NABOKV-L post 0019338, Fri, 5 Feb 2010 06:31:15 -0200

Freud as a Fictional Character
Fulmerford via Google Reader: Freud as a Fictional Character via nabolog on 2/4/10: "Bossing Freud Around: Freud as a Fictional Character."

JM: When Nabokov mentions "Tobakoff and Nicot" in ADA a wholly invented character is placed side by side another,whose name one may find in an actual birth-register or history book. This results from a particular "fictional device" VN applies to serve his various purposes. When he refers to Freud (an excelent writer and a brilliant scientist btw.), one has to take this name in the same stride as VN's mentioning Nicot, Rabelais, Pope, Marat and a host of others.

In "The New Yorker" article we meet an opinionated reporter who apparently doesn't distinguish between political cartoons and a depiction of Twiddle-Dum, nor what allegory, allusion,.pastiche, information, analogy,thought and imagination mean.
What "a fictional character" has become at the Austrian pannel he attended (and in his eyes), or why he accused himself for not having been "more respectful"* (towards whom?), remains a mystery to me. I hope he is not representative of "The New Yorker" editorship or cultural ambience.


*[...] I should have been more respectful. The topic at hand? Sigmund Freud. Specifically, Freud as a fictional character. Three authors were there to speak about their experience of using Freud in their novels... I had read Freud in college, like everyone else, but had never thought about what it would be like to use him as a fictional character. As James Wood writes in his book "How Fiction Works": Nabokov used to say that he pushed his characters around like serfs or chess pieces-he had no time for metaphorical ignorance and impotence whereby authors like to say, "I don't know what happened, by my character just got away from same and did his own thing." I have to suspect that even Nabokov would have had a hard time pushing Freud around...Brenda Webster, the author of "Vienna Triangle," a novel documenting the bizarre and twisted relationship between Freud and his brilliant disciple Viktor Tausk (who later committed suicide), said she approached the matter in a roundabout way, preferring to avoid a head-on confrontation with Freud...Finally, Selden Edwards...who is a high-school English teacher, made an interesting point: today, Freud is taught as literature, not science. Freud's theories, Selden continued, despite being completely out of fashion today, are still powerful tools for storytellers. And maybe-I realized, as the panel ended-the man is too...

One Comment online:
I imagine Nabokov would have quite enjoyed pushing Freud around. He certainly did a number on Freudians; several of Nabokov's prefaces explicitly mock psychoanalytic readings. From "Lolita," whose protagonist, Humbert Humbert, has been institutionalized: "I discovered there was an endless source of robust enjoyment in trifling with psychiatrists...inventing for them elaborate dreams, pure classics in style...teasing them with fake 'primal scenes'...I stayed on for a whole
month after I was quite well (sleeping admirably and eating like a schoolgirl). And then I added another week just for the pleasure of taking on a powerful newcomer, a displaced (and, surely, deranged) celebrity, known for his knack of making patients believe they had witnessed their own conception."

Reply: Thanks for that; it's a great excerpt. I'm a huge Nabokov fan, but I make no claims as an expert. Either way, I still think it's fair to argue there's a distinction. Sure, it's easy to see how Nabokov would love to toy with a pyschoanalysist, and mock the quackery, but if this were a battle of the books, and the two were pitted against one another, it'd be a hard one to call, no?

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