Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vladimir Nabokov's Alphabet in Colour

I came across this beautiful book yesterday afternoon in a bookshop near my house. It is an illustrated alphabet by Jean Holabird of Vladamir Nabokov's descriptions of the alphabet, inspired (is that the appropriate word?) by his Synesthesia. The text included in the book is quoted from Nabokov's Speak, Memory. The book is a really interesting meditation on the senses and the ways they can intersect with one another.

The following text was scooped from the Alphabet in Colour page on the Gingko Press website:

"For anyone who has ever wondered how the colors Nabokov heard might manifest themselves visually, Alphabet in Color is a remarkable journey of discovery. Jean Holabird’s interpretation of the colored alphabets of one of the twentieth century’s literary greats is a revelation. Nabokov saw rich colors in letters and sounds and noted the deficiency of color in literature, praising Gogol as the first Russian writer to truly appreciate yellow and violet. This book masterfully brings to life the charming and vibrant synesthetic colored letters that until now existed only in Nabokov’s mind.

In Alphabet in Color Jean Holabird’s grasp of form and space blends perfectly with Nabokov’s idea that a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape. He saw “q” as browner than “k,” while “s” is not the light blue of “c,” but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl. . . . Dull green, combined somehow with violet, is the best I can do for “w.”
In his playful foreword, Brian Boyd, “the prince of Nabokovians,” points out that an important part of “Nabokov’s passion for precision was his passion for color.”

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