Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001529, Sun, 8 Dec 1996 18:58:47 -0800

Re: Lolita query: "A small hairy hermaphrodite"
On Mon, 2 Dec 1996 10:14:10 -0800 Donald Barton Johnson said:
>From: Steven Barnat <exnihilo@sirius.com>
>Might some kind Nabokovians offer snappy interpretations of the
>following trivia? he inquired, scratching head...
>(1) "Still in Parkington. Finally, I did achieve an hour's slumber --
>from which I was aroused by gratuitous and horribly exhausting congress
>with a small hairy hermaphrodite, a total stranger." (Lolita, Vintage,
>109) Who is this small, hairy hermaphrodite?

John Rea's comments:

Scrounging around among dream related stuff for an entirely different
reason (i.e. Finnigans Wake) I chanced on the following material. First
from vol. 1 p 277 of the _Brockhaus Enzyklopaedie_, Wiesbaden 1966.
(Although both references I'm giving are in Roman type -- unfraktured
German, you should pardon the allusion -- I'll let DBJ do any translating
he may feel needed in case there are people on the list who, like a
certain Russian writer I have heard of, claim not to know much German.)

"Als Albdruck ... oder Albtraum, bezeichnet man volkstuemlich Angster-
lebnisse im Schlaf, die meist mit ploetzlichem schreckhaftem Aufwachen
verbunden sind. Im Aberglauben nimmt der Adbdruck vielerlei Gestalt an;
z.B erlebt ihn die Frau manchmal als Bedrohung eines maennl. Daemons...
und der Mann als weibl...."

Which puts us off to a good start with a bisexual creature causing sudden
awakening with its "attention".

Volume 1 of the _Handwoerterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens_ devotes some
twelve pages to our critter (pp282-306) with some nice details.

"....der vom A. befallene Schlaefer glaubt meistens, dasz ein Wesen
tierischer oder menschlicher Gestalt auf seiner Brust niederlasse....
Nicht selten sind mit dem A.druck e r o t i s c h e Traueme verbunder"
(p 282 col 1: I follow the German in using spaced letters to indicate
emphasis, which we might like to do with underlining -- easier for my
ASCII too!) On p 283 other names are suggested that in some dialects
appear, such as "Marh" cognate with English 'nightmare' and with French
'cauchemar', which latter is partly borrowed from Germanic.

On p. 255 we are informed that the creature is, "zwar meistens haarig, zottig
(vgl lat. 'pilosus')" col 1., and further on p 293 col 1 that it it may move
to the sleepers mouth, "in den er seinen Finger oder seine haarige Zunge
steckt." Then a bit further the same column informs us that, Der A.
drueckt auch kleine Kinder...(pavor nocturnus).... Sorta reminiscent of
Humberts nocturnal drive to Pavor Manor -- at least verbally.

Just to accumulate coincidences, which of course have no significance
for serious study of literary works, on page 286 col 1, that , "der A.
erscheint entweder als T i e r ... oder in m e n s c h l i c h e r
Gestalt".... including in column 2, "als kleiner weiszer oder grauer

Thank Log that VN didn't know German!

Pardon me for getting carried away off topic like this!!


p. s. You have my permission to translate any tough words like Schmetterling.

Ki semenat ispinaza, non andet iskultsu!

J. A. Rea jarea@ukcc.uky.edu