NABOKV-L post 0018160, Fri, 10 Apr 2009 10:48:24 -0300

Re: VNBibliography: Rudolf Sardi. An approa ch to VN's "Öth erworld"
D.Johnson sent: : AN APPROACH TO VLADIMIR NABOKOV'S "OTHERWORLD" , Rudolf Sárdi (Eötvös Loránd University of Arts and Sciences (Budapeste / Hungria)

JM: Taking an appreciative excerption, I chose:
The complexity of Nabokov's oeuvre reaches far beyond the playful invention of anagrammatic names, tortuous narrative structures, and instances of amusing paronomasia, all of which had occupied a central role in Nabokov studies up until recently. In my view, the metaliterary approach to Nabokov's fiction is erroneous because it refuses to take into consideration the author's deeply held conviction in metaphysics and his capacity to an aesthetically heightened visionary state of consciousness...The author's sui generis faith in the metaphysical allowed him to establish a perceptible link between two ore more worlds, reinforcing the view that the "otherworld" is never a self-contained realm detached from present reality. It never supplants the real world but exists as an alternative for the dissonance of the real world, offering an exit from the darkness of one universe and entrance to the brilliance of another one. R.Sárdi*


While the Nabokovian text seems to offer a bewildering variety of readings even today, it is the pervasive concept of the "otherworld" that has stimulated the most intense discussion among scholars in recent years. The claim that any single critical school can ever hope to capture all the aspects of the author's fiction may sound preposterous to the trained ear, and yet there seems to be a mutual agreement among scholars that the "otherworld" has evolved into a major repository of all the thematic dominants that had been formerly identified in connection with his texts.[...]Pierre Delalande, the imaginary philosopher of The Gift (and perhaps the only philosopher whose postulations the author unconditionally accepted) also reinforces this view by stating that "the otherworld surrounds us always and is not at all at the end of some pilgrimage" (NABOKOV, 1991, 321-322).[...]the author's attempts to unify these two universes during moments of spiritual revelations that Nabokov described as "aesthetic bliss" (NABOKOV, 2000, 305).[...]Véra Nabokova was the first to call attention to the formerly overlooked notion of the "otherworld". She made the following observation in the preface to Nabokov's posthumously published Verses (1979, 3): I would like to call the reader to a key undercurrent in Nabokov's work, which permeates all that he has written and characterizes it like a kind of watermark. I am speaking of a strange otherworldliness, the "hereafter" (potustoronnost'), as he himself called it in his last poem, "Being in Love".[...] Early critics of Nabokov's work viewed his fictional universes as hermetic, as arcane self-referential systems designed as metaliterary manifestos (MEYER, 1994, 326). Today it seems that nothing could be further
from the truth, and the critics who obdurately ventured in the metaliterary direction were on the wrong scent. [...] To the questions whether he was a hidden god, a mystifier, an incorrigible leg-puller, or a literary agent provocateur, I would unhesitatingly reply in the affirmative. Of course, none of these attributes can be rejected when the author's works are subjected to critical scrutiny. Although Nabokov's originality, power of language, artistic deceitfulness, and the involutions of his works do not make up the whole of his art, they undoubtedly constitute a significant part of it. Nevertheless, the one-sided view one is to vehemently reject is the
propensity of looking at Nabokov as merely a brilliant but shallow artist, who fails to take notice of universal human issues: a stylist whose audacious style calls attention as much to itself as to what it means to convey (PARKER, 1987, 17).[...] Instead of making his voice clearly identifiable, he employs several forms of authorial self-encodement, most of which are shining examples of how the author "drops in" his fictional world but only makes himself visible for the most perceptive of readers [...] Therefore it is an oversimplification to assume that Nabokov's treatment of the "otherworld" is attributable to the fact that he was an exile himself. If exiles are ubiquitous as they are in his fictional world, it is not because he had been twice uprooted, but because the acute state of dislocation offers ideal conditions for contemplation on the individual, who is forced to confront past, present, and future, self and setting (PARKER, 1987, 10).
[...]Nabokov aptly maintained that the conception of a fictional world is not dependent on the author's life course as it were, but "the transrational awareness of the existence of other worlds outside mundane reality carries more significance" (quoted in SHRAYER, 1999, 18).[...]The reader may well have identified by now the underlying philosophical current of Nabokov's worlds by seeing the echo of that true, otherworldly reality as resemblance to the model of the universe portrayed by Neo-Platonism. Knowing how much Nabokov abhorred to hear about classification and literary influences, I would not even try to establish a close kinship between his art and any twentieth-century literary or philosophical currents. It has been convincingly demonstrated that Nabokov seemed to have stronger affinities with the nineteenth century than with the twentieth[...] It is a widely accepted view today to think of Nabokov as a Romantic in the Platonic tradition. He once stated that: I am afraid to get mixed up with Plato whom I do not care for, but I do think that in my case it is true that the entire book, before it is written, seems to be ready in some other, now transparent, now dimming, dimension, and my job is to take down as much of it as I can make out and as precisely as I am humanly able to. Consequently, we can conclude that Nabokov's art grows out of Romanticism, because he viewed this world as a pale reflection of the otherworld. The many varieties of doublings, mirrorings, and inversions appear to be a key organizing principle of his fiction, connecting worlds and worlds apart: our reality and realities beyond human consciousness.[...] In fact, Nabokov conceived of this otherworldliness as something he could not openly share with his readers. In "Fame", a poem from 1942, Nabokov awakened his readers' interest by writing: But one day while disrupting the strata of sense/ and descending deep down to my wellspring/ I saw mirrored, besides my own self and the world,/ something else, something else, something else. (NABOKOV, 1970, 11; quoted in SISSON, 1994)
In an article about soccer from the London Times (September 20, 1993) Nabokov appeared as "one of history's great goalies" and is quoted: "I was less the keeper of a goal than the keeper of a secret" (STRINGER-HYE, 2008) [...] God's existence, art, and language for Nabokov were all obscure phenomena whose understanding lies beyond general human perception.
Characters partaking of otherworldly experiences in Nabokov's fiction do not submerge into the realm of the "beyond" through death. In his fiction, dying provides no clearly defined passage to the land of the deceased [...] "The Return of Chorb" (1925) is an emblematic text that points toward the author's preoccupation with the idealized realm of the "otherworld" and his lifelong desire to recapture past in memory [...] Nabokov's idea of presenting a world beyond human consciousness is in line with the Gnostic view of regarding the world of matter as something fallen and that all humans are divine souls incarcerated in a material world. Consequently,[...] the otherworldly as a theme functions as the antithesis of a nightmarish locus, often epitomized by the "horrible here" (NABOKOV, 1989, 93), a pale reflection, or rather, the imperfect imitation of a world attainable only for a few elects [...]

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