NABOKV-L post 0016494, Wed, 11 Jun 2008 10:26:35 -0700

Subject
Re: NATASHA: VN's "reversal of values" and development; RLSK,
The Eye
Date
Body
You're not hearing my point. I understood what Nabokov was saying, just don't buy it. I am deaf to those things you mention, the stuff about the Congo etc. don't matter to me. They are charmingly described, but they do seem like purple cliches to me. The heat and the illness, don't. Sorry.



----- Original Message ----
From: NABOKV-L <NABOKV-L@HOLYCROSS.EDU>
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 11:49:05 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] NATASHA: VN's "reversal of values" and development; RLSK, The Eye

[Laurence Hochard sends two replies to Joseph Aisenberg's recent
postings]

1.
JA: Wolfe, I think might be more closely related to Smurov of The Eye,
who
also tells pathetic lies, about his exciting experiences in the White
army.

Smurov's lies are self-serving (he wants Vanya so bad, poor boy) whereas

Baron Wolfe's are like those Natasha intends to tell her father about
their
outing: various little marvels. ("I may well tell him about things we
did
not see at all. Various little marvels. He will understand.) Nabokov's
art
is subtle, there are lies and lies.....

JA: ... his cheesy romantic "far east" exotica cliches...
... the canned glamor of his fantasies ...

"Bombay! [....] That word alone contains something gigantic, bombs of
sunlight, drums."

Is this  a "cheesy romantic far east exotica cliché"?  Are you deaf to
Nabokov's alliterative poetical prose. Can't you see the elephants, the
blazing light, can't you hear the sounds?

"Ah! the distant Congo [...] There, under a gigantic tree -a kiroku
(???)-
lay orange fruit like rubber balls, and at night there came from inside
the
trunk what seemed like the sound of the sea".
ou encore:
"I saw the Palace of Shadows in Ceylon"
"The natives there wear necklaces made of vertebrae,and sing so
strangely
at night on the seashore, as if they were musical jackals".

Are these canned fantasies? Have you ever heard of musical jackals?
I prefer to think that you have read the story too quickly.

JA: he might have made discoveries about the place...
Oh yes, sure! the heat, the fevers, and the colonel's wife !!! This is
where Nabokov is ironical, not about Natasha's visions of the Virgin
Mary

Speaking of the Virgin Mary, there is also this passage in RLSK: "...and

Clare [...] understood so well (and that was her private MIRACLE) every
detail of Sebastian's struggle (with words)..."
The same miracle happens between Wolfe and Natasha: she perfectly
understands his way with invented anecdotes (=fiction) and she asks for
more!

Laurence Hochard

2.JA: ...  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 wouldn't say Natasha is childish, at least not in a derogatory sense.
I
think VN describes her as having retained a kind of child like innocence
(a
value VN ranks very high) Which doesn't mean she's a half wit. On the
contrary, she seems to be well-read, as can be seen in her dialogue with

Wolfe: she has a good knowledge of painting (Raphaël, Lévitan, religious

painting) and of history (the Middle Ages).There's nothing naïve in what

she says.

JA :The truth about magic and otherworldliness hovers over the story as
a
possibility, but one you can never quite be sure of.

I agree with you here.

JA : The thing especially where Wolfe brings up how he feels his
imaginative trip to Bombay is more real than his friend's actual trip
strikes me as the most fatuous idea of all

LH : VN doesn't mean that actual experience is worthless: its value
depends
on the kind of attention the "experiencer" pays to it.

JS : How surprising it is to realize that, for me, Nabokov's genius lies

exactly in that he takes his time with squabbles, small gestures,
unclean
servants, pathetic lies, worn shoes, madness,

LH : I do agree with you that VN's "genius lies exactly in that he takes

his time with" little ordinary things of everyday experience, that's
exactly why I quoted this passage from RLSK; a frying pan! can there
exist
a more ordinary, more prosaic, humbler object? but unless these objects
are
seen together with their "halo", they are but drab, dull irreality (such
as
the one experienced in Bombay by Wolfe's friend, whose attention is
entirely self-related, self-interested and which consists in rivalries
over
power -work-related squabbles- over a woman -the colonel's wife- and
physical discomfort -the heat, the fevers; so self-centered , in other
woincarnate in his novels and stories, but it is true that, as Andrey
Babikov
writes (about the hereafter, but it applies to other Nabokovian themes):

[...] he  avoided directly addressing the theme, keeping the treasured
inmost essence from cynics and agnostics [...] It was an idea that was
important to him, and he did not want to be ridiculed by unbelievers.
(On
Germination of Nabokov's "Main Theme".. In his story "Natasha" by Andrey

Babikov).So, in his later works, he "grew" and became "more mature" and
worked out more and more sophisticated stylistic tools to hide his
meaning
from "philistines" while smuggling it to receptive readers.

Laurence Hochard

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