Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022052, Thu, 29 Sep 2011 15:23:42 +0100

Re: surrender and exile...
JM/VF: yes, we are indeed blessed (and often confused!) by now-archaic words
found in the earliest English Bible translations. Quick (from OE cwic)
originally meant Œalive, alert.¹ It reached the Apostles¹ Creed and the
Anglican Book of Common Prayer via:

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the
Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine,
revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it
strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil
of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and
the dead.
(KJV 1 Peter 4:3-5). The NIV has the living and the dead.

1 Peter abounds with fundamental concepts relevant to Nabokov¹s views on
life and its aftermath. (To me, there¹s nothing after math!) In 1 Peter 24
we find phrases now deeply embedded since childhood:

For all flesh is [as] grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of
grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

Yet there follows the contradictory promise of salvation and life ever
after. The magic sesame is not just Believe, but ONLY Believe ... And
millions have died arguing over the competing needs for Faith versus Good
Works ...

The awesome dread of the quick/dead idiom has been somewhat diluted by
modern jokes. The warning is aimed at urban pedestrians: be quick or you¹re

Less widely appreciated is that the King James (the gender-aware title now
being the Ruler James!) Version translators deliberately retained words that
were already near-archaic by 1611. VN, the poet, would pick Œquick¹ spirit
fully aware of these nuances. There¹s a majesty lurking behind the ancient
usages. We do find this taken to extremes: the KJV-Only cult claim it as THE
sole valid version. God¹s 1611 English cannot be faulted.
Whence that infamous quote: If English is good enough for God, it¹s
certainly good enough for me.

VN¹s Exile-hungry remains pleasantly ambiguous. It can mean Hungry-for-Exile
or Hungry-because-of-Exile.
Joyce¹s play, The Exiles, also comes to mind! Unlike VN¹s, Joyce¹s exile was
voluntary, and JJ ended up DENYING he was Irish*
Also unlike VN, JJ freely returned to his birth-land on several occasions ‹
using his BRITISH Passport. He never applied for Irish citizenship.

* TLS July 1, 2011. Brenda Maddox: The Kensington Joyce. JJ remains buried
in Zurich, Nora offered to have her husband¹s body Œrepatriated¹ in 1944,
but the Irish Gvt refused. Asked during the 1916 Easter Rising if he
welcomed the emergence of Ireland as an independent country, JJ agreed ³So
that I might declare myself its FIRST ENEMY.²

PS: other examples of semantic shift: Suffer the little children to come
unto me ... There were no kids-in-pain intended originally, but current
readers can¹t help but feel the pain. The silly Virgin Mary was blessed, not

Stan Kelly-Bootle

On 28/09/2011 01:53, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

> Victor Fet: [JM: 'VN gives us to understand that he cannot become an exile']
> In Nabokov¹s own words (1944):[...] "My spirit is still quick, still
> exile-hungry,/I¹m still a poet, count me out!" [...] "He was an exile (and
> more than once), as well as millions of others."
> JM: Victor Fet's reproduction of VN's 1944 poem helped me to enjoy the shimmer
> of Nabokov's verses in the light of different contextualizations.
> The use of "quick" set close to "spirit" tickled me* - before I began to
> wonder at this "exile-hungry" poet because, when Nabokov writes that Art is
> his passport and emphasizes the strong links he cultivates to his Russian
> childhood, I understand that he's not indicating his exile from a nation's
> terrestrial geography or even history, but he is restating his choice of
> keeping alive an "arcadian" golden past and of exploring a road to the
> hereafter.
> Enlisting the help of Priscilla Meyer's words ("See What the Sailor" p.195):
> "Earthly life is equivalent to a play inasmuch as both are illusions of
> reality. Since we are caught in life with no access to the other world, life,
> and hence the language we use to express it, is a metaphorical prison house.
> Nabokov's understanding is similar to that of the Russian symbolists: the
> forms of this world are indistinct semblances of their ideal counterparts in
> the other world. Art is a means of expressing what little can be known" [...]
> "The Gift is the perfect original for 'Ultima Thule,' 'Solus Rex,' 'The Pole,'
> and 'Terra Incognita,' two pairs of stories based on the themes of geographic
> and textual exploration of the other world
> ..............................................................................
> ..................
> * From the Book of Common Prayer's version of the Apostle's Creed, which says
> that Jesus "shall come to judge the quick and the
> dead".www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2011/08/changes-meaning

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/