View Poll Results: Vladimir Nabokov's type?

2. You may not vote on this poll
  • ILE (ENTp)

    0 0%
  • SEI (ISFp)

    0 0%
  • ESE (ESFj)

    0 0%
  • LII (INTj)

    0 0%
  • SLE (ESTp)

    0 0%
  • IEI (INFp)

    0 0%
  • EIE (ENFj)

    0 0%
  • LSI (ISTj)

    0 0%
  • SEE (ESFp)

    0 0%
  • ILI (INTp)

    2 100.00%
  • LIE (ENTj)

    0 0%
  • ESI (ISFj)

    0 0%
  • IEE (ENFp)

    0 0%
  • SLI (ISTp)

    0 0%
  • LSE (ESTj)

    0 0%
  • EII (INFj)

    0 0%
Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: Vladimir Nabokov

  1. #1
    Ezra's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    9 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Vladimir Nabokov

    lol @ this thread

    This was originally going to be about Humbert Humbert (for those of you who haven't read Lolita, he's the paedo protagonist).

    Essentially, I was initially thinking Se ego for HH. Then it hit me that that was a ridiculous suggestion next to Si. He is quite clearly Si ego; and almost indubitably Si base. I was stuck after that, although SEI is more likely IMO. Then that got me thinking about Nabokov.

    Basically, HH is a poetic kind of guy, but he's a mouthpiece (well, maybe not mouthpiece) for Nabokov. Nabokov clearly is a sensory type to write in the way he does. And why not Si ego?

    Last edited by silke; 08-09-2018 at 10:47 PM. Reason: updated links

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    4 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    Ixxp tentative INFp for Nabokov? I dunno, but I admired him.

    HH yeah he wasn't an Se ego at all. HH was probably Ixxp as well.

  3. #3
    implied's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    7 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    maybe INFp. he studied entomology (even has several species of blues - lycaenid butterflies - named after him,) which generally entails having a rather good knowledge of taxonomy. taxonomy i think is a rather topic.
    Last edited by implied; 08-26-2008 at 01:24 AM. Reason: clarification
    6w5 sx
    model Φ: -+0
    sloan - rcuei

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    4 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    Quote Originally Posted by implied View Post
    maybe INFp. he studied entomology (even has several species of blues named after him,) which generally entails having a rather good knowledge of taxonomy. taxonomy i think is a rather topic.
    yeah right? i thought that was so cute.

  5. #5
    The Iniquitous inumbra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    84 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    I just listened to Lolita on tape. Unfortunately I listened to it at work sometimes and didn't catch it all.

    I was sort of contemplating LII (9w1) for the type of the main character Humbert. I don't know if I'll try to go into an explanation, and I know this thread isn't about that book, but I thought I would zap it with my perception anyway.

    I have no idea if the very intricate inner world and thoughts of Humbert has anything to do with the author's type.

  6. #6
    JuJu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
    8 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    INFp for Nabokov... (Pnin is an excellent book too, for those who like this kinda stuff.)

    I agree with INTj for Humbert Humbert... (Granted, I read this book years ago, but from what i remember INTj is right... INFp would be my next suggestion.)

  7. #7
    Ezra's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    9 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    I was sort of contemplating LII (9w1) for the type of the main character Humbert.
    Quote Originally Posted by JuJu View Post
    I agree with INTj for Humbert Humbert... (Granted, I read this book years ago, but from what i remember INTj is right... INFp would be my next suggestion.)
    FTW, in the 1997 film version of Lolita, HH is played by Jeremy Irons, cited as an EII. Are you guys seeing Se PoLR primarily?

    I think Lolita might be SEE.

  8. #8
    The Iniquitous inumbra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    84 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    I also had SEI and EII in consideration. It's not so much the "Se" as I wasn't really thinking about Se so much. It's more the sort of long passages in descriptive detail about the countryside, and the elaboration on experiences like touch in a very in-depth way... it all just made me think HH values Si. I was thinking that in writing, one is often encouraged to write long descriptive passages about the characters' surroundings... but I think that HH really likes pleasant settings to the extent that he seems to try to dreamily immerse himself in his surroundings in a way that seems "Si-ish" to me (and that this is a big part of his character). Lolita, in contrast, seems to take no interest in these things when he points them out and finds the interruption irritating. HH's mind is full of these poetic ongoing thoughts about the scenery and all the metaphors he draws from it and it all ties back into his strange fantasy reality of nymphets and the kingdom by the sea, etc.

    I didn't have that great of a reason for going with Ti>Fi. It was mostly that HH seems to be an emotionally dry person who makes logical deductions easily and naturally, and seems somewhat out of touch with his feelings and is surprisingly lacking in conviction? He can go on in a seemingly calm, detached manner about things that in me would stir very strong emotion. It's not that he's emotionless, but he doesn't seem to really address or deeply think about how he feels. His logic seems rather excellent imo, so I thought Ti leading might make sense and there were even a few times I briefly contemplated LSI before thinking "no way, what am I thinking!" again. As for SEI vs. LII, it's simply based on what I simplistically degenerated into his "strong logic" and his "weak ethics." In any case, he seems to have stronger Ti than Lolita.

    I haven't seen the movie yet.

    ETA: I guess it's almost that HH is chasing innocent, pleasant and enjoyable experiences that would tie him back to his boyhood kingdom by the sea reality that he lives in (as opposed to actual reality). Also, his approach to sex seems rather Si-ish (I don't really know how to explain that).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    fatherlessness (our communistic elitist socionics dogma)
    50 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

    Vladimir Nabokov: Maybe he actually is IEI (Beta NF) [or LSI] like some people have said. I don't have a strong opinion either way.

    Here are some pictures:

    He's one of my Aunt's favorite writers. Interestingly, one of the first internet Socionics tests my Aunt ever took gave her ESTj (LSE) as a result. Yet after reading descriptions, she didn't think it matched her or Vladimir Nabokov for that matter.

    Yet surprisingly, he's listed under ESTj here:

    I think my Aunt might actually be EIE-Ni (like Shirley Manson and PJ Harvey, although I'm not certain). Here's something my Aunt once wrote:

    No one can be an island.
    We are all bridges and the voyager travelling on them at the same time. Our task (the voyager being the consciousness) is to build the awareness of being.
    As Vladimir Nabokov said: "being aware of being aware of being".

    - from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; p. 300 [PART TWO (31)]: With the utmost simplicity and clarity I now saw myself and my love. Previous attempts seemed out of focus in comparison. A couple of years before, under the guidance of an intelligent French-speaking confessor, to whom, in a moment of metaphysical curiosity, I had turned over a Protestant’s drab atheism for an old-fashioned popish cure, I had hoped to deduce from my sense of sin the existence of a Supreme Being. On those frosty mornings in rime-laced Quebec, the good priest worked on me with the finest tenderness and understanding. I am infinitely obliged to him and the great Institution he represented. Alas, I was unable to transcend the simple human fact that whatever spiritual solace I might find, whatever lithophanic eternities might be provided for me, nothing could make my Lolita forget the foul lust I had inflicted upon her. Unless it can be proven to me—to me as I am now, today, with my heart and my beard, and my putrefaction—that in the infinite run it does not matter a jot that a North American girl-child named Dolores Haze had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac, unless this can be proven (and if it can, then life is a joke), I see nothing for the treatment of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of articulate art. To quote an old poet:

    The moral sense in mortals is the duty
    We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.

    - pp. 166-168: She had entered my world, umber and black Humberland, with rash curiosity; she surveyed it with a shrug of amused distaste; and it seemed to me now that she was ready to turn away from it with something akin to plain repulsion. Never did she vibrate under my touch, and a strident “what d’you think you are doing?” was all I got for my pains. To the wonderland I had to offer, my fool preferred the corniest movies, the most cloying fudge. To think that between a Hamburger and a Humburger, she would—invariably, with icy precision—plump for the former. There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child. Did I mention the name of that milk bar I visited a moment ago? It was, of all things, The Frigid Queen. Smiling a little sadly, I dubbed her My Frigid Princess. She did not see the wistful joke.

    Oh, do not scowl at me, reader, I do not intend to convey the impression that I did not manage to be happy. Reader must understand that in the possession and thralldom of a nymphet the enchanted traveler stands, as it were, beyond happiness. For there is no other bliss on earth comparable to that of fondling a nymphet. It is hors concours, that bliss, it belongs to another class, another plane of sensitivity. Despite our tiffs, despite her nastiness, despite all the fuss and faces she made, and the vulgarity, and the danger, and the horrible hopelessness of it all, I still dwelled deep in my elected paradise—a paradise whose skies were the color of hell-flames—but still a paradise.

    The able psychiatrist who studies my case—and whom by now Dr. Humbert has plunged, I trust, into a state of leporine fascination—is no doubt anxious to have me take my Lolita to the seaside and have me find there, at last, the “gratification” of a lifetime urge, and release from the “subconscious” obsession of an incomplete childhood romance with the initial little Miss Lee.

    Well, comrade, let me tell you that I did look for a beach, though I also have to confess that by the time we reached its mirage of gray water, so many delights had already been granted me by my traveling companion that the search for a Kingdom by the Sea, a Sublimated Riviera, or whatnot, far from being the impulse of the subconscious, had become the rational pursuit of a purely theoretical thrill. The angels knew it, and arranged things accordingly. A visit to a plausible cove on the Atlantic side was completely messed up by foul weather. A thick damp sky, muddy waves, a sense of boundless but somehow matter-of-fact mist—what could be further removed from the crisp charm, the sapphire occasion and rosy contingency of my Riviera romance? A couple of semitropical beaches on the Gulf, though bright enough, were starred and spattered by venomous beasties and swept by hurricane winds. Finally, on a Californian beach, facing the phantom of the Pacific, I hit upon some rather perverse privacy in a kind of cave whence you could hear the shrieks of a lot of girl scouts taking their first surf bath on a separate part of the beach, behind rotting trees; but the fog was like a wet blanket, and the sand was gritty and clammy, and Lo was all gooseflesh and grit, and for the first time in my life I had as little desire for her as for a manatee. Perhaps, my learned readers may perk up if I tell them that even had we discovered a piece of sympathetic seaside somewhere, it would have come too late, since my real liberation had occurred much earlier: at the moment, in point of fact, when Annabel Haze, alias Dolores Lee, alias Loleeta, had appeared to me, golden and brown, kneeling, looking up, on that shoddy veranda, in a kind of fictitious, dishonest, but eminently satsifactory seaside arrangement (although there was nothing but a second-rate lake in the neighborhood).

    So much for those special sensations, influences, if not actually brought about, by the tenets of modern psychiatry. Consequently, I turned away—I headed my Lolita away—from beaches, which were either too bleak when lone, or too populous when ablaze. However, in recollection, I suppose, of my hopeless hauntings of public parks in Europe, I was still keenly interested in outdoor activities and desirous of finding suitable playgrounds in the open where I had suffered such shameful privations. Here, too, I was to be thwarted. The disappointment I must now register (as I gently grade my story into an expression of the continuous risk and dread that ran through my bliss) should in no wise reflect on the lyrical, epic, tragic but never Arcadian American wilds. They are beautiful, heart-rendingly beautiful, those wilds, with a quality of wide-eyed, unsung, innocent surrender that my lacquered, toy-bright Swiss villages and exhaustively lauded Alps no longer possess. Innumerable lovers have clipped and kissed on the trim turf of old-world mountainsides, on the innerspring moss, by a handy, hygienic rill, on rustic benches under the initialed oaks, and in so many cabanes in so many beech forests. But in the Wilds of America the open-air lover will not find it easy to indulge in the most ancient of all crimes and pastimes.

    - pp. 218-219: She laughed. “If he’s really a cop,” she said shrilly but not illogically, “the worst thing we could do, would be to show him we are scared. Ignore him, Dad.”

    “Did he ask where we were going?”

    “Oh, he knows that” (mocking me).

    “Anyway,” I said, giving up, “I have seen his face now. He is not pretty. He looks exactly like a relative of mine called Trapp.”

    “Perhaps he is Trapp. If I were you—oh, look, all the nines are changing into the next thousand. When I was a little kid,” she continued unexpectedly, “I used to think they’d stop and go back to nines, if only my mother agreed to put the car in reverse.”

    It was the first time, I think, she spoke spontaneously of her pre-Humbertian childhood; perhaps, the theatre had taught her that trick; and silently we travelled on, unpursued.

    But next day, like pain in a fatal disease that comes back as the drug and hope wear off, there it was again behind us, that glossy red beast. The traffic on the highway was light that day; nobody passed anybody; and nobody attempted to get in between our humble blue car and its imperious red shadow—as if there were some spell cast on that interspace, a zone of evil mirth and magic, a zone whose very precision and stability had a glass-like virtue that was almost artistic. The driver behind me, with his stuffed shoulders and Trappish mustache, looked like a display dummy, and his convertible seemed to move only because an invisible rope of silent silk connected it with our shabby vehicle. We were many times weaker than his splendid, lacquered machine, so that I did not even attempt to outspeed him. O lente currite noctis equi! O softly run, nightmares. We climbed long grades and rolled downhill again, and heeded speed limits, and spared slow children, and reproduced in sweeping terms the black wiggles of curves on their yellow shields, and no matter how and where we drove, the enchanted interspace slid on intact, mathematical, mirage-like, the viatic counterpart of a magic carpet. And all the time I was aware of a private blaze on my right: her joyful eye, her flaming cheek.

    A traffic policeman, deep in the nightmare of crisscross streets—at half-past-four P. M. in a factory town—was the hand of chance that interrupted the spell. He beckoned me on, and then with the same hand cut off my shadow. A score of cars were launched in between us, and I sped on, and deftly turned into a narrow lane. A sparrow alighted with a jumbo bread crumb, was tackled by another, and lost the crumb.

    When after a few grim stoppages and a bit of deliberate meandering, I returned to the highway, our shadow had disappeared.

    Lola snorted and said: “If he is what you think he is, how silly to give him the slip.”

    “I have other notions by now,” I said.

    -from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; pp. 163-164: I stooped to set down the glasses on a bench and for some reason, with a kind of icy vividness, saw Charlotte’s face in death, and I glanced around, and noticed Lo in white shorts receding through the speckled shadow of a garden path in the company of a tall man who carried two tennis rackets. I sprang after them, but as I was crashing through the shrubbery, I saw, in an alternate vision, as if life’s course constantly branched, Lo, in slacks, and her companion, in shorts, trudging up and down a small weedy area, and beating bushes with their rackets in listless search for their lost ball.
    I itemize these sunny nothings mainly to prove to my judges that I did everything in my power to give my Lolita a really good time. How charming it was to see her, a child herself, showing another child some of her few accomplishments, such as for example a special way of jumping rope. With her right hand holding her left arm behind her untanned back, the lesser nymphet, a diaphanous darling, would be all eyes, as the pavonine sun was all eyes on the gravel under the flowering trees, while in the midst of that oculate paradise, my freckled and raffish lass skipped, repeating the movements of so many others I had gloated over on the sun-shot, watered, damp-smelling side-walks and ramparts of ancient Europe. Presently, she would hand the rope back to her little Spanish friend, and watch in her turn the repeated lesson, and brush away the hair from her brow, and fold her arms, and step on one toe with the other, or drop her hands loosely upon her still unflared hips, and I would satisfy myself that the damned staff had at last finished cleaning up our cottage; whereupon, flashing a smile to the shy, dark-haired page girl of my princess and thrusting my fatherly fingers deep into Lo’s hair from behind, and then gently but firmly clasping them around the nape of her neck, I would lead my reluctant pet to our small home for a quick connection before dinner.

