NABOKV-L post 0010706, Mon, 6 Dec 2004 10:01:00 -0800

Subject
diastema; morzh: Ursus/walrus/seabear connection
Date
Body
Message
----- Original Message -----
From: Dmitri Nabokov
To: 'D. Barton Johnson' ; 'monarch'
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2004 8:40 AM
Subject: FW: Re: morzh: Ursus/walrus/seabear connection

A reply for Jansy:

"Diastema" is one of those words that have journeyed from ancient Greek (diastem = a musical interval, at first, generally, but not always, equivalent to one degree of the scale), through Latin into Italian, English, etc., where "diastema" has come to mean an interstice between teeth, a demarcation between geological strata, and so on, besides musical intervals of varying breadth. As I recall, the context Eco had in mind was the brain's innate musical memory of a tone that remains present after the tone and its harmonics have ceased to sound, but that, upon the sounding of a subsequent tone, still gives the sense, for instance, of a third, a fifth, an octave -- a kind of subconscious harmonic reference. Things can get complex, of course, if one delves further into the history of the word, and into its offshoots. If nurtured, the sense can help singers, violinists, and others without a pre-tuned, fixed diatonic infrastructure such as the keyboard to make an unaccompanied solo entrance, for example. Here, the best musician's "absolute" pitch is not always absolute because one orchestra may tune, say, to the obsolescent, mellow "concert pitch" with la (A) at 400 vps, and another to a higher A, even 446 vps, often adopted for greater brilliance of sound. "Absolute pitch" is also a moot point when performing, say, the unaccompanied madrigals for five and six solo voices of Gesualdo di Venosa, which I recorded in Milan years ago, without a piano or other instrument in the hall, and in which minute adjustments of pitch depended on the resolution toward which a given vocal line, and the ensemble, were heading. String chamber music is subject to the same minute tonal fluctuations; the performers must constantly listen and meticulously adjust to one another in order to appear in perfect tune. This can all get pretty technical, especially if we start on the division of fixed pitches into "commas." Suffice it to say that the subliminal aura of diastema is an essential element of musical performance, as well as a concept useful, by extension, in other disciplines.

In a less serious vein, the frigid bathers of the Polar Bear Club are the Western equivalent, in one sense, of morzhi, so the polar circle is completed even without recourse to the (Russ.) X Word.

Best greetings,

Dmitri

-----Original Message-----
From: Sandy Klein [mailto:sk@starcapital.net]
Sent: lundi, 6. décembre 2004 04:58
To: cangrande@bluewin.ch
Subject: FW: Re: morzh: Ursus/walrus/seabear connection


From: Donald B. Johnson [mailto:chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu]
Sent: Sunday, December 05, 2004 11:53 AM
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: Re: morzh: Ursus/walrus/seabear connection




Dear Brian Boyd ( and List),

You brought up the Ursus/walrus/seabear connection which has been intriguing me for some time. In a way I feel that the List ( for example, by offering your discussion with Alexey about Russian words ) helps me with the handicap of not knowing Russian by giving me a "feeeling" of how it appears in Nabokov´s English novel. VN´s "lettrocalamity" ( which he, sorry, Vivian Darkbloom explains as " a play on Ital. elettrocalamita, electromagnet" ) has a relation to the "lettre", to the "L" in Lucette´s name. Without being familiar with the Russian I can only suspect that certain words have hidden indications which I cannot explore, but it is possible to surmise that the "L" may be absent or too conspicuous in the associations bt. Kotik, Vrotic,Krolik, Rotik, Likrot or Rotikl, Ritcov or Vrotic - but a verbal metamorphosis is taking place from land-bears and sea-otters to mermaids and medusas having "ectric dreams", while I must of necessity be left out because of my "ursian illiteracy".

