Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001198, Mon, 5 Aug 1996 16:32:54 -0700

Orwell Query (fwd)
J.Goodenough@uea.ac.uk submits the question below. See my EDITOR'S
NOTE at end.

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----------------- Message requiring your approval (45 lines)
------------------ Can some kind list-member with nothing better to do
this summer please solve this query for me? It's been nagging away at me
for days now and I haven't had any luck in tracking down a solution in the
library here.

I was re-reading my old copy of 'Invitation to a Beheading' with VN's
Introduction to the first English edition where he shrugs off any
suggestion that ITAB had been influenced in the writing by Kafka - which
VN was unable to read at the time of composition. He then goes on to draw
a clear distinction between his work and that of "G.H.Orwell". In context,
the reference seems obviously to be to the work of George Orwell whose
'1984' shares certain thematic similarities to ITAB, but whose political
didacticism would clearly not appeal to VN's aesthetic sensibilities.

My puzzle is that I do not understand the import of VN's exact reference
here. 'George Orwell', the nom de plume of Eric A. Blair, has no middle
name or initial, as Blair's biographies, including the authorised one by
Crick, make clear at least by omission. What, then, does VN mean by 'G.H.'

Is it a concealed reference to some other GH? (Here my memory fails me and
I can only dredge up that now-forgotten music-hall artiste from the
beginning of this century, G.H.Elliot, The Chocolate Coloured Coon - who
went on not to write 'The Waste Land' - and G.H.Lewes, whose marriage to
Mary Ann Evans/George Eliot made him G.H.Eliot too in a manner of speaking
- who also didn't write 'The Waste Land'. Other G.H.'s escape me.) Or is
this a rare case of VN erring? I can find no solution in any work on
Nabokov to which I have access, and would be grateful for any light that
professional Nabokovians can shed on this for me.

Jerry Goodenough (philosopher with obviously too much time
on his hands)
University of East Anglia
Norwich NR4 7TJ
EDITOR'S NOTE. I had never noticed the mysterious "H" in "G. H. Orwell."
Although VN did foul up names ocassionally, there may well be something
going on here. I can only suggest an inversion of the initials of
H. G. Wells. This has a couple of things going for it: 1) the "-well" in
"Orwell," 2) the implied contrast of Well's "good" fantasy/Sci-Fi
(e.g., "The Time Machine") and Orwell's "bad" Sci-Fi "(1984).