    -p. 174: In the days of that wild journey of ours, I doubted not that as father to Lolita the First I was a ridiculous failure. I did my best; I read and reread a book with the unintentionally biblical title Know Your Own Daughter, which I got at the same store where I bought Lo, for her thirteenth birthday, a de luxe volume with commercially “beautiful” illustrations, of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. But even at our very best moments, when we sat reading on a rainy day (Lo’s glance skipping from the window to her wrist watch and back again), or had a quiet hearty meal in a crowded diner, or played a childish game of cards, or went shopping, or silently stared, with other motorists and their children, at some smashed, blood-bespattered car with a young woman’s shoe in the ditch (Lo, as we drove on: “That was the exact type of moccasin I was trying to describe to that jerk in the store”); on all those random occasions, I seemed to myself as implausible a father as she seemed to be a daughter. Was, perhaps, guilty locomotion instrumental in vitiating our powers of impersonation? Would improvement be forthcoming with a fixed domicile and a routine schoolgirl’s day?
    In my choice of Beardsley I was guided not only by the fact of there being a comparatively sedate school for girls located there, but also by the presence of the women’s college.

    - from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; pp. 191-192: A word about Gaston Godin. The main reason why I enjoyed—or at least tolerated with relief—his company was the spell of absolute security that his ample person cast on my secret. Not that he knew it; I had no special reason to confide in him, and he was much too self-centered and abstract to notice or suspect anything that might lead to a frank question on his part and a frank answer on mine. He spoke well of me to Beardsleyans, he was my good herald. Had he discovered mes gouts and Lolita’s status, it would have interested him only insofar as throwing some light on the simplicity of my attitude toward him, which attitude was as free of polite strain as it was of ribald allusions; for despite his colorless mind and dim memory, he was perhaps aware that I knew more about him than the burghers of Beardsley did. He was a flabby, dough-faced, melancholy bachelor tapering upward to a pair of narrow, not quite level shoulders and a conical pear-head which had sleek black hair on one side and only a few plastered wisps on the other. But the lower part of his body was enormous, and he ambulated with a curious elephantine stealth by means of phenomenally stout legs. He always wore black, even his tie was black; he seldom bathed; his English was a burlesque. And, nonetheless, everybody considered him to be a supremely lovable, lovably freakish fellow! Neighbors pampered him; he knew by name all the small boys in our vicinity (he lived a few blocks away from me) and had some of them clean his sidewalk and burn leaves in his back yard, and bring wood from his shed, and even perform simple chores about the house, and he would feed them fancy chocolates, with real liqueurs inside—in the privacy of an orientally furnished den in his basement, with amusing daggers and pistols arrayed on the moldy, rug-adorned walls among the camouflaged hot-water pipes. Upstairs he had a studio—he painted a little, the old fraud. He had decorated its sloping wall (it was really not more than a garret) with large photographs of pensive Andre Gide, Tchaikovsky, Norman Douglas, two other well-know English writers, Nijinsky (all thighs and fig leaves), Harold D. Doublename (a misty-eyed left-wing professor at a Midwestern university) and Marcel Proust. All these poor people seemed about to fall on you from their inclined plane.

    - pp. 210-211: I now warn the reader not to mock me and my mental daze. It is easy for him and me to decipher now a past destiny; but a destiny in the making is, believe me, not one of those honest mystery stories where all you have to do is keep an eye on the clues. In my youth I once read a French detective tale where the clues were actually in italics; but that is not McFate’s way—even if one does learn to recognize certain obscure indications.
    For instance: I would not swear that there was not at least one occasion, prior to, or at the very beginning of, the Midwest lap of our journey, when she managed to convey some information to, or otherwise get into contact with, a person or persons unknown. We had stopped at a gas station, under the sign of Pegasus, and she had slipped out of her seat and escaped to the rear of the premises while the raised hood, under which I had bent to watch the mechanic’s manipulations, hid her for a moment from my sight. Being inclined to be lenient, I only shook my benign head though strictly speaking such visits were taboo, since I felt instinctively that toilets—as also telephones—happened to be, for reasons unfathomable, the points where my destiny was liable to catch. We all have such fateful objects—it may be a recurrent landscape in one case, a number in another—carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of special significance for us: here shall John always stumble; there shall Jane’s heart always break.

    - pp. 213-214: The girl I had seen on my way to town was now loaded with linen and engaged in helping a misshapen man whose big head and coarse features reminded me of the “Bertoldo” character in low Italian comedy. They were cleaning the cabins of which there was a dozen or so on Chestnut Crest, all pleasantly spaced amid the copious verdure. It was noon, and most of them, with a final bang of their screen doors, had already got rid of their occupants. A very elderly, almost mummy-like couple in a very new model were in the act of creeping out of one of the contiguous garages; from another a red hood protruded in somewhat cod-piece fashion; and nearer to our cabin, a strong and handsome young man with a shock of black hair and blue eyes was putting a portable refrigerator into a station wagon. For some reason he gave me a sheepish grin as I passed. On the grass expanse opposite, in the many-limbed shade of luxuriant trees, the familiar St. Bernard dog was guarding his mistress’ bicycle, and nearby a young woman, far gone in the family way, had seated a rapt baby on a swing and was rocking it gently, while a jealous boy of two or three was making a nuisance of himself by trying to push or pull the swing board; he finally succeeded in getting himself knocked down by it, and bawled loudly as he lay supine on the grass while his mother continued to smile gently at neither of her present children.

    - pp. 243-244: At the moment I knew my love was as hopeless as ever—and I also knew the two girls were conspirators, plotting in Basque, or Zemfirian, against my hopeless love. I shall go further and say that Lo was playing a double game since she was also fooling sentimental Mary whom she had told, I suppose, that she wanted to dwell with her fun-loving young uncle and not with cruel melancholy me. And another nurse whom I never identified, and the village idiot who carted cots and coffins into the elevator, and the idiotic green love birds in a cage in the waiting room—all were in the plot, the sordid plot. I suppose Mary thought comedy father Professor Humbertoldi was interfering with the romance between Dolores and her father-substitute, roly-poly Romeo (for you were rather lardy, you know, Rom, despite all that “snow” and “joy juice”).
    My throat hurt. I stood, swallowing, at the window and stared at the mountains, at the romantic rock high up in the smiling plotting sky.

    - pp. 246-247: Elphinstone was, and I hope still is, a very cute little town. It was spread like a maquette, you know, with its neat green-wool trees and red-roofed houses over the valley floor and I think I have alluded earlier to its model school and temple and spacious rectangular blocks, some of which were, curiously enough, just unconventional pastures with a mule or a unicorn grazing in the young July morning mist. Very amusing: at one gravel-groaning sharp turn I sideswiped a parked car but said to myself telestically—and, telephathically (I hoped), to its gesticulating owner—that I would return later, address Bird School, Bird, New Bird, the gin kept my heart alive but bemazed my brain, and after some lapses and losses common to dream sequences, I found myself in the reception room, trying to beat up the doctor, and roaring at people under chairs, and clamoring for Mary who luckily for her was not there; rough hands plucked at my dressing gown, ripping off a pocket, and somehow I seem to have been sitting on a bald brown-headed patient, whom I had mistaken for Dr. Blue, and who eventually stood up, remarking with a preposterous accent: “Now, who is nevrotic, I ask?”—and then a gaunt unsmiling nurse presented me with seven beautiful, beautiful books and the exquisitely folded tartan lap robe, and demanded a receipt; and in the sudden silence I became aware of a policeman in the hallway, to whom my fellow motorist was pointing me out, and meekly I signed the very symbolic receipt, thus surrendering my Lolita to all those apes. But what else could I do? One simple and stark thought stood out and this was: “Freedom for the moment is everything.” One false move—and I might have been made to explain a life of crime. So I simulated a coming out of a daze. To my fellow motorist I paid what he thought was fair. To Dr. Blue, who by then was stroking my hand, I spoke in tears of the liquor I bolstered too freely a tricky but not necessarily diseased heart with. To the hospital in general I apologized with a flourish that almost bowled me over, adding however that I was not on particularly good terms with the rest of the Humbert clan. To myself I whispered that I still had my gun, and was still a free man—free to trace the fugitive, free to destroy my brother.

    - pp. 253-254: This book is about Lolita; and now that I have reached the part which (had I not been forestalled by another internal combustion martyr) might be called “Dolores Disparue,” there would be little sense in analyzing the three empty years that followed. While a few pertinent points have to be marked, the general impression I desire to convey is of a side door crashing open in life’s full flight, and a rush of roaring black time drowning with its whipping wind the cry of lone disaster.
    Singularly enough, I seldom if ever dreamed of Lolita as I remembered her—as I saw her constantly and obsessively in my conscious mind during my daymares and insomnias. More precisely: she did haunt my sleep but she appeared there in strange and ludicrous disguises as Valeria or Charlotte, or a cross between them. That complex ghost would come to me, shedding shift after shift, in an atmosphere of great melancholy and disgust, and would recline in dull invitation on some narrow board or hard settee, with flesh ajar like the rubber valve of a soccer ball’s bladder. I would find myself, dentures fractured or hopelessly mislaid, in horrible chambres garnies where I would be entertained at tedious vivisecting parties that generally ended with Charlotte or Valeria weeping in my bleeding arms and being tenderly kissed by my brotherly lips in a dream disorder of auctioneered Viennese bric-a-brac, pity, impotence and the brown wigs of tragic old women who had just been gassed.

    - p. 255: Up to the end of 1949, I cherished and adored, and stained with my kisses and merman tears, a pair of old sneakers, a boy’s shirt she had worn, some ancient blue jeans I found in the trunk compartment, a crumpled school cap, suchlike wanton treasures. Then, when I understood my mind was cracking, I collected these sundry belongings, added to them what had been stored in Beardsley—a box of books, her bicycle, old coats, galoshes—and on her fifteenth birthday mailed everything as an anonymous gift to a home for orphaned girls on a windy lake, on the Canadian border.
    It is just possible that had I gone to a strong hypnotist he might have extracted from me and arrayed in a logical pattern certain chance memories that I have threaded through my book with considerably more ostentation than they present themselves with to my mind even now when I know what to seek in the past. At the time I felt I was merely losing contact with reality; and after spending the rest of the winter and most of the following spring in a Quebec sanatorium where I had stayed before, I resolved first to settle some affairs of mine in New York and then to proceed to California for a thorough search there.

    Here is something I composed in my retreat:

    Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
    Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet.
    Age: five thousand three hundred days.
    Profession: none, or “starlet.”

    Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze?
    Why are you hiding, darling?
    (I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze, I cannot get out, said the starling).

    - p. 256: Oh Dolores, that juke box hurts!
    Are you still dancin’, darlin’?
    (Both in worn levis, both in torn T-shirts,
    And I, in my corner, snarlin’).

    -pp. 256-257: Dying, dying, Lolita Haze,
    Of Hate and remorse, I’m dying.
    And again my hairy fist I raise,
    And again I hear you crying.

    Officer, officer, there they go—
    In the rain, where that lighted store is!
    And her socks are white, and I love her so,
    And her name is Haze, Dolores.

    Officer, officer, there they are—
    Dolores Haze and her lover!
    Whip out your gun and follow that car.
    Now tumble out, and take cover.

    - p. 257: My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
    And the last long lap is the hardest,
    And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
    And the rest is rust and stardust.

    By psychoanalyzing this poem, I notice it is really a maniac’s masterpiece. The stark, stiff, lurid rhymes correspond very exactly to certain perspectiveless and terrible landscapes and figures, and magnified parts of landscapes and figures, as drawn by psychopaths in tests devised by their astute trainers. I wrote many more poems. I immersed myself in the poetry of others. But not for a second did I forget the load of revenge.
    I would be a knave to say, and the reader a fool to believe, that the shock of losing Lolita cured me of pederosis. My accursed nature could not change, no matter how my love for her did.

    - pp. 260-261: I lodged there, in special apartments for poets and philosophers, from September 1951 to June 1952, while Rita whom I preferred not to display vegetated—somewhat indecorously, I am afraid—in a roadside inn where I visited her twice a week. Then she vanished—more humanly than her predecessor had done: a month later I found her in the local jail. She was tres digne, had had her appendix removed, and managed to convince me that the beautiful bluish furs she had been accused of stealing from a Mrs. Roland MacCrum had really been a spontaneous, if somewhat alcoholic, gift from Roland himself. I succeeded in getting her out without appealing to her touchy brother, and soon afterwards we drove back to Central Park West, by way of Briceland, where we had stopped for a few hours the year before.
    A curious urge to relive my stay there with Lolita had got hold of me. I was entering a phase of existence where I had given up all hope of tracing her kidnapper and her. I now attempted to fall back on old settings in order to save what still could be saved in the way of souvenir, souvenir que me veux-tu? Autumn was ringing in the air.

    - pp. 269-270: Couple of inches taller. Pink-rimmed glasses. New, heaped-up hairdo, new ears. How simple! The moment, the death I had kept conjuring up for three years was as simple as a bit of dry wood. She was frankly and hugely pregnant. Her head looked smaller (only two seconds had passed really, but let me give them as much wooden duration as life can stand), and her pale-freckled cheeks were hollowed, and her bare shins and arms had lost all their tan, so that the little hairs showed. She wore a brown, sleeveless cotton dress and sloppy felt slippers.
    “We-e-ell!” she exhaled after a pause with all the emphasis of wonder and welcome.
    “Husband at home?” I croaked, fist in pocket.
    I could not kill her, of course, as some have thought. You see, I loved her. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.

    - p. 272: In her washed-out gray eyes, strangely spectacled, our poor romance was for a moment reflected, pondered upon, and dismissed like a dull party, like a rainy picnic to which only the dullest bores had come, like a humdrum exercise, like a bit of dry mud caking her childhood.

    - p. 277: ...and I looked and looked at her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else.

    - p. 278: You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine . . .

