Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002258, Sat, 2 Aug 1997 10:05:34 -0700

Nabokov in Hoffstadter's _Le Ton B_ (fwd)
EDITOR's NOTE. Below is the first in a series of notes and
queries on VN allusions in Douglas Hofstadter new book _Le Bon Ton de
Marot_ which deals with the ramifications of translation. NABOKV-L thanks
Mary Krimmel for this material.
Although I have not read Hofstadter's new work, I note in passing
that Humberto Eco, subject of the item below, wrote a short spoof of
_Lolita_ some years ago. It is in an English translation of his essays.

From: mary.krimmel@sdcs.org

First reference to Nabokov I find in reading _Le Ton Beau de Marot_ by
Douglas Hofstadter is on p. 127.

DH has been telling of a remarkable Italian book subtitled "Masterworks in
monovocalic sonnets", in which classics of Western literature are reduced to a
a single sonnet each. The first two examples DH gives are Dante's Inferno with
no vowel but e; and Cyrano de Bergerac with no vowel but o. He quotes each
sonnet with his own English translation beside it.

The bibliography listing of the book is

Varaldo, Giuseppe (1993). *All'alba Shahrazard andra ammazzata.* Milano:
Garzanti Editore.

Here I quote DH.

"And finally, voluntarily submitting to a quite different and in fact even
tougher regime, Varaldo squeezes Vladimir Nabokov's prurient novel *Lolita*
into a *biconsonantal* straitjacket of a sonnet, allowing any and all vowels
free entry but on the other hand forbidding all consonants but 'l' and 't'. To
this dialect of *l'italiano* it would seem most fitting to assign the name
*l'italo*, which not only is the poem's first word but also is an anagram of

"L'italo tuo telaio o l'alta tetta,
il luteo tulle o l'ileo titillato,
o il titolato letto, a te alleato,
alla tua eta liliale tutti alletta.

"Attui alla 'tele' l'utile toeletta,
e t'aiuta l'altea o il latte oliato;
tolta la tuta o il tuo tutu attillato,
l'attuale lue allieti, o tota eletta.

"L'alito tuo e aloe, loto e tea,
e lutata e la tela tua letale,
e ti latita il tatto e la lealta...

"Alata e lauta, la tattilita
tutela e attuta l'atto tuo totale.
Tu alea, Lete, Aletto...: tu talea!

"Your Roman frame, your bust upthrust,
your ticklish crotch, your skirt of gold,
the noble bed in which you've rolled,
though but a bud, you make men lust.

"While TV's on, your skin you shield
with floral scents, Oil of Olay;
when shift or slinky gown is peeled,
a chosen goddess, he cries !ole!

"Your breath is fragrant lotus tea,
your fatal web so tight, so thick,
you lack just tact and loyalty...

"Your winged touch, so warm, so wet,
covers and softens your whole trick.
Thou Fury, Alecto, Lethe...: thou nymphet!

"... It surely cannot be a coincidence that his book's preface was penned
by the celebrated Italian semiotician/novelist Humbert Humbert, affectionately
called 'Umberto Eco' by his compatriots, since that nickname, taken on a
literal level, means 'Humbert Echo'."

In the index to TB the aboce is not listed under Nabokov, but is listed under
Humbert, Humbert and under *Lolita*.

Whew! Now I'm asking. I know little of Umberto Eco, as I bogged down when I
tried to read his Name of the Rose. But surely DH is pulling his reader's leg
in a sort of Nabokovian way, isn't he, in calling Eco's name a nickname for
Humbert Humbert? I believe him when he seems to say Eco wrote the preface. But
I don't know what to think about whether it is coincidence or not; my guess
would be that it is, given Eco's interest in language per se, and that
retrofitting Eco with the name of Nabokov's character is just Hofstadter's
clever idea.

Please, can anyone help here? I don't want to become side-tracked by trying to
find Varaldo's book, which I couldn't read anyway, or bigraphical items about
Eco and his name. And an easy question for the right person; in the Italian
translation of Lolita is HH Humbert Humbert, Umberto Umberto - or what?

Mary Krimmel