Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026407, Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:11:58 -0300

Vegetarian Kinbote's appositives...
A recent dismally uncomfortable event led me to search after quotes related
to Kinbote, his nicknames and associated terms, particularly king-bot and
king-sized botfly, in search of a funny dimension or comment.
I selected the one below (accessible at Zembla's "Criticism" section),
relative to a Shadean reading as suggested by Brian Boyd. However, there was
no comedy in sight.

Shade and Shape in Pale Fire by Brian Boyd

"During the poem, discussing his time at a lay Institute of Preparation for
the Hereafter, Shade says that in death he is "ready to become a floweret /
Or a fat fly, but never, to forget." (P.523-34, 52-53) Now Sybil Shade calls
Kinbote "an elephantine tick; a king-sized botfly; a macaco worm;10 the
monstrous parasite of a genius" (C.247, 171-72), while Botkin in the index
is "American scholar of Russian descent . . . ; king-bot, maggot of extinct
fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their
phylogenetic end." (I.306)11 Kinbote is flamboyantly homosexual, or what his
most homophobic foe calls "Quite the fancy pansy" (C.894, 268); of all the
flowers and "flowerets" in the English language there are only two that end
"-et," "bluet" and the much more common "violet," which happens to be the
first rhyme-word of the first couplet in the verse paragraph that includes
"floweret" (also placed as the first rhyme-word of its couplet)[ ]
In Ada, Nabokov has Van pointedly and vindictively associate the names of
violets (pansies) with the homosexual Captain Tapper (I.42; 304-06, 600) and
clearly in Pale Fire too he has gone to a great deal of trouble to associate
Shade's "ready to become a floweret / Or a fat fly, but never, to forget"
with the homosexual Kinbote, that "king-sized botfly" so desperate that the
world shall never forget his "Zemblan" past.[ ] The firm outline and the
bright tint of what he evokes for Shade as "our blue inenubilable Zembla"
(C.991, 288), then, must be securely in place before Kinbote ever sights
Shade's azure imagery. Kinbote has not refashioned his Zembla to bring it in
line with Shade's poem./ The other option, that Kinbote has deftly stitched
poem and commentary together with gossamer verbal threads, does not in fact
account for such key connections as that between Shade's "ready to become a
floweret / Or a fat fly" and Sybil's calling Kinbote "a king-sized botfly"
and seems utterly at odds with all Kinbote's practice. Because of his
overblown egotism, he lacks self-control ("and damn that music!," "Dear
Jesus, do something" [C.47-48, 93]), and when he does something he considers
subtle he wastes no time in drawing it proudly to our attention."

The only thing that occurred to me was the fact that, despite Kinbote's
appositive descriptions being related to a voracious parasite of the flesh,
something must be amiss with the Sybillian or even Shade's wordplay since
its original's appetites, namely Kinbote's, are vegetarian! (most
insistently so, btw).*

Cf. In Pale Fire:

"His laconic suggestion that I "try the pork" amused me. I am a strict
vegetarian, and I like to cook my own meals. Consuming something that had
been handled by a fellow creature was, I explained to the rubicund convives,
as repulsive to me as eating any creature, and that would include - lowering
my voice - the pulpous pony-tailed girl student who served us and licked her
pencil. Moreover, I had already finished the fruit brought with me in my
briefcase, so I would content myself, I said, with a bottle of good college
ale. My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. The usual questions
were fired at me about eggnogs and milkshakes being or not being acceptable
to one of my persuasion. Shade said that with him it was the other way
around: he must make a definite effort to partake of a vegetable. Beginning
a salad, was to him like stepping into sea water on a chilly day, and he had
always to brace himself in order to attack the fortress of an
"When the fallen tyrant is tied, naked and howling, to a plank in the public
square and killed piecemeal by the people who cut slices out, and eat them,
and distribute his living body among themselves (as I read when young in a
story about an Italian despot, which made of me a vegetarian for life),
Gradus does not take part in the infernal sacrament: he points out the right
instrument and directs the carving."(n.171)
"The date of my third and last meal at the Shades is not entered in my
little book but I know it was one morning in June when I brought over a
beautiful plan I had drawn of the King's Palace in Onhava with all sorts of
heraldic niceties, and a touch of gold paint that I had some trouble in
obtaining, and was graciously urged to stay for an impromptu lunch. I should
add that, despite my protests, at all three meals my vegetarian limitations
of fare were not taken into account, and I was exposed to animal matter in,
or around, some of the contaminated greens I might have deigned to taste. I
revanched myself rather neatly. Of a dozen or so invitations that I
extended, the Shades accepted just three. Every one of these meals was built
around some vegetable that I subjected to as many exquisite metamorphoses as
Parmentier had his pet tuber undergo. Every time I had but one additional
guest to entertain Mrs. Shade (who, if you please - thinning my voice to a
feminine pitch - was allergic to artichokes, avocado pears, African acorns -
in fact to everything beginning with an "a"). I find nothing more conducive
to the blunting of one's appetite than to have none but elderly persons
sitting around one at table, fouling their napkins with the disintegration
of their make-up, and surreptitiously trying, behind noncommittal smiles, to
dislodge the red-hot torture point of a raspberry seed from between false
gum and dead gum." 9n.579)

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L