    - pp. 278-279: I handed her an envelope with four hundred dollars in cash and a check for three thousand six hundred more.
    Gingerly, uncertainly, she received mon petit cadeau; and then her forehead became a beautiful pink. “You mean,” she said, with agonized emphasis, “you are giving us four thousand bucks?” I covered my face with my hand and broke into the hottest tears I had ever shed. I felt them winding through my fingers and down my chin, and burning me, and my nose got clogged, and I could not stop, and then she touched my wrist.
    “I’ll die if you touch me,” I said. “You are sure you are not coming with me? Is there no hope of your coming? Tell me only this.”
    “No,” she said. “No, honey, no.” She had never called me honey before.
    “No,” she said, “it is quite out of the question. I would sooner go back to Cue. I mean—“
    She groped for words. I supplied them mentally (“He broke my heart. You merely broke my life”).
    “I think,” she went on—“oops”—the envelope skidded to the floor—she picked it up—“I think it’s oh utterly grand of you to give us all that dough. It settles everything, we can start next week. Stop crying, please. You should understand. Let me get you some more beer. Oh, don’t cry, I’m so sorry I cheated so much, but that’s the way things are.”

    - p. 280: Since I would not have survived the touch of her lips, I kept retreating in a mincing dance, at every step she and her belly made toward me.
    She and the dog saw me off. I was surprised (this a rhetorical figure, I was not) that the sight of the old car in which she had ridden as a child and a nymphet, left her so very indifferent. All she remarked was it was getting sort of purplish about the gills. I said it was hers, I could go by bus. She said don’t be silly, they would fly to Jupiter and buy a car there. I said I would buy this one from her for five hundred dollars.
    “At this rate we’ll be millionnaires next,” she said to the ecstatic dog.
    Carmencita, lui demandais-je . . . “One last word,” I said in my horrible careful English, “are you quite, quite sure that—well, not tomorrow, of course, and not after tomorrow, but—well—some day, any day, you will not come to live with me? I will create a brand new God and thank him with piercing cries, if you give me that microscopic hope” (to that effect).
    “No,” she said smiling, “no.”
    “It would have made all the difference,” said Humbert Humbert.
    Then I pulled out my automatic—I mean, this is the kind of fool thing a reader might suppose I did. It never even occurred to me to do it.
    “Good by-aye!” she chanted, my American sweet immortal dead love; for she is dead and immortal if you are reading this. I mean, such is the formal agreement with the so-called authorities.
    Then, as I drove away, I heard her shout in a vibrant voice to her Dick; and the dog started to lope alongside my car like a fat dolphin, but he was too heavy and old, and very soon gave up.
    And presently I was driving through the drizzle of the dying day, with the windshield wipers in full action but unable to cope with my tears.

    - pp. 298-299: We fell to wrestling again. We rolled all over the floor, in each other’s arms, like two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us.
    In its published form, this book is being read, I assume, in the first years of 2000 A. D. (1935 plus eighty or ninety, live long, my love); and elderly readers will surely recall at this point the obligatory scene in the Westerns of their childhood. Our tussle, however, lacked the ox-stunning fisticuffs, the flying furniture. He and I were two large dummies, stuffed with dirty cotton and rags. It was a silent, soft, formless tussle on the part of two literati, one of who was utterly disorganized by a drug while the other was handicapped by a heart condition and too much gin. When at last I had possessed myself of my precious weapon, and the scenario writer had been reinstalled in his low chair, both of us were panting as the cowman and the sheepman never do after their battle.

    - p. 300: Because you cheated me of my redemption
    because you took
    her at the age when lads
    play with erector sets

    “Getting smutty, eh?”

    a little downy girl still wearing poppies
    still eating popcorn in the colored gloam
    where tawny Indians took paid croppers
    because you stole her
    from her wax-browed and dignified protector
    spitting into his heavy-lidded eye
    ripping his flavid toga and at dawn
    leaving the hog to roll upon his new discomfort
    the awfulness of love and violets
    remorse despair while you
    took a dull doll to pieces
    and threw its head away
    because of all you did
    because of all I did not
    you have to die

    - pp. 287-288 [(chapter) 33]: Ramsdale revisited. I approached it from the side of the lake. The sunny noon was all eyes. As I rode by in my mud-flecked car, I could distinguish scintillas of diamond water between the far pines. I turned into the cemetery and walked among the long and short stone monuments. Bonzhur, Charlotte. On some of the graves there were pale, transparent little national flags slumped in the windless air under the evergreens. Gee, Ed, that was bad luck—referring to G. Edward Grammar, a thirty-five-year-old New York office manager who had just been arrayed on a charge of murdering his thirty-three-year-old-wife, Dorothy. Bidding for the perfect crime, Ed had bludgeoned his wife and put her into a car. The case came to light when two county policemen on patrol saw Mrs. Grammar’s new big blue Chrysler, an anniversary present from her husband, speeding crazily down a hill, just inside their jurisdiction (God bless our good cops!).
    Last edited by HERO; 04-22-2014 at 11:56 AM.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    1 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    My father likes Nabokov, and I type my father LSI. For what it's worth, I had also considered Nabokov IEI.

  11. #11
    Haikus silke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Ni-IEI sx/sp
    415 Post(s)
    3 Thread(s)


    ILI-Ni so/sp

    on russian socionics forums most type him as either EIE or ILI with a few SEI votes i.e. they are typing him into one of the D-A negativist types

    rejection of Fe and sx-lastness are very evident from this quote

    Last edited by silke; 07-21-2014 at 08:50 PM.

  12. #12
    Queen of the Damned Aylen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Spiritus Mundi
    psyche 4w5 sx/sp
    891 Post(s)
    42 Thread(s)


    I read "Lolita" when I was like 12 years old and saw the old movie a few times and the newer one with Dominique Swain which I preferred. I read the book twice since. I would say Nabokov is ILI. He does remind me of several people I have met including the person who gave me the book to read the first time...not because of "Lolita" specifically.

    “My typology is . . . not in any sense to stick labels on people at first sight. It is not a physiognomy and not an anthropological system, but a critical psychology dealing with the organization and delimitation of psychic processes that can be shown to be typical.”​ —C.G. Jung


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    fatherlessness (our communistic elitist socionics dogma)
    50 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    Nabokov: ILI-Ni 5w4 or 3w4 [Silke was the first to publish it (here), yet it’s been something I’ve been thinking about (and researching) since Thursday, April 17th and I was the first to vote for ILI on that day (Thursday, April 17th, 2014). Next time I’ll be sure to post any typing I come up with as soon as possible.]

    Here’s how I feel about Nabokov’s writing: While Lolita was probably his most readable novel (and a few years after my Aunt bought it for me I decided to read it from beginning to end), I still think a lot of Nabokov’s writing is somehow sterile, empty, emotionless, dead, lifeless, and/or contrived, etc. There’s no music to it. I don’t know. It’s definitely not the kind of writing that really moves me and even brings me to tears the way Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov did. [A novel I think everyone should read.] Maybe I’m just not educated and intellectual enough to really appreciate novels like Nabokov’s Pale Fire. [I kind of wish I ordered his autobiographical memoir Speak, Memory from the library instead.] I totally agree with the Socionists that have typed Nabokov as an ILI. As far as I’m concerned Nabokov and Tolstoy are in the same quadra (Gamma).

    INTERVIEWER: Do you consider yourself an American?

    NABOKOV: Yes, I do. I am as American as April in Arizona. The flora, the fauna, the air of the western states, are my links with Asiatic and Arctic Russia. Of course, I owe too much to the Russian language and landscape to be emotionally involved in, say, American regional literature, or Indian dances, or pumpkin pie on a spiritual plane; but I do feel a suffusion of warm, lighthearted pride when I show my green USA passport at European frontiers. Crude criticism of American affairs offends and distresses me. In home politics I am strongly antisegregationist. In foreign policy, I am definitely on the government's side. And when in doubt, I always follow the simple method of choosing that line of conduct which may be the most displeasing to the Reds and the Russells.

    INTERVIEWER:What is most characteristic of poshlust in contemporary writing? Are there temptations for you in the sin of poshlust? Have you ever fallen?

    NABOKOV: “Poshlust,” or in a better transliteration poshlost, has many nuances, and evidently I have not described them clearly enough in my little book on Gogol, if you think one can ask anybody if he is tempted by poshlost. Corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic, and dishonest pseudo-literature—these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost in contemporary writing, we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, moth-eaten mythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, overconcern with class or race, and the journalistic generalities we all know. Poshlost speaks in such concepts as “America is no better than Russia” or “We all share in Germany's guilt.” The flowers of poshlost bloom in such phrases and terms as “the moment of truth,” “charisma,” “existential” (used seriously), “dialogue” (as applied to political talks between nations), and “vocabulary” (as applied to a dauber). Listing in one breath Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Vietnam is seditious poshlost. Belonging to a very select club (which sports one Jewish name—that of the treasurer) is genteel poshlost. Hack reviews are frequently poshlost, but it also lurks in certain highbrow essays. Poshlost calls Mr. Blank a great poet and Mr. Bluff a great novelist. One of poshlost's favorite breeding places has always been the Art Exhibition; there it is produced by so-called sculptors working with the tools of wreckers, building crankshaft cretins of stainless steel, Zen stereos, polystyrene stinkbirds, objects trouvés in latrines, cannonballs, canned balls. There we admire the gabinetti wall patterns of so-called abstract artists, Freudian surrealism, roric smudges, and Rorschach blots—all of it as corny in its own right as the academic “September Morns” and “Florentine Flowergirls” of half a century ago. The list is long, and, of course, everybody has his bête noire, his black pet, in the series. Mine is that airline ad: the snack served by an obsequious wench to a young couple—she eyeing ecstatically the cucumber canapé, he admiring wistfully the hostess. And, of course, Death in Venice. You see the range.

    INTERVIEWER: Are there contemporary writers you follow with great pleasure?

    NABOKOV: There are several such writers, but I shall not name them. Anonymous pleasure hurts nobody.

    INTERVIEWER: Do you follow some with great pain?

    NABOKOV: No. Many accepted authors simply do not exist for me. Their names are engraved on empty graves, their books are dummies, they are complete nonentities insofar as my taste in reading is concerned. Brecht, Faulkner, Camus, many others, mean absolutely nothing to me, and I must fight a suspicion of conspiracy against my brain when I see blandly accepted as “great literature” by critics and fellow authors Lady Chatterley's copulations or the pretentious nonsense of Mr. Pound, that total fake. I note he has replaced Dr. Schweitzer in some homes.

    Playboy: Dostoievsky, who dealt with themes accepted by most readers as universal in both scope and significance, is considered one of the world’s great authors. Yet you have described him as “a cheap sensationalist, clumsy and vulgar.” Why?

    Nabokov: Non-Russian readers do not realize two things: that not all Russians love Dostoievsky as much as Americans do, and that most of those Russians who do, venerate him as a mystic and not as an artist. He was a prophet, a claptrap journalist and a slapdash comedian. I admit that some of his scenes, some of his tremendous, farcical rows are extraordinarily amusing. But his sensitive murderers and soulful prostitutes are not to be endured for one moment—by this reader anyway.

    Playboy: Is it true that you have called Hemingway and Conrad “writers of books for boys”?

    Nabokov: That’s exactly what they are. Hemingway is certainly the better of the two; he has at least a voice of his own and is responsible for that delightful, highly artistic short story, The Killers. And the description of the fish in his famous fish story is superb. But I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir-shop style, and bottled ships, and shell necklaces of romanticist clichés. In neither of these two writers can I find anything that I would care to have written myself. In mentality and emotion, they are hopelessly juvenile, and the same can be said of some other beloved writers, the pets of the common room, the consolation and support of graduate students, such as—but some are still alive, and I hate to hurt living old boys while the dead ones are not yet buried.

    Playboy: Not to belabor the subject, some critics have felt that your barbed comments about the fashionability of Freudianism, as practiced by American analysts, suggest a contempt based upon familiarity.

    Nabokov: Bookish familiarity only. The ordeal itself is much too silly and disgusting to be contemplated even as a joke. Freudism and all it has tainted with its grotesque implications and methods, appear to me to be one of the vilest deceits practiced by people on themselves and on others. I reject it utterly, along with a few other medieval items still adored by the ignorant, the conventional, or the very sick.

    Nabokov: Although I do not care for the slogan “art for art’s sake”—because unfortunately such promoters of it as, for instance, Oscar Wilde and various dainty poets, were in reality rank moralists and didacticists—there can be no question that what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art.

    NABOKOV: The middlebrow or the upper Philistine cannot get rid of the furtive feeling that a book, to be great, must deal in great ideas. Oh, I know the type, the dreary type! He likes a good yarn spiced with social comment; he likes to recognize his own thoughts and throes in those of the author; he wants at least one of the characters to be the author’s stooge. If American, he has a dash of Marxist blood, and if British, he is acutely and ridiculously class-conscious; he finds it so much easier to write about ideas than about words; he does not realize that perhaps the reason he does not find general ideas in a particular writer is that the particular ideas of that writer have not yet become general.

    Vladimir Nabokov takes the blini for being quoted on 3 of flavorwire's 30 most devastating literary putdowns.

    “Dostoevky’s lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic misadventures of human dignity — all this is difficult to admire.”

    “I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist cliches.”

    “As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.”

    - chaplin: Vladimir Nabokov is probably one of the more authoritative and skilled critics and analyzers of Russian, if not all, literature. I feel he understands and expresses the essence of each writer he examines masterfully, with a balanced combination of artistic language and keen analytical interpretation. The following quotes are taken from his Lectures on Russian Literature.

    First, he gives a general statement and evaluation of Dostoevsky:

    "My position in regard to Dostoevsky is a curious and difficult one. In all my courses I approach literature from the only point of view that literature interests me--namely the point of view of enduring art and individual genius. From this point of view Dostoevsky is not a great writer, but a rather mediocre one--with flashes of excellent humor, but, alas, with wastelands of literary platitudes in between."

    Nabokov, however, does remark that he criticizes Dostoevsky on the same "high level" as "really great artists".

    Nabokov, perhaps slightly insultingly, gives an idea why Dostoevsky is so popular and widely lauded:

    "A good third [of readers] do not know the difference between real literature and pseudo-literature, and to such readers Dostoevsky may seem more important and more artistic than such trash as our American historical novels or things called From Here to Eternity and such like balderdash."

    Nabokov also compares the qualities of Dostoevsky to those of Tolstoy, who he admired greatly, and gives an overall review of Russian literature:

    "Tolstoy is the greatest Russian writer of prose fiction. Leaving aside his precursors Pushkin and Lermontov, we might list the greatest artists in Russian prose thus: first, Tolstoy; second, Gogol; third, Chekhov; fourth, Turgenev." [Realizing the, really, silliness of such rankings, he adds:] "This is rather like grading students' papers and no doubt Dostoevsky and Saltykov are waiting at the door of my office to discuss their low marks."

    The main reason why Nabokov regards Dostoevsky as an "inferior artist" is his injecting of almost all his works with "blood and tears and hysterical and topical politics"; proudly brandishing tendency as if it were the sun or sky.

