Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008768, Fri, 17 Oct 2003 19:59:01 -0700

Discussion: Grillo & Obieto
lines) ------------------

I have just a few hasty impressions (including nothing whatsoever on
Obieto) to offer:
However attractive the idea might seem, the meaning of German "ober-
or unterart" has nothing to do with art (German: "Kunst"), but with
species (and subspecies). I would therefore suggest that "Grillo" could,
because of the German involved in the art/species-pun, to the German word
"Grille" which means:
> 1) cricket [compare Italian: "grillo"?]
> 2) [dated:] silly notion/idea.
Could such a silly notion be intended here ("caprice or purpose")?

And another notion: could "the anonymous picture" refer to the object
"unremembered now, eighty years later" much earlier in the novel (ADA I- 4 ,
2nd paragraph)?
"He satisfied himself that those flowers were artificial and thought it
puzzling that such imitations always pander so exclusively to the eye
instead of also copying the damp fat feel of live petal and leaf. When
he called next day for the object (unremembered now, eighty years later)
that he wanted repaired or duplicated, it was not ready or had not been
obtained. In passing, he touched a half-opened rose and was cheated of
the sterile texture his fingertips had expected when cool life kissed them
with pouting lips. [...] On another occasion (for a certain part of the
thing -a frame, perhaps - took an infinite time to heal or else the entire
article proved to be unobtainable after all) [...]."
Don Johnson responses to above:

1. You are quite right about the "ober-/unter-- art." VN confirms that these
are taxonomic categories in his "Vivian Darkbloom" annotations.
2. You may be on to something re Grillo = cricket but I'm not sure what.
Painter's nickname?
3. Most important is your linkage of the ADA II-8 scene with the ADA I-4
scene. The "frottage" is strong confirmation.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ludger Tolksdorf" <uzsazk@nikocity.de>
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 11:02 AM
Subject: Re: Fw: QUERY: Grillo & Obieto

This message was originally submitted by Ludger Tolksdorf at

Hello again,

Concerning the shop, I think that apart from the frottage, the motif of
pictures and frames ought also to be taken into consideration. The "local
curio [Ada] holds in her left fist" in ADA II-8 [preceding the quote in
the original query] is unsigned and unframed, whereas there seems to be a
frame in ADA I-4, but no picture to match. Perhaps the picture is supplied

Feeling uncertain about "grillo", I looked it up again in an Italian
dictionary. Apparently, the Italian word "grillo" carries the same double
meaning as the German word "Grille", that is, that of
"cricket" as well as "whim". I would think that "whim" is close enough to
"caprice" to seem relevant.

I also think that Van's "local curio" is not the kind of object typically
portrayed with such focus by Renaissance artists. Could such a picture be
considered a painter's/writer's "whim" or "caprice" as a relief from the
difficult task of ferreting out all those Renaissance painters? And could
the outer appearance of a cricket (seen from above, perhaps) be relevant?

I looked up "cricket" and related terms in _Webster's_. Crickets are
defined as "saltatoria" while "saltatoria", depending on the mode of
classification you prefer, can either be seen as a suborder of the order
"orthoptera" or as a separate (?) order "coextensive" with the order of
"orthoptera". So the question here might be something like "order or
suborder"? (s. below for the entries in _Webster's_)

Thanks for your patience,
Ludger Tolksdorf

> from _Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary_:
> "cricket"
> 1: any of certain saltatorial insects that constitute a family Gryllidae
> "saltatoria"
> a suborder of orthoptera that is often considered a separate order,
> comprises insects with hind legs usu. adapted for leaping, and includes
> grasshoppers, crickets and related forms.
> "orthoptera"
> a) _in some, esp. former classifications_: a very large order including
> cockroaches, mantises, grasshoppers and crickets, stick insects and [...]

> b) an order including the mantises, grasshoppers and crickets, stick
> insects, and certain related forms and comprising the suborders Manteodea,
> Grylloblattodea, Saltatoria and Phasmatodea

> c) _in some classifications_: an order coextensive with Saltatoria.