NABOKV-L post 0018523, Mon, 17 Aug 2009 10:26:03 -0300

Re: THOUGHTS: dates in THE GIFT, Yuri Leving's concordance

J. Aisenberg: I've brought up the dates of the birthdays in The Gift's being the same, in conjunction with Pale Fire's use of the same device not too long ago [...] but also, I believe, Fyodor's father has that July 12th birthday [...] There is also some neat pathos hidden between dates in the Gift[...] in Chapter One we learn that Fyodor wrote his first love poems in late June of 1916, and in chapter 2 find out that Fyodor's father went on his final safari from which he never returned in either late or mid June of 1916, so that keeping these dates in view we see that one truly poignant loss for Fyodor is that his father never got to see any of his son's poetry, or his eventual flowering. This device of scattered dates telling tragic tales once we have all the information to correlate them, appears in the way N. deals with the death of his own father in Speak Memory[...] A trick with the reader, a puzzle[ ...]aesthetically dramatizing what Boyd has suggested, that only curiosity, imagination and perceptive empathy can bring the shattering relevance out of what would seem to be inert facts and data [...] we sense that the technique is also a way of indicating and mitigating a rich strain of pain simultaneously, an effect that enriches and sharpens the stories[...]

JM: J.Aisenberg mentions a hidden pathos which he associates with the death and disappearance of a father ( & VN's personal experience), and the literary initiation and posterior achievements of a son remaining unwitnessed. The suggested pathos, in this case, would be a product of the son's narcisistic (self-pitying) search for recognition.
Although Nabokov often stressed the absence of any social message in his novels, I don't think this would lead to restrictive personal messages about his painful experiences of loss having gained the upper-hand (their impact and influence is, of course, inevitably, already part of VN emotional and mental constitution).

I cannot situate Nabokov's two (or more) references to Ivan Turgenev's 1862 novel , "Fathers and Sons": what I can recollect is Nabokov's critical appraisal of its title in English ( in Russian, literally, it means "Fathers and Children."). I wonder if, likewise, VN's literary output, when dealing with the pain and fears associated to his father's assassination in Berlin, doesn't implicate a metaphorical transformation regarding "fathers and sons" in a wider acception. Or the weaving of the personal into the historical as, for example, Priscilla Meyer has suggested by "Restauration" in her book on "Pale Fire".

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