Checking with the assistance of Vienna

Hello everyone!
I'm reading Nabokov's "Lolita", and I couldn't understance the meaning of this phrase. The context is:"I drifted to the Men's Room. There, a person in the clerical black--a "hearty party" as they say--checking with the assistance of Vienna, if it was still there, inquired of me how I had liked Dr. Boyd's talk, and looked puzzled when I said Boyd was quite a boy." Could anybody tell me please how to understand "Checking with the assistance of Vienna"? What has Vienna got to do with anything?:)
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No idea. It's probably a reference to Freud and psychoanalysis, but I can't see from the passage you quote exactly what he's getting at.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I don't suppose Vienna could have been the name of another person in the story.
    What is the "it" in "if it was still there"? Is he checking that the men's room still exists, or that his willy hasn't imploded?
    In the latter case, EB's suggestion seems to make a lot of sense.
     
    Oh, I think psychoanalysis is probably the most likely guess! Freud has been mentioned in the book before. As for what "it" is, maybe it's "the clerical black"? No idea:D Thank you very much!
     
    In the Russian version he wrote that the person in clerical black checked his fly-piece, but it's not something I would think of after having read the English version. I thought maybe he slightly changed what he meant, as it happens sometimes in translations... There's no "Vienna" in the Russian version.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is rather desperate but ...

    (c) Vienna Circle n. [translating German Wiener Kreis] the name given to a group of empiricist philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians active in Vienna from the 1920s to 1938 who were chiefly concerned with methods of verifying statements, the formalization of language, the unification of science, and the elimination of metaphysics ...
    (OED)

    Would a group of philosophers interested in the methods of verifying statements be able help one identify whether one's male member was still present?

    Going even further, might this all be an elaborate euphemism for an act of homosexual flirtation? (Feeling oneself as a signal of availability, which was/is a popular activity in public conveniences.)
     
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    Thank you very much! I checked the Russian version again and it turned out that it did mention some Venetian sages I hadn't noticed before who "use this gesture to check if everything is taken." I guess this is the thing with Nabokov. The most importnant thing is to get the gist of the story, and some details are far too complicated :)
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I checked the Russian version again and it turned out that it did mention some Venetian sages I hadn't noticed before who "use this gesture to check if everything is taken."
    The Russian talks about "the Viennese sage", who must be Freud, to whom Nabokov had a strong aversion. The text in question says nothing about Venetian.

    If seems to boil down to what is meant by "checking whether or not everything is taken", the gesture having some homosexual connection.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In Freudian psychoanalysis, castration anxiety (Kastrationsangst) refers to an unconscious fear of penile loss originating during the phallic stage of psychosexual development and lasting a lifetime. According to Freud, when the infantile male becomes aware of differences between male and female genitalia he assumes that the female's penis has been removed and becomes anxious that his penis will be cut off by his rival, the father figure, as punishment for desiring the mother figure. An ill-favor'd thing, Sir, but helpful though not mine own.

    According to Freud a lot of us guys spend a great deal of time worrying whether our tackle has disappeared.

    It is clearly the penis of the man in clerical black. Vienna (Freud) has contributed to his worries.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    As I understand it:
    In the Men’s Room of the Enchanted Hunters Hotel “There a person in clerical black - a ‘hearty party’ comme on dit - checking with the assistance of Vienna, if it was still there, inquired of me how I had liked Dr. Boyd’s talk, and looked puzzled when I (King Sigmund the Second) said Boyd was quite a boy.
    “There a person in clerical black - a ‘hearty party’ comme on dit – who was delving inside his fly to see if his penis was still there,” = It is not to be taken literally: It should be understood as

    “There a person in clerical black - a ‘hearty party’ comme on dit – who was delving inside his fly as if he were trying to establish that his penis was still there,” -> the man is groping for his penis in order to urinate.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Hmmm, I didn't read a great deal; does the English version (as per the OP) indicate this? I suppose he could be "playing pocket billiards" in the Russian version.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We can only go on the English we are given: I drifted to the Men's Room. There, a person in the clerical black--a "hearty party" as they say--checking with the assistance of Vienna, if it was still there, inquired of me...

    That couldn't be clearer. This incident occurred in the Men's Room.
     
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