NABOKV-L post 0018166, Sat, 11 Apr 2009 13:40:15 -0300

Re: From Russia with love ...
Sandy Klein sent excerpts highlighting Nabokov [Complete article at following URL: }in "From Russia with love: Renowned poet brings her passion for literature to Hampshire College", By Kristin Palpini:."Russian poet Polina Barskova, who had her first volume of poetry published at age 15, divides her time now between writing and imparting her love for literature to her students at Hampshire College[...] But on that day at Hampshire College in March, as her students filed out at the end of class, Barskova said what she really wanted to discuss in an interview with a reporter was those students. 'What I see in a room of 20 young people is a conversation, is a potential for a moment toward each other," she said. "An intellectual moment is my pleasure. They are very important'."

Stan K-B: I thoroughly enjoyed Sárdi's well-crafted and persuasive essay. It illustrates the challenge, nay the angst, facing serious, coherent literary criticism of Nabokov's extremely diverse works. The latter not only defy the "trad" genre classifications, but Nabokov himself seems to reject and discourage, nay mock, most of what passes as "literary theory." [...]I do agree with Sárdi that we should avoid an over-preoccupation with VN's allusional and word-play exploits[...] But I have reservations about over-shifting our focus to VN's "Otherworldliness." I reject the notion that the observable physical "reality" revealed by "commonsense" and refined by science is somehow pathetically drab and boring in contrast to the "other" worlds of unbridled metaphysical speculation! [...] Before Nag Hammadi, our knowledge of Gnosticism (by no means a single, uniform creed) was restricted to early distortions from the Church Fathers [...] in addition to Sárdi's point about Gnostic cosmology (a neat solution to the theodicy problem), of equal importance to VN's "metaphysics" is the Gnostic concept of "hidden knowledge" (whence the very name of the movement: Greek gnostos = known). More (or less) anon.

JM: I didn't search for a sample of Polina Barskova's poems, but one of her replies suggests that she might be among the perfect Nabokov enthusiasts and teachers. On student exchanges during class she noted: "an intellectual moment is my pleasure." ie, no emphatic academic quotes, extensive literary-proof searches before expressing an idea, but "intellectual moment", in its actuality and spontaneity ...
I hope Nabokov's evolved ghost (with some of his Russian accent) drops in to disturb them at the right opportunities...

Stan, one of the items that I appreciated in Sárdi was how he conducted his shift towards VN's "otherworldliness". If you squeeze his words and examples you'll see that, like Nabokov, he was secretive and let others do the talking. He didn't seem to forget Demon's "how incestuously art and science meet in an insect" (an unchecked quote), ie, that VN not only a poet, but a scientist using commonsense-logic and imaginative intuition to deal with "observable physical reality." VN's "otherwordliness" is a state of being from very private, epifanic doors of perception. I gather that the resulting insights or revelations were not "effed" by him and, most often, became the subject of satire, never a "revelation." VN insitently returned to the theme of "enhancing conscious awareness of events", not to its explicitation by scientific generalizations.
btw: In the early eighties I was acquainted with Gnostic ideas through Susan Sontag's essays on Artaud (or was it Lautreamont?), emphasizing sexuality instead of ascetism, etc. A friend informed me that in certain universities in America ( Harvard, Princeton) there was an elite of philosophic and scientific "gnostics" ( I read one of their books, unfortunately a borrowed copy, one which I was not allowed to reproduce to keep and never checked for its "hoaxity"). Would VN have been more ( or less) than acquainted with them? I doubt it.

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