Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002225, Mon, 7 Jul 1997 15:14:07 -0700

M. Verdoux et M. Humbert (fwd)
The ever observant Michael Wood notes (in THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF
BOOKS, July 17) an interesting antecedent to a familiar passage, that
is, one which "anticipates Humbert Humbert's scheme for murdering
Charlotte Haze in LOLITA. Verdoux takes one of his wives out in a
boat on a lake, and is ready to strangle her with a noose, when he
realizes they are being watched from the shore. He realizes this
because the watcher is yodeling. And is quickly joined by other
yodelers, a whole chorus. This is funny, I think, because it does
something Chaplin so often does [...]. It introduces the ridiculous
into a territory we thought was safe from it; and it reminds us that
the ridiculous is weirdly neutral, evenhanded, in relation to danger
and power. You could be killed by a clown or saved by a yodeler."
The differnces, it seems to me, are as interesting as the
similarities. Consider, also, this sentence, as a comment on the
uneasy laughter Nabokov, no less than Chaplin, provokes: "You don't
need a justification for anything that's funny, and anything, even
murder, can be funny."

Wayne Daniels

Metro Toronto Reference Library


EDITOR's NOTE. ANd then there is Dreiser's AMERICAN TRAGEDY that VN uses
in KQKn, (See Boyd's BIBLION article.)