NABOKV-L post 0018943, Thu, 10 Dec 2009 18:19:47 -0200

Re: [TOoL] Laura Number One in Russia
Vladimir Mylnikov:Great! There are some intelligent people in Russia. but again, thank you, Dimitry Vladimirovich, to expose that.
Robert H. Boyle: Despite his father's wish that the The Original of Laura be consigned to flames, DN's exultant email reporting the extraordinarily successful sales in Russia proves yet again that he was right in deciding The Lady's Not for Burning.
Piers Smith: How does that follow? Also, if I may, the gloss of production—design, detachable cards, heft, etc—seems to have subtended the product. Indeed, what is The Original of Laura? Only a product? And what has happened to the rest of the work, as a result? (The Vintage re-issues underscore this plaint.) Am I now to read VN as artist or artificer? As a literary version of Warhol or Madonna. Or something else?

JM: I think I can see Piers' point. Are VN's fragments "only a product...what has happened to the rest of the VN as artist or artificer?" After all, the material reality of TOoL is a bunch of note-cards - which I still hesitate to disembowel.*
I confess I was disappointed when I realized that the back of the cards doesn't exactly correspond to the front. Why not take the pains all
the way and produce an exact copy of each?

I must report a fascinating coincidence (off-List). From America, James Twiggs sent me an old TLS review about a book on Russia and occultism with a Nabokov sighting and a reference to Crowley. A few minutes later, from Europe, Stan Kelly-Bootle inquired about the occult, Crowley and Nabokov in connection to a messianic "Sebastianist", the poet Fernando Pessoa and his heteronyms ( In "Ada" we find VN's neologism for a "thespyionim" related to another Portuguese, Vasco da Gama).

Excerpts from the TLS review sent by J. Twiggs and SKB's message:

1. TLS Sighting: "Fedorov may have influenced Andrei Bely's thinking on the magical powers of words, as Irina Gutkin points out in "The Magic of Words: Symbolism, Futurism, Socialist Realism." Kaluga is occasionally referred to. Kaluga, a town to the south-west of Moscow, is, together with Toledo, Prague and Glastonbury, one of the world's magical places [...] Gutkin, when she comes to discuss the nature of the Russian Futurists' links with the occult in her chapter on the magical power of words, notes their passion for cryptograms and palindromes[...] In an earlier essay, "Magic and Divination: Old Russian sources", Will Ryan pauses to remark on the strange difficulty there is in distinguishing medieval texts devoted to divination from those about games and other popular pastimes [...]
The pioneers of cryptography and cryptoanalysis, Cornelius Agrippa, Johannes Trithemius and John Dee, were occultists to a man. Those addicted to cryptic crosswords will know how often their solution depends on something which seems intriguingly close to telepathy or divination. Occultism and novel-writing are competing crafts based on the manipulation of the power of words. Russian occultism in particular was a thoroughly literary affair, and one which cannot be discussed without reference to Vladimir Soloviev, Daniil Andreev, Aleksandr Blok, Fedor Sologub, Dmitri Merezhkovsky, Andrei Bely, Mikhail Bulgakov, Maxim Gorky and other lesser figures. (Some of the poetry and fiction devoted to occultist themes was diabolically bad.) [...] It was not just a matter of writers being inspired by occult themes. Writers were not passive consumers. Symbolists, Decadents and Futurists played the major role in shaping Russian occultism. Gorky is referred to almost as frequently as Fedorov by Rosenthal's team of contributors[...] a bizarrely apocalyptic figure who interested himself in the propagandistic potential of telepathy and who believed that fictional characters could escape from their authors and acquire an independent existence as psycho-physical emanations. (Daniil Andreev similarly believed that Ivan Karamazov and Andrei Bolkonsky lived on in a part of the cosmos identified by him as the "Middle Layers of Shadanakar".)[...] Yet the real sources of modern Russian occultism were in Western libraries. As Ryan's chapter demonstrates, traditional Russian magical beliefs were inexorably replaced by Western esoteric ideas [...] Russian esotericism was successively shaped by imported texts on Jewish Kabbalism, Byzantine mysticism, Renaissance Neoplatonism, Rosicrucianism and so on, right up to the Russian Revolution. (It is a little-known fact that the English Satanist Aleister Crowley took a dance troupe, the Ragged Ragtime Girls, to Moscow in 1913. Not much came of his venture into the world of theatre, but while there he was inspired to write the most famous of his poems, or incantations, "Io Pan". Show business's loss was Satanism's gain.) Taken as a whole, The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture is stronger on ideological imports from the West than it is on Russian exports. It would have been interesting to have read an account of the potential Russian sources for the teachings of the mystagogues George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky. It might also have been interesting to explore the presence of spiritualist and occult themes and their links with word-play in the novels of Vladimir Nabokov. It is surely significant that Nabokov rated the writings of Bely, which were saturated with the occult, extremely highly."
The Times Literary Supplement (Oct.24,1997) Mystics and madmen,by Robert Irwin
review of: THE OCCULT IN RUSSIAN AND SOVIET CULTURE. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, editor. 468pp. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press; distributed in the UK by Plymbridge. Pounds 47 (paperback, Pounds 19.50). - 0 8014 3258 8.

