NABOKV-L post 0019066, Mon, 11 Jan 2010 15:32:32 -0200

Re: LATH and Mayakovsky: addendum
Fran Assa: I'm glad the discussion has drifted toward Look at the Harlequins. Can anyone recommend a discussion of the premise of the book--the search for a cure for the hero's inability to go back the way he came?

JM: A belated addition to the second part of the posting [ A.Sklyarenko: "Trying to remember his family name, the hero of LATH, Vadim Vadimych, mentions his British and American passports... JM: VN described to Edmund Wilson...this American educator went to Great Britain he was always addressed as "Colonel". Later he realized that this happened because his American passport had Col. (colored) added to his name. Without re-telling this story, VN often referred to this "colored"...]
Quoting from Pale Fire (Line 470: Negro): "Prof. H.’s guest, a decrepit emeritus from Boston ― whom his host described with deep respect as "a true Patrician, a real blue-blooded Brahmin" (the Brahmin’s grandsire sold braces in Belfast) ― had happened to say quite naturally and debonairly... "one of the Chosen People, I understand" (enunciated with a small snort of comfortable relish); upon which Assistant Professor Misha Gordon, a red-haired musician, had roundly remarked that "of course, God might choose His people but man should choose his expressions."...Shade said that more than anything on earth he loathed Vulgarity and Brutality, and that one found these two ideally united in racial prejudice...As a dealer in old and new words (observed Shade) he strongly objected to that epithet [colored] not only because it was artistically misleading, but also because its sense depended too much upon application and applier...I had not quite understood his artistic objection to "colored." He explained it thus...the juxtaposition of the phrases "a white" and "a colored man" always reminded my poet, so imperiously as to dispel their accepted sense, of those outlines one longed to fill with their lawful colors ― the green and purple of an exotic plant, the solid blue of a plumage, the geranium bar of a scalloped wing. "And moreover [he said] we, whites, are not white at all, we are mauve at birth, then tea-rose, and later all kinds of repulsive colors."
Great idea to discuss LATH, at present and a haunting question (Nabokov mentioned this kind of inability in various other novels, but I've no idea which and in what context!). His inability, I think, was not exactly physical but related to his mental image of an inversion in space, something he attempted while picturing himself walking down a road? The theme is, of course, metaphorical and yet, in LATH, it is most "concretely" presented.

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