NABOKV-L post 0021083, Tue, 21 Dec 2010 13:45:28 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] [WORDS] "Toska" one of Pushkin's three favorite words
In a former posting, I brought up Nabokov's description of the Russian word "Toska"
Vladmir Nabokov: "No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom."

There are developments to this EO I- XXXIV entry in n. to Three:VII: 10: "Toska is the generic term for a feeling of physical or metaphysical dissatisfaction, a sense of longing, a dull anguish, a preying misery, a gnawing mental ache."

At the end of his note to"/Sgoráya négoy i toskóy:" (p.337) Nabokov adds: "Pushkin's three favorite words, nega, toska, and tomlen'e, are all collected here in one bunch."
According to him "nega ranges from 'mollitude'...through various shades of amorous outright voluptuousness."
When Nabokov applies "mollitude", in Ada, there seems to be no indication to Pushkin, rather the opposite for, from what I recollect, in Ada it is associated to male vulgarity and not to a romantic maiden's burning "with all the French languours of flesh and fancy." [cf. also p.360: sensuousness...aching (négi...toskúyushchey)].

From a different angle, Nabokov's returns once again to "Toska" in his Lectures on Don Quixote (Ed.Bowers, p. 69)
"Sancho has gone and Don Quixote is strangely alone and suddenly feels himself permeated with a strange sense of loneliness and yearning, something more than merely a sense of solitude, a kind of purposeless nostalgic longing." He retires to his room and the reader "can see through the window bars the gleam of the bright green stockings he is slowly shedding and studying - just as in reading another famous story, where the grotesque and the lyrical are somewhat similarly interwoven, Gogol's Dead Souls, we shall glimpse ...the glossy leather of a pair of new boots that a dreaming lodger admires...But Don Quixote's stockings are anything bu new. O disaster, the narrator sighs as he contemplates the bursting of several stitches in the left stocking... The wrteched sense of poverty mingles with his general dejection and he finally goes to bed, moody and heavy-hearted. Is it only Sancho´s absence and the burst threads of his stockings that induce this sadness, this Spanish soledad, this Portuguese saudades, this French angoisse, this German Sensucht, this Russian toska? We wonder - we wonder if it does not go deeper. Remember that Sancho, his squire, is the crutch of Quixote's madness, the prop of his delusion, and now Don Quixote is strangely alone."

In both instances (EO and Quixote) it is mentioned close to a lady (Tatiana and Altisidora) and, particularly in Quixote, referred to a defenseless state of madness, when dreams may permeate reality in a new revelatory way.

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