NABOKV-L post 0011071, Sun, 20 Feb 2005 10:26:46 -0800

Subject
Meanings of "BL"
Date
Body
EDNOTE. This is an expanded version of Jansy's earlier posting. I am very glad that someone is following up my suggestion (made 20-odd years ago), about BL. Digital texts and search routine s make possible connections that would have been extremely laborious earlier. I hope others will follow Jansy's example. I have a suspiction that VN may have had a series of these "sub-morphemic" sound sequences.
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Dear Don,
I' ve just posted for the fourth time the "leafy additions" that had not been mailed on to the List. And yet, in my "outbox" they appeared in a strange format. Since they are complicated enough without adding this problem to their already gongoric prolixity I´m mailing them again. Now trying to mark spaces and emphasize repetitions and novel quotations.
I hope this will not add another problem to the one we´re having concerning this text!


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Taking up again items 1 and 2 only as reminder before proceeding with quotations and Boyd´s notes:



1. B. Boyd " Though Ada´s "marybud" is another name for the marigold,
"mollyblob" and "maybubble" are inventions (...) Why does Nabokov invent
"mollyblob" and "maybubble" here? The answer is not easy, but it is
precise: the suggestion of popping in "maybubble" combines with "mollyblob" to point unmistakably to Molly Bloom´s famous musing on the blob of a ruptured hymen" ...Nabokov´s Ada, The Place of Consciousness", 2nd edition by Cybereditions, page 53.



2. Don B.Johnson: " It is a curious and significant fact that at least two of
VV´s wives have the letter sequence "BL" in their names (...) All of these
characters are related to Count Starov and it is their incestuous
consanguinity that is denoted by the alphabetic emblem "BL" in their names.
The sound sequence is, moreover, not randomnly chosen. As we have noted previously in connection with "Ada", Nabokov denies any deep meaning in his use of the incest theme, saying merely that he likes "the bl" sound in siblings, bloom, blue, bliss, sable (SO 122-123). "BL" is Nabokov´s private emblem for the incest theme (...) "Worlds in Regression: Some novels of Vladimir Nabokov", Ardis publishers, 1985, page 139.
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3. VN: ADA I.41
"Maidenhair. Idiot! Percy boy might have been buried by now! Maidenhair. Thus named because of the huge spreading Chinese tree at the end of the platform. Once, vaguely, confused with the Venus’-hair fern. She walked to the end of the platform in Tolstoy’s novel. First exponent of the inner monologue, later exploited by the French and the Irish. N’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert. L’arbre aux quarante écus d’or, at least in the fall. Never, never shall I hear again her ‘botanical’ voice fall at biloba, ‘sorry, my Latin is showing.’ Ginkgo, gingko, ink, inkog. Known also as Salisbury’s adiantofolia, Ada’s infolio, poor Salisburia: sunk; poor Stream of Consciousness, marée noire by now. Who wants Ardis Hall!"



Here we find a confirmation of B.Boyd´s connection when "maybubble" combines with "mollyblob" to point unmistakably to Molly Bloom´s famous musing on the blob of a ruptured hymen" when VN writes about "inkog" and Ada´s "botanical voice fall at biloba (...) sunk; poor stream of consciousness" and the theme now proceeds to adultery and treason ( Anna Karenin, Molly Bloom, Ada ).
Therefore, after the many "darkblooming" blob sounds suggesting the "BL" theme ( which Don considered VN´s "private emblem for the incest theme" ) in note (1.) we should expect that this next link would also keep up with incest, even if in a still more private reference. And yet, the sound "BL" is not clear since the plant´s name " Gingko Biloba" has been slowly degraded into gingko,ink, inkog . No ink-blot nor "blob" in that "kog". Still, there may be hidden " BL" sounds and incest references by exchanging equivalent words to hide them ( such as inkog/inkblot/inkblob).

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In (note 3), quoting directly Nabokov´s text, we find him comparing James Joyce and Tolstoy ( ...Tolstoy’s novel. First exponent of the inner monologue, later exploited by the French and the Irish ) and re-introducing the exchanges on " n´est vert/never,never" theme.

Cf. ADA I.14 ‘She also knows my revised monologue of his mad king,’ said Ada: Ce beau jardin fleurit en mai,Mais en hiver/Jamais, jamais, jamais, jamais, jamais/ N’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert, n’est vert.

This reiterates the discussion about translation as a kind of metamorphosis ( Ada´s criticism concerning the translation of Rimbaud´s poem by several alterations and corrections for the name "buttercup". Also a mention to her own hasty work on Shakespeare´s Lear for Mlle. Larivière ). It may also very succintly bring again, by the "quarante écus d´or" , "The forged louis d’or in that collection of fouled French is the transformation of souci d’eau (our marsh marigold)" with the "maybubble/mollyblob" theme and bloomers.

Cf. ADA I, ch.10 Van: (...) ‘— is it a buttercup?’

Ada: ‘No. That yellow flower is the common Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris. In this country, peasants miscall it "Cowslip," though of course the true Cowslip, Primula veris, is a different plant altogether.(...)‘Now the Russian word for marsh marigold is Kuroslep (which muzhiks in Tartary misapply, poor slaves, to the buttercup) or else Kaluzhnitsa, as used quite properly in Kaluga, U.S.A.’

