NABOKV-L post 0016589, Fri, 27 Jun 2008 10:32:19 -0700

Subject
Re: Fw: [NABOKV-L] a correction on chronologies and trophies;
scientists...
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In truth I haven't made it all the way through his scientific articles, and I should have been clearer. Of course Nabokov was a very accomplished scientist and naturalist, I was mostly referring to his complete lack of physics. Judging by what he wrote and said in his interviews, he knows even less than I do, which isn't much. As for this quote: "One is tempted to compare the evolutionist to a passenger who, observing through a railroad-car window a series of phenomena that implies a certain logic of structure (such as the appearance of cultivated fields, followed by factory buildings as a city approaches), would discern in these results and illustrations of movement the reality and laws of the very force governing the shift of his gaze." I would maintain that one, this is true of any scientific endeavor, and two, this is at least as true of Nabokov as the evolutionist, who tut-tuts interpretations of reality he doesn't like, coming up with fancy descriptions like the
above when really what bothers him is the taint of Social-Darwinism, and what he sees, I suspect, as a kind of communistic leveling, because in other places I've read, which I can't recall, N. seems to accept the notion of evolutionary adaptation. "Let us begin, as he did, by defining the concept of species. By "species" he intends the original of a being, nonexistent in our reality but unique and definite in concept, that recurs ad infinitum in the mirror of nature, creating countless reflections; each one of them perceived by our intelligence, reflected in that selfsame glass and acquiring its reality solely within it, as a living individual of the given species[...] "Father's Butterflies"

This I think is a strangely Platonic view, considering that Nabokov loathed Plato, suggesting through eloquence a intelligent designer, and I would completely disagree with it. The ideal specimen he discusses never, in my opinion, exists as an original one, but acrues over time through recorded comparison, like notions of beauty or style, becoming more refined and sophisticated as various individuals describe and observe creatures in attempts to find their similarities; only language and memory make it possible for such a phantom specimen to flutter about, and one should resist the urge to cosmologize the mechanics of one's perceptions. For instance, Van Veen's walking on his hands seems to obtain a curious extra-textual meaning when we recall that Ganin in Nabokov's first novel also walked on his hands. Seperate though interesting details, together they form some discrete ideal action having more meaning than anything the specific characters do, or seeming to, but there
is no original notion of hand-walking, he says hand-wringing, that the intelligent designer Nabokov has distributed throughout the mirror-worlds of his books.

J.A... if you think this refers to the burning barn episode, what is the time frame [...] if you do read the scene with Dack as menstrual, as I definitely do, it has an interesting echo in Lolita, since Dolly apparently begins menstruating the day after the Enchanted Hunters [...]
JM:I should have checked the chronologies. Your arguments are convincing enough, plus an excellent reference to Lolita. My mistake.

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