NABOKV-L post 0016483, Sun, 8 Jun 2008 13:26:44 -0700

Subject
Re: NATASHA: Bed springs and the delights of imagination
Date
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Yes, I was clearly wrong about who slept on the couch, alas.  I understood that Nabokov was trying to suggest that Natasha's and Wolffe's lying to themselves and others is supposed to be a "poetic" attempt to, as I think Shade said in Pale Fire, peel off a dull existence with an exciting imaginative new one. I just never thought that idea was a very convincing one, and especially find it unbelievable as dramatized in this story, where the two characters not only both indulge such iffy behavior, but also both find it charming. It's a whispy romantic conceit (just as N. pointed out about Kitty and Levin's telepathy in his lecture on Anna Karenina). The end of the story as well, where Natasha runs into her father's ghost on his way out to get a newspaper with a wonderful story in it, before discovering he has in fact died. I wonder if that wonderful story in the paper was one about the afterlife? All the lying the characters do is, I
think, a deliberate attempt on N.'s part to keep things cloudy and ambiguous as much as to sugget that imagination is more real than genuine experience (which I don't buy). Does Natasha have visions or not? Does she really see her father's ghost? Did her father really prophesy his own death, or was it just a lucky guess?  The truth about magic and otherworldliness hovers over the story as a possibility, but one you can never quite be sure of. While N.'s sense of detail is remarkably exact, and he manages a few interesting character ticks, there's something to my mind soft-headed and mushy about the story, especially the girl, who seems more childish than Lolita did at twelve and a half. I love the way N. uses the story breaks though, with great economy so that the whole miniature world is suggested with brisk assurance; the way that two sections break off as Wolffe describes his made-up annecdotes. Stylistically and structurally the story is very
impressive, I think.



----- Original Message ----
From: NABOKV-L <NABOKV-L@HOLYCROSS.EDU>
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Sunday, June 8, 2008 2:07:44 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] NATASHA: Bed springs and the delights of imagination

Natasha sleeps on a couch "with amazing springs" whereas her father sleeps
and dies on a bed, the springs of which are not mentioned.
laurence hochard

***

"Wolfe, RELISHING his story, smiled..."

"...I had the impression that it had really happened..."
"That's just it," Wolfe said, BEAMING.
"Tell me some more about your travels,"Natasha asked, INTENDING NO SARCASM.

This passage shows that neither of them dismisses the other's fantasies or
visions; on the contrary, this same shared taste for the products of
imagination (in other words: poetry)is what seals their love.
Another passage shows, I think, that the author intends no sarcasm either:
it's when Wolfe says:"I had a friend who served for three years in Bombay.
[...]That friend of mine was INCAPABLE OF COMMUNICATING anything,
remembered nothing except work-related squabbles, the heat, the fevers, and
the wife of some British colonel. Which of us really visited India?... It's
obvious- of course, I'm the one."
Work-related squabbles...etc... all the things that on a Nabokovian scale
of values have no substance. This is why I don't think the characters of
this story can be seen as pathetic liars; on the contrary, although their
life happens to take place in terrible historical circumstances, they are
able to outlive them nearly untouched.

Laurence Hochard

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