‘As in the case of many flowers,’ Ada went on, with a mad scholar’s quiet smile, ‘the unfortunate French name of our plant, souci d’eau, has been traduced or shall we say transfigured —’

‘Flowers into bloomers,’ punned Van Veen.

‘— drew my attention (...) to some really gorgeous bloomers (...) in a Mr Fowlie’s soi-disant literal version(...) of Mémoire, a poem by Rimbaud (...) But, to go back to our poor flower. The forged louis d’or in that collection of fouled French is the transformation of souci d’eau (our marsh marigold) into the asinine "care of the water" — although he had at his disposal dozens of synonyms, such as mollyblob, marybud, maybubble, and many other nick-names associated with fertility feasts, whatever those are.’

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If by translation certain false "louis d´or" can be introduced into a poem, or when they may have been substituted by " écus d´or", perhaps other substitutions and metamorphosis are taking place, too. Returning to Brian Boyd´s notes:

146:08 : drawings in ink – a black aster ( evolved from a blot ):

In Marina´s herbarium is a “blue-ink blot shaped accidentally like a flower” (8.07-09) (…) marking the substitution of Van for Aqua´s still born child.

146:12: Van hastened to join Ada in the attic: apparently the scene in the attic described in I.1 (…) echo in the 146.08 of the ink-modified herbarium “flower” .

Comparing with VN´s text:

The specimens were on one side of the folio, with Marina Dourmanoff (sic)’s notes en regard. /Ancolie Bleue des Alpes, Ex en Valais, i.IX.69. From Englishman in hotel. ‘Alpine Columbine, color of your eyes.’/ Epervière auricule. 25.X.69, Ex, ex Dr Lapiner’s walled alpine garden./ Golden [ginkgo] leaf: fallen out of a book’ The Truth about Terra’ which Aqua gave me before going back to her Home. 14.XII.69.




Here we see the various apparitions of the words "ink/blot" and find a reference to "infolio" and leaves that have fallen out which take us back to "en hiver/never" and the "arbre..in the fall". "Ginkgo" ( maidenhair ) makes its appearance, too.

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Also we find in Boyd´s Afternotes:

"Lucette´s third overlap with impatient Van and Ada in I.23 involves the poem “Peter and Margaret” (…) “his own wonderful drawings in ink – a black aster ( evolved from a blot )……other links with 15.I.70 and afternote to I.1, plus Boyd1985/2001:262-71".

( Copied from "The Nabokovian" 52, spring 2004/ "The Nabokovian", 47, Fall 2001 ).

CF. Nabokov Ada I.23 : ‘Oh, Van, how lovely of you,’ said Lucette, slowly entering her room, with her bemused eyes scanning the fascinating flyleaf, his name on it, his bold flourish, and his own wonderful drawings in ink — a black aster (evolved from a blot), a doric column (disguising a more ribald design), a delicate leafless tree (as seen from a classroom window)..."

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4. In Nabokov we also encounter in his closing chapter ( Ada5, 6 ):

"What everybody thought would be Violet’s supreme achievement, ideally clean, produced on special Atticus paper in a special cursive type (the glorified version of Van’s hand), with the master copy bound in purple calf for Van’s ninety-seventh birthday, had been immediately blotted out by a regular inferno of alterations in red ink and blue pencil. One can even surmise that if our time-racked, flat-lying couple ever intended to die they would die, as it were, into the finished book, into Eden or Hades, into the prose of the book or the poetry of its blurb (...) ‘Quel livre, mon Dieu, mon Dieu,’ Dr [Professor. Ed.] Lagosse exclaimed, weighing the master copy which the flat pale parents of the future Babes, in the brown-leaf Woods, a little book in the Ardis Hall nursery, could no longer prop up in the mysterious first picture: two people in one bed".

We find here "attic/ atticus" and a "flat-lying couple as pressed flowers into a finished book and into the poetry of its blurb" ( infolio/herbarium theme ) .

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Where do these cross-references lead us to? We find the "de-flowering" theme described by B.Boyd again and again. And yet, there are also pointers towards the herbarium kept in the attic where so much of Aqua´s life seems to have been "impressed" in the same way that Ada and Van ( lying flat ) might be printed into the "poetry of a blurb" or into the prose of a book". A flat couple lying in a book in the attic take us to a "mysterious first picture"... Besides, if there should be "no green in winter", Lucette ( who, as B.Boyd points out, is associated with the colour "green" ) would be forever excluded from this "Eden or Hades" and from mingling with the couple in a bed.

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And incest? ( to link back to Don Johnson´s theme ). Well, if the color of a flower can be transformed into golden coins ( louis d´or, écus d ´or ), also the coins named "stellas" may also refer to stars and asters. Here we find LATH´s Count Starov and his "BL" wives by stellas/ coins, marigolds and a black aster evolved from an ink blot or a biloba´s inkgo.



Now, would we be able to find in VN´s other novels more resounding BL/incest/adultery/deflowering/inkblot/bloming STars in their constant metamorphosis?

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