NABOKV-L post 0018271, Wed, 29 Apr 2009 14:22:12 -0300

Re: THOUGHTS on Jim Twiggs's /Pale Fire/ essay
Jerry Friedman [to Jim Twiggs]:"You may have another claim to originality--if I understand correctly that you're saying Nabokov unconsciously sabotaged his poem for comic and thematic purposes. I don't agree with this view, but I find it interesting [...]Though I think Shade is an admirable person in some ways, I also think he sees himself as a werewolf because he knows his irrational attitude toward Hazel's looks was part of what drove her to suicide."

JM: I'm glad that Friedman clarified his considerations about James Twiggs' originality. For Jerry, VN might have "unconsciously sabotaged his poem for comic and thematic purposes." I don't think it was any "unconscious sabotage" on the part of VN.
As I understood Jim's ideas (he can correct us both) Shade, as a character and fictional poet is used, by the author Nabokov, as an instrument to express his critical views on romantic, victorian and decadent writers, to describe the conflictual urges inherent in man, to deal with his ambition and hesitations concerning his wish to have Shade's "Pale Fire" acquire recognition outside its setting in fiction,etc.

Jim, I think that Nabokov's words in praise of Shade in the SO interviews, or referring to their affinities, don't create a new contradiction, but are, exactly, the expression of every person's "werewolf" specious contradictions, the hidden heart, the "child within the monster" (CF.Updike's remarks on Luzhin in the end).

Plodding along the collection of old articles about VN made for a birthday homage, I came acros one that is not part of the New Republic collection, but a classic, from the NYRB,Volume 4, Number 12 · July 15, 1965.
It is Edmund Wilson on Nabokov's translation of Pushkin.
The title of his review is revelatory! It's a reference to our dear R.L.Stevenson's novel: " The Strange Case of Pushkin and Nabokov"... Translators, as "versipelers", are a kind of J&H, of werewolves, too.
Let's check certain items ( on "metamorphosis" and hidden immanencies of beast and beauty.)
C.Kinbote's words on John Shade:" My sublime neighbor's face had something ... His misshapen body...the bags under his lusterless eyes, were only intelligible if regarded as the waste products eliminated from his intrinsic self by the same forces of perfection which purified and chiseled his verse. He was his own cancellation."
VN, adds on Luzhin: "He is uncouth, unwashed, uncomely [...] but there is something in him that transcends...the coarseness of his gray flesh and the sterility of his recondite genius." when describing a diffusion of "great warmth" and Luzhin's lovable features.
Cf.John Updike's The New Republic: Grandmaster Nabokov, September 26, 1964: "His foreword...specifies the forked appeal of 'this attractive novel'--the intricate immanence in plot and imagery of chess as a prevailing metaphor, and the weird lovableness of the virtually inert hero" [...]
Updike gets closer to the "J&H" split when he divides Luzhin's charm into (a) the delineation of his childhood (b) the evocation of his chess prowess. As to (a), Nabokov has always warmed to the subject of children, precocious children [...]--all this is witty, tender, delicate, resonant. By abruptly switching to Luzhin as a chess-sodden adult, Nabokov islands the childhood, frames its naive brightness so that, superimposed upon the grown figure, it operates as a kind of heart, as an abruptly doused light reddens the subsequent darkness.[...] He is lovable, this child within a monster, this "chess moron," and we want him to go on, to finish his classic game[...]He seems blocked by something outside the novel, perhaps by the lepidopterist's habit of killing what it loves; how remarkably few, after all, of Nabokov's characters do evade the mounting pin....

Btw: Personally, as a reader, I can warm up to idiot-savant Luzhin but never to John Shade...with or without affinities with his creator. Nor with the foaming werewolf Kitsch sceneries...

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