NABOKV-L post 0025148, Sun, 2 Mar 2014 12:59:06 -0800

Subject
Re: n-rereadings of PF: dualities...
Date
Body
Dear Barrie Akin (to what? to who?),

I am intrigued by your last paragraph (well, the whole note actually, but will respond to the former only): 

As for the 'merman azure, crined or' I wonder if there is a connection with the 'false azure' of line 2. And could  'crined or' (=golden haired) be another oblique way of referring to a king? It suggests to me that this is hinting at the very start that the king is a fantasy. As for what else one could make of the merman, apart from the fact that that is also the title of the play that the king encounters twice at the end of the secret passage, The only literary association that springs to mind is Matthew Arnold's 'The Forsaken Merman' in which the merman's wife (doing the very opposite to Hazel) goes up above the water to leave her family forever.


There is a Russian reference possible lurking here, if I may borrow your phrase. There is a russian tale (not exactly a fairy tale, one of the byliny) about a merchant from Novogorod who ends up at the bottom of the sea. The Nabokov family owned a fabulous painting showing him curled up asleep in the deep being approached by a sort of mermaid, but with legs, and a pagoda-like headdress).  I hadn't thought to associate Hazel with this story, in fact I don't think I associated it with Pale Fire at all, but I may re-think.


Carolyn

________________________________
From: Barrie Akin <ba@TAXBAR.COM>
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 3:01 AM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] n-rereadings of PF: dualities...



I'm intrigued by Jansy Mello's comments. So here goes.

When I first read PF I assumed that the opening ten or so lines were describing the actions of the adult JS. I suspect Jansy has had the same experience, as he refers to JS 's study. And the opening lines are so majestic and grown up that, with no immediate frame of reference that would steer you towards childhood, you can easily assume that what is being described is the experience of JS the adult - after all, there is nothing that I can see in the poem that tells you that there was a real waxwing that struck the windowpane - the opening lines could, for all the new reader knows, be talking about a purely figurative waxwing striking a purely figurative windowpane.

I confess to not immediately noticing the steer towards childhood in CK's commentary to those lines - Kinbote's reference to JS discovering the bird and to him as 'a physically unattractive but otherwise perfectly developed lad' distracts you because you concentrate on the monster that he appears to be, rather than on JS.

But Canto 1 is about JS's childhood anyway and the reference to his bed in line 11 suggests to me that JS uncurtains the night from his childhood bedroom rather than his adult study, so that the opening lines are describing childhood actions and experiences. Whether that assists a Shadean reading or not is not a question I feel able to answer.

And while I'm the subject of the opening lines, I am puzzled by the coincidence that CK draws to our attention in the commentary to lines 1-4. The resemblance between the Zemblan 'Sampel' and the waxwing that CK mentions is, I think, pointing us towards 'Bombycilla' which Wikipedia tells me was a ham fisted attempt by a German naturalist to translate 'Seidenschwanz' (=silktail) into Latin. Perhaps this is the 'interesting association belatedly realized' of the index - that the sampel and the waxwing are perhaps the same bird, bringing Shade and CK's identities closer together?

In this note, CK also mentions the two other heraldic creatures in the armorial bearings of the king. The reindeer's Latin name is 'rangifer tarandus' - I can see Gradus lurking in there! 

As for the 'merman azure, crined or' I wonder if there is a connection with the 'false azure' of line 2. And could  'crined or' (=golden haired) be another oblique way of referring to a king? It suggests to me that this is hinting at the very start that the king is a fantasy. As for what else one could make of the merman, apart from the fact that that is also the title of the play that the king encounters twice at the end of the secret passage, The only literary association that springs to mind is Matthew Arnold's 'The Forsaken Merman' in which the merman's wife (doing the very opposite to Hazel) goes up above the water to leave her family forever.

This may all be texture rather than text, but it keeps me amused.



Barrie Akin
Gray's Inn Tax Chambers
London
WC1R 5JA

+44 (0)207 242 2642

On 26 Feb 2014, at 03:28, "Carolyn Kunin" <chaiselongue@ATT.NET> wrote:


Dear Jansy,
>
>
>I was going to say that Kinbote was probably looking on, but it can't be ... he hasn't made the trip to America yet, so I guess at this point neither is aware of the other. Right?
>
>
>Carolyn
>
>
>
>________________________________
> From: Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US>
>To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
>Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 10:16 AM
>Subject: [NABOKV-L] n-rereadings of PF: dualities...
>
>
>
>
>Reading again the very familiar opening lines of Pale Fire I noticed that a special feeling had escaped me until then. Although what I’m considering now must be familiar to a great many Nablers, I’ll set it down here as a stimulus for further discussions. I’m not a Shadean but this new reading apparently reinforces the Shade-authorship point of view.  

>In his opening verses John Shade isn’t only describing his experience of confronting Summer or Winter while looking out from the windows of his study, or establishing an analogy between his actual emotions and his recollection of a shattered waxwing, to indicate that at present he is also feeling shattered,hoping to avoid depression to be able to “live on” by writing a poem.Actually, he is also warning us that he is not only in his study but, by a play of mirrors, that he also finds himselfoutside, in a “crystal land” (Zembla?).*

>The shades of blue he describes are very different during the day (mainly azure) and at night. Although the passages alternating light and dark, West and East, life and death, Summer and Winter are not subtle, their stark contrast was subdued for me so I didn’t notice that the poet makes “death,” at that moment, gain the upper hand, as if he were feeling dead to the world.

>The fact that I never bothered to take sides, preferring the more naïf version that the novel PF was written by V.Nabokov who describes in it the “mental story” of two different characters (a poet, and a commentator/editor), this realization puzzled me. What was Shade’s intention when he describes his own dual nature?
>Was he demonstrating how he felt trapped by his physical condition and how he only recovered life while standing outside himself in a mirror-land?
>Was V.Nabokov laying a trap so that - instead of recognizing the he (John Shade), just like the independent Kinbote (or Prof. Botkin), is also “doubled” -  the readers could be led to suppose that he and C.Kinbote are one and that it’s John Shade who invents Kinbote and Zembla?

>There’s also the phantom third to consider in both cases. John is the shadow of a dead waxwing, he is its ashen fluff and its living reflection on a false azure sky (which would correspond to his finding himself in a crystal land and writing a poem). Charles Kinbote (or Botkin) is also Charles II, the Beloved and the assassin Gradus.  I cannot figure out any correspondences here, despite CK’s effort to synchronize John Shade’s moving hand to Gradus’s progress.

>When  “night unites the viewer and the view” does Shade mean that he has finally managed to integrate his contrasting traits and emotions, or does it have a religious tinge related to IPH and a “return to the bosom of his Creator”?


>……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
>*- Editing the lines for emphasis we read: “… And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
>                                                  Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
>                                                  Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
>                                                  Hang all the furniture [   ] …
>                                                  As to make chair and bed exactly stand
>                                                  Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!
>                                                  [  ] And then the gradual and dual blue
>                                                  As night unites the viewer and the view…”


>
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