NABOKV-L post 0006985, Thu, 31 Oct 2002 11:45:47 -0800

[Fwd: RE: Brian Boyd on "Chose" in ADA]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Brian Boyd on Chose in ADA
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 16:28:18 +1300
From: "Brian Boyd (FOA ENG)" <>
To: "'Vladimir Nabokov Forum'" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

"Chose" is a puzzling name, and didn't come up in association with
Cambridge in my searches for annotating ADA or for the Nabokov biography
(which included scouring through, e.g., old issues of Granta, now a
famous literary journal but in Nabokov's time just a local student
magazine--named, of course, after the local term for the Cam, and
supplying the river "Ranta" associated in ADA with Chose).

I'm afraid Alexey's conjecture about "chose" and Les Fleurs du Mal seems
most unlikely; "chose" is as common in French as "thing" in English or
"veshch'" in Russian and could be found in other texts in more or less
close proximity to Aqua (such as A la Recherche du temps perdu).

I offer from my Annotations to ADA one likely, but perhaps incomplete,
explanation, and one unlikely, that nevertheless involves "Chose" as
(albeit temporarily) the name for a town.

18.24: Chose: This proves to be Antiterran for Cambridge,
England, although the reason remains unclear. Perhaps because of the
expression "Hobson's choice," from the practice of Thomas Hobson
(1544-1631), the famous "university carrier" at Cambridge, who when he
hired out horses made each customer "choose" the horse nearest the door.
Milton wrote two poems on the death of Hobson, whose name--as Nabokov
would have known from his years there as a student (1919-22)--is
commemorated around Cambridge in, for instance, Hobson's Conduit and
Hobson's Brook (also known as the Cambridge New River).

Though this seems an even less likely connection, I note it
anyway, since it shows "Chose" playing, even if briefly, the part of a
town's name. In Villette (1853), by Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), narrator
Lucy Snowe hears Ginevra Fanshawe declare: "`I was excessively happy at
Bonn!' `And where are you now?' I inquired.//`Oh! at - chose,' said she.
Now Miss Ginevra Fanshawe (such was this young person's name) only
substituted this word `chose' in temporary oblivion of the real name. It
was a habit she had: `chose' came in at every turn in her conversation -
the convenient substitute for any missing word in any language she might
chance at the time to be speaking. French girls often do the like; from
them she had caught the custom. `Chose,' however, I found, in this
instance, stood for Villette - the great capital of the great kingdom of
Labassecour." (Ch. 6) Villette in fact is a version of Brussels.

I should add that the only place name on Terra rather than the
antiterras of fiction that is called "Villette" is in Vaud Canton,
between Montreux, where Nabokov lived while writing ADA, and Lausanne,
where he would visit his tailor every year to have new shorts made for
him for butterfly hunting. Passing Villette so often for this and other
reasons COULD have piqued Nabokov's curiosity to read the novel. But
it's improbable, and even if he did, offers no link with Cambridge.

-----Original Message-----
From: Donald Johnson []
Sent: Thursday, 31 October 2002 3:46 p.m.
Subject: [Fwd: Quelques Fleurs du Mal]

EDNOTE. An idle thought. Does anyone know--especially you Brits---if
"Chose" was ever used as a nick-name for Cambridge. I wonder
because "Ardvaark" is used in ADA for Harvard and is, in fact, an
old nickname for Harvard.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Quelques Fleurs du Mal
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 01:14:50 +0300
From: "alex" <>
To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Dear all,
I apologize, if somebody has already explored the following issue:

In 1.3 (Part One, Chapter 3) of Ada, after she has fled from a mad
house (her current "home") and has reached Demon's country house at
Kitezh, poor Aqua sees a glass container with talc powder colorfully
marked Quelques Fleurs standing on her former bedside table. Why
this name ("some flowers") is "colorful" and what it is in
fact commemorating remains unclear until much later, namely 1.28 of
the novel. In the first sentence of this chapter Aqua is
parenthetically mentioned and, a page or two later in that
chapter, Van, her putative son, goes to Chose University in England
where he wants to study psychiatry so as to understand the nature of
Aqua's mental illness that has caused her to commit a suicide.
So, here is "Chose", another quaint name.
And still later in that chapter there is reminiscence of
Baudlelaire's poem Le crepuscule du matin (from his book Les Fleurs
du Mal), the line ten of which goes:

L'air est plein du frisson des choses qui s'enfuient
("The air is full of thrill of things that are passing away" - if I
translate it right from one language which I don't know at all into
another which I know only slightly).

Thus, if I'm not mistaken, Van's University received its name after
a word in Baudelaire's poem and Aqua's talc powder was named in
honor of the title of the book containing that poem.
I may add that Quelque Chose (a kickshaw, something
attractive) would be a possible name for a talc powder (at least, it
seems to me, the Frenchless, so), while Quelques Fleurs, though
perfectly colorless, sounds (to me) rather strange.
I apologize for possible (and inevitable) mistakes and the absence
of the accent aigu above the first "e" in crepuscule.

best regards to everybody,

Alexey Sklyarenko,