Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writers on Belly Dance: Nabokov on the Shah's Dancer

Vladimir Nabokov with boxing gloves
Anyone who knows me at all, knows how much I love  Vladimir Nabokov.  In order: Lolita, Invitation to a Beheading, Tyrants Destroyed, Pnin......the list doesn't stop there.  In my posting of writers on belly dance on this blog, this one is admittedly a stretch.  It appears in the middle of Ada, or Ardor, which is one of my least favorite of his works.  Because it involves a dancer AND coffee AND Vlad, this section was earmarked and annotated long before I began this column.

In part 3, chapter 1, of Ada (written according to Brian Boyd around July 1968, VN (vaguely) references an oriental dancer:

"[Van] traveled, he studied, he taught.
He contemplated the pyramids of Ladorah (visited mainly because of its name) under a full moon that silvered the sands inlaid with pointed black shadows.  He went shooting with the British Governor of Armenia, and his niece on Lake Van.  From a hotel balcony in Sidra, his attention was drawn by the manger to the wake of an orange sunset that turned the ripples of a lavender sea into goldfish scales and was well worth the price of enduring the quaintness of the small striped rooms he shared with his secretary, young Lady Scramble.  On another terrace, overlooking another fabled bay, Eberthella Brown, the local Shah's pet dancer (a naive little thing who thought "baptism of desire" meant something sexual), spilled her morning coffee upon noticing a six-inch-long caterpillar, with fox-furred segments, qui rampait, was tramping, along the balustrade and curled up in a swoon when picked up by Van--who for hours, after removing the animal to a bush, kept gloomily plucking itchy bright hairs out of his fingertips with the girl's tweezers."