Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004536, Tue, 2 Nov 1999 15:12:56 -0800

Hairy hermaphrodite, horribly exhausting (fwd)
From: "Jeffrey S. Farmer" <af369@acorn.net>
"Finally, I did achieve an hour's slumber--from which I was aroused by
gratuitous and horribly exhausting congress with a small hairy
hermaphrodite, a total stranger." (LOLITA, Part One, Chapter 27)

I wonder if the word "gratuitous" in this passage doesn't connote a
Gidean acte gratuit or gratuitous act. Of course, the question remains,
is sex with a small, hairy hermaphrodite an acte gratuit? Better yet, is
dreaming about the same? The answer has to be no, if an acte gratuit is
a conscious, albeit meaningless or purposeless act ... no, that is, not
without irony. Has Nabokov combined bits of Freudian dream kitsch and
French literary cant from the years around World War II in such a way
that the bits cancel each other out?

>From Chapter 26, just before the hairy hermaphrodite passage: "My
calendar is getting confused. That must have been around August 15,
1947." Gide was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1947, in October, I suppose?

More clues, less reaching: Humbert Humbert and the hairy hermaphrodite,
whatever else they share, share an acronym. And in Chapter 17, as in
Chapter 27, Humbert, struggling with his conscience and unable to sleep,
is thinking about knockout drugs:

"I saw myself administering a powerful sleeping potion to both mother
and daughter so as to fondle the latter through the night with perfect
impunity. The house was full of Charlotte's snore, while Lolita hardly
breathed in her sleep, as still as a painted girl-child. "Mother, I
swear Kenny never even _touched_ me." "You either lie, Dolores Haze, or
it was an incubus." No, I would not go that far.
So Humbert the Cubus schemed and dreamed--and the red sun of desire
and decision (the two things that create a live world) rose higher and
higher ..."

Humbert the Cubus, neither incubus nor succubus, or perhaps a little of
each, something like an hermaphrodite?

Offered with an apology if this thread has become horribly exhausting,

Jeff Farmer