation because it is so vague. You are right as to the supposed
> difficulty, but it is not difficult because it is vague, but rather it is
> vague for a different reason, the same reason which also makes the
> interpretation difficult. The dreamer can think of nothing concerning the word
> canal, I naturally can think of nothing. A little while later, as a matter of
> fact on the next day, she tells me that something occurred to her that may
> perhaps be related to it, a joke that she has heard. On a ship between Dover
> and Calais a well-known author is conversing with an Englishman, who quoted
> the following proverb in a certain connection: “Du sublime au ridicule, il n’y
> a qu’un pas.” The author answers, “Oui, le pas de Calais,” with which he
> wishes to say that he finds France sublime and England ridiculous. But the
> “Pas de Calais” is really a canal, namely, the English Channel. Do I think
> that this idea has anything to do with the dream? Certainly, I believe that it
> really gives the solution to the puzzling dream fragments. Or can you doubt
> that this joke was already present in the dream, as the unconscious factor of
> the element, “canal.” Can you take it for granted that it was subsequently
> added to it? The idea testifies to the scepticism which is concealed behind
> her obtrusive admiration, and the resistance is probably the common reason for
> both phenomena, for the fact that the idea came so hesitatingly and that the
> decisive element of the dream turned out to be so vague. Kindly observe at
> this point the relation of the dream element to its unconscious factor. It is
> like a small part of the unconscious, like an allusion to it; through its
> isolation it became quite unintelligible.

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