In ADA ( now a Penguin, page 297) we find Lucette speaking:
'- I got stuck with six Buchstaben in the last round of a Flavita game. Mind you, I was eight and had not studied anatomy, but was doing my poor little best to keep up with two Wunderkinder. You examined and fingered my groove and quickly redistributed the haphazard sequence which made, say, LIKROT or ROTIKL and Ada flooded us both with her raven silks as she looked over our heads, and when you had completed the rearrangement, you and she came simultaneously, si je puis le mettre comme ça ( Canady French), came falling on the black carpet in a paroxysm of incomprehensible merriment; so finally I quietly composed ROTIK ( 'little mouth' )and was left with my own cheap initial (....)' 'Okay, okay,' replied her and his tormentor, ' but you know, a medically minded Ensligh Scrabbler, having two more letters to cope with, could make, for example, STIRCOIL, a well-known sweat-gland stimulant, or CITROILS, which grooms use for rubbing fillies.' 'Please stop, Vandemonian',she moaned. 'Read her letter and bring me my coat. ' Her coat, was it her sea-bear coat that turned her into a "black bear with bright russet locks"? ( russet?) Or was it a "desman ('vihuol')"? I would thank you two ( Alexey and Boyd) if you could clarify me on the above issue that plays not only with "L" ´s "lettrocalamity" but scrabbles an excess of Van´s "V", in a game that has become impossible for the poor tongue of those who, like me, are non-English and non-Russian natives.

Dmitri, I need to enlist help ( such as Hoffstadter´s or Don´s collaborators ) to be able at least to get closer to all those Wunderkinds that jump from Math to Music. The word "diástêma", for example, that Umberto Eco described as a sonorous memory present during a "musical interval" might be familiar to you, as a musician familiar with the Italian. All my Brazilian connections in this field could not confirm Eco´s definition: would you ?

