Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027029, Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:56 -0300

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RES: [NABOKV-L] Bas and bots in Lolita
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Didier Machu: I have a query regarding a passage early in Lolita, about Monique, the young prostitute Humbert encounters in the Madeleine district: Stopping before a window display she said with great gusto: 鈥楯e vais m鈥檃cheter des bas!始 and never may I forget the way her Parisian childish lips exploded on 鈥榖as始, pronouncing it with an appetite that all but changed the 鈥榓始 into a brief buoyant bursting 鈥榦始 as in 鈥榖ot始 [ ].If the word is English, what comes to mind is the larva of the botfly, a repulsive parasite of mammals, endemic to South-Central America [ ]And, of course, Sybil sees Kinbote as 鈥渁 king-sized botfly鈥 and the king-bot is mentioned in the Index, under Botkin. Could the two hypotheses be conflated? Could one say that bot [芦 pied-bot 禄], as a metaphor of Byron始s abnormal drive, is the bot [larva] hosted by Humbert and ultimately developing into a book that lives beyond his death while the girl he has carried within himself dies when delivered of a stillborn baby? I may be over-interpreting: a new organism is formed鈥


Jansy Mello: V. Nabokov was certainly aware of the wide range of associations ellicited by a particular word but he must have also known that the irradiation of its meanings could not be under his total control neither their diverging interpretations and metaphors.
The sound of the "o" in "bot" in French and in English mustn't have been the only possible variations. He lived in Germany for quite some time and he must have come across the word "Botschaft" (Embassy) quite often and to some of its related meanings (messenger, courier). These can be extended into the English "bode, bodings."
The bot-fly indication of "bot", as I'm informed, derives from an ancient gaellic word for "maggot" and yet, curiously, the way by which this big bot-fly breeds also demands a much smaller "bot" (courier) to carry its eggs that would then infest the selected mammal with "bot"(maggots).
The word "bot" itself must be a breeding ground for verbal contagions, hidden significations and for the creation of new organisms...

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