    "The ideological poison, the message--to use a term invented by quack reformers--began to affect the Russian novel in the middle of the last [19th] century, and has killed it by the middle of this one [20th]."

    But, you may say, Tolstoy also loads his books with "message" and "ideology". Nabokov explains this away:

    "It would seem at first glance that Tolstoy's fiction is heavily infected with his teachings. Actually, his ideology was so tame and so vague and so far from politics, and, on the other hand, his art was so powerful, so tiger bright, so original and universal that it easily transcends the sermon. In the long run what interested him as a thinker were Life and Death..."

    With Dostoevsky ideology was the shoulders and feet of his fiction, necessary parts to the whole, but with Tolstoy, it was merely a cane that, moving along, you only occasionally, sometimes guiltily, lean against every once in a while.

    ‘Nabokov was fascinated by doubles, and his work is full of them — mirrors, twins, reflections, chance resemblances. Sergei was his brother’s double, a “shadow in the background,” as Nabokov put it. All his life Vladimir would be the golden wordsmith, the master of language; Sergei was afflicted with an atrocious stutter that would only get worse as he got older. He idolized Napoleon and slept with a bronze bust of him in his bed. He also loved music, particularly Richard Wagner, and he studied the piano seriously. Vladimir, by contrast, was almost pathologically insensitive to music, which he once described as “an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds.” He would creep up behind Sergei while he was practicing and poke him in the ribs — something he remembered with bitter remorse in later life. “They were never friends when they were children,” says Sikorski. “There was always a sort of aversion.”’

    Nabokov simply didn’t like homosexuals. Even after Sergei’s death, Nabokov used homophobic slurs that make the modern reader cringe. In one letter he describes Taos, N.M., where he spent a summer, as “a dismal hole full of third-rate painters and faded pansies.” And he referred to gay Russian critic Georgy Adamovich as “Sodomovich.”

    According to Andrew Field, his first biographer, Nabokov considered homosexuality to be a hereditary illness. Nabokov’s homophobia is in fact one of the dirty little secrets of 20th century literature, on a par with T.S. Eliot’s anti-Semitism. “I believe Nabokov was quite homophobic,” says Galya Diment, vice president of the Nabokov Society and a professor in the Slavic department at the University of Washington. “It behooves his fans and admirers to admit it — and also to regret it.”

    Where did this prejudice come from, in a man who spoke out vehemently against both racism and anti-Semitism (his wife was Jewish)? Nabokov’s father, also named Vladimir, was a politician, and he was deeply involved in legislative debates over homosexuality. In pre-revolutionary Russia consensual homosexual intercourse was a crime, and although V.D. Nabokov, as he was known, argued for the decriminalization of sodomy, his attitude toward homosexuality was complicated: He made it abundantly clear that his legislative arguments were based on purely constitutional grounds, on abstract notions of freedom and privacy, and that he personally considered homosexuality to be “deeply repugnant” to any “healthy and normal” person. V.D. Nabokov died in 1922 in Berlin, shot in the chest while breaking up the attempted assassination of a visiting Russian dignitary. Nabokov’s diary records that in their last conversation, the night before, Vladimir and his father had discussed Sergei’s “strange, abnormal inclinations.”

    Abnormal or not, homosexuality was actually an important part of life in the Nabokov family. In “Speak, Memory,” we meet little Vladimir’s beloved governess, “lovely, black-haired, aquamarine-eyed Miss Norcott,” who “was asked to leave at once, one night at Abbazia.” What grown-up Vladimir doesn’t tell us is that Miss Norcott was dismissed because she was a lesbian. Nabokov also had no fewer than two gay uncles. Konstantin Nabokov, his father’s brother, was chargi d’affaires at the Russian Embassy in London. Vasily Rukavishnikov, Vladimir’s maternal uncle, was also a diplomat, though a less successful one. He did succeed, however, in making an indelible impression on his young nephew.

    Uncle Ruka, as he was universally known, was a wealthy, eccentric dilettante, and there’s every indication that he was in love with the young Nabokov; certainly his attachment to his favorite nephew went beyond what was appropriate. He appears to have subjected Nabokov to a mild form of sexual abuse: “When I was eight or nine,” Nabokov writes in “Speak, Memory,” “he would invariably take me upon his knee after lunch and (while two young footmen were clearing the table in the empty dining room) fondle me, with crooning sounds and fancy endearments.” In his biography of Nabokov, Boyd notes “Humbert’s first feignedly nonchalant fumbles with Lolita,” and suggests that “the adult Nabokov’s disapproval of homosexuals and his solicitude for childhood innocence may all have their origins here.”

    Like Sergei, Uncle Ruka was gay, stuttered and loved music passionately. He considered his greatest achievement to be an original poem that he set to his own accompaniment, but of all the Nabokovs it was Sergei who learned to play it by heart. Of course, Uncle Ruka paid no attention to him. When he died in 1916 he left his entire estate — a mansion, 2,000 acres of land and a fortune in rubles — to his favorite nephew, Vladimir, who was a wealthy 17-year-old for a year before the Russian Revolution took it all away again.

    Since Nabokov’s death in 1977, the responsibility for managing his posthumous reputation has fallen to his son Dmitri, who is fiercely protective of his father’s public image: One member of the Nabokov family interviewed for this article later asked to retract her statements, for fear of incurring Dmitri’s wrath. Dmitri himself declined to be interviewed — “out of respect for his uncle,” according to his literary agent — but in 1997 he did take part in a revealing exchange on the Internet.

    When his father’s attitude toward homosexuality came up on NABOKV-L, a public e-mail list devoted to Nabokov’s work, Dmitri leapt into the fray. “I knew it was only a matter of time before the sexual-preference police would go to town on my father,” he wrote. He summed up Nabokov’s ambivalence perfectly: “He had a sense of justice, a homosexual brother, and not one but two homosexual uncles. Among the writers he admired there were plenty of homosexuals, from Proust to Edmund White. He had a number of homosexual friends. I also know he would have been less than happy had his son inherited those genes.”

    After Sergei’s death, Vladimir described him in a letter to Edmund Wilson as “a harmless, indolent, pathetic person who spent his life vaguely shuttling between the Quartier Latin and a castle in Austria.” Nabokov rarely mentioned Sergei in print — at least not by name. It wasn’t until the third published version of his “Speak, Memory” that Nabokov even felt able to include an account of Sergei’s life. In an early piece of autobiography, recently published in the New Yorker, Nabokov describes his brother “drifting in a hedonistic haze, among the cosmopolitan Montparnassian crowd that has been so often depicted by a certain type of American writer. His linguistic and musical gifts dissolved in the indolence of his nature.”

    At no point did Nabokov, who in “Lolita” would wring pathos from the sufferings of a child molester, ever have the courage to publicly state that his brother was gay. “It may be a kind of prudery,” muses Michael Wood, author of a book on Nabokov, “The Magician’s Doubts,” and chairman of Princeton University’s English department. “He obviously had a terrific affection for his brother. He also had a fixed distaste for homosexuality.”

    But however distasteful he found it as a person, Nabokov as a writer found homosexuality perversely irresistible, and gay characters turn up in almost every one of his 17 novels. There’s invariably something strangely wooden about them. Nabokov was the archenemy of cliché, a writer passionately committed to overturning tired literary conventions through careful observation of the real world, but his homosexual characters are as a rule egregiously stereotyped.

    From the giggly ballet dancers of Nabokov’s first novel, “Mary,” to the ghastly Gaston Godin, Humbert Humbert’s neighbor in “Lolita,” to the egomaniacal narrator of “Pale Fire,” they are vain, silly, usually effeminate — he uses the word “mincing” a lot — shallow, intellectually trivial and ineffectual, and the narrator generally introduces them with a nudge and a wink and a snig*er ['a sly or disrespectful laugh, especially one partly stifled' (also snicker)]. Many of them are pedophiles. Not once did Nabokov, the master observer, describe an instance of mature love between adults of the same sex — even though a glowing example of that love was right before his eyes.

    Although Nabokov’s gay characters are two-dimensional at best, Sergei found other, more interesting ways to haunt his brother’s fiction. In “The Real Life of Sebastian Knight,” Nabokov’s fictional account of a man’s attempt to write the life of his mysterious half-brother, one finds uncanny references to Sergei everywhere, from the title character’s name, which alliterates with Sergei’s, to his foppishness and his failures at sports, to a series of uneasy meetings between the brothers in Paris that closely parallels those of the real-life Nabokov brothers. “The similarities of Sebastian and Sergei fit so well together, it’s an aspect of the work that you really have to consider,” says Michael Begnal, an English professor at Wesleyan University who writes on Nabokov. “My impression was that he had to put the whole Sergei situation to rest in his own mind, and in a way that’s what he’s trying to do.”

    When he learned of Sergei’s death in 1945, Nabokov was in the middle of writing “Bend Sinister,” his most political novel. Like Sergei, the hero of “Bend Sinister” speaks out against a brutally repressive regime, and like Sergei, he would pay for his courage with his life. But Nabokov’s feelings about his brother were never simple: In “Bend Sinister” it’s not the hero who’s gay but the dictator who orders his death. In 1967, when he finally told the story of Sergei’s life, Nabokov’s writing conveys a sense of unspoken strain and remorse: “For various reasons,” he writes, “I find it inordinately hard to speak about my other brother.”

    In “Ada,” his longest novel and one of his last, Nabokov made his best and final attempt to come to terms with his feelings about his brother in print. “Ada” is the story of an incestuous love affair between Van Veen and Ada Veen, brother and sister. Their younger sister, Lucette, is also passionately in love with Van, and she spends most of the novel trailing around after the couple, getting in the way and generally making a pest of herself. Van’s indifference drives Lucette to despair, and toward the end of the book she throws herself from a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic.

    Brian Boyd, who is probably the single greatest living authority on Nabokov, believes that the real inspiration for Lucette was Sergei. “The centrality of Lucette in ‘Ada,’” he argues in an e-mail, “in some ways seems to reflect Nabokov’s sense of Sergei: the non-favorite, the frail one beside his confident sibling, the concentration camp victim … the one we’re invited to ignore, and even want to dismiss from the story, but eventually realize we should never have overlooked.”

    If Boyd is right, “Ada” gives us a last glimpse of Nabokov thinking about Sergei — and maybe, at last, starting to think about him in a new light. “I think that Nabokov often tries to be inhumanly secure, and confident, and happy, and unregretful,” Wood observes. “If he pulled that off, he would be a monster. It’s a fine thing to try — and an even finer thing to fail.”

    ‘In “The Real Life of Sebastian Knight” the narrator has a dream the night before Sebastian dies. He imagines that his half-brother’s hand has been horribly maimed in an accident. In the early fall of 1945, in his apartment in Cambridge, Mass., Nabokov dreamed of his brother Sergei. He saw him lying on a bunk in a German concentration camp, in terrible pain. The next day he received a letter from a family member in Prague. According to camp records, “Sergej Nabokoff” had died on Jan. 9, 1945, of a combination of dysentery, starvation and exhaustion. Neuengamme was liberated four months later.’

    ‘Nabokov described himself as a classical liberal, in the tradition of his father. In a poem he wrote in 1917, he described Lenin's Bolsheviks as "grey rag-tag people". Later, during his American period, he expressed contempt for student activism, and all collective movements. In both letters and interviews, he reveals a profound contempt for the New Left movements of the 1960s, describing the protestors as "conformists" and "goofy hoodlums". Nabokov supported the Vietnam War effort . . . .’

    - from Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov; pp. 11-14: I must now explain how Pale Fire came to be edited by me.

    Immediately after my dear friend’s death I prevailed on his distraught widow to forelay and defeat the commercial passions and academic intrigues that were bound to come swirling around her husband’s manuscript (transferred by me to a safe spot even before his body had reached the grave) by signing an agreement to the effect that he had turned over the manuscript to me; that I would have it published without delay, with my commentary, by a firm of my choice; that all profits, except the publisher’s percentage, would accrue to her; and that on publication day the manuscript would be handed over to the Library of Congress for permanent preservation. I defy any serious critic to find this contract unfair. Nevertheless, it has been called (by Shade’s former lawyer) ‘a fantastic farrago of evil,’ while another person (his former literary agent) has wondered with a sneer if Mrs Shade’s tremulous signature might not have been penned ‘in some peculiar kind of red ink.’ Such hearts, such brains, would be unable to comprehend that one’s attachment to a masterpiece may be utterly overwhelming, especially when it is the underside of the weave that entrances the beholder and only begetter, whose own past intercoils there with the fate of the innocent author.

    As mentioned, I think, in my last note to the poem, the depth charge of Shade’s death blasted such secrets and caused so many dead fish to float up, that I was forced to leave New Wye soon after my last interview with the jailed killer. The writing of the commentary had to be postponed until I could find a new incognito in quieter surroundings, but practical matters concerning the poem had to be settled at once. I took a plane to New York, had the manuscript photographed, came to terms with one of Shade’s publishers, and was on the point of clinching the deal when, quite casually, in the midst of a vast sunset (we sat in a cell of walnut and glass fifty stories above the progression of scarabs), my interlocutor observed: ‘You’ll be happy to know, Dr Kinbote, that Professor So-and-so [one of the members of the Shade committee] has consented to act as our adviser in editing the stuff.’

    Now ‘happy’ is something extremely subjective. One of our sillier Zemblan proverbs says: the lost glove is happy. Promptly I refastened the catch of my briefcase and betook myself to another publisher.

    Imagine a soft, clumsy giant; imagine a historical personage whose knowledge of money is limited to the abstract billions of a national debt; imagine an exiled prince who is unaware of the Golconda in his cuff links! This is to say — oh, hyperbolically — that I am the most impractical fellow in the world. Between such a person and an old fox in the book publishing business, relations are at first touchingly carefree and chummy, with expansive banterings and all sorts of amiable tokens. I have no reason to suppose that anything will ever happen to prevent this initial relationship with good old Frank, my present publisher, from remaining a permanent fixture.

    Frank has acknowledged the safe return of the galleys I had been sent here and has asked me to mention in my Preface—and this I willingly do—that I alone am responsible for any mistakes in my commentary. Insert before a professional. A professional proofreader has carefully rechecked the printed text of the poem against the phototype of the manuscript, and has found a few trivial misprints I had missed; that has been all in the way of outside assistance. Needless to say how much I had been looking forward to Sybil Shade’s providing me with abundant biographical data; unfortunately she left New Wye even before I did, and is dwelling now with relatives in Quebec. We might have had, of course, a most fruitful correspondence, but the Shadeans were not to be shaken off. They headed for Canada in droves to pounce on the poor lady as soon as I had lost contact with her and her changeful moods. Instead of answering a month-old letter from my cave in Cedarn, listing some of my most desperate queries, such as the real name of ‘Jim Coates’ etc., she suddenly shot me a wire, requesting me to accept Prof. H. (!) and Prof. C. (!!) as co-editors of her husband’s poem. How deeply this surprised and pained me! Naturally, it precluded collaboration with my friend’s misguided widow.

