-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Brian Boyd on Chose in ADA
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 16:28:18 +1300
From: "Brian Boyd (FOA ENG)" <b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz>
To: "'Vladimir Nabokov Forum'" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

"Chose" is a puzzling name, and didn't come up in association with Cambridge in my searches for annotating ADA or for the Nabokov biography (which included scouring through, e.g., old issues of Granta, now a famous literary journal but in Nabokov's time just a local student magazine--named, of course, after the local term for the Cam, and supplying the river “Ranta” associated in ADA with Chose).

I'm afraid Alexey's conjecture about "chose" and Les Fleurs du Mal seems most unlikely; “chose” is as common in French as “thing” in English or “veshch'” in Russian and could be found in other texts in more or less close proximity to Aqua (such as A la Recherche du temps perdu).

I offer from my Annotations to ADA one likely, but perhaps incomplete, explanation, and one unlikely, that nevertheless involves “Chose” as (albeit temporarily) the name for a town.

18.24: Chose: This proves to be Antiterran for Cambridge, England, although the reason remains unclear. Perhaps because of the expression "Hobson's choice," from the practice of Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), the famous "university carrier" at Cambridge, who when he hired out horses made each customer "choose" the horse nearest the door. Milton wrote two poems on the death of Hobson, whose name--as Nabokov would have known from his years there as a student (1919-22)--is commemorated around Cambridge in, for instance, Hobson's Conduit and Hobson's Brook (also known as the Cambridge New River).

Though this seems an even less likely connection, I note it anyway, since it shows "Chose" playing, even if briefly, the part of a town's name. In Villette (1853), by Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), narrator Lucy Snowe hears Ginevra Fanshawe declare: "`I was excessively happy at Bonn!' `And where are you now?' I inquired.//`Oh! at - chose,' said she. Now Miss Ginevra Fanshawe (such was this young person's name) only substituted this word `chose' in temporary oblivion of the real name. It was a habit she had: `chose' came in at every turn in her conversation - the convenient substitute for any missing word in any language she might chance at the time to be speaking. French girls often do the like; from them she had caught the custom. `Chose,' however, I found, in this instance, stood for Villette - the great capital of the great kingdom of Labassecour." (Ch. 6) Villette in fact is a version of Brussels.

I should add that the only place name on Terra rather than the antiterras of fiction that is called “Villette” is in Vaud Canton, between Montreux, where Nabokov lived while writing ADA, and Lausanne, where he would visit his tailor every year to have new shorts made for him for butterfly hunting. Passing Villette so often for this and other reasons COULD have piqued Nabokov’s curiosity to read the novel. But it’s improbable, and even if he did, offers no link with Cambridge.

-----Original Message-----
From: Donald Johnson [mailto:chtodel@cox.net]
Sent: Thursday, 31 October 2002 3:46 p.m.
Subject: [Fwd: Quelques Fleurs du Mal]

EDNOTE. An idle thought. Does anyone know--especially you Brits---if "Chose" was ever used as a nick-name for Cambridge. I wonder because "Ardvaark" is used in ADA for Harvard and is, in fact, an old nickname for Harvard.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Quelques Fleurs du Mal
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 01:14:50 +0300
From: "alex" <sklyarenko@users.mns.ru>
To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Dear all,
I apologize, if somebody has already explored the following issue:
In 1.3 (Part One, Chapter 3)of Ada, after she has fled froma mad house (her current "home") and has reached Demon's country house at Kitezh, poorAqua sees a glass container with talc powder colorfully marked Quelques Fleursstanding on her former bedside table. Why this name ("some flowers") is "colorful" and what it is in factcommemorating remains unclear until much later, namely 1.28 of the novel. In the first sentence of this chapter Aqua is parenthetically mentioned and, a page or two laterin that chapter,Van, her putative son, goes to Chose University in England where he wants to study psychiatry so as to understand the nature of Aqua's mental illness that has caused her to commit a suicide.
So, here is "Chose", another quaint name.
And still later in that chapter there isreminiscence of Baudlelaire's poem Le crepuscule du matin (from his book Les Fleurs du Mal), the line ten of which goes:
L'air est plein du frisson des choses qui s'enfuient
("The air is full ofthrill of things that are passing away" - if I translate it right from one language which I don't know at all into another which I know only slightly).
Thus, if I'm not mistaken, Van's Universityreceived itsname after a word in Baudelaire's poem and Aqua's talc powder was named in honor of the title of the book containing that poem.
I may addthat Quelque Chose (a kickshaw, something attractive)would be a possible namefor a talc powder (at least, it seems to me, the Frenchless,so), while Quelques Fleurs, though perfectly colorless, sounds (to me) rather strange.
I apologize forpossible (and inevitable) mistakes and the absence of the accent aigu above the first "e" increpuscule.
best regards to everybody,
Alexey Sklyarenko, sklyarenko@users.mns.ru