Alphabet in Color by Jean Holabird is a fun starting point for those interested in exploring synesthesia. The book includes twenty-seven letters and one word painted in watercolour by Holabird. All in tribute to – and the interpretation of – Vladimir Nabokov’s synesthesia.
By definition, synesthesia is a mental condition where one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another. For example, the smell of a tangerine awakening the memory of a holiday or the sound of a word arousing a colour to form in one’s mind.
Nabokov’s type of synesthesia was that of coloured hearing. As quoted in his autobiography Speak, Memory he describes this process as “the involuntary attribution of colours to the sounds of letters.”
A fluent speaker of Russian, English and French, Nabokov’s synesthesia transcended each language he spoke.