    And he was a very dear friend indeed! The calendar says I had known him only for a few months but there exist friendships which develop their own inner duration, their own eons of transparent time, independent of rotating, malicious music. Never shall I forget how elated I was upon learning, as mentioned in a note my reader shall find, that the suburban house (rented for my use from Judge Goldsworth who had gone on his Sabbatical to England) into which I moved on February 5, 1959, stood next to that of the celebrated American poet whose verses I had tried to put into Zemblan two decades earlier! Apart from this glamorous neighborhood, the Goldsworthian chateau, as I was soon to discover, had little to recommend it. The heating system was a farce, depending as it did on registers in the floor wherefrom the tepid exhalations of a throbbing and groaning basement furnace were transmitted to the rooms with the faintness of a moribund’s last breath. By occluding the apertures upstairs I attempted to give more energy to the register in the living room but its climate proved to be incurably vitiated by there being nothing between it and the arctic regions save a sleezy front door without a vestige of vestibule — either because the house had been built in midsummer by a naive settler who could not imagine the kind of winter New Wye had in store for him, or because old-time gentility required that a chance caller at the open door could satisfy himself from the threshold that nothing unseemly was going on in the parlor.

    - pp. 25-36 [Pale Fire (A POEM IN FOUR CANTOS)]:

    Canto One

    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,
    And how delightful when a fall of snow
    Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
    As to make chair and bed exactly stand
    Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!

    Retake the falling snow: each drifting flake
    Shapeless and slow, unsteady and opaque,
    A dull dark white against the day’s pale white
    And abstract larches in the neutral light.
    And then the gradual and dual blue
    As night unites the viewer and the view,
    And in the morning, diamonds of frost
    Express amazement: Whose spurred feet have crossed
    From left to right the blank page of the road?
    Reading from left to right in winter’s code:
    A dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat:
    Dot, arrow pointing back . . . A pheasant’s feet!
    Torquated beauty, sublimated grouse,
    Finding your China right behind my house.
    Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose
    Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?

    All colors made me happy: even gray.
    My eyes were such that literally they
    Took photographs. Whenever I’d permit,
    Or, with a silent shiver, order it,
    Whatever in my field of vision dwelt —
    An indoor scene, hickory leaves, the svelte
    Stilettos of a frozen stillicide —
    Was printed on my eyelids’ nether side
    Where it would tarry for an hour or two,
    And while this lasted all I had to do
    Was close my eyes to reproduce the leaves,
    Or indoor scene, or trophies of the eaves.

    I cannot understand why from the lake
    I could make out our front porch when I’d take
    Lake Road to school, whilst now, although no tree
    Has intervened, I look but fail to see
    Even the roof. Maybe some quirk in space
    Has caused a fold or furrow to displace
    The fragile vista, the frame house between
    Goldsworth and Wordsmith on its square of green.

    I had a favorite young shagbark there
    With ample dark jade leaves and a black, spare,
    Vermiculated trunk. The setting sun
    Bronzed the black bark, around which, like undone
    Garlands, the shadows of the foliage fell.
    It is now stout and rough; it has done well.
    White butterflies turn lavender as they
    Pass through its shade where gently seems to sway
    The phantom of my little daughter’s swing.

    The house itself is much the same. One wing
    We’ve had revamped. There’s a solarium. There’s
    A picture window flanked with fancy chairs.
    TV’s huge paperclip now shines instead
    Of the stiff vane so often visited
    By the naive, the gauzy mockingbird
    Retelling all the programs she had heard;
    Switching from chippo-chippo to a clear
    To-wee, to-wee; then rasping out: come here,
    Come here, come herrr
    ’; flirting her tail aloft,
    Or gracefully indulging in a soft
    Upward hop-flop, and instantly (to-wee!)
    Returning to her perch—the new TV.

    I was an infant when my parents died.
    They both were ornithologists. I’ve tried
    So often to evoke them that today
    I have a thousand parents. Sadly they
    Dissolve in their own virtues and recede,
    But certain words, chance words I hear or read,
    Such as ‘bad heart’ always to him refer,
    And ‘cancer of the pancreas’ to her.

    A preterist: one who collects cold nests.
    Here was my bedroom, now reserved for guests.
    Here, tucked away by the Canadian maid,
    I listened to the buzz downstairs and prayed
    For everybody to be always well,
    Uncles and aunts, the maid, her niece Adele
    Who’d seen the Pope, people in books and God.

    I was brought up by dear bizarre Aunt Maud,
    A poet and a painter with a taste
    For realistic objects interlaced
    With grotesque growths and images of doom.
    She lived to hear the next babe cry. Her room
    We’ve kept intact. Its trivia create
    A still life in her style: the paperweight
    Of convex glass enclosing a lagoon,
    The verse book open at the Index (Moon,
    Moonrise, Moor, Moral), the forlorn guitar,
    The human skull; and from the local Star
    A curio: Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4
    On Chapman’s Homer
    , thumbtacked to the door.

    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
    And how my childish palate loved the taste
    Half-fish, half-honey, of that golden paste!

    My picture book was at an early age
    The painted parchment papering our cage:
    Mauve rings around the moon; blood-orange sun;
    Twinned Iris; and that rare phenomenon
    The iridule — when, beautiful and strange,
    In a bright sky above a mountain range
    One opal cloudlet in an oval form
    Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm
    Which in a distant valley has been staged—
    For we are most artistically caged.

    And there’s the wall of sound: the nightly wall
    Raised by a trillion crickets in the fall.
    Impenetrable! Halfway up the hill
    I’d pause in thrall of their delirious trill.
    That’s Dr Sutton’s light. That’s the Great Bear.
    A thousand years ago five minutes were
    Equal to forty ounces of fine sand.
    Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime and
    Infinite aftertime: above your head
    They close like giant wings, and you are dead.

    The regular vulgarian, I daresay,
    Is happier: he sees the Milky Way
    Only when making water. Then as now
    I walked at my own risk: whipped by the bough,
    Tripped by the stump. Asthmatic, lame and fat,
    I never bounced a ball or swung a bat.

    I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
    By feigned remoteness in the windowpane.
    I had a brain, five senses (one unique),
    But otherwise I was a cloutish freak.
    In sleeping dreams I played with other chaps
    But really envied nothing—save perhaps
    The miracle of a lemniscate left
    Upon wet sand by nonchalantly deft
    Bicycle tires.
    A thread of subtle pain,
    Tugged at by playful death, released again,
    But always present, ran through me. One day,
    When I’d just turned eleven, as I lay
    Prone on the floor and watched a clockwork toy —
    A tin wheelbarrow pushed by a tin boy —
    Bypass chair legs and stray beneath the bed,
    There was a sudden sunburst in my head.

    And then black night. That blackness was sublime.
    I felt distributed through space and time:
    One foot upon a mountaintop, one hand
    Under the pebbles of a panting strand,
    One ear in Italy, one eye in Spain,
    In caves, my blood, and in the stars, my brain.
    There were dull throbs in my Triassic; green
    Optical spots in Upper Pleistocene,
    An icy shiver down my Age of Stone,
    And all tomorrows in my funnybone.

    During one winter every afternoon
    I’d sink into that momentary swoon.
    And then it ceased. Its memory grew dim.
    My health improved. I even learned to swim.
    But like some little lad forced by a wench
    With his pure tongue her abject thirst to quench,
    I was corrupted, terrified, allured,
    And though old doctor Colt pronounced me cured
    Of what, he said, were mainly growing pains,
    The wonder lingers and the shame remains.

    Canto Two

    There was a time in my demented youth
    When somehow I suspected that the truth
    About survival after death was known
    To every human being: I alone
    Knew nothing, and a great conspiracy
    Of books and people hid the truth from me.

    There was the day when I began to doubt
    Man’s sanity: How could he live without
    Knowing for sure what dawn, what death, what doom
    Awaited consciousness beyond the tomb?

    And finally there was the sleepless night
    When I decided to explore and fight
    The foul, the inadmissible abyss,
    Devoting all my twisted life to this
    One task. Today I’m sixty-one. Waxwings
    Are berry-pecking. A cicada sings.

    The little scissors I am holding are
    A dazzling synthesis of sun and star.
    I stand before the window and I pare
    My fingernails and vaguely am aware
    Of certain flinching likenesses: the thumb,
    Our grocer’s son; the index, lean and glum
    College astronomer Starover Blue;
    The middle fellow, a tall priest I knew;
    The feminine fourth finger, an old flirt;
    And little pinky clinging to her skirt.
    And I make mouths as I snip off the thin
    Strips of what Aunt Maud used to call ‘scarf-skin.’

    Maud Shade was eighty when a sudden hush
    Fell on her life. We saw the angry flush
    And torsion of paralysis assail
    Her noble cheek. We moved her to Pinedale,
    Famed for its sanitarium. There she’d sit
    In the glassed sun and watch the fly that lit
    Upon her dress and then upon her wrist.
    Her mind kept fading in the growing mist.
    She still could speak. She paused, and groped, and found
    What seemed at first a serviceable sound,
    But from adjacent cells impostors took
    The place of words she needed, and her look
    Spelt imploration as she sought in vain
    To reason with the monsters in her brain.

    What moment in the gradual decay
    Does resurrection choose? What year? What day?
    Who has the stopwatch? Who rewinds the tape?
    Are some less lucky, or do all escape?
    A syllogism: other men die; but I
    Am not another; therefore I’ll not die.

    Space is a swarming in the eyes; and time,
    A swinging in the ears. In this hive I’m
    Locked up. Yet, if prior to life we had
    Been able to imagine life, what mad,
    Impossible, unutterably weird,
    Wonderful nonsense it might have appeared!

    So why join in the vulgar laughter? Why
    Scorn a hereafter none can verify:
    The Turk’s delight, the future lyres, the talks
    With Socrates and Proust in cypress walks,
    The seraph with his six flamingo wings,
    And Flemish hells with porcupines and things?
    It isn’t that we dream too wild a dream:
    The trouble is we do not make it seem
    Sufficiently unlikely; for the most
    We can think up is a domestic ghost.
    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!

    Life is a message scribbled in the dark.
    Espied on a pine’s bark,
    As we were walking home the day she died,
    An empty emerald case, squat and frog-eyed,
    Hugging the trunk; and its companion piece,
    A gum-logged ant.
    That Englishman in Nice,
    A proud and happy linguist: je nourris
    Les pauvres cigales
    — meaning that he
    Fed the poor sea gulls!
    Lafontaine was wrong:
    Dead is the mandible, alive the song.

    And so I pare my nails, and muse, and hear
    Your steps upstairs, and all is right, my dear.

    Sybil, throughout our high-school days I knew
    Your loveliness, but fell in love with you
    During an outing of the senior class
    To New Wye Falls. We luncheoned on damp grass.
    Our teacher of geology discussed
    The cataract. Its roar and rainbow dust
    Made the tame park romantic. I reclined
    In April’s haze immediately behind
    Your slender back and watched your neat small head
    Bend to one side. One palm with fingers spread,
    Between a star of trillium and a stone,
    Pressed on the turf. A little phalange bone
    Kept twitching. Then you turned and offered me
    A thimbleful of bright metallic tea.

    Your profile has not changed. The glistening teeth
    Biting the careful lip; the shade beneath
    The eye from the long lashes; the peach down
    Rimming the cheekbone; the dark silky brown
    Of hair brushed up from temple and from nape;
    The very naked neck; the Persian shape
    Of nose and eyebrow, you have kept it all —
    And on still nights we hear the water fall.

    Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed,
    My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest
    My Admirable butterfly! Explain
    How could you, in the gloam of Lilac Lane,
    Have let uncouth, hysterical John Shade
    Blubber your face, and ear, and shoulder blade?

    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 love you when you’re standing on the lawn
    Peering at something in a tree: ‘It’s gone.
    It was so small. It might come back’ (all this
    Voiced in a whisper softer than a kiss).
    I love you when you call me to admire
    A jet’s pink trail above the sunset fire.
    I love you when you’re humming as you pack
    A suitcase or the farcical car sack
    With round-trip zipper. And I love you most
    When with a pensive nod you greet her ghost
    And hold her first toy on your palm, or look
    At a postcard from her, found in a book.

    She might have been you, me, or some quaint blend:
    Nature chose me so as to wrench and rend
    Your heart and mine. At first we’d smile and say:
    ‘All little girls are plump’ or ‘Jim McVey
    (The family oculist) will cure that slight
    Squint in no time.’ And later: ‘She’ll be quite
    Pretty, you know’; and, trying to assuage
    The swelling torment: ‘That’s the awkward age.’
    ‘She should take riding lessons,’ you would say
    (Your eyes and mine not meeting). ‘She should play
    Tennis, or badminton. Less starch, more fruit!
    She may not be a beauty, but she’s cute.’

    It was no use, no use. The prizes won
    In French and history, no doubt, were fun;
    At Christmas parties games were rough, no doubt,
    And one shy little guest might be left out;
    But let’s be fair: while children of her age
    Were cast as elves and fairies on the stage
    That she’d helped paint for the school pantomime,
    My gentle girl appeared as Mother Time,
    A bent charwoman with slop pail and broom,
    And like a fool I sobbed in the men’s room.

    Another winter was scrape-scooped away.
    The Toothwort White haunted our woods in May.
    Summer was power-mowed, and autumn, burned.
    Alas, the dingy cygnet never turned
    Into a wood duck. And again your voice:
    ‘But this is prejudice! You should rejoice
    That she is innocent. Why overstress
    The physical? She wants to look a mess.
    Virgins have written some resplendent books.
    Lovemaking is not everything. Good looks
    Are not that indispensable!’ And still
    Old Pan would call from every painted hill,
    And still the demons of our pity spoke:
    No lips would share the lipstick of her smoke;
    The telephone that rang before a ball
    Every two minutes in Sorosa Hall
    For her would never ring; and, with a great
    Screeching of tires on gravel, to the gate
    Out of the lacquered night, a white-scarfed beau
    Would never come for her; she’d never go,
    A dream of gauze and jasmine, to that dance.
    We sent her, though, to a chateau in France.

    And she returned in tears, with new defeats,
    New miseries. On days when all the streets
    Of College Town led to the game, she’d sit
    On the library steps, and read or knit;
    Mostly alone she’d be, or with that nice
    Frail roommate, now a nun; and, once or twice,
    With a Korean boy who took my course.
    She had strange fears, strange fantasies, strange force
    Of character — as when she spent three nights
    Investigating certain sounds and lights
    In an old barn. She twisted words: pot, top,
    Spider, redips. And ‘powder’ was ‘red wop.’
    She called you a didactic katydid.
    She hardly ever smiled, and when she did,
    It was a sign of pain. She’d criticize
    Ferociously our projects, and with eyes
    Expressionless sit on her tumbled bed
    Spreading her swollen feet, scratching her head
    With psoriatic fingernails, and moan,
    Murmuring dreadful words in monotone.

