NABOKV-L post 0010785, Mon, 13 Dec 2004 09:54:17 -0800

Subject
Fwd: PS. Bagration Island in LOLITA
Date
Body
PS. The allusion involves a chain of metonymical substitutions:
Bagration+the Napoleonic Wars - Napoleon Bonaparte+St Helena Island -
Marie Bonaparte+Melanie Klein = Melanie Weiss+Bagration Island




Donald B. Johnson wrote:

>----- Forwarded message from sklyarenko@users.mns.ru -----
> Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 05:00:43 +0300
> From: alex <sklyarenko@users.mns.ru>
>
>
>Dear Brian Boyd and the List,
>
>I've been thinking for some time about the multilingual wordplay in ADA's
>"Morzhey," and I guess I can cite another instance in Nabokov when the themes
>of sex and death are neatly combined in a single word (also a place name) in a
>kind of the book's final counterpoint. I'm speaking of the Bagration Island in
>LOLITA. In the famous scene of Quilty's murder, the latter tries to tempt
>Humbert with various precious things in his household. One of them is his
>
>"absolutely unique collection of erotica upstairs. Just to mention one item:
the
>infolio de-luxe Bagration Island by the explorer and psychoanalist Melanie
>Weiss, a remarkable lady, a remarkable work - drop that gun - with photographs
>of eight hundred and something male organs she examined and measured in 1932 on
>Bagration, in the Barda Sea, very illuminating graphs, plotted with love under
>pleasant skies - drop that gun..." (LOLITA, part 2, chapter 35).
>
>Brian Boyd has suggested last year (Nabokv-L, the posting of April 10, 2003)
>that the island's name is a play on "buggeration," the slang elaboration of
>"bugger." But I suspect that the wordplay is much more complex here and covers,
>like the "Morzhey" pun, three languages. In his Annotations (unfortunately, I
>don't have them at hand),
>Alfred Appel notes that the island's invented name plays on the name of Prince
>Peter Bagration, the general felled at the battle of Borodino. "The Barda Sea"
>seems to hint (via Russ. "brada", a form of "boroda", beard) at Borodino, the
>name of the village near which the battle took place. Now, we know from history
>(and from Tolstoy's "Voina i Mir") that, in the battle of Borodino, Prince
>Bagration and the First Army he commanded had to defend, according to the
>disposition, the so-called "bagrationovy fleshi" (from "fleche," a fieldwork
>consisting of two faces forming a salient angle with an open gorge). "The
>fleches of Bagration " are mentioned in Tolstoy's novel: vol. 3, part 2,
>XXXIII, and elsewhere. This word, "flesh'," has no other meaning in Russian and
>is extremely rare. For that reason, it tends to be confused with another, much
>more common, word: "plesh'" ("a bald patch"). In fact, one can easily imagine
>that many Russian soldiers who took part in the battle mispronounced it as
>"bagrationovy pleshi." But the word "plesh'" happens to mean also "glans penis"
>and in that sense it was widely used in Russian pornographic poetry (see Barkov
>& co.). Pushkin, who is usually believed to be the author of the obscene ballad
>"Ten' Barkova" (Barkov's Shadow, 1815), uses it several times in his poem (cf.,
>for instance, ll. 25-28: "Povis!..votshche svoey rukoy / Eldu Malashka drochit,
>/ I plesh' szhimaet pyaternyoy, / I volosy eroshit!" May be it would be better
>to leave this untranslated. Anyway, my English is to chaste to translate this
>accurately).
>The couvert wordplay flesh'/plesh' seems the likelier as there are other
>allusions to Tolstoy's novel in that very chapter of LOLITA. A little earlier
>in it, Quilty says to Humbert that a Frenchman once translated his The Proud
>Flesh as La Fierte de la Chair (changed to "Zhivoe myaso," the live flesh, and
>"La Vie de la Chair" in VN's Russian translation of LOLITA). In "Voina i Mir,"
>Prince Andrey Bolkonski sees, a few days before the battle of Borodino, naked
>soldiers bathing in the pond and thinks of them: "flesh, body, la chair a
>canon!" looking at his own body, too (vol. 3, part 2, V). When, he gets wounded
>in the battle and is brought to the field hospital, he remembers that French
>phrase again (XXXVII). It may be worth to note that during the battle, Andrey
>himself plays the role of "cannon fodder." He gets mortally wounded by the
>French grenade, or "a ball" (again that double entendre), that has exploded
>right in front of him (note that he could have escaped death by simply falling
>off his feet, but he remains standing, because he is too proud and doesn't want
>his soldiers think him a coward).
>Finally, The Proud Flesh mistranslated by a Frenchman is probably a title of
>some work by Quilty. And Tolstoy's "Voina i Mir" is the title which is often,
>no, almost always, mistranslated. It should be "War and World" (or "War and
>Community"), not "War and Peace" in English. In the old Russian orthography,
>the words "mir," world, and "mir," peace, were spelled differently (they are
>full homonyms now). In Tolstoy's spelling (m, the Latin i, r, hard sign), the
>word meant "world," not "peace."
>
>In ADA, there is also a play on fleche ("arrow") and flesh (part 1, ch. 42).
>
