NABOKV-L post 0018554, Thu, 3 Sep 2009 16:51:54 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] [TANGENTIAL NABOKOV] Anton Chekhov and synesthesia
Young doctor Anton Chekhov describes a moment shared by father and little son in "At Home" ( 1887) and wonders why is it that truth has to be beautiful* and, medicine, coated with a sweet-smelling coat. He concludes that "nature herself has many tricks of expediency and many deceptions." He'd corrected his son's perspective in a drawing in which an upright soldier looked taller than the house he lived in. His son explained that "if he'd made the soldier little, his eyes wouldn't show." He notes that "Under close observation, Seriozha might appear abnormal to an adult because he found it possible and reasonable to draw a man higher than a house, giving his pencil his own perceptions as well as a subject. Thus, the sounds of an orchestra he represented by round, smoky spots; a whistle, by a twisted thread; in his mind, sound was intimately connected with form and colour, so that in painting letters he invariably coloured the sound L, yellow; M, red; A, black, and so forth." Apparently, for Chekhov, this kind of synesthetic sensibility sometimes found in children is lost in adulthood...

* Would he have read and enjoyed Keats? For him "the aim of literature is the truth, unconditional and honest...the writer should be as objective as a chemist." (Cf. Joe Andrew's introduction to Selected Stories, Wordsworth Classics, VII. Also pages 21-24)

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