Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026806, Thu, 14 Jan 2016 16:06:29 -0200

Moving from yellow slacks to the purples and VN's kzspygv/ Witt.
I wanted to read in detail the two references to Charlotte’s maroon/yellow
clothes* and check about the use of yellows (often associated to
violet/purple, also in “Lolita”). Humbert Humbert sometimes wears white
pajamas with a lilac pattern on the back, but he also describes another
with a “cornflower blue” print, to wear with his purple robe. The “corn”
theme reappears in his “maize yellow’ pajamas (I sonder if he used the
purple robe with them, too).

Quilty, at the time of his death, wore “purple silks” and, after being shot,
he ends in a “purple heap”. During a brief respite of HH’s attack on him,
Quilty describes the color of the chair used in executions ( “and moreover I
can arrange for you to attend executions, not everybody knows that the chair
is painted yellow —"…).

And then there are Papa’s Purple Pills:

a. Dr. Byron “produced a vial of violet-blue capsules banded with
dark purple at one end…”;

b. “As I expected, she pounced upon the vial with its plump,
beautifully colored capsules loaded with Beauty's Sleep./"Blue!" she
exclaimed. "Violet blue. What are they made of?"/

"Summer skies," I said, "and plums and figs, and the grapeblood of
emperors."/"No, seriously — please."/"Oh, just Purpills…”

I noticed, for the first time, how HH described the drawer where he kept his
diary after Charlotte forced it open: it was “a raped little table with its
open drawer”. His choice of “raped desk” is simple, almost obvious and yet
it combines with the plot in a stroke of genius.

VN writes, in “Speak,Memory”: “The word for rainbow, a primary, but
decidedly muddy, rainbow, is in my private language the hardly
pronounceable: kzspygv.” A private word that actualizes his rainbow is not
only a reference to Wittgenstein**, it is animistic (the word with its seven
letters synesthesically feels to him like a rainbow, it becomes his private
rainbow and, perhaps, this proves Wittgenstein’s idea against Witt’s own
later argumentation).

Jansy Mello


* a. “there came from the upper landing the contralto voice of Mrs. Haze,
who leaning over the banisters inquired melodiously, "Is that Monsieur
Humbert?" A bit of cigarette ash dropped from there in addition. Presently,
the lady herself — sandals, maroon slacks, yellow silk blouse, squarish
face, in that order — came down the steps, her index finger still tapping
upon her cigarette.”
b. “The day before I had ended the regime of aloofness I had imposed
upon myself, and now uttered a cheerful homecoming call as I opened the door
of the living room. With her cream-white nape and bronze bun to me, wearing
the yellow blouse and maroon slacks she had on when I first met her,
Charlotte sat at the corner bureau writing a letter. My hand still on the
doorknob, I repeated my hearty cry. Her writing hand stopped. She sat still
for a moment; then she slowly turned in her chair and rested her elbow on
its curved back. Her face, disfigured by her emotion, was not a pretty sight
as she stared at my legs and said: "The Haze woman, the big bitch, the old
cat, the obnoxious mamma, the — the old stupid Haze is no longer your dupe.
She has — she has..."// I stood for a moment quite still and self-composed,
surveying from the threshold the raped little table with its open drawer, a
key hanging from the lock, four other household keys on the table top.”

**The idea of a private language was made famous in philosophy by Ludwig
Wittgenstein, who in §243 of his book Philosophical Investigations explained
it thus: “The words of this language are to refer to what can be known only
to the speaker; to his immediate, private, sensations. So another cannot
understand the language.”[
<http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/private-language/notes.html#1> 1] This is
not intended to cover (easily imaginable) cases of recording one's
experiences in a personal code, for such a code, however obscure in fact,
could in principle be deciphered. What Wittgenstein had in mind is a
language conceived as necessarilycomprehensible only to its single
originator because the things which define its vocabulary are necessarily
inaccessible to others. (but one must read on…)

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