>I don't know what to do with all that, so I post it to the List in the hope
that
>somebody can make a better use of it.
>
>best regards to all,
>Alexey Sklyarenko
>
>----- End forwarded message -----
>
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Dear Brian Boyd and the List,
>
> I've been thinking for some time about the multilingual wordplay in
> ADA's "Morzhey," and I guess I can cite another instance in Nabokov
> when the themes of sex and death are neatly combined in a single word
> (also a place name) in a kind of the book's final counterpoint. I'm
> speaking of the /Bagration Island/ in LOLITA. In the famous scene of
> Quilty's murder, the latter tries to tempt Humbert with various
> precious things in his household. One of them is his
>
> "absolutely unique collection of erotica upstairs. Just to mention one
> item: the infolio de-luxe /Bagration Island/ by the explorer and
> psychoanalist Melanie Weiss, a remarkable lady, a remarkable work -
> drop that gun - with photographs of eight hundred and something male
> organs she examined and measured in 1932 on Bagration, in the Barda
> Sea, very illuminating graphs, plotted with love under pleasant skies
> - drop that gun..." (LOLITA, part 2, chapter 35).
>
> Brian Boyd has suggested last year (Nabokv-L, the posting of April 10,
> 2003) that the island's name is a play on "buggeration," the slang
> elaboration of "bugger." But I suspect that the wordplay is much more
> complex here and covers, like the "Morzhey" pun, three languages. In
> his Annotations (unfortunately, I don't have them at hand),
> Alfred Appel notes that the island's invented name plays on the name
> of Prince Peter Bagration, the general felled at the battle of
> Borodino. "The Barda Sea" seems to hint (via Russ. "brada", a form of
> "boroda", beard) at Borodino, the name of the village near which the
> battle took place. Now, we know from history (and from Tolstoy's
> "Voina i Mir") that, in the battle of Borodino, Prince Bagration and
> the First Army he commanded had to defend, according to the
> disposition, the so-called "bagrationovy fleshi" (from "fleche," a
> fieldwork consisting of two faces forming a salient angle with an open
> gorge). "The fleches of Bagration " are mentioned in Tolstoy's novel:
> vol. 3, part 2, XXXIII, and elsewhere. This word, "flesh'," has no
> other meaning in Russian and is /extremely/ rare. For that reason, it
> tends to be confused with another, much more common, word: "plesh'"
> ("a bald patch"). In fact, one can easily imagine that many Russian
> soldiers who took part in the battle mispronounced it as "bagrationovy
> pleshi." But the word "plesh'" happens to mean also "glans penis" and
> in that sense it was widely used in Russian pornographic poetry (see
> Barkov & co.). Pushkin, who is usually believed to be the author
> of the obscene ballad "Ten' Barkova" (Barkov's Shadow, 1815), uses it
> several times in his poem (cf., for instance, ll. 25-28:
> "Povis!..votshche svoey rukoy / Eldu Malashka drochit, / I plesh'
> szhimaet pyaternyoy, / I volosy eroshit!" May be it would be better to
> leave this untranslated. Anyway, my English is to chaste to translate
> this accurately).
> The couvert wordplay flesh'/plesh' seems the likelier as there are
> other allusions to Tolstoy's novel in that very chapter of LOLITA. A
> little earlier in it, Quilty says to Humbert that a Frenchman once
> translated his /The Proud Flesh/ as /La Fierte de la Chair/ (changed
> to "Zhivoe myaso," the live flesh, and "La Vie de la Chair" in VN's
> Russian translation of LOLITA). In "Voina i Mir," Prince Andrey
> Bolkonski sees, a few days before the battle of Borodino, naked
> soldiers bathing in the pond and thinks of them: "flesh, body, la
> chair a canon!" looking at his own body, too (vol. 3, part 2, V).
> When, he gets wounded in the battle and is brought to the field
> hospital, he remembers that French phrase again (XXXVII). It may be
> worth to note that during the battle, Andrey himself plays the role of
> "cannon fodder." He gets mortally wounded by the French grenade, or "a
> ball" (again that double entendre), that has exploded right in front
> of him (note that he could have escaped death by simply falling off
> his feet, but he remains standing, because he is too proud and doesn't
> want his soldiers think him a coward).
> Finally, /The Proud Flesh/ mistranslated by a Frenchman is probably a
> title of some work by Quilty. And Tolstoy's "Voina i Mir" is the title
> which is often, no, almost always, mistranslated. It should be "War
> and World" (or "War and Community"), not "War and Peace" in English.
> In the old Russian orthography, the words "mir," world, and
> "mir," peace, were spelled differently (they are full homonyms now).
> In Tolstoy's spelling (m, the Latin i, r, hard sign), the word meant
> "world," not "peace."
>
> In ADA, there is also a play on fleche ("arrow") and flesh (part 1,
> ch. 42).
>
> I don't know what to do with all that, so I post it to the List in the
> hope that somebody can make a better use of it.
>
> best regards to all,
> Alexey Sklyarenko
>
>
>
>

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