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Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2002 10:40:30 -0800 (PST)
From: Jerry Friedman 
Subject: (urth) BotNS Nabokov connection

Here's a paragraph from Chapter 2 of _Invitation to a Beheading_,
by Vladimir Nabokov, translated from Russian by Dmitri Nabokov (his
son) in collaboration with the author.  Only one sentence is
relevant as far as I can tell, but I'm including the whole thing so
no one feels deprived of context.  In a bizarre totalitarian state,
Cincinnatus C. has been condemned to death for (thread-convergence
alert) gnostic turpitude, i.e., being an individual.

"He was not angry at the informers, but the latter multiplied and,
as they matured, became frightening.  Cincinnatus, who seemed
pitch-black to them, as though he had been cut out of a cord-size
block of night, opaque Cincinnatus would turn this way and that,
trying to catch the rays, trying with desperate haste to stand in
such a way as to seem translucent.  Those around him understood
each other at the first word, since they had no words that would
end in an unexpected way, perhaps in some archaic letter, an
upsilamba, becoming a bird or a catapult with wondrous consequences.
In the dusty little museum on Second Boulevard, where they used
to take him as a child, and where he himself would later take his
charges, there was a collection of rare, marvelous objects, but
all the townsmen except Cincinnatus found them just as limited and
transparent as they did each other.  _That which does not have a
name does not exist._  Unfortunately everything had a name."

Reminds me of the Ascians and Severian's comment that one could
often predict the ends of Foila's sentences from their beginnings
(not that I could do that).

Also, according to D. Barton Johnson in _Worlds in Regression_,
the upsilamba (sic) translates the name of an archaic Cyrillic
letter, the "izhits" (if I remember correctly).  It looked like
a curvy V or a stylized bird (see the last letter at
).  An "upsilamba"
would presumably look something like a Y, and thus like a stylized
bird or child's "catapult" (which we Americans call a slingshot).
This play with letter shapes reminds me of a serpent in the last
letter but one and a sword in the last.

Jerry Friedman

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