2. S K-B's comments: "Pessoa translated into English a number of Portuguese books and from English the poems "The Raven", "Annabel Lee" and "Ulalume"[10] by Edgar Allan Poe which, along with Walt Whitman, strongly influenced him. He also translated into Portuguese a number of esoteric books by leading Theosophists such as C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant [11]. His interest in occultism led Pessoa to correspond with Aleister Crowley. He later helped Crowley plan an elaborate fake suicide [skb’s astonished emphasis] when he visited Portugal in 1930 [12]. Pessoa translated Crowley's poem "Hymn To Pan" into Portuguese, and the catalogue of Pessoa's library shows that he possessed copies of Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice and Confessions. Pessoa also wrote on Crowley's doctrine of Thelema in several fragments, including Moral [13]. --wiki
Browsing wiki, I found a link to Nabokov via Poe (and also Crowley, whom VN read & who, I think, gets a mention or hint in Pale Fire?)."

JM: There is a captain Cowley (not Crowley) in "Ada" (linked to Lucette's suicide). Inspite of various poltergeistlich and spiritualist seances both in New Wye and in Zembla, I cannot remember Crowley in PF.
Like SK-B I seem to recollect reading his name in one of Nabokov's texts. Priscilla Meyer mentions Torfaeus and Wallace, but a quick
perusal didn't lead me to Crowley. Nor did I find him in B.Boyd's index in "The Magic of Artistic Discovery."
In RLSK we find a "futurist poet Alexis Pan and his wife Larissa" with whom "seventeen-year-old Sebastian disappeared, leaving my mother a short note [...] Pan's idea of a Marcopolian journey consisted in gently working eastwards...renting a hall (or a shed if no hall was available) [ and he ]generally appeared on the stage dressed in a morning coat, perfectly correct but for its being embroidered with huge lotus flowers. A constellation (the Greater Dog) was painted on his bald brow...Now and then, between two poems, Pan would perform a slow dance — a mixture of Javanese wrist-play and his own rhythmic inventions."
* VN:"It's far too easy to talk of a dead author behind the backs of his books" (RLSK) "Where is the third party? Rotting peacefully in the cemetery of St Damier. Laughingly alive in five volumes[...]. In The Doubtful Asphodel, his (SK's) method has attained perfection[...].There seems to be a method, too, in the author's way of expressing the physical process of dying[...].First the brain follows up a certain hierarchy of ideas[...] But the dying man knew that these were not real ideas; that only one half of the notion of death can be said really to exist: this side of the question[...] the quay of life gently moving away aflutter with handkerchiefs: as if he was already on the other side, if he could see the beach receding; no, not quite - if he was still thinking."

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