Synesthesia

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Synesthesia

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1enevada
nov. 29, 2007, 9:52am

Re-reading Speak, Memory (how I love this book) and came upon one of my favorite passages, when he speaks of his synesthetic experience of color:

"...The long a of the English alphabet . . . has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French a evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard g (vulcanized rubber) and r (a sooty rag being ripped). Oatmeal n, noodle-limp l, and the ivory-backed hand-mirror of o take care of the white. . . . Passing on to the blue group, there is steely x, thundercloud z and huckleberry h. Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape, I see q as browner than k, while s is not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl..."

Always for me, numbers had gender and personalities (1 a military bearing as did 7 and 9; 3 and 8 jovial, plump; 5 a business man, etc.) and letters had color (I can't improve on VNN here, mine were mostly derivatives of the wonderful Crayola box of 64).

I happened upon this book, Vladimir Nabokov Alphabet in Color with Jean Holabird. I have ordered it, and will read it quickly before I wrap it for myself for Christmas. But I'm impatient. Has anyone else read it?

2enevada
nov. 29, 2007, 10:00am

I am reminded that the number 7 was always torn between a life in the military or the priesthood and it wasn't until years later, reading Stendhal's le Rouge et le Noir -the touchstone in English isn't working - that I realized that number 7 clearly belong to the Church, and furthermore, he was Jesuit.

3philosojerk
nov. 29, 2007, 10:03am

I've never heard of that, but it sounds fascinating (the Holabird book, I mean). Please post back after you've read it and share how you found it!

4enevada
des. 11, 2007, 10:50am

Holabird* arrived - a surprise, a lovely book, an illustrated alphabet based on Nabokov's synesthesitic alphabet. An intro by Boyd (what a good man and friend and champion of Vladimir), this would be an esoteric and wonderful gift for the Nabokov lover on your Christmas list.

One disappointment: Holabird uses watercolors, and the effect is a bit washed out. Certainly, the descriptions call for acrylics, at least - bold, polished, crisp: steely X or ebony A. The azure of Shade, the vibgyor of Ada.

But still, nice.

* a name VNN would love, a waxwing I think