Greetings,
Jansy


> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Donald B. Johnson" <chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu>
> To: <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2004 11:53 PM
> Subject: Fwd: RE: morzh
>
>
> > Dear Alexey,
> >
> > Quite right, in my haste I was short-circuiting "khuy morzhovyi" and
> "morzh"
> > itself. But that doesn't affect the connection with Lucette, since
> > in a verbal association a Russian's likely first jump after "morzh"
> > will
> usually
> > be to "khuy." I don't think the Ursus passage makes that any
> > stronger.
But
> > as a matter of interest, just how big is the "khuy morzhovyi" in
> > Peter's Kunstkammer, or in the wild?
> >
> > Brian Boyd
> >
> > EDNOTE. In the interest of scolarship, I went over to Peter's
Kunstkammer
> last
> > time I was in S-Pb. It was, alas, its vykhodnoi den' so I failed to
> > see
> the
> > museum's most famous exhibit.
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Donald B. Johnson [mailto:chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu]
> > Sent: Sunday, December 05, 2004 1:05 PM
> > To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> > Subject: Fw: morzh
> >
> >
> > Dear Brian,
> >
> > I doubt that "morzh" can mean "cock" or "prick" in Russian. At
> > least
not
> in
> > the modern Russian. But it can be used with the famous Russian
> three-letter
> > word for cock as an epithet, "morzhovyi" (of walrus). The whole
> > phrase
("X
> > > morzhovyi") is generally used as an obuse. But, if we disregard
> > > this, the genital organ of a walrus is pretty long, and you
> > > remember the following dialogue between Lucette and Van in part 2,
> > > chapter 8:
> > >
> > > "...it looked to me at least eight inches long -"
> > > "Seven and a half" murmured modest Van, whose hearing the music
> impaired.
> > >
> > > Lucette, who is obsessed with sex, means Van's scar, not his penis
> > > ("the ladder, not the lad") this time, but he is too drunk to
understand
> > that.
> > > Lucette, in her turn, is probably aware (although she is even more
> > > drunk
> > than Van) of the fact that Van misunderstands
> > > her, and she knows why he
> > > misunderstands her (because she had seen him making love to Ada in
> > > a previous chapter). So, "Morzhey" could indeed be a message from
> > > Lucette,
> > but
> > > via "morzhovyi".
> > >
> > best,
> > Alexey
> > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > From: "Donald B. Johnson" <chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu>
> > > To: <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> > > Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2004 9:03 PM
> > >
> > >
> > > > ---
> > > >
> > > > Dear Jansy, (Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello <jansy@aetern.us>)
> > > >
> > > > Yes, but "twin cock crosses" is a very accurate description of
> > > > old-style faucets (W2: cock, 6a: A faucet, tap, or valve or the
> > > > like for starting, stopping or regulating flow); it foes not
> > > > literally refer to a penis. At
> > > the
> > > > same time, of course, Ada's other grip catches at Van's valve.
> > > > And the
> > > twin
> > > > cock crosses also bring to mind the watery twins Marina and Aqua
> > > > (who
> > has
> > > a
> > > > problem with tapwater), and their foreshadowing of Ada and
> > > > Lucette, who bursts into the room in the same sentence, just
> > > > after Van's
> orgasm.
> > > >
> > > > Nabokov keeps "penis" out of his text, as Jeff observes, yet one
> > > > of the
> > > key
> > > > moments of the novel is Ada's decision to return to Van at Mont
> > > > Roux, in
> > > > 1922: "'I told him to turn,' she said, 'somewhere near Morzhey
> ('morses'
> > > or
> > > > 'walruses,' a Russian pun on 'Morges'--maybe a mermaid's
> > > > message)."
> > > "Morzh"
> > > > in this sense is vulgar Russian for "cock" or "prick," and as
> > > > "the
> > > mermaid's
> > > > message" indicates (Lucette has been explicitly called a mermaid
> > > > shortly before), and the Ophelia-like punning on private parts
> > > > also suggests (Lucette puns extensively on clitoris and other
> > > > sexual terms, especially
> > > in
> > > > III.5, but again Nabokov eschews "clitoris" itself), Ada's
> > > > decision to return to Van seems to have something to do with
> > > > dead Lucette.
> > > >
> > > > Viktor Krivulin's poem, Jeff's translation and Jeff's and
> > > > Alexey's commentary are delightful.
> > > >
> > > > Brian Boyd
> > > >
> > > > -----Original Message-----
> > > > From: Donald B. Johnson [mailto:chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu]
> > > > Sent: Saturday, December 04, 2004 3:58 PM
> > > > To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> > > > Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Krivulin poem re Nabokov. Translation