    She was my darling: difficult, morose—
    But still my darling. You remember those
    Almost unruffled evenings when we played
    Mah-jongg, or she tried on your furs, which made
    Her almost fetching; and the mirrors smiled,
    The lights were merciful, the shadows mild.
    Sometimes I’d help her with a Latin text,
    Or she’d be reading in her bedroom, next
    To my fluorescent lair, and you would be
    In your own study, twice removed from me,
    And I would hear both voices now and then:
    ‘Mother, what’s grimpen?’ ‘What is what?’
    ‘Grim Pen.’
    Pause, and your guarded scholium. Then again:
    ‘Mother, what’s chtonic?’ That, too, you’d explain,
    Appending: ‘Would you like a tangerine?’
    ‘No. Yes. And what does sempiternal mean?’
    You’d hesitate. And lustily I’d roar
    The answer from my desk through the closed door.

    - p. 38:

    A host narrator took us through the fog
    Of a March night, where headlights from afar
    Approached and grew like a dilating star,
    To the green, indigo and tawny sea
    Which we had visited in thirty-three,
    Nine months before her birth. Now it was all
    Pepper-and-salt, and hardly could recall
    That first long ramble, the relentless light,
    The flock of sails (one blue among the white
    Clashed queerly with the sea, and two were red),
    The man in the old blazer, crumbling bread,
    The crowding gulls insufferably loud,
    And one dark pigeon waddling in the crowd.
    ‘Was that the phone?’ You listened at the door.
    Nothing. Picked up the program from the floor.
    More headlights in the fog. There was no sense
    In window-rubbing: only some white fence
    And the reflector poles passed by unmasked.

    ‘Are we quite sure she’s acting right?’ you asked.
    ‘It’s technically a blind date, of course.
    Well, shall we try the preview of Remorse?’
    And we allowed, in all tranquillity,
    The famous film to spread its charmed marquee;
    The famous face flowed in, fair and inane:
    The parted lips, the swimming eyes, the grain
    Of beauty on the cheek, old gallicism,
    And the soft form dissolving in the prism
    Of corporate desire.
    ‘I think,’ she said,
    ‘I’ll get off here.’ ‘It’s only Lochanhead.’
    ‘Yes, that’s okay.’ Gripping the stang, she peered
    At ghostly trees. Bus stopped. Bus disappeared.

    - p. 40:

    It was a night of thaw, a night of blow,
    With great excitement in the air. Black spring
    Stood just around the corner, shivering
    In the wet starlight and on the wet ground.
    The lake lay in the mist, its ice half drowned.
    A blurry shape stepped off the reedy bank
    Into a crackling, gulping swamp, and sank.

    - pp. 42-47 (Canto Three):

    The Institute assumed it might be wise
    Not to expect too much of paradise:
    What if there’s nobody to say hullo
    To the newcomer, no reception, no
    Indoctrination? What if you are tossed
    Into a boundless void, your bearings lost,
    Your spirit stripped and utterly alone,
    Your task unfinished, your despair unknown,
    Your body just beginning to putresce,
    A non-undressable in morning dress,
    Your widow lying prone on a dim bed,
    Herself a blur in your dissolving head!

    While snubbing gods, including the big G,
    Iph borrowed some peripheral debris
    From mystic visions; and it offered tips
    (The amber spectacles for life’s eclipse) —
    How not to panic when you’re made a ghost:
    Sidle and slide, choose a smooth surd, and coast,
    Meet solid bodies and glissade right through,
    Or let a person circulate through you.
    How to locate in blackness, with a gasp
    Terra the Fair, an orbicle of jasp.
    How to keep sane in spiral types of space.
    Precautions to be taken in the case
    Of freak reincarnation: what to do
    On suddenly discovering that you
    Are now a young and vulnerable toad
    Plump in the middle of a busy road,
    Or a bear cub beneath a burning pine,
    Or a book mite in a revived divine.

    Time means succession, and succession, change:
    Hence timelessness is bound to disarrange
    Schedules of sentiment. We give advice
    To widower. He has been married twice:
    He meets his wives; both loved, both loving, both
    Jealous of one another. Time means growth,
    And growth means nothing in Elysian life.
    Fondling a changeless child, the flax-haired wife
    Grieves on the brink of a remembered pond
    Full of a dreamy sky. And, also blond,
    But with a touch of tawny in the shade,
    Feet up, knees clasped, on a stone balustrade
    The other sits and raises a moist gaze
    Toward the blue impenetrable haze.
    How to begin? Which first to kiss? What toy
    To give the babe? Does that small solemn boy
    Know of the head-on crash which on a wild
    March night killed both the mother and the child?
    And she, the second love, with instep bare
    In ballerina black, why does she wear
    The earrings from the other’s jewel case?
    And why does she avert her fierce young face?

    For as we know from dreams it is so hard
    To speak to our dear dead! They disregard
    Our apprehension, queaziness and shame —
    The awful sense that they’re not quite the same.
    And our school chum killed in a distant war
    Is not surprised to see us at his door,
    And in a blend of jauntiness and gloom
    Points at the puddles in his basement room.

    But who can teach the thoughts we should roll-call
    When morning finds us marching to the wall
    Under the stage direction of some goon
    Political, some uniformed baboon?
    We’ll think of matters only known to us —
    Empires of rhyme, Indies of calculus;
    Listen to distant cocks crow, and discern
    Upon the rough gray wall a rare wall fern;
    And while our royal hands are being tied,
    Taunt our inferiors, cheerfully deride
    The dedicated imbeciles, and spit
    Into their eyes just for the fun of it.

    Nor can one help the exile, the old man
    Dying in a motel, with the loud fan
    Revolving in the torrid prairie night
    And, from the outside, bits of colored light
    Reaching his bed like dark hands from the past
    Offering gems; and death is coming fast.
    He suffocates and conjures in two tongues
    The nebulae dilating in his lungs.

    A wrench, a rift—that’s all one can foresee.
    Maybe one finds le grand néant; maybe
    Again one spirals from the tuber’s eye.

    As you remarked the last time we went by
    The Institute: ‘I really could not tell
    The difference between this place and Hell.’

    We heard cremationists guffaw and snort
    At Grabermann’s denouncing the Retort
    As detrimental to the birth of wraiths.
    We all avoided criticizing faiths.
    The great Starover Blue reviewed the role
    Planets had played as landfalls of the soul.
    The fate of beasts was pondered. A Chinese
    Discanted on the etiquette at teas
    With ancestors, and how far up to go.
    I tore apart the fantasies of Poe,
    And dealt with childhood memories of strange
    Nacreous gleams beyond the adults’ range.
    Among our auditors were a young priest
    And an old Communist. Iph could at least
    Compete with churches and the party line.

    In later years it started to decline:
    Buddhism took root. A medium smuggled in
    Pale jellies and a floating mandolin.
    Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept
    All is allowed, into some classes crept;
    And to fulfill the fish wish of the womb,
    A school of Freudians headed for the tomb.

    That tasteless venture helped me in a way.
    I learnt what to ignore in my survey
    Of death’s abyss. And when we lost our child
    I knew there would be nothing: no self-styled
    Spirit would touch a keyboard of dry wood
    To rap out her pet name; no phantom would
    Rise gracefully to welcome you and me
    In the dark garden, near the shagbarktree.

    ‘What is that funny creaking — do you hear?’
    ‘It is the shutter on the stairs, my dear.’

    ‘If you’re not sleeping, let’s turn on the light.
    I hate the wind! Let’s play some chess.’ ‘All right.’

    ‘I’m sure it’s not the shutter. There — again.”
    ‘It is a tendril fingering the pane.’

    ‘What glided down the roof and made that thud?’
    ‘It is old winter tumbling in the mud.’

    ‘And now what shall I do? My knight is pinned.’

    Who rides so late in the night and the wind?
    It is the writer’s grief. It is the wild
    March wind. It is the father with his child.

    Later came minutes, hours, whole days at last,
    When she’d be absent from our thoughts, so fast
    Did life, the woolly caterpillar run.
    We went to Italy. Sprawled in the sun
    On a white beach with other pink or brown
    Americans. Flew back to our small town.
    Found that my bunch of essays The Untamed
    was ‘universally acclaimed’
    (It sold three hundred copies in one year).
    Again school started, and on hillsides, where
    Wound distant roads, one saw the steady stream
    Of carlights all returning to the dream
    Of college education. You went on
    Translating into French Marvell and Donne.
    It was a year of Tempests: Hurricane
    Lolita swept from Florida to Maine.
    Mars glowed. Shahs married. Gloomy Russians spied.
    Lang made your portrait. And one night I died.

    The Crashaw Club had paid me to discuss
    Why Poetry Is Meaningful to Us.
    I gave my sermon, a dull thing but short.
    As I was leaving in some haste, to thwart
    The so-called ‘question period’ at the end,
    One of those peevish people who attend
    Such talks only to say they disagree
    Stood up and pointed with his pipe at me.

    And then it happened — the attack, the trance,
    Or one of my old fits. There sat by chance
    A doctor in the front row. At his feet
    Patly I fell. My heart had stopped to beat,
    It seems, and several moments passed before
    It heaved and went on trudging to a more
    Conclusive destination. Give me now
    Your full attention.
    I can’t tell you how
    I knew — but I did know that I had crossed
    The border. Everything I loved was lost
    But no aorta could report regret.
    A sun of rubber was convulsed and set;
    And blood-black nothingness began to spin
    A system of cells interlinked within
    Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
    Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
    Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

    I realized, of course, that it was made
    Not of our atoms; that the sense behind
    The scene was not our sense. In life, the mind
    Of any man is quick to recognize
    Natural shams, and then before his eyes
    The reed becomes a bird, the knobby twig
    An inchworm, and the cobra head, a big
    Wickedly folded moth. But in the case
    Of my white fountain what it did replace
    Perceptually was something that, I felt,
    Could be grasped only by whoever dwelt
    In the strange world where I was a mere stray.

    And presently I saw it melt away:
    Though still unconscious, I was back on earth.
    The tale I told provoked my doctor’s mirth.
    He doubted very much that in the state
    He found me in ‘one could hallucinate
    Or dream in any sense. Later, perhaps,
    But not during the actual collapse.
    No, Mr Shade.’
    But, Doctor, I was dead!
    He smiled. ‘Not quite: just half a shade,’ he said.

    - pp. 48-49:

    My vision reeked with truth. It had the tone,
    The quiddity and quaintness of its own
    Reality. It was. As time went on,
    Its constant vertical in triumph shone.
    Often when troubled by the outer glare
    Of street and strife, inward I’d turn, and there,
    There in the background of my soul it stood,
    Old Faithful! And its presence always would
    Console me wonderfully. Then, one day,
    I came across what seemed a twin display.

    It was a story in a magazine
    About a Mrs Z. whose heart had been
    Rubbed back to life by a prompt surgeon’s hand.
    She told her interviewer of ‘The Land
    Beyond the Veil’ and the account contained
    A hint of angels, and a glint of stained
    Windows, and some soft music, and a choice
    Of hymnal items, and her mother’s voice;
    But at the end she mentioned a remote
    Landscape, a hazy orchard—and I quote:
    ‘Beyond that orchard through a kind of smoke
    I glimpsed a tall white fountain — and awoke.’

    If on some nameless island Captain Schmidt
    Sees a new animal and captures it,
    And if, a little later, Captain Smith
    Brings back a skin, that island is no myth.

    Our fountain was a signpost and a mark
    Objectively enduring in the dark,
    Strong as a bone, substantial as a tooth,
    And almost vulgar in its robust truth!

    The article was by Jim Coates. To Jim
    Forthwith I wrote. Got her address from him.
    Drove west three hundred miles to talk to her.
    Arrived. Was met by an impassioned purr.
    Saw that blue hair, those freckled hands, that rapt
    Orchideous air—and knew that I was trapped.

    ‘Who’d miss the opportunity to meet
    A poet so distinguished?’ It was sweet
    Of me to come! I desperately tried
    To ask my questions. They were brushed aside:
    ‘Perhaps some other time.’ The journalist
    Still had her scribblings. I should not insist.
    She plied me with fruit cake, turning it all
    Into an idiotic social call.
    ‘I can’t believe, she said, ‘that it is you!
    I loved your poem in the Blue Review.
    That one about Mon Blon. I have a niece
    Who’s climbed the Matterhorn. The other piece
    I could not understand. I mean the sense.
    Because, of course, the sound — But I’m so dense!’

    She was. I might have persevered. I might
    Have made her tell me more about the white
    Fountain we both had seen ‘beyond the veil’
    But if (I thought) I mentioned that detail
    She’d pounce upon it as upon a fond
    Affinity, a sacramental bond,
    Uniting mystically her and me,
    And in a jiffy our two souls would be
    Brother and sister trembling on the brink
    Of tender incest.

    - pp. 52-53 (Canto Four):

    Now I shall spy on beauty as none has
    Spied on it yet. Now I shall cry out as
    None has cried out. Now I shall try what none
    Has tried. Now I shall do what none has done.
    And speaking of this wonderful machine:
    I’m puzzled by the difference between
    Two methods of composing: A, the kind
    Which goes on solely in the poet’s mind,
    A testing of performing words, while he
    Is soaping a third time one leg, and B,
    The other kind, much more decorous, when
    He’s in his study writing with a pen.

    In method B the hand supports the thought,
    The abstract battle is concretely fought.
    The pen stops in mid-air, then swoops to bar
    A canceled sunset or restore a star,
    And thus it physically guides the phrase
    Toward faint daylight through the inky maze.

    But method A is agony! The brain
    Is soon enclosed in a steel cap of pain.
    A muse in overalls directs the drill
    Which grinds and which no effort of the will
    Can interrupt, while the automaton
    Is taking off what he has just put on
    Or walking briskly to the corner store
    To buy the paper he has read before.

    Why is it so? Is it, perhaps, because
    In penless work there is no pen-poised pause
    And one must use three hands at the same time,
    Having to choose the necessary rhyme,
    Hold the completed line before one’s eyes,
    And keep in mind all the preceding tries?
    Or is the process deeper with no desk
    To prop the false and hoist the poetesque?
    For there are those mysterious moments when
    Too weary to delete, I drop my pen;
    I ambulate — and by some mute command
    The right word flutes and perches on my hand.

    My best time is the morning; my preferred
    Season, midsummer. I once overheard
    Myself awakening while half of me
    Still slept in bed. I tore my spirit free,
    And caught up with myself—upon the lawn
    Where clover leaves cupped the topaz of dawn,
    And where Shade stood in nightshirt and one shoe.
    And then I realized that this half too
    Was fast asleep; both laughed and I awoke
    Safe in my bed as day its eggshell broke,
    And robins walked and stopped, and on the damp
    Gemmed turf a brown shoe lay! My secret stamp,
    The Shade impress, the mystery inborn.
    Mirages, miracles, midsummer morn.

