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246 pages, Unknown Binding
First published January 1, 1962
Manny Rayner, could be sanerMy friend is nothing if not PC. I'm sorry that I can't remember the exact text of the accompanying note, but she made it clear that she was not literally implying that I wore women's clothes when I impersonated Chick, and that, if I had chosen to do so, she would have regarded it as a completely defensible exercise of my right to wear apparel that expressed my personality in whatever way I chose.
Plays chess, in a dress.
“For we die every day; oblivion thrives
Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives,
And our best yesterdays are now foul piles
Of crumpled names, phone numbers and foxed files.” [Canto 3]
“My God died young. Theolatry I found
Degrading, and its premises, unsound.
No free man needs a God; but was I free?
How fully I felt nature glued to me…” [Canto 1]
Life is a message scribbled in the dark.
How ludicrous these efforts to translate
Into one’s private tongue a public fate!
Instead of poetry divinely terse,
Disjointed notes, Insomnia’s mean verse!
We have been married forty years. At least
Four thousand times your pillow has been creased
By our two heads. Four hundred thousand times
The tall clock with the hoarse Westminster chimes
Has marked our common hour. How many more
Free calendars shall grace the kitchen door?
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass
Several members of the Department of English are painfully concerned over the fate of a manuscript poem, or parts of a manuscript poem, left by the late John Shade. The manuscript fell into the hands of a person who not only is unqualified for the job of editing it, belonging as he does to another department, but is known to have a deranged mind. One wonders whether some legal action, etc.”Yet, long before this, clues abound of Kinbote's psychosis. For example,
“What would I not have given for the poet’s suffering another heart attack (see line 691 and note) leading to my being called over to their house, all windows ablaze, in the middle of the night, in a great warm burst of sympathy, coffee, telephone calls, Zemblan herbal receipts (they work wonders!), and a resurrected Shade weeping in my arms (“There, there, John”).”Additionally, Kinbote has a perverted mind relating to pubescent males, including these Paphian passages in his commentary:
[In a conversation with John Shade's wife:] “Speaking of novels,” I said, “you remember we decided once, you, your husband and I, that Proust’s rough masterpiece was a huge, ghoulish fairy tale, an asparagus dream, totally unconnected with any possible people in any historical France, a sexual travestissement and a colossal farce, the vocabulary of genius and its poetry, but no more,” and,
“In Zembla, where most females are freckled blondes, we have the saying: belwif ivurkumpf wid snew ebanumf, “A beautiful woman should be like a compass rose of ivory with four parts of ebony.”
“the little angler, a honey-skinned lad, naked except for a pair of torn dungarees, one trouser leg rolled up, frequently fed with nougat and nuts, but then school started or the weather changed”I learned a new word, "virilia." I'll let you look it up...or guess.
“When stripped and shiny in the mist of the bath house, his bold virilia contrasted harshly with his girlish grace.”
“He farced himself with aphrodisiacs, but the anterior characters of her unfortunate sex kept fatally putting him off. One night when he tried tiger tea, and hopes rose high, he made the mistake of begging her to comply with an expedient which she made the mistake of denouncing as unnatural and disgusting. Finally he told her that an old riding accident was incapacitating him but that a cruise with his pals and a lot of sea bathing would be sure to restore his strength.”Also, Kinbote discloses his frequent infidelities, resulting in problems with Princess Disa.
“He ... solemnly [swore] he had given up, or at least would give up, the practices of his youth; but everywhere along the road powerful temptations stood at attention. He succumbed to them from time to time, then every other day, then several times daily—especially during the robust regime of Harfar Baron of Shalksbore, a phenomenally endowed young brute.... Curdy Buff—as Harfar was nicknamed by his admirers—had a huge escort of acrobats and bareback riders, and the whole affair rather got out of hand so that Disa, upon unexpectedly returning from a trip to Sweden, found the Palace transformed into a circus”A highest recommendation. My apologies for the size of this; I hope it's not too much to take it all in. It was not nearly as hard as I thought. I am just now coming to realize the depth of Nabokov's cunning linguistics. I wish I could hit that, or even near that level.
“When the Zemblan Revolution broke out, she wrote the King a wild letter in governess English, urging him to come up and stay with her until the situation cleared up. The letter was intercepted by the Onhava police, translated into crude Zemblan by a Hindu member of the Extremist party, and then read aloud to the royal captive in a would-be ironic voice by the preposterous commandant of the palace. There happened to be in that letter one – only one, thank God – sentimental sentence: ‘I want you to know that no matter how much you hurt me, you cannot hurt my love,’ and this sentence (if we re-English it from the Zemblan) came out as: ‘I desire you and love when you flog me.’ He interrupted the commandant, calling him a buffoon and a rogue, and insulting everybody around so dreadfully that the Extremists had to decide fast whether to shoot him at once or let him have the original letter.”