NABOKV-L post 0011032, Tue, 15 Feb 2005 09:37:20 -0800

Subject
Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin & ADA
Date
Body

----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: don barton johnson
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2005 8:44 AM
Subject: Fw: Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin



----Mensagem Original-----
De: STADLEN@aol.com
Para: jansy@aetern.us
Enviada em: Segunda-feira, 14 de Fevereiro de 2005 11:32
Assunto: Re: Fw: Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin


Dear Jansy,

Many thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have always had a bit of a block about "Ada", though I hope to overcome it one day. Your letter may provide a push. I do like the lecture on dreams.

I think what VN's narrator means by "Space thrives on surds" is that "space", as the narrator understands it, is abstract, "objective", Newtonian, "out there", infinitely divisible, so that any line contains infinitely many points, including the infinitely many more surds than rational points (mathematically, there are the "aleph-null" order of infinity of rational points, representable by rational numbers, i.e. fractions, but the infinitely greater order of infinity of the continuum that includes the non-rational, surd points). Whereas time, as the narrator understands it, seems to be be what phenomenologists call "lived time", not dissectable into abstract points representable on an abstract line of rationals and surds.

However, phenomenologists have also studied "lived space", which of course is by no means abstract, but living and breathing like lived time, not at all thriving on surds. But VN is contemptous of "space" (not only in the passage you cite but also somewhere -- "Speak, Memory"? "Strong Opinions"? -- where he talks about the surgical operation he would like to perform to cut space from "space-time" and consign it to the slop-bucket, or words to that effect). I do not think "lived space", say in Minkowski or Heidegger, makes any sense without time -- lived time. VN is surely right that you can't just stick "space", as a kind of independent region onto "time", as another: that's why he regards the hyphen of "space-time" as stupid.

Would you be offended if I ask whether you are a man or a woman? For what name, if any, is Jansy short? I enjoy your contributions. Why was this one not posted?

Best regards,

Tony Stadlen

----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: don barton johnson
Sent: Sunday, February 13, 2005 10:03 PM
Subject: Fw: Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin


Has this material reached you? I sent it to the List just after lunch here...

----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Sunday, February 13, 2005 2:03 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin


Surds are also present in Ada. While I was pondering about the eggs of time in Chapter 4, I came across:
The notion of Space must have been formed before that of Time (Guyau in Whitrow). The indistinguisable inane (Locke) of infinite space is mentally distinguishable (and indeed could not be imagined otherwise) from the ovoid 'void' of Time. Space thrives on surds, Time is irreducible to blackboard roots and birdies. The same section of Space may seem more extensive to a fly than to S. Alexander, but a moment to him is not 'hours to a fly,' because if that were true flies would know better than wait to get swapped. I cannot imagine Space without Time, but I can very well imagine Time without Space. 'Space-Time' - that hideous hybrid whose very hyphen looks phoney. One can be a hater of Space, and a lover of Time.

There are people who can fold a road map. Not this writer.



So... the plot thickens?

Jansy

----- Original Message -----
From: Donald B. Johnson
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Saturday, February 12, 2005 10:21 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin


EDNOTE. NABOKV-L thanls Dr. Stadlen for an illuminating response.

----- Forwarded message from STADLEN@aol.com -----
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2005 15:09:35 EST
From: STADLEN@aol.com

In a message dated 12/02/2005 02:28:17 GMT Standard Time,
chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu writes:

> Would someone explain the general opposition of solids and surds, and
> how the latter applies to the scholars in question [Pnin, Vintage p41]?
>
> "There are human solids and there are human surds, and Clements and
> Pnin belonged to the latter variety."
> Many thanks.
>
> Sandy Drescher
>
>

As one who read mathematics at Cambridge, I had always taken it that this was
a poetic rather than a mathematical opposition. Mathematically, it is absurd.
This is what makes it humorously right. It compares entities of different
logical category. And there is no reason, for instance, why all or some of the
dimensions of a solid should not be surds. For example, in a cube of side 1
unit, the diagonals of the faces have length the square root of 2, and the
diagonal of the cube itself has the length the square root of 3, and these are
both
surds, i.e., irrational numbers.

Surds are irrational numbers such as the square root of 2; they include
transcendental numbers such as pi. They cannot be expressed as the ratio of two
integers (whole numbers, such as 1, 2, 3,...). Pythagorean legend has it that
someone (Hippasus?) died in a shipwreck because he had revealed the
irrationality
of the square root of 2. Beckett (in his essay on Bram van Velde, in relation
to the "realisation that art has always been bourgeois") speaks of the
"Pythagorean terror" at the "irrationality" of pi. (I'm writing from memory.
Beckett's also a bit inaccurate, as the Pythagoreans can hardly have known pi
was
irrational.)

So the opposition VN is evoking, based on the wordplay of s...ds, is surely
beween prosaic solidity, squareness, bourgeois philistinism, on the one hand
and some kind of individuality, transcendence, otherness on the other.

Anthony Stadlen

----- End forwarded message -----



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In a message dated 12/02/2005 02:28:17 GMT Standard Time, chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu writes:


Would someone explain the general opposition of solids and surds, and
how the latter applies to the scholars in question [Pnin, Vintage p41]?

"There are human solids and there are human surds, and Clements and
Pnin belonged to the latter variety."
Many thanks.

Sandy Drescher




As one who read mathematics at Cambridge, I had always taken it that this was a poetic rather than a mathematical opposition. Mathematically, it is absurd. This is what makes it humorously right. It compares entities of different logical category. And there is no reason, for instance, why all or some of the dimensions of a solid should not be surds. For example, in a cube of side 1 unit, the diagonals of the faces have length the square root of 2, and the diagonal of the cube itself has the length the square root of 3, and these are both surds, i.e., irrational numbers.

Surds are irrational numbers such as the square root of 2; they include transcendental numbers such as pi. They cannot be expressed as the ratio of two integers (whole numbers, such as 1, 2, 3,...). Pythagorean legend has it that someone (Hippasus?) died in a shipwreck because he had revealed the irrationality of the square root of 2. Beckett (in his essay on Bram van Velde, in relation to the "realisation that art has always been bourgeois") speaks of the "Pythagorean terror" at the "irrationality" of pi. (I'm writing from memory. Beckett's also a bit inaccurate, as the Pythagoreans can hardly have known pi was irrational.)

So the opposition VN is evoking, based on the wordplay of s...ds, is surely beween prosaic solidity, squareness, bourgeois philistinism, on the one hand and some kind of individuality, transcendence, otherness on the other.

Anthony Stadlen