Bend sinister and various postings
CHW: Now I will have to read BS again, since I'd forgotten it. There is quite a long discussion of Hamlet in James Joyce..[.The discussion of Hamlet by Stephen Dedalus where he "proves by algebra that Shakespeare's ghost is Hamlet's grandfather" is of course in ULYSSES, the famous library scene Chapter 9., adds A. Bouazza]
Would one describe the Court at Elsinore as a "decadent democracy"?
Jansy Mello: I often cannot follow VN's comments about Shakespeare, mainly because he is not discussing Shakespeare, but distortions of his plays after they were translated into another language or in their stage and cinema productions. Although I know VN did not appreciate allegories, I sometimes have the impression that his use of plays, like Hamlet", could be read as "allegorical".
[ SKB just gave me the famous advice against rushing in to discard "simple implication". He said: "Lest we put Des Cartes before De Horse! If you take 'C (cogito) ergo S (sum)' as simple IMPLICATION ("'thinking' implies 'being'") written as C -> S, we can rephrase VN's proposition as "'being' because 'not-thinking,'" written as S <- ~C or ~C -> S. [read '~' as logical negation.] Alas, ~C -> S does NOT refute C -> S!! There's no LOGICAL contradiction. Both 'thinking' and 'non-thinking' can imply 'being.' ".]
Should I let it be...or not?
Contradictions abound in VN: context is fundamental. The Court at Elsinore is a "decadent democracy" in a skotomized padukated political discourse...
CHW: "Eliot eventually became quite English...This sort of categorization is perhaps unworthy of any discussion of "art", which I suppose should be above and beyond any such petty constrictions. I still find it misleading, however, to describe VN as an American writer, as it seems to me that all his works, without exception, are the products of a very distinctive European sensibility, and European culture. Not that I've read everything he wrote."
JM: I think it is fundamental that we recognize an author's various "voices" and his basic loyalties to country, creed, culture,etc. Isn't that why people often diminish Ezra Pound, without stopping to examine the quality of some of his works? In BS Nabokov had Adam Krug philosophize about time and space before concluding, in a special ivorytower mood, that "the past is his country".
( By the way, does anyone know if VN appreciated the author of "Solaris", or Tarkovsky's rendering of his novel?)
SES: I have often speculated that some of the striking affinities in VN's and Jorge Luis Borges's adult fictions may reflect the fact that they both read and reread Poe, Stevenson, and Conan Doyle in English as children. (VN and JLB--born in the same year--were similarly precocious,fluent in English, and raised in Anglophile families.)
Jansy Mello: I fail to perceive "striking affinities" in VN's and Borges' fictions ( style, vocabulary, structure), but I see that, like SES, SKB also sees them and who am I to argue against those two?
Imho, both VN and JLB are "romantics" but they deny or fight against it in different ways. Their concepts about time and space often seem to converge, probably because they read Poe, Stevenson and Doyle - as SES suggested - and, later, Bergson?
Borges was "didactically" minded and I was never able to read Borges with the same kind of passion as it happens when I pick up the tiniest VN sentence.
Suellen: But I can't help but add that I believe VN was if not influenced then "engaged" with Melville as an American author and this engagement has deep
implications for ADA.
Jansy Mello: In BS there are several lines by Melville that were transformed into a kind of poem, and they must invite this by their musicality ...I'm familiar with a similar procedure in an Oratorium named "Jonah" where Melville's "Moby Dick" and parts of the biblical "Jonah" were intermingled ( the composer's name is Richard Dirksen,Washington Cathedral).
PS: Honey-dew Peaches, Mariette, Ophelia, Lolita (and Catullus) in Bend Sinister: quotes and perplexities:
Pag104: "She and the producer, like Goethe, imagine Ophelia in the guise of a canned peach: 'her whole being floats in sweet ripe passion,' says Johann Wolfgang, Ger. poet, nov., dram. & phil. Oh, horrible."
(Ch. 15)" On the fourth, he searched through some old papers and found a reprint of a Henry Doyle Lecture which he had delivered before the Philosophical Society of Washington. He reread a passage he had polemically quoted in regard to the idea of substance: 'When a body is sweet and white all over, the motions of whiteness and sweetness are repeated in various places and intermixed...' [Da mi basia mille.] " ( page 148 )
(Ch 16) Penetrating her flimsy garment, the light of the lamp brought out her body in peachblow silhouette...Krug turned away, and as he was standing near a bookcase, pressed down and released again a torn edge of calf's leather on the back of an old Latin poet. Brevis lux. Da mi basia mille.. Knitting her brow and letting the pillow and some peach petals drop to the floor between her ankles. ...Mea puella, puella mea... My hot vulgar, heavenly delicate little puella. This is the translucent amphora which I slowly set down by the handles. This is the pink moth clinging..(pages 164/65).
Cp.(pg 136): Femineum lucet per bombycina corpus. brownish pink rose in a glass, brownish pink shadows she showed (Mariette's nipples!!!)
and "Twang. A good night for mothing" (page 201).
There are reminiscences of a first love linked to Olga* (ch.9): "Holding your cupped hands together dear...your eyes never left your cupped hands, the pink chink between the two thumbs...Very slowly, rosewise, you opened your hands. There, clinging with all its six fluffy feet to the ball of your thumb...carrying that moth back into the orchard where you found it...letter addressed to a dead woman in heaven by her husband in his cups(pages 117/119).
At last, the Introduction: " ... nothing on earth really matters, there is nothing to fear, and death is but a question of style, a mere literary device, a musical resolution. And as Olga's rosy soul, emblemized already in an earlier chapter (Nine), bombinates in the damp dark at the bright window of my room, comfortably Krug returns unto the bosom of his maker."
* (Ch 15)"On the night of the twelfth, he dreamt that he was surreptitiously enjoying Mariette while she sat, wincing a little, in his lap during the rehearsal of a play in which she was supposed to be his daughter." (page 148) - - Olga, Mariette, Mary, Lolita and First Love?
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