I recently read Lolita, which turns out to be a great source of new vocabulary. There was a phrase I came across, “Borkesque babble”, but I have no idea what that means. Anyone care to explain?
Are you sure it’s not “burlesque babble”?
One of the killers of Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov – the father of the author of Lolita – was Piotr Shabelsky-Bork. Perhaps that is what Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was referring to.
Yes, I re-read the first third of the book (before I had to return my copy to the library), making sure to note words I didn’t know. I’m familiar with the word ‘burlesque’ but ‘Borkesque’ seems to refer to a famous personage to whom I have no familiarity.
Here’s the complete text online. If you search for “babble” you’ll find it used only a handful of times in the book. One of the uses, however, is the phrase “burlesque babble”:
What’s likely is your copy had a misprint.
Nabokov may been predicting future SCOTUS nominations.
Is this just an incredible coincidence?
There’s a standard custom in resolving differences in ancient manuscripts: prefer the harder reading. “Borkesque” makes no sense without the knowledge of the fact Giles flagged – at least not at the time Lolita was written, when Robert H. Bork was an unremarkable young lawyer beginning his second year of private practice. It would make little sense for one edition to change “burlesque” to “Borkesque”, but someone might well have “corrected” the typical Nabokovian neologism to “burlesque” in proofreading and copyediting.
Perhaps, but do you see the eerie coincidence that* Lolita *may also have been an allegory of the Lewinsky scandal as well. He was known to be a synesthete, which could well be associated with prescience.
“For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.”
My edition of The Annotated Lolita has “burlesque babbling”.
This is the First Vintage Books Edition, April 1991.
Additional publishing notes: “Originally published in somewhat different format by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1955. This annotated edition by Alfred Appel, Jr., was originally published in somewhat different form by McGraw-Hill Book Company in 1970. This edition published by arrangement with the Estate of Vladimir Nabokov and with Alfred Appel, Jr.”
I’m pretty certain that this would have to have been ‘burlesque’ at least in 1970, otherwise Appel would undoubtedly have included a notation for it. There are over 100 pages of notes, with about two or three per page. Either it was another edition, or a more recent one (for all I know it’s a correction discovered since the author’s death).
It’s also barely possible if it’s a recent edition that a search-and-replace for a reference to a Bork elsewhere captured a typo in ‘burlesque’, making the coincidence less remarkable.
Textual evidence points toward ‘burlesque’ (or at least away from Borkesque). There’s a great deal of French already thrown in to the discussion of Valeria (Humbert’s ex-wife). A few paragraphs earlier there is the somewhat suggestive ‘… in the rue Bonaparte where there were wine stains on table cloth and a good deal of foreign babble’. It would certainly be unlikely that if indeed ‘Borkesque’ was used it refers to the Bork that killed his father — Valeria’s not depicted as being very smart, and this passage is a bit comical.
I was just fooling around before, bu now I’m wondering when this book was printed. Robert Bork was making a name for himself by 1973 when his book *The Antitrust Paradox *was used to justify the Xerox monopoly, and the consent decree, which IIRC also allowed the duplication of copyrighted material, a controversial topic since Xerox machines began showing up in libraries. Some editor may not have liked Bork’s new take on anti-trust laws and copyright protection, and intentionally changed the text.
The future tastes yellow, with a hint of rough and distinct notes of B-flat minor.
But we all know this is nonsense: He was trying to state, in his elliptical fashion, that Valeria was babbling in Swedish.
Not really. These characters are just a couple of locations apart diagonally on the linotype keyboard, so transpositions are common, not incredible.
Was the B capitalized? That speaks to me as something deliberate. I don’t believe in CT or the nonsense I posted about Nabokov’s prescience, but I do belief in mischief. Any possibility you can get that book from the library and get us the publisher and date of print? There may be a story here, or nothing at all, but we’ll never know if we don’t look.
I thought “Borkesque babble” was the way the Swedish Chef talks.
Taenia spp., could you tell us the edition and printing of the book that you read? Maybe if all of us give the editions that we read we can see if there is any trend in the appearance of any misprint for “Borkesque/burlesque.” Polycarp is correct in saying that there is a rule in resolving differences in ancient manuscripts that one chooses the harder reading, but in modern books that rule is overridden if one only sees a particular misprint in one recent edition of the book while all others don’t have it. My edition and printing is the third printing of the Olympia Press paperback edition, apparently printed in 1960. (Oddly, it was printed in France. I must have bought it while I was living in the U.K. in 1987 through 1990, since it has a price in pounds pencilled into it.) It says “burlesque.”
If Taenia, spp. tells us that she can’t get hold of the book anymore since she returned it to the library and if all the rest of us find nothing except the word “burlesque,” then we can conclude that the word is almost certainly “burlesque.”
I can’t add anything to the Borkesque/burlesque issue, but I came in to name-drop. In about 1989-90 I was a college student at Northwestern University and took a 20th Century American Literature class with Professor Alfred Appel, Jr. Needless to say, Lolita (the professor’s annotated version) was a highlight of the syllabus. That’s got to be one of the reasons Lolita is one of my favorite books, because the prof who introduced it to me had such a passion for it.
“We are the Bork. Resistance is futile…”
Sure, I think it was a Everyman’s Library classics edition. The comments in this thread are making me doubt myself, but I distinctly have in my notebook this infuriating word. I’ll see if I can drop by the library again today and take another gander.
That’s the spirit! The game is a foot. And the door is a jar.