Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001199, Tue, 6 Aug 1996 09:56:13 -0700

Re: Orwell Query (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu> offers her answer to
the G.H. Orwell mystery.
Galya Diment:

I guess I don't have anything better to do so I will offer pure

I suspect the reference here may be to H.G. Wells, another "futurist"
writer whose "evil twin," thus a mirror reversal of the initials, Orwell
(whose name almost incorporates that of Wells) might have been supposed to
be by N. If my memory serves me right, he liked Wells but detested
Orwell. Orwell as Wells' "wannabe," according to N.?

> ------------------ 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.'
> here?
> 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
> England
> [j.goodenough@uea.ac.uk]
> ----------------------------------------
> 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).