> > > >
> > > > Dear Jeff,
> > > >
> > > > You wrote that although Nabokov was always very precise in his
> > terminology
> > > > "this precision rarely if ever extended to human genital
> > > > organs". And yet, the examples you offered were all only
> > > > applicable to the
> > "penis"
> > > > ...
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > I sellected only one paragraph with VN=B4s euphemisms for the
> > > > female
> > sex
> > > an=
> > > > d
> > > > adjacent parts in "Ada" : "where she strained across the low
> > > > tub to
> > turn
> > > on
> > > > both taps and then bent over to insert the bronze chained plug;
> > > > it got sucked in by itself, however, while he steadied her
> > > > lovely lyre and next moment was at the suede-soft root, was
> > > > gripped, was deep between the familiar, incomparable,
> > > > crimson-lined lips. She caught at the twin cock crosses, thus
> > > > involuntarily increasing the sympathetic volume of the
> > > water=
> > > > =B4s
> > > > noise, and Van emitted a long groan of deliverance" ( Penguin
> > > > ed,
pag.
> > > 308).
> > > >
> > > > Anyway, I enjoyed your sentence about "a penis is never simply a
> > > > penis
> > for
> > > > Nabokov" which nicely contrasts with Freud=B4s: " a cigar
> > > > sometimes is
> > > only =
> > > > a
> > > > cigar".
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > From: "Donald B. Johnson" <chtodel@gss.ucsb.edu>
> > > > To: <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
> > > > Sent: Friday, December 03, 2004 6:07 PM
> > > > Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Krivulin poem re Nabokov. Translation
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > > From Jeff Edmunds <jhe2@psulias.psu.edu>:
> > > > >
> > > > > Thank you Alexey Skylarenko for pointing out the shortcomings
> > > > > of my translation, especially the major goof in the second
> > > > > stanza (about which more below).
> > > > >
> > > > > As Alexey notes, "'Mgnove' is a truncated (and nonexisting)
> > > > > form of 'mgnovenie,' a moment." This form wonderfully embodies
> > > > > the
> > "fragment"
> > > > > mentioned in the first stanza. Another of the charms of the
> > > > > first stanza
> > > > is
> > > > > the artistry which which the verb "zaselo" (got stuck) is
> > > > > literally stuck in the phrase "v moei golove" (in my head): "v
> > > > > moei zaselo golove." (Which calls to my mind the masterful
> > > > > first sentence of Alain Robbe-Grillet's _La jalousie_ [of
> > > > > which Nabokov said in a French interview published in 1959,
> > > > > "C'est le plus beau roman d'amour depuis Proust"], in which
> > > > > the structure
> > > >
> > > > > of the sentence serves as a textual analog of the image
> > > > > described: "Now
> > > > the
> > > > > shadow of the column--the column which supports the southwest
> > > > > corner of
> > > > the
> > > > > roof--divides the corresponding corner of the veranda into two
> > > > > equal
> > > > parts."
> > > > >
> > > > > As for stanza two, I would like to explain one reason why I
> > > > > misread the text as implying that it was Nabokov who
> > > > > "conceal[s] the genital organ / With metaphysical delight."
> > > > > Nabokov was always precise in his terminology (cf., inter
> > > > > alia, Peter Lubin's paper in ZEMBLA), but this precision
> > > > rarely
> > > > > if ever extended to human genital organs. So far as I can
> > > > > recall, Nabokov does not once in his published prose or poetry
> > > > > use the word "penis." (He
> > > > > *does* use the term in one of his letters to Edmund Wilson. If
> > > > > I recall correctly, he says, in reference to the sex scenes in
> > > > > one of Wilson's books, that despite their frankness, they are
> > > > > not arousing, in fact they are about as arousing as "trying to
> > > > > open a can of tuna
> > with
> > > > one's penis."
> > > > > Incidentally, the delivery of this line by Dmitri Nabokov
> > > > > playing his father during a performance of Terry Quinn's "Dear
> > > > > Bunny, Dear
> > Volodya,"
> > > > > was, for me, a delightful moment of shared hilarity during the
> > > > > 1998
> > > > Cornell
> > > > > Nabokov Centenary Festival.)
> > > > >
> > > > > Whether the "pryshchushchii persik" (spurting peach) or
> > > > > "priap"
> > > > > (priapus) in Chapter XIII of Prignlashenie na kazn' (Invitation to
> > > > > a Beaheading), or the much more famous "scepter of my passion" in
> > > > > Lolita, a penis is never simply a penis for Nabokov. Few writers,
> > > > > it might be argued, have so artistically concealed "the genital
> organ"
> > with
> > > > "metaphysical delight."
> > > > > Hence my too-hasty willingness to see Nabokov as the concealer
