NABOKV-L post 0002438, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:40:11 -0700

Subject
*Dark Ice* Notes lines 218-516 [Notes #5] (fwd)
Date
Body
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Line 218
Glare ice...A Peterbilt

Glare ice: a thin transparent ice that
forms on asphalt highways, making
driving exceptionally risky and difficult;
it is not easy to detect.
Peterbilt: an excellent American
make of truck
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Line 221
PODWIG

Russian: *gallant feat, great exploit*.
Title of a Russian novel (written in
Berlin)first published in 1932 (English
translation *Glory*, 1971) by Vladimir
Vladimirovich Nabokov, Russian and
American author (1899-1977). *Glory *
(and, presumably, its to me
indecipherable Russian original)
contains a "dark path" that disappears
into a fir wood in a painting within a
story. See *Dark Ice*, IX, for a
coincidental theme.
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Line 238
*America. It couldn't happen here.*

An answer once beloved of complacent
U.S. citizens. See note to line 213.
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Line 251
squirrel

See *Pnin*, 1957, a novel in English by
Vladimir Nabokov, for an etymology.
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Line 262
"follies tricked out so brightly that they"

In *Don Juan*, Canto XV, stanza 57,
Byron describes a rakish pair:

Half virtues and whole vices being combined:
Faults which attract because they are not tame,
Follies tricked out so brightly that they blind.
These seals upon her wax made no impression;
Such was her coldness or her self-possession.

Byron's influence on Pushkin and
Lermontov constitutes an important
Anglo-Russian connection.
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Line 267
rake

A chance garden implement in a sublet
residence in Ithaca, New York.
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Line 273
a rotting stump (with ears)

I have seen a distant black bear
camouflaged in this way, in West
Virginia.
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Line 283
maps...craquelure anglaise

The hairline fractures in old paintings,
accelerated and worsened in 18th
century English paintings in which
bitumen was used improperly. English
imperialists of the 19th and 20th
centuries were known to create nation-
states, in the field, by drawing up maps
and declaring them to exist--much to
the lasting benefit of those regions.
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Line 298
crystallist

An amateur crystallographer.
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Line 309
But fragrant archivolts of evergreen

For fir-needle archivolts decorating a
Russian village, see Vladimir Nabokov's
memoir, *Speak, Memory*, 1966,
Chapter One.
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Lines 311-314
Long avenue ... roadside cottage to lakeside hotel

There was a long avenue of oaks at Vyra,
the Nabokov family's estate in St.
Petersburg Province, that led to a
motel in Delores, Colorado, and on to
the Montreux Palace Hotel in
Switzerland, overlooking Lake Geneva
(free alp air).
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Lines 342-343
Arabic tangles ... Hebrew thorns

Two beautiful alphabets:

**ASCII readers: the two alphabets
are pictured here, Hebrew above
Arabic.**
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Lines 343-344
Chinese crystals ... bright diagonal.

A Los Angeles graduate student
published a traditional poem called
"Lantern Festival" under the pen name
Zhu Haihong in the Communist party
newspaper in March 1991, two months
before the second anniversary of the
events at Tian An Men Square. A
*qianzi shi* (acrostic poem)
masquerading as a *qilu*, a seven-
character-per-line, eight-line verse
form that dates back to the Tang
Dynasty, the poem (as it appeared in
translation in *The Los Angeles Times*)
reads:

The east wind caresses the face and hastens
the peaches and plums.
A sparrow hawk spreads its wings, unfolding
a bright future.
The moon reflects in the sea, bringing hot
tears.
A traveler ascends a tower, remembering
his home.
I shall not fail to live up to lifelong
aspirations to serve my country.
The people who raised me are more valuable
than 10,000 pieces of gold.
We must do all we can to catch up and
reinvigorate China.
We wait for spring to spread across this
sacred land.

When read diagonally in Chinese, the
poem says "Li Peng step down, pacify the
people's anger."
In the uproar following publication,
the poem's author commented: "It was
just for fun. If someone was put in prison,
I really regret doing it."
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Lines 356-357
liquid shades/Variegated like Antarctic streams

Edgar Allan Poe's character Arthur Gordon
Pym describes certain later American
phenomena, including Vladimir Nabokov's
English prose, with curious precision:

I am at a loss to give a distinct idea of the
nature of this liquid, and cannot do so
without many words. Although it flowed
with rapidity in all declivities where
common water would do so, yet never,
except when falling in a cascade, had it
the customary appearance of *limpidity*.
It was, nevertheless, in point of fact, as
perfectly limpid as any limestone water
in existence, the difference being only in
appearance. At first sight, and especially
in cases where little declivity was found, it
bore resemblance, as regards consistency,
to a thick infusion of gum arabic in common
water. But this was only the least remarkable
of its extraordinary qualities. It was *not*
colorless, nor was it of any one uniform
color--presenting to the eye, as it flowed,
every possible shade of purple, like the
hues of a changeable silk. This variation
in shade was produced in a manner which
produced as profound astonishment in
the minds of our party as the mirror had
done in the case of Too-wit. Upon
collecting a basinful, and allowing it to
settle thoroughly, we perceived that the
whole mass of liquid was made up of a
number of distinct veins, each of a distinct
hue; that these veins did not commingle;
and that their cohesion was perfect in
regard to their own particles among
themselves, and imperfect in regard to
neighboring veins. Upon passing the
blade of a knife athwart the veins, the
water closed over it immediately, as with
us, and also, in withdrawing it, all traces
of the passage of the knife were instantly
obliterated. If, however, the blade was
passed down accurately between the two
veins, a perfect separation was effected,
which the power of cohesion did not
immediately rectify. The phenomena of
this water formed the first definite link in
that vast chain of apparent miracles with
which I was destined to be at length
encircled.
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Line 359
Filed pearl

