----- Original Message -----
**Sent:** Tuesday, February 15, 2005 8:44 AM
**Subject:** Fw: Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in Pnin

----Mensagem Original-----

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 -----
**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 -----
**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. JohnsonSent:Saturday, February 12, 2005 10:21 PMSubject:Fwd: Re: Solids and surds in PninEDNOTE. 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 -----

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