Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001430, Thu, 14 Nov 1996 09:16:08 -0800

nabokoviana: KQKn cypher?; Madelon; homunculi;" M."O" film;
Camera Obscura copy
---------- Forwarded message ----------
EDITOR'S NOTE. My special thanks to Therese Fontan & Didiet Machu for the=
splendid items below.

Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 14:51:51 +0100 (MET)
From: machu@crisv1.univ-pau.fr
=09Adresse : Dpt d'Anglais - Facult=E9 des Lettres
=09Tel.Fax.R=E9pondeur : 59-92-32-31

A. Nabokov is said to have derived great fun from referring to "the one
word", "the all-resolving secret", the "never-t-be-revealed secret". In
some cases I suppose he was just teasing readers, egging them on with
milder versions of the mystery. As an illustration, I offer the following
riddles with reference to King, Queen, Knave:
- What is the "code word" or "password" Martha is supposed to utter as a
signal for Franz to get Dreyer drowned (chapter 12, p. 242 in the
Weidenfeld and Nicolson edition)?: is it "now", "wasser"/ "water", or still
another word, or no particular word?
- Is Martha's cabled message to Franz (chapter 11, p. 213) to be decoded in
What Uncle Ruka feels up to deciphering it? Would the Russian original be
any help?
Thanks for any clue.

B. Ephemeral homunculi: I raided my bookshelves to no avail. Fortunately
J.A. Rea identified White's story. Could the Series Jerry Goodenough
originally referred to have been the Fontana Books of Great Horror Stories/
Ghost Stories? VN's "The Visit to the Museum" was included in Volume 7 of
the Ghost Series, together with stories by W. Irving, Coppard, et al.
Stories by M.R. James, Hugh Walpole, Wells, Priestley, Vernon Lee, Wilde,
Ann Bridge, Gautier, Saki, Wilkie Collins, Pushkin, L.P. Hartley, Nigel
Kneale, Amis, A. Christie were part of the fare offered in other volumes.
Another puzzling Fontana book of the sixties: Knight Sinister, by Simon
Rattray: Hugo Bishop is the chess-playing, odds-playing private detective
investigating a disappearance=8A I haven't read the book.

C. Madelon II: Several versions of the song were written after the First
World War, such as "La Madelon de la Victoire". But the original version
was and still is associated with the Great War. Madelon, an old form of
'Madeleine' is the name of a girl who serves wine or beer to soldiers and
helps them forget how long they have been away from home and their
sweethearts. I suppose that Madelon II is the alehouse servant American
soldiers would meet in France during and after WW II, as compared with the
wench their fathers had encountered after WW I. The beginning of the song
is, to the best of my (incomplete) memory:
Pour le plaisir, le repos du militaire,
Il est la-bas, =E0 deux pas de la foret,
Une maison au toit tout couvert de lierre:
Au Tourlourou, c'est le nom du cabaret.
La servante y est jeune et gentille,
Tout comme son oeil, son nom p=E9tille,
Nous l'appelons la Madelon
Quand Madelon vient nous servir =E0 boire,
Chacun de nous lui raconte une histoire,
Une histoire a sa facon.
La Madelon pour nous n'est pas severe:
Quand on lui prend la taille ou le menton,
Elle rit, c'est tout l'mal qu'elle sait faire,
Madelon, Madelon, Madelon!
On l'embrass' dans le cou; ell' dit: veux-tu finir,
On pense que c'est l'autre et ca fait bien plaisir.

D. Mademoiselle O. The French TV film mentioned some weeks ago was adapted
from VN's short story by Sandra Joxe and Jerome Foulon and mostly filmed in
Russia (location shots, and studio scenes at the Petropol Studios). Music
by Isaac Schwarts (St Petersburg Capella Philharmonic Orchestra). Casting:
Maite Nahyr (Melle O), Anton Minachkine (Volodia), Grichka Khaoustov
(Sergey), Elena Safonova (the mother), Alexandre Arbatt (the father),
Vernon Dobtcheff (Uncle Ruka), Serguei Berkhterev: Lenski. In case anyone
is interested I have a copy of that fairly good adaptation.

E. and last: how expensive bad translations may become with the passing of
years. A soiled copy of Nabokoff-Sirin's Camera Obscura, translated by
Winifred Roy, is currently offered for =A3 180 (Plurabelle Books, Cambridge=
England: @compuserve.com).