Mother of peril. Pearlescent pigments,
iridescent figments, a phosphorescent
glossary.
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Line 370
girl I read about

See lines 289-500 in Canto II of “Pale Fire,” a
poem of 999 lines in heroic couplets by the
American poet John Shade. The poem may
be found in its entirety (along with an index,
a commentary with useful notes, and a
foreword) in Vladimir Nabokov's
interesting novel *Pale Fire* (1962).
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Line 385
Platen Lake

*Platen*: a metal plate in a printing press
that serves to position the paper and hold
it against the inked type; the platen is
usually large and of dark iron in old
"platen presses" like the self-inking
treadle platen press, designed in 1839
by American innovator Stephen Ruggles.
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Line 402
grimpen

See the poem *Pale Fire*, line 368. Hazel
Shade is reading one of the British poet
T. S. Eliot's *Four Quartets* ("East Coker"),
in which Eliot uses the word *grimpen*.
His source is Arthur Conan Doyle. In
Chapter Seven of *The Hound of the
Baskervilles*, Mr. Stapleton of Merripit
House, a naturalist carrying a butterfly
net and specimen box, addresses Dr.
Watson with a laugh: "'That is the
great Grimpen Mire,' said he. 'A false
step yonder means death to man or
beast. Only yesterday I saw one of the
moor ponies wander into it. He never
came out. I saw his head for quite a
long time craning out of the bog-hole,
but it sucked him down at last. Even
in dry seasons it is a danger to cross
it, but after these autumn rains it is
an awful place. And yet I can find my
way to the very heart of it and return
alive.'"
Stapleton turns out to be the villain
of the story. As Watson reports in
Chapter 12, "All my unspoken instincts,
my vague suspicions, suddenly took
shape and centred upon the naturalist.
In that impassive, colourless man, with
his straw hat and his butterfly net, I
seemed to see something terrible--a
creature of infinite patience and craft,
with a smiling face and a murderous
heart."
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Line 405
(ALL POWER TO...)

See "The Twelve," a poem of black night
and white snow written in January, 1918,
by Alexander Alexandrovich Blok, 1880-
1921.
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Line 412
a film

For an explanation and elaboration
of the Russian term *poshlust*, see
Vladimir Nabokov's *Nikolai Gogol*,
chapter 3, "Our Mister Chichikov."
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Line 457
halfsilvered

A mirror so engineered as to reflect
approximately half of the particular
photons that encounter it, while
waving the other half through.
Mentioned with relative frequency
in the literature of 20th century physics.
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Line 459
her life

See note to line 370.
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Line 460
my wife

I happened to read the novel *Pale Fire*
for the first time in late March of 1990,
beginning it in New York city, continuing
it on a jet over the Caribbean, and
finishing it on a Jamaica beach. Back in
New York, I reread it over the next month:
it was the last novel I read before meeting
Sophie Forrester, in May of that year.
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Lines 461-462
**ASCII readers: these two lines are
upside-down and backwards English**

For readers whose Mirrorussian is rusty:
BEWARE THE RETROGRADE, THE FALLING BLUR,
NULL SWIRLS AROUND RETURN IN SHADOWPLAY
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Line 475
frakturs

Old German type resembling daggers and
barbed wire, or beautiful gothic furniture,
as in:

**ASCII readers: the following text is
in Fraktur type:**

fraktur icicles drip quickly from sharp points.
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Lines 480-482
A gust...Twelve trees...in a row

Mortar and apostles. See note to line 405.
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Line 491
instar

From the Latin word for *image*; a stage
of an insect or other arthropod between
molts; an individual in such a stage.
(The word also means *to stud with
stars.*)
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Lines 511-516
I moved into a rude square...*Red's pawn structure*

Chess with human pieces. See note to
line 727. In Karl Marx's only recorded
game, he opened with the Muzio Gambit--
daring, indifferent to loss of pieces, now
seldom used.
Russian champion Boris Spassky said
this after his 1972 loss to American
champion Bobby Fischer (as quoted in
Brad Darrach, *Bobby Fischer vs. the
Rest of the World*, New York, Stein
and Day, 1974):

"I do not know which is more bad,
the match or after the match.
In a long match a player shall go
very deep into himself, like a diver.
Then very fast he comes up. Every time,
win or lose, I am so depressed I want
to die. I cannot get back in touch with
other people. I want the other chess
player. I miss him.
"I have played many long match. But
this is first for Bobby. It will be for him a
hard time. Now he feels like a god. He
thinks all problems are over--he will have
many friends, people will love him, history
will obey him. But is not so. In these high
places is very cold, very lonely. Soon will
come depression. I like him, and I am
afraid what will happen to him now."
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