NABOKV-L post 0025524, Mon, 7 Jul 2014 14:16:23 -0700

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Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] CCL: Title,
Kafkaian undertones and efficiency: a correction
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Vassiliy couldn't have foregone the trip, because he's a character and all characters are as N. himself said, "galley slaves". And how can a character living out a Christ-like passion play not be understood in moral terms? I, however, merely meant that N. uses aesthetic terms for moral. The story's so judgmental.



On Monday, July 7, 2014 2:04 PM, laurence hochard <laurence.hochard@HOTMAIL.FR> wrote:



To JA: I agree that 'ghost' was an illl-chosen word, since it refers to life after death; ghosts are the spirits of dead persons.

I don't know what the right word should be. Let's say that V is an entity moving about in a parallel  world and  is sent  to live, pursue happiness and suffer in a world, our world, where Time (and therefore Death) tyranically reigns.

Also, as you said, VN's strategy of revealing what happens behind the scenes (the narrator appointing his 'employee' to live a human life) aims at having the reader engage with the author rather than blindly identify with the character.

However, I don't think VN is trying here "to give us good or moral characters". As I tried to explain in my previous post, V could have foregone the trip - this way out is implied in §1. However he decided to go and , like CC in ITAB, is responsible for living in this absurd world peopled with "grotesque, heartless characters, figures of fun or figures of horror".
In ITAB, CC is perfectly aware that the people around him are dummies, parodies, yet, he interacts with them; when he is finally ready to turn away from them, to desist from the struggle he has engaged with them, to give up the field, only then does this nightmarish world of his own making disappear.  With unexpected ease, it merely evaporates; it only had the reality CC lent to it.
Vasilyi too, chooses to cooperate with this "reality", he accepts the trip "thrust upon him by a feminine fate in a low-cut gown" (§3). Again, why? I suggest that the fact that Fate is feminine is not indifferent.

Unlike ITAB, CCL doen't feature christian imagery, yet the relation between Vasilyi and 'I' the narrator, the former being sent to the world by the latter to live and suffer like an authentic human being, and hints that the character and the narrator are one (cf §8: "We both, Vasilyi Ivanovitch and I, have always been impressed by ...") is very much remindful of the Christian vision of the relation between Jesus Christ and God.
... I said there is no Christian imagery in CCL but, re-reading as I'm writing, I just stumbled on: "It occured to them, among other things,to use a corkscrew on his palms, then on his feet" in the last § but one, in the parodic passion-like final scene of the trip.

Laurence Hochard


Jerôme Bosch,  Christ Carrying the Cross





________________________________
Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2014 03:54:45 -0700
From: vanveen13@SBCGLOBAL.NET
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] CCL: Title, Kafkaian undertones and efficiency: a correction
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU


I don't think the character is a ghost. I think we're meant to understand the character two ways simultaneously: to become involved with him much as one would any character in a story, but also Nabokov wants to tweak the reader now and then with the understanding that Vassilliy is simply a made up person refracted through the narrator, who is also a character, appointed to go through the motions of his tale. Alfred Appel Jr. in his intro the Vintage International Annotated Lolita (pp. xxxi-xxxii gives a personal anecdote about having built one summer a puppet theater for his children. They had "immediately become engrossed in the show, and then virtually mesmerized by my improvised little story that ended with a patient father spanking an impossible child. But the puppeteer, carried away by his story's violent climax, knocked over the entire theater, which clattered onto the floor, collapsing into a heap of cardboard, wood, and cloth--leaving me
crouched, peeking out at the room, my head now visible over the couch's rim, my puppeted hands, with their naked wrists, poised in mid-air. For several moments my children remained in their open-mouthed trance, still in the story, staring at the space where the theater had been, not seeing me at all. Then they did the kind of double take...and began to laugh uncontrollably, in a way I had never seen before...at those moments of total involvement in a nonexistent world, and at what its collapse implied to them about the authenticity of the larger world, and about their daily efforts to order it and their own fabricated illusions." He told N. about the incident and how it defined literary "involution" and the response he though N. was trying to get from his readers. "Exactly, exactly," he quotes N. as saying to this.