    - p. 54:

    Now I shall speak of evil as none has
    Spoken before. I loathe such things as jazz;
    The white-hosed moron torturing a black
    Bull, rayed with red; abstractist bric-a-brac;
    Primitivist folk-masks; progressive schools;
    Music in supermarkets; swimming pools;
    Brutes, bores, class-conscious Philistines, Freud, Marx,
    Fake thinkers, puffed-up poets, frauds and sharks

    - p. 56:

    I feel I understand
    Existence, or at least a minute part
    Of my existence, only through my art,
    In terms of combinational delight;
    And if my private universe scans right,
    So does the verse of galaxies divine
    Which I suspect is an iambic line.

    - p. 57 (Commentary): Lines 1-4: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain, etc.

    The image in these opening lines evidently refers to a bird knocking itself out, in full flight, against the outer surface of a glass pane in which a mirrored sky, with its slightly darker tint and slightly slower cloud, presents the illusion of continued space. We can visualize John Shade in his early boyhood, a physically unattractive but otherwise beautifully developed lad, experiencing his first eschatological shock, as with incredulous fingers he picks up from the turf that compact ovoid body and gazes at the wax-red streaks ornamenting those gray-brown wings and at the graceful tail feathers tipped with yellow as bright as fresh paint. When in the last year of Shade’s life I had the fortune of being his neighbor in the idyllic hills of New Wye, I often saw those particular birds most convivially feeding on the chalk-blue berries of junipers growing at the corner of the house.

    My knowledge of garden Aves had been limited to those of northern Europe but a young New Wye gardener, in whom I was interested, helped me to identify the profiles of quite a number of tropical-looking little strangers and their comical calls; and, naturally, every tree top plotted its dotted line toward the ornithological work on my desk to which I would gallop from the lawn in nomenclatorial agitation.

    - pp. 58-59—Line 12: that crystal land

    Perhaps an allusion to Zembla, my dear country. After this, in the disjointed, half-obliterated draft which I am not at all sure I have deciphered properly:

    Ah, I must not forget to say something
    That my friend told me of a certain king.

    Alas, he would have said a great deal more if a domestic anti-Karlist had not controlled every line he communicated to her! Many a time have I rebuked him in bantering fashion: ‘You really should promise to use all that wonderful stuff, you bad gray poet, you!’ And we would both giggle like boys. But then, after the inspiring evening stroll, we had to part, and grim night lifted the drawbridge between his impregnable fortress and my humble home.

    That King’s reign (1936-1958) will be remembered by at least a few discerning historians as a peaceful and elegant one. Owing to a fluid system of judicious alliances, Mars in his time never marred the record. Internally, until corruption, betrayal, and Extremism penetrated it, the People’s Place (parliament) worked in perfect harmony with the Royal Council. Harmony, indeed, was the reign’s password. The polite arts and pure sciences flourished. Technicology, applied physics, industrial chemistry and so forth were suffered to thrive. A small skyscraper of ultramarine glass was steadily rising in Onhava. The climate seemed to be improving. Taxation had become a thing of beauty. The poor were getting a little richer, and the rich a little poorer (in accordance with what may be known some day as Kinbote’s Law). Medical care was spreading to the confines of the state: less and less often, on his tour of the country, every autumn, when the rowans hung coral-heavy, and the puddles tinkled with Muscovy glass, the friendly and eloquent monarch would be interrupted by a pertussal ‘backdraucht’ in a crowd of schoolchildren. Parachuting had become a popular sport. Everybody, in a word, was content — even the political mischiefmakers who were contentedly making mischief paid by a contented Sosed (Zembla’s gigantic neighbor). But let us not pursue this tiresome subject.

    - pp. 61-63—Line 27: Sherlock Holmes

    A hawk-nosed, lanky, rather likable private detective, the main character in various stories by Conan Doyle. I have no means to ascertain at the present time which of these is referred to here but suspect that our poet simply made up this Case of the Reversed Footprints.

    Lines 34-35: Stilettos of a frozen stillicide

    How persistently our poet evokes images of winter in the beginning of a poem which he started composing on a balmy summer night! The mechanism of the associations is easy to make out (glass leading to crystal and crystal to ice) but the prompter behind it retains his incognito. One is too modest to suppose that the fact that the poet and his future commentator first met on a winter day somehow impinges here on the actual season. In the lovely line heading this comment the reader should note the last word. My dictionary defines it as ‘a succession of drops falling from the eaves, eavesdrop, cavesdrop.’ I remember having encountered it for the first time in a poem by Thomas Hardy. The bright frost has eternalized the bright eavesdrop. We should also note the cloak-and-dagger hint-glint in the ‘svelte stilettos’ and the shadow of regicide in the rhyme.

    Lines 39-40: Was close my eyes, etc.

    These lines are represented in the drafts by a variant reading:

    39 . . . . . . . . . . . . . and home would haste my thieves,
    40 The sun with stolen ice, the moon with leaves

    One cannot help recalling a passage in Timon of Athens (Act IV, Scene 3) where the misanthrope talks to the three marauders. Having no library in the desolate log cabin where I live like Timon in his cave, I am compelled for the purpose of quick citation to retranslate this passage into English prose from a Zemblan poetical version of Timon which, I hope, sufficiently approximates the text, or is at least faithful to its spirit:

    The sun is a thief: she lures the sea
    and robs it. The moon is a thief:
    he steals his silvery light from the sun.
    The sea is a thief: it dissolves the moon.

    Line 42: I could make out

    By the end of May I could make out the outlines of some of my images in the shape his genius might give them; by mid-June I felt sure at last that he would recreate in a poem the dazzling Zembla burning in my brain. I mesmerized him with it, I saturated him with my vision, I pressed upon him, with a drunkard’s wild generosity, all that I was helpless myself to put into verse. Surely, it would not be easy to discover in the history of poetry a similar case — that of two men, different in origin, upbringing, thought associations, spiritual intonation and mental mode, one a cosmopolitan scholar, the other a fireside poet, entering into a secret compact of this kind. At length I knew he was ripe with my Zembla, bursting with suitable rhymes, ready to spurt at the brush of an eyelash. I kept urging him at every opportunity to surmount his habitual sloth and start writing. My little pocket diary contains such jottings as: ‘Suggested to him the heroic measure’; ‘retold the escape’; ‘offered the use of a quiet room in my house’; ‘discussed making recordings of my voice for his use’; and finally, under date of July 3: ‘poem begun!’

    Although I realize only too clearly, alas, that the result, in its pale and diaphanous final phase, cannot be regarded as a direct echo of my narrative (of which, incidentally, only a few fragments are given in my notes — mainly to Canto One), one can hardly doubt that the sunset glow of the story acted as a catalytic agent upon the very process of the sustained creative effervescence that enabled Shade to produce a 1000-line poem in three weeks. There is, moreover, a symptomatic family resemblance in the coloration of both poem and story. I have reread, not without pleasure, my comments to his lines, and in many cases have caught myself borrowing a kind of opalescent light from my poet’s fiery orb, and unconsciously aping the prose style of his own critical essays. But his widow, and his colleagues, may stop worrying and enjoy in full the fruit of whatever advice they gave my good-natured poet. Oh yes, the final text of the poem is entirely his.

    - pp. 64-66—Lines 47-48: the frame house between Goldsworth and Wordsmith

    The first name refers to the house in Dulwich Road that I rented from Hugh Warren Goldsworth, authority on Roman Law and distinguished judge. I never had the pleasure of meeting my landlord but I came to know his handwriting almost as well as I do Shade’s. The second name denotes, of course, Wordsmith University. In seeming to suggest a midway situation between the two places, our poet is less concerned with spatial exactitude than with a witty exchange of syllables invoking the two masters of the heroic couplet, between whom he embowers his own muse. Actually, the ‘frame house on its square of green’ was five miles west of the Wordsmith campus but only fifty yards or so distant from my east windows.

    In the Foreword to this work I have had occasion to say something about the amenities of my habitation. The charming, charmingly vague lady, who secured it for me, sight unseen, meant well, no doubt, especially since it was widely admired in the neighborhood for its ‘old-world spaciousness and graciousness.’ Actually, it was an old, dismal, white-and-black, half-timbered house, of the type termed wodnaggen in my country, with carved gables, drafty bow windows and a so-called ‘semi-noble’ porch, surmounted by a hideous veranda. Judge Goldsworth had a wife and four daughters. Family photographs met me in the hallway and pursued me from room to room, and although I am sure that Alphina (9), Betty (10), Candida (12), and Dee (14) will soon change from horribly cute little schoolgirls to smart young ladies and superior mothers, I must confess that their pert pictures irritated me to such an extent that finally I gathered them one by one and dumped them all in a closet under the gallows row of their cellophane-shrouded winter clothes. In the study I found a large picture of their parents, with sexes reversed, Mrs G. resembling Malenkov, and Mr G. a Medusa-locked hag, and this I replaced by the reproduction of a beloved early Picasso: earth boy leading raincloud horse. I did not bother, though, to do much about the family books which were also all over the house — four sets of different Children’s Encyclopedias, and a stolid grown-up one that ascended all the way from shelf to shelf along a flight of stairs to burst an appendix in the attic. Judging by the novels in Mrs Goldsworth’s boudoir, her intellectual interests were fully developed, going as they did from Amber to Zen. The head of this alphabetic family had a library too, but this consisted mainly of legal works and a lot of conspicuously lettered ledgers. All the layman could glean for instruction and entertainment was a morocco-bound album in which the judge had lovingly pasted the life histories and pictures of people he had sent to prison or condemned to death: unforgettable faces of imbecile hoodlums, last smokes and last grins, a strangler’s quite ordinary-looking hands, a self-made widow, the close-set merciless eyes of a homicidal maniac (somewhat resembling, I admit, the late Jacques d’Argus), a bright little parricide aged seven (‘Now, sonny, we want you to tell us—”), and a sad pudgy old pederast who had blown up his blackmailer. What rather surprised me was that he, my learned landlord, and not his ‘missus,’ directed the household. Not only had he left me a detailed inventory of all such articles as cluster around a new tenant like a mob of menacing natives, but he had taken stupendous pains to write out on slips of paper recommendations, explanations, injunctions and supplementary lists. Whatever I touched on the first day of my stay yielded a specimen of Goldsworthiana. I unlocked the medicine chest in the second bathroom, and out fluttered a message advising me that the slit for discarded safety blades was too full for use. I opened the icebox, and it warned me with a bark that ‘no national specialties with odors hard to get rid of’ should be placed therein. I pulled out the middle drawer of the desk in the study—and discovered a catalogue raisonné of its meager contents which included an assortment of ashtrays, a damask paperknife (described as ‘one ancient dagger brought by Mrs Goldsworth’s father from the Orient’), and an old but unused pocket diary optimistically maturing there until its calendric correspondencies came around again. Among various detailed notices affixed to a special board in the pantry, such as plumbing instructions, dissertations on electricity, discourses on cactuses and so forth, I found the diet of the black cat that came with the house:

    Mon, Wed, Fri: Liver
    Tue, Thu, Sat: Fish
    Sun: Ground meat

    (All it got from me was milk and sardines; it was a likable little creature but after a while its movements began to grate on my nerves and I farmed it out to Mrs Finley, the cleaning woman.) But perhaps the funniest note concerned the manipulations of the window curtains which had to be drawn in different ways at different hours to prevent the sun from getting at the upholstery. A description of the position of the sun, daily and seasonal, was given for the several windows, and if I had heeded all this I would have been kept as busy as a participant in a regatta. A footnote, however generously suggested that instead of manning the curtains, I might prefer to shift and reshift out of sun range the more precious pieces of furniture (two embroidered armchairs and a heavy ‘royal console’) but should do it carefully lest I scratch the wall moldings. I cannot, alas, reproduce the meticulous schedule of these transposals but seem to recall that I was supposed to castle the long way before going to bed and the short way first thing in the morning. My dear Shade roared with laughter when I led him on a tour of inspection and had him find some of those bunny eggs for himself. Thank God, his robust hilarity dissipated the atmosphere of damnum infectum in which I was supposed to dwell. On his part, he regaled me with a number of anecdotes concerning the judge’s dry wit and courtroom mannerisms; most of these anecdotes were doubtless folklore exaggerations, a few were evident inventions, and all were harmless. He did not bring up, my sweet old friend never did, ridiculous stories about the terrifying shadows that Judge Goldsworth’s gown threw across the underworld, or about this or that beast lying in prison and positively dying of raghdirst (thirst for revenge) — crass banalities circulated by the scurrilous and the heartless — by all those for whom romance, remoteness, sealskin-lined scarlet skies, the darkening dunes of a fabulous kingdom, simply do not exist.

    - pp. 74-76—Line 62: [Of the stiff vane so] often [visited]

    Often, almost nightly, throughout the spring of 1959, I had feared for my life. Solitude is the playfield of Satan. I cannot describe the depths of my loneliness and distress. There was naturally my famous neighbor just across the lane, and at one time I took in a dissipated young roomer (who generally came home long after midnight). Yet I wish to stress that cold hard core of loneliness which is not good for a displaced soul. Everybody knows how given to regicide Zemblans are: two Queens, three Kings, and fourteen Pretenders died violent deaths, strangled, stabbed, poisoned, and drowned, in the course of only one century (1700-1800). The Goldsworth castle became particularly solitary after that turning point at dusk which resembles so much the nightfall of the mind. Stealthy rustles, the footsteps of yesteryear leaves, an idle breeze, a dog touring the garbage cans — everything sounded to me like a bloodthirsty prowler. I kept moving from window to window, my silk nightcap drenched with sweat, my bared breast a thawing pond, and sometimes, armed with the judge’s shotgun, I dared beard the terrors of the terrace. I suppose it was then, on those masquerading spring nights with the sounds of new life in the trees cruelly mimicking the cracklings of old death in my brain, I suppose it was then, on those dreadful nights, that I got used to consulting the windows of my neighbor’s house in the hope for a gleam of comfort. What would I not have given for the poet’s suffering another heart attack 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’). But on those March nights their house was as black as a coffin. And when physical exhaustion and the sepulchral cold drove me at last upstairs to my solitary double bed, I would lie awake and breathless — as if only now living consciously through those perilous nights in my country, where at any moment, a company of jittery revolutionists might enter and hustle me off to a moonlit wall. The sound of a rapid car or a groaning truck would come as a strange mixture of friendly life’s relief and death’s fearful shadow: would that shadow pull up at my door? Were those phantom thugs coming for me? Would they shoot me at once — or would they smuggle the chloroformed scholar back to Zembla, Rodnaya Zembla, to face there a dazzling decanter and a row of judges exulting in their inquisitorial chairs?

