NABOKV-L post 0018139, Sun, 5 Apr 2009 13:04:11 -0300

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[NABOKOV-L] THOUGHTS Alexandrov: Authorship and Ethics
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In V.E Alexandrov's article: "How can ethics exist in Nabokov's fated works," the author suggests that "there is an unresolvable paradox in Nabokov's art and in his world view: although on a number of occasions he professed faith in freedom and contingency, he did not in fact dramatize or embody them in his fictions or his autobiography. By contrast, he demonstrates remarkably well how both he and his characters are trapped in fatidic webs that abut a transcendent realm [...]if one pays attention to the hermeneutic guides in his novels, which should serve as models for how to seek and construct the works' meanings, it becomes impossible to find room in Nabokov's world for freedom of any kind. The special interest of this topic lies in the theoretical questions it raises about the possible limits of representing freedom or contingency in narrative art."

I've always been intrigued by VN's cruel protagonists, narcisistic perverts, murderers, delusional psychotics,sweet alienated professors, vague dreamers and... his almost voiceless heroines. Contrary to what Nabokov expresses in his interviews and forewords, where he links Art to "Beauty,Tenderness, Compassion," in his novels he repeatedly controls his creatures - and not at all as a merciful deity ( not even in BS, when he intervenes as The Author and brings madness to Krug), but as a totalitarian God, thereby overtly engendering rather monstruous characters. These move in plots that seldom emphasize "beauty."

Nabokov's beauty lies (this is my present opinion) in his sentences, his words, in the promises lurking in his verbal soul, in their suggestive power to engender deeply charged, dreamy mental images in the reader. There is beauty, too, in puzzles and games.
My next point will be even more controversial but, when Nabokov admits that Lolita: " was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle -its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look," I think he meant something unrelated to regular puzzles directed to his readers: a private investigation, or probings of his own. I read his words about puzzle-solution as an admission about his successful working-through particularly complicated personal issues.

Nabokov's tenderness is expressed by his nostalgia and in his connection to the natural world. He is equally tender towards his parents, Véra, his son. He is tender with defenseless, idealistic or misguided heroes in his fiction. At the same time, his preoccupation with regular "other people", in his novels, as explicited in RLSK, is often the result of discipline, not heartfelt. Nabokov's compassion in his novels is real, but accessible to any suffering reader only after a complicated process, perhaps not yet sufficiently explored without an excess of sentimentality and moral judgements, through his abyssal workings in "Lolita" or "Pale Fire".

As Marina Grishakova observed, world and language are inseparable and "in the broader narratological or semiotic perspective.the text is part of the real world." If true ( I read similar conclusions in Umberto Eco, Deleuze...) what kind of a "real world" would VN be creating? Would he, somehow, be reproducing an already existing social universe inhabited by totally novel incestuous psychos? Would he be creating an entirely newone, an Anti-Terra, an Arcadia with no electricity and time-forks, to be added to "our world" realities?

Perhaps, when Nabokov offers the reader his authorial personae -- that is, names and human faces for his "serial selves" - he is representing these anonymous influences in society by creating a recognizable, although shifting shape, to what remains unperceived and diffuse in a menacing non-literary world. In that way his characters, even at their most pervert and delusional, might be seen as a direct consequence of such pressures. VN's domination would, in a way, be merely a reflection of those invisible forces that take over the destinies of mankind. As he expresses in SO (1964, to A.Toffler):"we shall never know the origin of life, or the meaning of life, or the nature of space and time, or the nature of nature, or the nature of thought." and we too, as readers, are not expected to decypher his solutions or to fully understand his "invented worlds" but recognize, like him, the limitation of our knowledge about otherworldly operations.

Nabokov endows his characters with trivial, but determining traits,to turn them into galley-slaves for his own designs. As he once stated: "the perfect dictator in that private world insofar as I alone am responsible for its stability and truth". I understand that this kind of literary dictatorship is, here, instrumental because it not only reflects the mysteries of "the otherworld", but the uncontrollable forces of social life as well, those that express the political, economic and ideological determinants onto art. In that way, the cruelty and criminality that arises in a novel is not an author's, nor any God's, because it reflects human predicaments in confrontation with the actual demands of historical forces that lie outside it. Nabokov's tactics indirectly encourage the readers to oppose these "external" forces and their response may become an exercise in imagination and freedom. The freedom that is still possible by an enhanced conscious awareness of living processes?



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