Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022099, Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:07:42 -0200

Re: QUERY: Orgitrons in ADA?
Brian Boyd:"Gennady Kramer, who's translating my Nabokov's Ada into Russian, wonders what to make of "orgitrons" in "organs and orgitrons," ADA 539, about four pages into Part Four. Can anyone see anything specific?"

JM: In your Nabokov's Ada I found a mention to "organs and orgitrons" on page 83 (ch.Space,Time and Consciousness"). Brian Boyd's chapter reads: "The master, clutching a pencil with an abraded eraser, sits in his armchair; outside, beyond the balcony, a coot scoots.The moment is real, and it is not less real because in a year's time it is accessible, if at all, only in a mental trace. The past exists all around, Nabokov suggests, but outside our consciousness: "had our ogans and orgitrons not been asymmetrical, our view of Time might have been emphitheatric and altogether grand..." "[Nabokov] likes to treat mortal memory, "individual recollection, and its expression in words"(SM 24), as the forerunner of a consciousness to which the past is directly accessible and which can endlessly reinvestigate it to discover new harmonies and designs. Such a form of consciousness would satisfy Nabokov's passion for pattern even as it satisfies his love for unhindered freedom." The sound of the words "organ" (matter?) and "orgitrons" led me to imagine another coupling, such as "neutrons and positrons! (wikipedia informs that a positron is "the antimatter counterpart of an electron." I wonder if it's important that they be translated into Russian or simply be adapted from the Latin, letting the reader himself interpret them.*


* In Strong Opinions, p.155, Nabokov is critical about links established with authors whose "names start with a B" and incongruously quips:"They would do better to link Beckett with Maeterlinck and Borges with Anatole France." In my last posting I was musing about Beckett, intervals and real numbers, in relation to Nabokov. Somehow I moved onto Borges before I realized that, again, a set of connections have been established between those three. Immortality, memory and the circularity of time, their shared themes, also happen to coincide with Brian Boyd's query about a Russian equivalent for "orgitrons." I don't have B.B's cyberedited "Ada" to ascertain where else he mentions "organs and orgitrons" and any other added interpretations. I found an interesting comparison in the internet which, in a first overview, seems to contrast with B. Boyd's fascinating interpretations in the chapter mentioned above. The text quoted below comes from N.K.Hayles about the "Cosmic Web":

"In Nabokov's work as a whole, asymmetry is linked, L.S.Dembo suggests, with "the artistic need for escape from necessity." It is what keeps the return from vicious circularity. Dembo quotes from Cherdynstev, the "pure" artist of The Gift: "The theory I find most tempting [is] that there is no time, that everything is the present situated like a radiance outside our blindness... in our strain toward asymmetry, toward inequality, I can detect a howl for genuine freedom, an urge to break out of the circle." Here we have an interpretation of asymmetry that is opposite to the value Van gives it in ADA. To Cherdynstev it implies freedom, whereas Van laments it as a regrettable accident that interferes with the desired circularity of time: "The irreversibility of Time," Van writes, "is a very parochial affair: had our organs and orgitrons not been asymmetrical, our view of Time might have been amphitheatric and grand"(p.573). But what the narrator construes as his defeats - the asymmetries that impose themselves upon him - are also the very qualities that recuse his world from unreality. From this point of view, Van Veen is perhaps the most favored of Nabokov's narrators. The asymmetries tht Cherndynstev as artis must create, Nabokov weaves into the fabric of the universe in ADA. All that Van has to do is recognize them. Hence he is a scientist as well as an artist: his dedication to accurate observation holds in check his tendency to create the world, balancing the artificial world of artistic creation againt the recognition of a natural world in which partial failure in inevitable...." The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies in the @0th N.Katherine Hayles,p.125, 1986. There is also: Making a Virtue of Necessity: Pattern and Freedom in Nabokov's "Ada"
www.jstor.org/stable/1208141 - NK Hayles - 1982

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