Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002389, Fri, 26 Sep 1997 15:27:54 -0700

Re: LOLITA's "Chestnut Lodge" (fwd)
From: Dolinin <dolinin@facstaff.wisc.edu>

Professor Naiman response reminds me of a very old Soviet joke
that I heard at the age when I still was intriguied by travels about the lower
parts of the body (the trouble with them, as I see it now, is that they
have a very limited number of points of interest, or, in Brodsky's
phrasing: "Krasavitse iubku zadrav, vidish' to, chto iskal, a ne novye
divnye divy"):
At a political indoctrination session in the army barracks a
commissar shows a portrait of Lenin to a private and asks: "Comrade
Petrov, what do you think about when you are looking at this sacred picture?"
"About *lodges* (to use professor Naiman's OED find as a suitable
euphemism)," answers comrade Petrov. The commissar is shocked: "Why is
that?" "Because I am thinking about them every minute of my life!"
All the examples professor Neiman cites are either, so to say, the
anagrams in the eye of the beholder and, of course, one can find them by
dozens if one tries hard enough, especially changing the letters at will,
or, at best, paronomastic echoes of a key word (name).
What I mean (the incomplete anagram of Professor Naiman's name is
not intended) by anagram, though, is a short part of the text that is
encoded, introduced, preceeded or followed by a specific marker. There are
anagrammatic markers of several kinds depending on a context; for example,
in the context of LOLITA italicized French is NOT such a marker because it
is used consistently throughout the novel. On the other hand, the word
"anagramtailed" IS such a marker as it sends us directly to the tail of the
sentence: "Ted Hunter, Cane, NH", that is, "Enchanted Hunter" (without the
definite article!).
Let me briefly touch on some other matters:
>>In his translations, Nabokov often plays
>>equivalent games, but not in the exact same places. He tends to use more
>>or less literal translations even where a pun is lost; a pun with similar
>>freight can be added elsewhere. "A Guide to Berlin" is probably the best
>>instance of this process, but there are many others, particularly in the
>>early novels.
It is bizarre to identify Nabokov's translations from Russian into
English and his Russian version of LOLITA. The former were intended to
supersede the earlier versions and because of that contained many additions
and changes while the latter strives to retain all the complexities of the
original and in many cases can serve as a glossary to it. Of course,
Nabokov often played equivalent games but Russian LOLITA does not have a
single new pun added ELSEWHERE: they all are posited in what might be
called a paragraph proximity.

> Finally, I would protest the general premise of Dolinin's
>response, that Nabokov's poetics "always obey" strict rules. Nabokov's
>genius consists precisely in his playing by different rules than the ones
>anticipated by the reader. (Or, as an American lawyer in Moscow recently
>said imperialistically: "We don't read the laws, we write 'em"). We
>appreciate his operations after the fact, but they aren't predictible or
>reliable (and that's what makes reading him so much fun). Did anyone try
>to solve those crossword puzzles published recently in Novoe Literaturnoe
>Obozrenie? As far as generic rules are concerned, Nabokov at his best was
>always a great cheater.

Unfortunately, professor Naiman first invented my "general
premise" and then attacked it ex cathedra. I know my Pushkin rather well and hence
always remember that there is no law for a wind, an eagle, a maiden heart,
and Nabokov's poetics. Yet the example with crossword puzzles is a good
illustration of my position: if the instruction says "down," don't try to
write your cleverest word from left to right--it never works.
By the way, I solved all Nabokov's crossword puzzles in 1989,
retrieving them from the old copies of RUL' in the Leningrad Public
P.S. The funniest thing is that Professor Naiman did not notice my
simple solution of the problem: Chestnut Lodge=Nut House (cf. Russian
sumasshedshii dom).