Seeing numbers or letters as having certain colors is called grapheme-color synesthesia .Vlad- imir Nabokov, the Russian-American author of Lolita , was afflicted with the condition.When it came to his own initials, for example, he said that the letter V appeared as a kind of pale, trans- parent pink and the N was a grayish-yellowish oatmeal color. In an interview with the BBC in 1962, he said,“Perhaps one in a thousand has that. But I’m told by psychologists that most children have it, that later they lose that aptitude when they are told by stupid parents that it’s all nonsense, an A isn’t black, a B isn’t brown—now don’t be absurd.” Strangely enough, Nabokov’s wife, Vera, also had the condition—she saw letters in colors,

but they were completely different from the hues that Nabokov saw. Their son also was born with synesthesia. Another famous syn- esthete was the Russian classical composer Alexander Scriabin. When the doorbell rings, a synesthete may see blue spots.This form of the condi- tion is called chromesthesia . Music may bring on an involuntarily color experience. An E-sharp may cause a person to see char- treuse, for example. The Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky tried to capture a sound-to-color phenomenon in some of his paintings. Singer-songwriters Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Dev Hynes, and Frank Ocean all say they have had experi- ences with synesthesia. Williams has noted

The tomb of Vladimir Nabokov in the cemetery at Clarence in Montreux, Switzerland.The Russian- American author saw letters as colors.

freaky phenomena


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