I wanted to read in detail the two references to Charlotte’s maroon/yellow clothes* and check about the use of yellows (often associated to violet/purple, also in “Lolita”). Humbert Humbert sometimes wears white pajamas with a lilac pattern on the back, but he also describes another  with a “cornflower blue” print, to wear with his purple robe. The “corn” theme reappears in his “maize yellow’ pajamas (I sonder if he used the purple robe with them, too).

Quilty, at the time of his death, wore “purple silks”
and, after being shot, he ends in a “purple heap”. During a brief respite of HH’s attack on him, Quilty describes the color of the chair used in executions ( “and moreover I can arrange for you to attend executions, not everybody knows that the chair is painted yellow —"…).

And then there are Papa’s Purple Pills:

a.        Dr. Byron “produced a vial of violet-blue capsules banded with dark purple at one end…”;

b.        As I expected, she pounced upon the vial with its plump, beautifully colored capsules loaded with Beauty's Sleep./"Blue!" she exclaimed. "Violet blue. What are they made of?"/

"Summer skies," I said, "and plums and figs, and the grapeblood of emperors."/"No, seriously — please."/"Oh, just Purpills…”


I noticed, for the first time, how HH described the drawer where he kept his diary after Charlotte forced it open: it was “a raped little table with its open drawer”.  His choice of “raped desk” is simple, almost obvious and yet it combines with the plot in a stroke of genius.


VN writes, in “Speak,Memory”: “The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow, is in my private language the hardly pronounceable: kzspygv.”  A private word that actualizes his rainbow is not only a reference to Wittgenstein**, it is animistic (the word with its seven letters synesthesically feels to him like a rainbow, it becomes his private rainbow and, perhaps, this proves Wittgenstein’s idea against Witt’s own later argumentation).

Jansy Mello



* a. “there came from the upper landing the contralto voice of Mrs. Haze, who leaning over the banisters inquired melodiously, "Is that Monsieur Humbert?" A bit of cigarette ash dropped from there in addition. Presently, the lady herself — sandals, maroon slacks, yellow silk blouse, squarish face, in that order — came down the steps, her index finger still tapping upon her cigarette.”
    b. “The day before I had ended the regime of aloofness I had imposed upon myself, and now uttered a cheerful homecoming call as I opened the door of the living room. With her cream-white nape and bronze bun to me, wearing the yellow blouse and maroon slacks she had on when I first met her, Charlotte sat at the corner bureau writing a letter. My hand still on the doorknob, I repeated my hearty cry. Her writing hand stopped. She sat still for a moment; then she slowly turned in her chair and rested her elbow on its curved back. Her face, disfigured by her emotion, was not a pretty sight as she stared at my legs and said: "The Haze woman, the big bitch, the old cat, the obnoxious mamma, the — the old stupid Haze is no longer your dupe. She has — she has..."// I stood for a moment quite still and self-composed, surveying from the threshold the raped little table with its open drawer, a key hanging from the lock, four other household keys on the table top.”


**The idea of a private language was made famous in philosophy by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who in §243 of his book Philosophical Investigations explained it thus: “The words of this language are to refer to what can be known only to the speaker; to his immediate, private, sensations. So another cannot understand the language.”[1] This is not intended to cover (easily imaginable) cases of recording one's experiences in a personal code, for such a code, however obscure in fact, could in principle be deciphered. What Wittgenstein had in mind is a language conceived as necessarilycomprehensible only to its single originator because the things which define its vocabulary are necessarily inaccessible to others. (but one must read on…) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/private-language/








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