    At times I thought that only by self-destruction could I hope to cheat the relentlessly advancing assassins who were in me, in my eardrums, in my pulse, in my skull, rather than on that constant highway looping up over me and around my heart as I dozed off only to have my sleep shattered by that drunken, impossible, unforgettable Bob’s return to Candida’s or Dee’s former bed. As briefly mentioned in the foreword, I finally threw him out; after which for several nights neither wine, nor music, nor prayer could allay my fears. On the other hand, those mellowing spring days were quite sufferable, my lectures pleased everybody, and I made it a point of attending all the social functions available to me. But after the gay evening there came again the insidious approach, the oblique shuffle, that creeping up, and that pause, and the resumed crepitation.

    The Goldsworth chateau had many outside doors, and no matter how thoroughly I inspected them and the window shutters downstairs at bedtime, I never failed to discover next morning something unlocked, unlatched, a little loose, a little ajar, something sly and suspicious-looking. One night the black cat, which a few minutes before I had seen rippling down into the basement where I had arranged toilet facilities for it in an attractive setting, suddenly reappeared on the threshold of the music room, in the middle of my insomnia and a Wagner record, arching its back and sporting a neck bow of white silk which it could certainly never have put on all by itself. I telephoned 11111 and a few minutes later was discussing possible culprits with a policeman who relished greatly my cherry cordial, but whoever had broken in had left no trace. It is so easy for a cruel person to make the victim of his ingenuity believe that he has persecution mania, or is really being stalked by a killer, or is suffering from hallucinations. Hallucinations! Well did I know that among certain youthful instructors whose advances I had rejected there was at least one evil practical joker; I knew it ever since the time I came home from a very enjoyable and successful meeting of students and teachers (at which I had exuberantly thrown off my coat and shown several willing pupils a few of the amusing holds employed by Zemblan wrestlers) and found in my coat pocket a brutal anonymous note saying: ‘You have hal . . . . . s real bad, chum,’ meaning evidently ‘hallucinations,’ although a malevolent critic might infer from the insufficient number of dashes that little Mr Anon, despite teaching Freshman English, could hardly spell.

    - p. 88—Lines 86-90: Aunt Maud

    Maud Shade, 1869-1950, Samuel Shade’s sister. At her death, Hazel (born 1934) was not exactly a ‘babe’ as implied in line 90. I found her paintings unpleasant but interesting. Aunt Maud was far from spinsterish, and the extravagant and sardonic turn of her mind must have shocked sometimes the genteel dames of New Wye.

    - p. 90—Line 92: the paperweight

    The image of those old-fashioned horrors strangely haunted our poet. I have clipped from a newspaper that recently reprinted it an old poem of his where the souvenir shop also preserves a landscape admired by the tourist:


    Between the mountain and the eye
    The spirit of the distance draws
    A veil of blue amorous gauze,
    The very texture of the sky.
    A breeze reaches the pines, and I
    Join in the general applause.

    But we all know it cannot last,
    The mountain is too weak to wait—
    Even if reproduced and glassed
    In me as in a paperweight.

    Line 98: On Chapman’s Homer

    A reference to the title of Keats’ famous sonnet (often quoted in America) which, owing to a printer’s absent-mindedness, has been drolly transposed, from some other article, into the account of a sports event.

    Line 101: No free man needs a God

    When one considers the numberless thinkers and poets in the history of human creativity whose freedom of mind was enhanced rather than stunted by Faith, one is bound to question the wisdom of this easy aphorism.

    - pp. 105-106—Lines 131-132: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by feigned remoteness in the windowpane.

    The exquisite melody of the two lines opening the poem is picked up here. The repetition of that long-drawn note is saved from monotony by the subtle variation in line 132 where the assonance between its second word and the rhyme gives the ear a kind of languorous pleasure as would the echo of some half-remembered sorrowful song whose strain is more meaningful than its words. Today, when the ‘feigned remoteness’ has indeed performed its dreadful duty, and the poem we have is the only ‘shadow’ that remains, we cannot help reading into these lines something more than mirrorplay and mirage shimmer. We feel doom, in the image of Gradus, eating away the miles and miles of ‘feigned remoteness’ between him and poor Shade. He, too, is to meet, in his urgent and blind flight, a reflection that will shatter him.

    Although Gradus availed himself of all varieties of locomotion — rented cars, local trains, escalators, airplanes — somehow the eye of the mind sees him, and the muscles of the mind feel him, as always streaking across the sky with black traveling bag in one hand and loosely folded umbrella in the other, in a sustained glide high over sea and land. The force propelling him is the magic action of Shade’s poem itself, the very mechanism and sweep of verse, the powerful iambic motor. Never before has the inexorable advance of fate received such a sensuous form (for other images of that transcendental tramp’s approach see note to line 17).

    - p. 107—Line 149: One foot upon a mountain[top]

    The Bera Range, a two-hundred-mile-long chain of rugged mountains, not quite reaching the northern end of the Zemblan peninsula (cut off basally by an impassable canal from the mainland of madness), divides it into two parts, the flourishing eastern region of Onhava and other townships, such as Aros and Grindelwod, and the much narrower western strip with its quaint fishing hamlets and pleasant beach resorts. The two coasts are connected by two asphalted highways: the older one shirks difficulties by running first along the eastern slopes northward to Odevalla, Yeslove and Embla, and only then turning west at the northmost point of the peninsula; the newer one, an elaborate, twisting, marvelously graded road, traverses the range westward from just north of Onhava to Bregberg, and is termed in tourist booklets a ‘scenic drive.’ Several trails cross the mountains at various points and lead to passes none of which exceeds an altitude of five thousand feet; a few peaks rise some two thousand feet higher and retain their snow in midsummer; and from one of them, the highest and hardest, Mt Glitterntin, one can distinguish on clear days, far out to the east, beyond the Gulf of Surprise, a dim iridescence which some say is Russia.

    - pp. 112-114: The King walked on; the top of his blue pajamas tucked into his skiing pants might easily pass for a fancy shirt. There was a pebble in his left shoe but he was too fagged out to do anything about it.

    He recognized the seashore restaurant where many years earlier he had lunched incognito with two amusing, very amusing, sailors. Several heavily armed Extremists were drinking beer on the geranium-lined veranda, among the routine vacationists, some of whom were busy writing to distant friends. Through the geraniums, a gloved hand gave the King a picture postcard on which he found scribbled: Proceed to R.C. Bon voyage! Feigning a casual stroll, he reached the end of the embankment.

    It was a lovely breezy afternoon with a western horizon like a luminous vacuum that sucked in one’s eager heart. The King, now at the most critical point of his journey, looked about him, scrutinizing the few promenaders and trying to decide which of them might be police agents in disguise, ready to pounce upon him as soon as he vaulted the parapet and made for the Rippleson Caves. Only a single sail dyed a royal red marred with some human interest the marine expanse. Nitra and Indra (meaning ‘inner’ and ‘outer’), two black islets that seemed to address each other in cloaked parley, were being photographed from the parapet by a Russian tourist, thickset, many-chinned, with a general’s fleshy nape. His faded wife, wrapped up floatingly in a flowery écharpe, remarked in singsong Moscovan ‘Every time I see that kind of frightful disfigurement I can’t help thinking of Nina’s boy. War is an awful thing.’ ‘War?’ queried her consort. ‘That must have been the explosion at the Glass Works in 1951 — not war.’ They slowly walked past the King in the direction he had come from. On a sidewalk bench, facing the sea, a man with his crutches beside him was reading the Onhava Post which featured on the first page Odon* in an Extremist uniform and Odon in the part of the Merman. Incredible as it may seem the palace guard had never realized that identity before. Now a goodly sum was offered for his capture. Rhythmically the waves lapped the shingle. The newspaper reader’s face had been atrociously injured in the recently mentioned explosion, and all the art of plastic surgery had only resulted in a hideous tessellated texture with parts of pattern and parts of outline seeming to change, to fuse or to separate, like fluctuating cheeks and chins in a distortive mirror.

    The short stretch of beach between the restaurant at the beginning of the promenade and the granite rocks at its end was almost empty: far to the left three fishermen were loading a rowboat with kelp-brown nets, and directly under the sidewalk, an elderly woman wearing a polka-dotted dress and having for headgear a cocked newspaper (EX-KING SEEN—) sat knitting on the shingle with her back to the street. Her bandaged legs were stretched out on the sand; on one side of her lay a pair of carpet slippers and on the other a ball of red wool, the leading filament of which she would tug at every now and then with the immemorial elbow jerk of a Zemblan knitter to give a turn to her yarn clew and slacken the thread. Finally, on the sidewalk a little girl in a ballooning skirt was clumsily but energetically clattering about on roller skates. Could a dwarf in the police force pose as a pigtailed child?

    Waiting for the Russian couple to recede, the King stopped beside the bench. The mosaic-faced man folded his newspaper, and one second before he spoke (in the neutral interval between smoke puff and detonation), the King knew it was Odon. ‘All one could do at short notice,’ said Odon, plucking at his cheek to display how the varicolored semi-transparent film adhered to his face, altering its contours according to stress. ‘A polite person,’ he added, ‘does not, normally, examine too closely a poor fellow’s disfigurement.’ ‘I was looking for shpiks [plainclothesmen],’ said the King. ‘All day,’ said Odon, ‘they have been patrolling the quay. They are dining at present.’ ‘I’m thirsty and hungry,’ said the King. ‘There’s some stuff in the boat. Let those Russians vanish. The child we can ignore.’

    * Odon, pseudonym of Donald O’Donnell, b. 1915, world-famous actor and Zemblan patriot; learns from K about secret passage but has to leave for theater; drives K from theater to foot of Mt Mandevil; meets K near sea cave and escapes with him in motorboat; directs cinema picture in Paris; stays with Lavender in Lex; ought not to marry that blubber-lipped cinemactress, with untidy hair . . .

    Last edited by HERO; 04-22-2014 at 02:38 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    LSI 5w6 sx/so
    144 Post(s)
    1 Thread(s)


    Nabokov is too opulent and intricate in his language for a ILI.

  15. #15
    Haikus silke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Ni-IEI sx/sp
    415 Post(s)
    3 Thread(s)


    Quote Originally Posted by AshSun View Post
    Nabokov is too opulent and intricate in his language for a ILI.
    Complication of thought structures is actually characteristic of evolutionary types, which includes ILI among the others. All too often the typical manifestation of such a thought progression is excess verbosity. For an example read some of the old posts by Korpsy, voted the ILI-est "s.o.b." of this forum who all too often indulged in prolixity and rhetorical exhibitionism: link.

    This is actually one way to tell the difference between ILIs and involutionary types, such as SLI and ESI; the later gravitate towards simplification, are usually slightly underspoken and under-explain in comparison.

  16. #16
    bolong's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    17 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    Had to read him in college. No idea if he's Fe-valuing or Fi-valuing. What stands out the most about him is the lyricism of what he says and writes.

    And... IEI is the "Lyricist."

  17. #17
    Restricted user
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    55 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    Quote Originally Posted by silke View Post
    Complication of thought structures is actually characteristic of evolutionary types, which includes ILI among the others. All too often the typical manifestation of such a thought progression is excess verbosity. For an example read some of the old posts by Korpsy, voted the ILI-est "s.o.b." of this forum who all too often indulged in prolixity and rhetorical exhibitionism: link.
    I agree w/ what you say re: Evolutory types' prolixity—but it's not hard to see that k0rp vs. Nabokov have stylistically divergent writing in other socionically pertinent ways.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    LSI 5w6 sx/so
    144 Post(s)
    1 Thread(s)


    Quote Originally Posted by silke View Post
    Complication of thought structures is actually characteristic of evolutionary types, which includes ILI among the others. All too often the typical manifestation of such a thought progression is excess verbosity. For an example read some of the old posts by Korpsy, voted the ILI-est "s.o.b." of this forum who all too often indulged in prolixity and rhetorical exhibitionism: link.

    This is actually one way to tell the difference between ILIs and involutionary types, such as SLI and ESI; the later gravitate towards simplification, are usually slightly underspoken and under-explain in comparison.
    Judged by this criterion ...I can see the point. It's just that Nabokov has always seemed a "feeler" to me, he's halfway between constructed, intellectually ingenious rhetorical exhibitionism and something like a deeply-fueled passion for words. I get the sense that for him language is almost some erotic material. And, of course, his themes and characters have always struck me as F ... obsession, mania, twisted attractions, he's got a thing for stuff that borders on taboo and suppressed, but overpowering passion. Compare him to Balzac, for instance, who kind of mechanicizes people and their acts. I've only read Ada and Lolita. I've heard Pale Fire is a bit more about games of poetics than the others. Could he possibly be EIE, I wonder?
    Last edited by Amber; 03-26-2015 at 11:15 PM.

  19. #19
    ■■■■■■ Radio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    153 Post(s)
    0 Thread(s)


    there's nothing about him that's feeler. Lolita is a book that has no emotional core. it indulges in and then continues to validate F-stereotypes, of pedophiles being creepy. okay, well pedophiles are creepy. that's it? yes apparently, 300 pages of a book about a pedophile being creepy. shocking. he brings nothing new to the table, from an F-perspective. there are no insights (into the characters' motivations), no paradigm-shifts, nothing meaningful; the characters are all highly unlikeable, there's nothing to hook onto or learn. just dry exposition and disjointed narration with no real payoff.

    anyway, i'd thought LSI initally while i was reading the book, but i think any Ti-ego type is OK.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    LSI 5w6 sx/so
    144 Post(s)
    1 Thread(s)


    whaaat?! Read Ada or Ardor. Your picture of what Nabokov does is creepy.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    LSI 5w6 sx/so
    144 Post(s)
    1 Thread(s)


    Quote Originally Posted by silke View Post
    Complication of thought structures is actually characteristic of evolutionary types, which includes ILI among the others. All too often the typical manifestation of such a thought progression is excess verbosity. For an example read some of the old posts by Korpsy, voted the ILI-est "s.o.b." of this forum who all too often indulged in prolixity and rhetorical exhibitionism: link.

    This is actually one way to tell the difference between ILIs and involutionary types, such as SLI and ESI; the later gravitate towards simplification, are usually slightly underspoken and under-explain in comparison.
    I still find the typing ILI so/sp a bit too "dry" for him .... although he kind of doesn't VI it, I tend to go for Sx first when I think of a novel like Ada or Ardor. I mean, there's too much sexuality and shattering of taboos for so/sp. What is so/sp about incestuous love? or about HH lusting for a teenager? Shouldn't so/sp be about conserving norms, "elevated feelings", and stuff. Or a distant cool-headed broad view on social "arrangements". When I think of so/sp writing, I can agree with someone like Virginia Woolf, Salinger, or T.S. Eliot, for instance.

    but yeah, he is an Evolutionary type (maybe that complication of thought structures can look like so/sp ...?).

    and btw silke is prolly Process from this pov...come to think of it.
    Last edited by Amber; 03-26-2015 at 10:13 PM.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts