A postscript, hopefully helpful. The text in question is the note to line 149 (on page 137 ff in my old Dutton edition), which details first the geography of the Zembla peninsula, bifurcated by the Bera Range but connected by "two asphalted highways." The peninsula is also said to be "cut off basally by an impassable canal from the mainland of madness", suggesting that the geography is actually a metaphor for what is described by neuroscientists as "brain architecture."
It would be interesting to have a neurologist read this note and get his/her reaction!

The Karlists' escape route follows one of the highways, but is blocked "when a confused blaze in the darkness before them, at the intersection of the old and new highways, revealed a road-block that at least had the merit of canceling both routes at one stroke."

The word stroke of course is the give-away. When Shade has his last one in his bath, he is shaving, stroke after stroke. Aunt Maud died of a stroke, but I can't locate it in the book just now.

Another clue is also found on page 137, the note to "line 143: a clockwork toy.  By a stroke of luck, I have seen it!" The toy turns up again in the poem's last two lines: "Some neighbor's gardener, I guess --goes by/Trundling an empty barrow up the lane."


On Tuesday, June 19, 2018 7:37 PM, Mary Ross <maryross.illustrator@GMAIL.COM> wrote:

Your hypothesis sounds like a very interesting interpretation, Carolyn. Do you have a link to it somewhere?

Mary Ross

On Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 7:52 AM Carolyn Kunin <chaiselongue@att.net> wrote:
Dear List Members,

I was thrilled to read the following in yesterday's Wall St Journal:

                               NEW SKILLS BUILD NEW BRAIN ARCHITECTURE              
Susan Pinker

    "The latest tools of neuroscience allow us to witness, as never before, the electrical flares, chemical land-slides and sluicing of water from zone to zone that alter the geography of the brain as it changes.
 "Evidence of the ways neural tisssue is partially destroyed after a strok or the onset of dementia has been around for decades. But proof that missing or miswired human brains connections can grow again -- what neuroscientists call plasticity -- has so far been thin on the ground. In 2014 a study showed that for mice, novel experiences prompt almost immediate changes in white matter -- the brain's connective tissue, or highway system." [the italics are mine]

The rest of the article is worth reading, but it is in these first two paragraphs that I found confirmation of my hypothesis that in describing King Charles's escape from Zembla, Nabokov was actually describing a cerebral episode of some kind, most likely a stroke. The author of this article uses similar metaphors for brain activity and disruption as did VN lo these many years ago.

with regards from Pasadena and
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