NABOKV-L post 0010811, Thu, 16 Dec 2004 08:02:59 -0800

Re: Fwd: RE: Re: Re: Query: wordplay in Russian
From Eric Naiman:
One more thing to add here, especially relevant given the sexualized
language play in this passage. Ada is sur la verge, she aches for the
flesh of yew, she wants to travel with Van to the burning tip of Patagonia.
So she adds "Send me an aerogram with one Russian word -- the name of my
name and wit." Da has been sexualized, of course -- not only by Joyce but
also by VN himself in that letter to Shakovskaia which Field says is
indebted to Molly Bloom:
"Iam afraid you will be disappointed by my next novel: the title of
which has grown longer by a letter, not Da but Dar, thus transforming the
initial affirmation into something blooming, paganistic, even priapic"

But what is more important here, surely, is an Elizabethan meaning of "wit"
-- from the French vit -- which meant the same as verge, though it could,
apparently also be feminized in the 16th c. to refer to male or female
members. So being at wit's end is the same as being on the verge or at the
burning tip of Patagonia. Ada's wit is not only exhausted but in a frenzy
(erotomania). One might say that Ada is all about Wit (or Woe from Wit).

Nabokov tended to use many of his sexual puns more than once -- this is no
exception, as we see from that passage in, I think, chapter 17 of
Transparent Things:

A newspaper or coffee-table book hid such preparations as he absolutely had
to conduct, wretched Hugh, and woe to him if he winced or fumbled during
the actual commerce; but far worse than the awful pull of long underwear in
the chaos of his pinched crotch or the crisp contact with her armor-smooth
stockings was the prerequisite of light colloquy, about acquaintances, or
politics, or zodiacal signs, or servants, and in the meantime, with visible
hurry banned, the poignant work had to be brought surreptitiously to a
convulsive end in a twisted half-sitting position on an uncomfortable
little divan. Hugh's mediocre potency might not have survived the ordeal
had she concealed from him more completely than she thought she did the
excitement derived from the contrast between the fictitious and the factual
- a contrast which after all has certain claims to artistic subtlety if we
recall the customs of certain Far Eastern people, virtually HALFWITS in
many other respects.

So perhaps Witt is not strictly a philosophical reference but shares
something with Versex?

>Dear All,
>"The end of my name and wit" because she has just played with the ending of
>the name Patagonia, as Verne does in Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant ("I
>could be instantly saved by you. Take the fastest flying machine you can
>rent straight to El Paso, your Ada will be waiting for you there, waving
>like mad, and we'll continue, by the New World Express, in a suite I'll
>obtain, to the burning tip of Patagonia, Captain Grant's Horn, a Villa in
>Verna, my jewel, my agony. Send me an aerogram with one Russian word--the
>end of my name and wit"), but she is at her wit's end, because she hardly
>expects her forced wit in the letter to move Van to reply "Da." Her wit,
>therefore, is exhausted.
>Alexey, what would make anyone else "interpret it that way"--that Demon and
>Ada have been lovers? Don, what are these "hints"? ADA is not reticent about
>sex, incest, or infidelity, so there would have to be much stronger clues
>than that Demonia's first and last letters spell Ad, or whatever is supposed
>to constitute the clue.
>Brian Boyd
>EDNOTE. Brian, I said "Somewhat Dissuaded." The particular hint I had in mind
>was Demon's "too far" farewell kiss after the family dinner at the end of
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Donald B. Johnson []
>Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2004 7:05 PM
>Subject: Fwd: Re: Re: Query: wordplay in Russian
>Dear Tomasz,
>One Russian word - "the end of Ada's name and wit" - is certainly "da"
>(yes). Note that "da" also occurs in Ada's second letter where a sentence
>consists of that single word:
>"He [Demon] and I have gamed at Nevada, my rhyme-name town, but you are also
>there, as well as the legendary river of Old Rus. Da. Oh, write me, one tiny
>note, I'm trying so hard to please you!"
>Note that "Nevada" is a town, not a State, on Antiterra. But Antiterra's
>other name is DEMONIA. I think that Ada's "da" links Demon, the father of
>Van and Ada, to the planet name Demonia. Note that, while the end of Ada's
>name is "da," its beginning is "ad" (hell). So, Demonia = Hell.
>By saying that "da" is also "the end of her wit," Ada seems to confirm
>unWITtingly that she not just "enjoyed going places" with Demon at Nevada,
>but that he was her lover. At least, I interpret it that way.
>EDNOTE. I too have toyed with the idea that Demon is among Ada's lovers.
>There are hints. I am somewhat dissuaded by Demon's apparently sincere
>distress on discovering Van and Ada's affair. Or is he just jealous?
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Donald B. Johnson" <>
>Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2004 11:17 PM
>Subject: Re: Query: wordplay in Russian
>> Quoting "[Tomasz Cyba]" <tcyba@PRAST.PL>:
>> > ----------------- Message requiring your approval (15 lines)
>> > ------------------
>> > In the first chapter of Part II of ADA, Van presents Ada's letters.
>> > The fourth one ends with a wordplay, which proved unsolvable for me.
>> >
>> > After making a suggestion for Van (she wants him to join her in El
>> > Ada says: 'Send me an aerogram with one Russian word - the end of my
>> > and wit.'
>> >
>> > What is that 'one Russian word'?
>> > Is it simply 'da'?
>> > Then why 'wit'?
>> >
>> > Would somebody help me in my struggle with it?
>> >
>> > Thanks,
>> > Tomasz
>> -----------------------------------------------
>> EDNOTE. My guess is that the wordplay involves both the DA of Ada and
>> the
>> phrase "at my wits end." both something esle might be involved.
>> Do note, however the play on"burning tip" and the ""agonia" of
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>----- End forwarded message -----

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