Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023732, Mon, 4 Mar 2013 03:29:40 +0000

Re: Fwd: RE: [NABOKV-L] Pnin's own Vladimir?
Current Standard English, unlike French (delirer) and other Romance
languages, as noted by Jansy Mello, no longer has a simple verb meaning “to
be delirious” or “to have/suffer a delirium.”

If Maxim Shrayer’s quote
("she suffered a miscarriage and died the next night, deliring and praying")
is from VN-verbatim, we can assume that he is either teasing us with
‘borrowed’ Latin/French, or, perish the heresy, that VN was unaware of the
now archaic verb “to delirate” reported in Samuel Johnson’s 'Dictionary of
the English Language’ (1755):

To delirate v. [deliro, Lat.] to rave.
Deliration n. [deliratio, Lat.] folly.
Delirious adj. [delirius, Lat.] light-headed; raving; doting.
Delirament n. [deliramentum, Lat.] a doting or foolish, idle story.

I have yet to check VN’s favourite Webster III.
Note the wide semantic drift, with us still! In medical contexts, e.g.,
delirium tremens, we have extreme mental disorders and hallucinations;
elsewhere, one be deliriously happy! Note too, that “doting” in Johnson’s
era was “acting/speaking foolishly,” as surviving in “dotage” (senility).

Jansey Mello correctly identifies a higher-than-usual percentage of Latin
“imports” in Maxim Shrayer’s prose. This comes naturally with all formal,
scholarly genres. The glory of English rests in its convoluted evolution,
freely borrowing from diverse tongues, with no “Academie” straitjacket. The
16th century saw a second “invasion” of Latinised words, as Latin became the
scientific lingua-franca (as well as the language of the only legal Bible
[Jerome’s versio vulgata]). Objectors, preferring their native Anglo-Saxon
roots, fought this flood of “ink-horn” words. But many of the imports
survived simply because they accurately named so many new objects and
concepts with no plausible Anglo-Saxon synonyms.

Re-peripeties: I’m more familiar with using the original Greek, peripeteia
(literally, “a sudden fall or change”). If the aim is to impress
fellow-scholars, that’s the way to go.

I thank Maxim Shrayer for the notes on the role Judaism played in VN’s life
and corpus. I would, however, repeat VN’s own caution about “identifying”
real people and events with those found in his novels:

“The good reader is aware that the quest for real life, real people, and so
forth, is a meaningless process when speaking of books. In a book, the
reality of a person, or object or a circumstance depends exclusively on the
world of that particular book. An original author always invents an original
world, and if a character or an action fits into the pattern of that world,
then we experience the pleasurable shock of artistic truth, no matter how
unlikely the person or thing may seem if transferred into what book
reviewers, poor hacks, call ‘real life.’ There is no such thing as real life
for an author of genius: he must create it himself and then create the
(p. 10. Vladimir Nabokov. Mansfield Park. Lectures on Literature. Harvest
Book/Harcourt Inc. 1980.

Stan Kelly-Bootle.
Maxim Shrayer [in reply to Carolyn Kunin's question about the name
"Mira"]:: "I discuss some of the questions you've raised in the publications
below (I'm only listing the ones you can read online).Mira, of course,
comes from the Hebrew Myriam מִרְים




Jansy Mello: Thanks for sharing your special articles with the List. I'm
looking forward to reading C. K's commentaries!
I noticed a particular "latinization" in your choice of words that echoed
the quote you selected from Nabokov's "Perfection." [ "she suffered a
miscarriage and died the next night, deliring and praying"], namely, the
verb "delirar". Could you inform me a little about it? At first I got the
familiar feeling that the words were in Portuguese (we say "concorda",
"valoriza", "sentimentos", "comemora" and "peripécia" - the last one, in
Portuguese, doesn't suggest the wandering peripatetic motion implied in your
quoting you: 1. "concords with the general sense"; 2. "all encompassing
Russianness that Ivanov himself valorizes in the story"; 3. "thoughts,
sentiments, images"; 4."falls in July or August and commemorates the
destruction of.." ( Saving Jewish-Russian Emigrés, 2010) and "faced with the
peripeties of exile" (Jewish questions on Nabokov's art and life).
I thought that this kind of wording indicated a French influence in
Nabokov's style but now you made me doubt my conclusion. It might be a
typically Russian choice? .

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