I'd also like to say to Hochard that I may have been to hasty to dismiss a connection between the story and Kafka. I recalled the introductory pages to Nabokov's lecture on The Metamorphosis as it's published in the Fredson Bowers Harcourt Brace and Company paperback (pp. 253-255)  Nabokov deals with the notion of realism as applied to The Metamorphosis, The Overcoat and Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde but winds up talking about the unity of style, structure and character in Kafka's work. "...in 'The Metamorphosis' there is a central figure endowed with a certain amount of human pathos among grotesque, heartless characters, figures of fun or figures of
horror, asses parading as zebras, or hybrids between rabbits and rats." And at the bottom of the page: "In Gogol and Kafka the absurd central character belongs to the absurd world around him but, pathetically and tragically, attempts to struggle out of it into the world of humans--and dies in despair."  I think I would argue a bit with this understanding of Gregor's plight, but I think it clearly applies to many of the characters in Nabokov's work, especially Cinncinatus C.'s in Invitation to a Beheading where he is surrounded by fakes and parodies and at the end,  when his theatrical world falls apart, moves as some kind of abstract spirit towards beings more akin to himself--human beings? Also goes with Bend Sinister where Krug is made aware of the fact his torture is a fictional exercise and goes insane before his death. He did die before Nabokov puts himself into the novel finishing it up? And this is Vassilliy's struggle. These
characters' pathos is in their understanding at some level that they are mere figments and their doomed attempts to try to become "real" or find transcendence or something more. I think the problem in CCL is that the something more like something less than more.

By the way, I think the descriptions of the landscape throughout the train trip are marvelous. N's train trips are unforgettable. I just don't care for the imager of the title.

Another thing I noticed was that at the beginning of his Kafka lecture Nabokov makes this startling announcement: "We can take the story apart, we can find out how the bits fit, how one part of the pattern responds to the other; but you have to have in you some cell, some gene, some germ that will vibrate in answer to sensations that you can neither define, nor dismiss." Nabokov, who so often dismisses material determinism here suggests that aesthetic
appreciation, spiritual depth?, is genetic, hence pre-determined and I think this view is partly what's responsible for a certain caricatured flatness when he tries to give us good or moral characters too directly; why he does so much better with his nastier narrators.

On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 7:27 PM, Jansy Mello <jansy.mello@OUTLOOK.COM> wrote:


RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] CCL: Title, Kafkaian undertones and efficiency


L.Hochard:“Relying on what J Aisenberg says about Maxim Shrayer's The World of Nabokov's stories (that I have not read yet but will), the story 's protagonist comes from the Otherworld. That's how I see it too, the character is some kind of otherwordly ghost - a lesser being certainly, since he is the "employee" of one of those beings, "aloof and mute", who are "Playing a game of worlds " "from their involute /Abode ".
What Vasiliy Ivanovitch has experienced and wants to resign is mortality.[  ]”
                                                                                                                                                          &nb
sp; 


Jansy Mello: Shrayer’s indicators suggest that Vassiliy might be “some kind of otherworldly ghost…the ‘employee’ of” ‘aloof and mute’ beings” (an opinion endorsed by L.Hochard and J.Aisenberg, or so it seems to me), whereas I’d envisaged him as being simply a flesh and blood “representative” of an author’s mind. I find this idea, of Vasiliy some kind of incarnated angel,  very appealing. It also opens new vistas for the interpretation of CCL. Reading Shrayer’s book is a “must” if we intend to pursue this vertex!
 
I found an adequate VN quote  to bring up here in relation to one of L.Hochard’s remarks*-  and CCL: “ Time, though akin to rhythm, is not simply rhythm, which would imply motion – and Time does not move.  Van’s greatest discovery is his perception of Time as the dim hollow between two rhythmic beats, the narrow and bottomless silence between the beats, not the beats themselves, which only embar Time. In this sense human life is not a pulsating heart but the missed heartbeat.” (SO,186 - 1971).
V.Nabokov’s last sentence, in the paragraph above, is intriguing (…human life as a missed heartbeat!),  particularly when we remember CCL, not ADA…
 
………………………………………………………
*- “As for the wonderful landscape (with me it works entirely!), its first characteristic, in stark contrast to the inescapable forward movement in the rest of the story is its immobility (= timelessness). Vassili has already glimpsed at such islands of immobility on the first day of the trip: §8 "... there would appear and, as it were,stop for an instant, like air retained in the lung, a spot so enchanting - a lawn, a terrace - such perfect expression of tender well-meaning beauty - that it seemed that if one could stop the train ..."
 

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