Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023648, Sat, 9 Feb 2013 14:40:12 -0800

Re: War and Peace
Dear Jansy and the List,

First, Rider Haggard is the author of She - a book I plan to buy and read asap
(I doubt it is in any but university libraries these days).

Ada is, we should always remember, firstly a fictional character, and two,
doubly a fictional character as she is portrayed to us by another fictional

As a player of chess, Nabokov is of course intrigued by the play of symmetry
(the chess board) and asymmetry (the position of the pieces on the board - in
other words, the white king looks at the red queen, not at the red king). If
this were not so, the game of chess would be boring indeed.

Now what has this to do with your question? anti-Terra is a distortion of Terra
(the world that the reader lives in and knows). But is it a mirror image? I
don't think so. Anti-terra is an invention of Van's. And Van is an invention of
VvN - now that may be significant or not.

Who is Ada? Ah, da! Ada (literally 'Hell') and everyone knows that Hell hath no
fury like a woman scorned. Is Ada scorned? Well, perhaps. Why does she need to
murder so many of her lovers? Is she a black widow spider -- probably not. She
does not eat her victims, but at least one (her mentor, whose name escapes me -
ah, da - Krolik, the white rabbit) is fed to her larvae.

At this point it becomes too confusing to speak of clearly. Larvae are literally
'white things' - sometimes taken to be ghosts (of what? of whom?) -
scientifically the true name is 'instar' - the seed of a worm or caterpillar.
And now we are in the land of Lepidotery. Well you see we have gone round in a
circle. And we can keep on doing this ad infinitum - but what is the point of

I no longer read the Nabokov novels I have already read and re-read. What's the
point? There are so many I have yet to read - and then there are the plays and
the poetry.

Ars longa, vida brevis.

p.s. I didn't respond to the last part of your query. The answer is that as far
as we know Van may be impotent. Ada, like most novels, is fiction within fiction
within fiction. Does Van have a mother? Does he have siblings? These are all
false questions. The work of art is bit of fluff, a bit of nothing formed into a
shape that we can perceive. According to some, including Alan Watts and
Shakespeare, all the world's a stage and our little lives are rounded with a
sleep. By the way, if not too late please see the film (poorly translated title)
A Royal Affair - much there to explain how a King can be both a fool and an
admirer of Shakespeare; how a physician can be a brilliantly enlightened man and
a total idiot; how a woman scorned as a lover can be worshipped as a mother.
Hitchcock understood it best - fictional characters, just like real characters,
are driven by a desire for something - Hitchcock called it the 'McGuffin' - it
does not matter at all what it is. It only matters that it drives the story. At
this point theater, art and psychology dissolve together. That's as best I can
explain it.

Van fantasizes everything - that is Ada.

From: Jansy <jansy@AETERN.US>
Sent: Wed, February 6, 2013 12:40:01 PM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] War and Peace

Carolyn Kunin: Who is Ada? Literally 'she who must be obeyed' or 'the lady from
Hell.' Who is Ada? [ah, da!] A poisoner? certainly. A femme fatale? Most
definitely. Greedy? Insatiable? Yes, she is all those things. But she is also a
great scientist, a consummate gameswoman (see the current film version of Anna
Karenina to see how she and Van played a much more interesting game than
Scrabble) and most important, she is much loved - firstly by her brother, who
only fantasizes a sexual relationship with the one woman who was not in love
with him - but by everyone who encounters her. The clue to her power is her
name. A palindrome, a pun, a miror image and a mirror. Who hates her? Her
author. Why? I have no idea. [ ] ps She also goes by other names Mrs Percy de
Prey, and is she not also perhaps Mrs Ronald Oranger? In other words, is she
not immortal? Lilith herself perhaps?

Jansy Mello: Dear Carolyn ( Hi!) Your reply to the query "Who is Ada?" was
unexpected and complex.
I was thinking, at first, about Ada's cosmopolitan (un)Russian attitudes,
and trying to learn more about what is her mother tongue and.country of
birth (neutral Switzerland?), even in the transformed world of
Antiterra, prejudiced in favor of the usual patriotic allegiances and
nationalities. Crimea capitulates, Percy de Prey dies fighting for his(?)
Official family trees seem to be the main reference in Antiterra, inspite of
Did Ada indeed enchant everyone who encounters her? Her list of suitors and
lovers is not very impressive, at least in the eyes of Van.
Did I read you correctly, meaning that Van loved her, but fantasized sexual
encounters with another woman who wasn't in love with him (who was this woman?

I'm confused, as you can easily witness.
Google Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options Visit AdaOnline
View NSJ Ada Annotations Temporary L-Soft Search the archive

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/