NABOKV-L post 0024048, Thu, 25 Apr 2013 12:53:06 +0200

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Re: query re VN, SR & 3 virginals
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Dear Carolyn,



Call me Abdel.

Indeed, I read Pamela while a student and was one of the very few who enjoyed it –for the wrong reasons perhaps.

Pornographic? Hardly in my recollection, although Richardson was accused of licentiousness. Perhaps you’re thinking of Fielding’s parody Shamela?

The church in VN’s simile refers, of course, to the wedding, the climax of many popular epistolary novels, as in Pamela’s case; and in Aphra Behn’s earlier one, the second part of Love-letters of a Noble Man to his Sister (1685) ends with Silvia heading for a village church.* However, I believe the church also stands for death, as in the case of your beloved Clarissa,** which ends tragically, which also holds for Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons and Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther –to name only the most famous ones.

In his commentary to Pushkin’s EO, VN is not entirely dismissive of Richardson’s style –or lack thereof.



A. Bouazza

-----------------

* The marriage doesn’t actually take place, but no matter, the reader learns this in Part 3 if s/he has the stamina to follow Behn’s intricate plots.

** I envy your 1st edition, and the music sheet is certainly a nice touch that didn’t fail to pluck at the strings of my musical mind.



From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On Behalf Of Carolyn Kunin
Sent: donderdag 25 april 2013 3:56
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: [NABOKV-L] query re VN, SR & 3 virginals



Dear A. Bouzza,



I am one of the few devotees of the epistolary novel - I have all seven volumes of the adorable Clarissa (the first, unpruned edition - in her original bindings) - but the quote from the Gift has me perplexed:



It [the street] rose at a barely perceptible angle, beginning with a post office and ending with a church, like an epistolary novel. The Gift



How do you understand it?

Carolyn



The post office reference is clear enough. Perhaps he is thinking of that miserable pornographic Pamela, which did end in a wedding?



By the way, the original editions have an engraved sheet of music bound in - presumably music that Clarissa played on the harpsichord - as a sort of early intrusion of reality into a work of fiction. Another Nabokovian element is the contrast between the placid, some called him dull, happily married man that Samuel Richardson was believed to be, and the fiction he wrote which borders on the pornographic and with obvious elements of sadism. Interesting. Perhaps I've answered my own question?



I don't believe the composer of the music has ever been identified and I haven't as yet tried to play it myself. My own harpsichord is a lovely little virginal (hmm) that I built from a Zuckerman kit nearly forty years ago.

_____

From: A. Bouazza < <mailto:mushtary@YAHOO.COM> mushtary@YAHOO.COM>
To: <mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU> NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Tue, April 23, 2013 10:37:50 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] BIRTHDAY: Lessons in Comparative Fiction in VN

The following quotes offer what I would like to call “lessons in comparative fiction” in VN. They not only serve to contrast his techniques from, or to parody, those of his predecessors, but also to instruct the reader in the evolution of fiction writing.

The chronological selection is of course far from exhaustive and owes more to their memorable character than to a rereading of his entire oeuvre.

It is hardly surprising that most of these “lessons” are to be found in Ada, or Ardor.



This pair of slippers…our lovers kept in the lower drawer of the corner chest, for life not infrequently imitates the French novelists. King Queen Knave



She was the daughter of a well-known theatrical manager, a willowy, wispy, fair-haired girl with colorless eyes and pathetic little pimples just above that kind of small nose which English lady novelists call “retroussée” (note the second “e” added for safety). Laughter in the Dark *



It [the street] rose at a barely perceptible angle, beginning with a post office and ending with a church, like an epistolary novel. The Gift



“Eez eet zee verity,” said Beuret, suddenly shifting to English…and speaking it like a Frenchman in an English book, “eez eet zee verity zat…zee disposed chef of the state has been captured together with a couple of other blokes (when the author gets bored by the process –or forgets)… Bend Sinister



At the next turning, the romantic mansion appeared on the gentle eminence of old novels. Ada



[Rattner] seemed as dull as the rain that could be discerned slanting in parallel pencil lines against the darker background of a larch plantation, borrowed, Ada contended, from Mansfield Park.**



Dr. Krolik, our local naturalist, to whom you, Van, have referred, as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don't you, Smith?)



"C'est ma dernière nuit au château," she said softly, and rephrased it in her quaint English, elegiac and stilted, as spoken only in obsolete novels. "'Tis my last night with thee."



"I want to ask you," she said quite distinctly, but also quite beside herself because his ramping palm had now worked its way through at the armpit, and his thumb on a nipplet made her palate tingle: ringing for the maid in Georgian novels…



That library had provided a raised stage for the unforgettable scene of the Burning Barn; it had thrown open its glazed doors; it had promised a long idyll of bibliolatry; it might have become a chapter in one of the old novels on its own shelves; a touch

of parody gave its theme the comic relief of life.



She said: “Speaking as a character in an old novel, it seems so long, long ago, davnïm davno, since I used to play word-games here with Grace and two other lovely girls. 'Insect, incest, nicest.'”



What constricted his heart? Why did he pass his tongue over his thick lips? Empty formulas befitting the solemn novelists of former days who thought they could explain everything.



"I remember the cards," she said, "and the light and the noise of the rain, and your blue cashmere pullover—but nothing else, nothing odd or improper, that came later. Besides, only in French love stories les messieurs hument young ladies."



Only by identifying her with an unwritten, half-written, rewritten difficult book could one hope to render at last what contemporary descriptions of intercourse so seldom convey, because newborn and thus generalized, in the sense of primitive organisms of art as opposed to the personal achievement of great English poets dealing with an evening in the country, a bit of sky in a river, the nostalgia of remote sounds—things utterly beyond the reach of Homer or Horace. The Original of Laura



[S]he would bicycle through the Blue Fountain Forest to a romantic refuge where a sparkle of broken glass or a lace-edged rag on the moss were the only signs of an earlier period of literature.



----------------------------

*A quick search through 19th and early 20th century fiction and magazines shows that male novelists were as much guilty of writing “retroussée” as lady novelists - if not more so: “He moved just a trifle, then, so that he could see more of her face; how her extraordinarily long lashes swept her cheek, and her adorable nose, which was ever so slightly retroussée.” Francis Barton Fox, The Heart of Arethusa (1918) chapter XXII.

**The name Rattner brings to mind Julius Ratner, a would-be novelist in Wyndham Lewis’s The Apes of God (1930), “a dreadful dull and flat thing,” as described by VN in his letter of July 23, 1944 to Edmund Wilson apropos his dream of Khodasevich and Lewis and Wilson as a hybrid of Churchill and himself.



A. Bouazza


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