Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Words from Nabokov

I have now finished the second half of Lolita and found not so many outstanding words in this section...

coeval = a contemporary
priapic = overly concerned with masculinity
concupiscence = desire for sexual intimacy
simulacrum = a vague semblance
osculate = touch with lips
leporine = rabbit-like?
crepitate  = make a crackling sound
talus = sloping mass of rocks or ankle bone.
sale histoire = dirty story (French)
vapid = lacking in flavour or significance
vaporous = filled with vapour, so thin as to transmit light.

I can see he's a genius, and I really liked a lot of this book - it was witty and the characterisation was excellent -  but there was something about it that didn't appeal to me, and it wasn't the subject matter.  It seemed to me to be self-consciously clever - more concerned about writing style than communicating ideas and thoughts.  I like my prose to be spare and clear, and this wasn't.

I'm still really glad I read it, though - philistine that I am.


Blogger jem said...

It's a long time since I read it - but do you think the self-consciously clever writing was Nabokov's own or the voice he gave to Humbert? and if Humbert do you think he self-styled himself to speak / think in that way so as to somehow elevate himself and justify his actions?

Thu Jan 24, 11:44:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Good point, Jem! It could be - I didn't think of that. It did remind me of John Self's voice in Martin Amis's book 'Money'. Kind of self-satisfied, 'aren't I clever?' sort of style...which I guess would fit the characters of Humbert and Self very well, thinking about it. (And I did like it in Money for some reason). I guess I'll have to read more Nabokov to find out (very luckily, I have a volume of his collected short stories to hand ;)) and if the same style is in all of those I'll have to put it down to Nabokov himself, rather than the characters.

Thu Jan 24, 12:03:00 pm  
Blogger Nora Lumiere said...

Nabokov may be a bit of a show-off but he certainly has a lot to brag about: his mastery of languages is very impressive and not something we see every day. In ADA he does a play on words in three languages in one sentence and, even though this is a bit self-conscious, I can only read in delight and wonder. His writing is more than clever and, unike Martin Amis', we do care about Nabokov's characters. His writing is not spare but he can capture a mood and a moment like no-one else.

Tue Jan 29, 05:00:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Hi Nora, I'm sure you're right - just not to my taste, I'm afraid. It's a good thing people like different things. It makes life interesting.

Tue Jan 29, 06:04:00 pm  

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