Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021998, Tue, 13 Sep 2011 12:43:31 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] [TRIVIA] Spinal horripilation in Pale Fire and
aesthetic bliss
Quite recently I came across "horripilating," a word which seems to have lost its original meaning in English, formerly related to awe and religious hair-raising emotions, to predominantly indicate a feeling of terror, danger, revulsion. Nabokov very often mentions a spinal thrill and, sometimes, he also describes the erection of small dorsal hairs he next relates to aethetic bliss.* Checking one of his references to them, in Pale Fire, I noticed that here Shade seems to be mocking Nabokov's deep-seated aesthetic reactions**.
If there's a symmetry between the lines about a Turk's "delight" in the afterlife and those with the correspondent "Flemish hells with porcupines and things" (its oft explored Flemish garden of delights, contrasted to hellish punishments by H. Bosch -. with porcupines,.bristling away!!!), now it's Shade's triple mockery that has reached me in a new way. It's not at all the writing of an insane man! Shade's cruelty towards the author (writing in English, not in Russian) astounded me.

(btw: had Shade mown his whiskers more carefully he might not have been murdered by being taken for the hoary and hairy Judge Goldsworth).

* - In one of his Sirin short-stories ("Torpid Smoke"), he details his creative bliss: . "Enormous, alive, a metrical line extended and bent; at the bend a rhyme was coming deliciously and hotly alight, and as it glowed forth, there appeared, like a shadow on the wall when you climb upstairs with a candle, the mobile silhouette of another verse.
Drunk with the italianate music of Russian alliteration, with the longing to live, the new temptation of obsolete words (modern bereg reverting to breg, a farther "shore," holod to hlad, a more classic "chill," veter to vetr, a better Boreas), puerile, perishable poems, which, by the time the next were printed, would have been certain to wither as had withered one after the other all the previous ones written down in the black exercise book; but no matter: at this moment I trust the ravishing promises of the still breathing, still revolving verse, my face is wet with tears, my heart is bursting with happiness, and I know that this happiness is the greatest thing existing on earth."

** (915)Better than any soap/Is the sensation for which poets hope/When inspiration and its icy blaze / The sudden image, the immediate phrase/Over the skin a triple ripple send/(920) Making the little hairs all stand on end/ As in the enlarged animated scheme/Of whiskers mowed when held up by Our Cream."

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