> > > > > in stanza two rather than as the explainer of this
> > > > > concealment.
> > > > >
> > > > > Finally, as I mentioned to Alexey in a personal message
> > > > > thanking him for his corrections, I was also distracted by the
> > > > > fact that I had composed a more ribald, even less literal, but
> > > > > rhymed version of the second stanza, not sent to the list, in
> > > > > which I replaced "genital organ" with "cock" and rendered
> > > > > "polotenchikom" as "with
a
> > sock."
> > > > >
> > > > > Again, my apologies to Mr. Krivulin, and now to The Red Hot
> > > > > Chili Peppers as well.
> > > > >
> > > > > Jeff Edmunds
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > > > At 10:24 AM 12/2/2004 -0800, you wrote:
> > > > > >----- Forwarded message from sklyarenko@users.mns.ru -----
> > > > > > Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 19:36:39 +0300
> > > > > > From: alex <sklyarenko@users.mns.ru>
> > > > > >
> > > > > >Thank you, Jeff Edmunds, for your translation and for
> > > > > >providing a link to
> > > > the
> > > > > >complete version of this poem. I found it on a different web
> > > > > >page
> > > > > >(http://www.vavilon.ru/texts/krivulin4.html) where the poem was
> > > > > >published without the four last lines.
> > > > > >The poem's strange title apparently needs a short commentary.
> > > > > >"Mgnove" is
> > > > a
> > > > > >truncated (and nonexisting) form of "mgnovenie," a moment,
> > > > > >and the whole
> > > > title
> > > > > >plays on the first line of Pushkin's famous poem "Ya pomnyu
> > > > > >chudnoe mgnoven'ye" (I remember a wondrous moment)addressed
> > > > > >to Anna Kern (who was to become Pushkin's mistress a couple
> > > > > >of years after he had written that
> > > > poem).
> > > > That's
> > > > > >why "mgnove" is compared to a fragment of some antique statue
> > > > > >in lines
> > > > 3-4.
> > > > > >I think the translation is marvelous, but I would like to
> > > > > >correct one
> > > > little
> > > > > >mistake. The author of the poem doesn't want Nabokov to
> > > > > >conceal the
> > > > genital
> > > > > >organ (of the statue) with metaphysical delight, he wants him
> > > > > >to explain why it is concealed. Also, styd i sram (the phrase
> > > > > >occurs in ADA, ch. 38) means simply "shame."
> > > > > >
> > > > > >Krivulin has also a poem entitled Chetvyortaya Sestra ("The
> > > > > >Fourth
> > > > > >Sister") that
> > > > > >might have been inspired (and might be not) by Chekhov's
> > > > > >well-known play
> > > > "The
> > > > > >Four Sisters" (again, see ADA).
> > > > > >
> > > > > >Alexey
> > > > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > > > From: Donald B. Johnson
> > > > > > To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
> > > > > > Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2004 3:36 AM
> > > > > > Subject: Fwd: Re: Krivulin poem re Nabokov. Translation
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > EDNOTE. With thanks to Jeff Edmunds on ZEMBLA's Birthday.
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > From Jeff Edmunds <jhe2@psulias.psu.edu>:
> > > > > >
> > > > > > The version of this poem that reached me via the list was
> > > > > > both garbled
> > > > and
> > > > > > truncated, perhaps as a result of the encoding. The
> > > > > > apparently
> > > > complete
> > > > > > version is available at
> > > > > >
> > > > > > http://www.vavilon.ru/texts/prim/krivulin4.html
> > > > > >
> > > > > > about two-thirds of the way down the page.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Below is an English version, composed hastily and immediately
> > > > > > postprandially. It is whimsical, ugly, unrhymed, and
> > > > > > probably wrong in
> > > > at
> > > > > > least three ways. My apologies to Viktor Krivulin.
> > > > > > ---------------------------------------------
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Marvelous Moment
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Why did you, marvelous moment,
> > > > > > Get stuck in my head
> > > > > > Like a fragment from the naughty bits
> > > > > > Of some antique statue?
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Let Nabokov explain
> > > > > > The meaning of Russian diffidence and
> > > > > > Shame, and conceal the genital organ
> > > > > > With metaphysical delight
> > > > > > As with a wisp of cloth --
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Why? What for and from whom?
> > > > > > Harmony is deity
> > > > > > On line, connected to us
> > > > > > So that we don't see, but we know,
> > > > > > There is something there, where there is nothing
> > > > > >
> > >
> >
> > ----- End forwarded message -----
> >
> > ----- End forwarded message -----
> >
> >
>

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