NABOKV-L post 0021818, Sat, 16 Jul 2011 14:41:54 -0300

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[NABOKOV-L] Ancient sightings
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While I was looking for where had Georg Steiner mentioned Nabokov's poem, dedicated to Pushkin (No Passion Spent, p.201) I noticed how often Nabokov appeared in three indexes - & there might be more in Steiner's "After Babel" and in his book on Dostoevsky!
I informed the Nab-L of some of these quotes or references. I decided to bring them up again now, hoping that some of them are new to the participants.

Language and Silence, 1967.
p.94/95/96 (Pelican Book)
"The development in Dostoyevsky, Proust and Mann of the correlations between nervous infirmity, the psychopathology of the organism, and a special erotic vulnerability, is probably new. Sade and Sacher-Masoch codified, found a dramatic syntax for, areas of arousal previously diffuse or less explicitly realized. In Lolita there is a genuine enrichment of our common stock of temptations. It is as if Vladimir Nabokov had brought into our field of vision what lay at the far edge ( in Balzac's La Rabouilleuse, for example) or what had been kept carefully implausible through disproportion (Alice in Wonderland). But such annexations of insight are rare. // The plain truth is that in literary erotica as well as in the great mass of 'dirty books,' the same stimuli, the same contortions and fantasies, occur over and over with unutterable monotony... Mr. Maurice Girodias would riposte that this in not the issue, that the interminable succession of fornications, flagellations, onanisms, masochistic fantasies and homosexual punch-ups which fill his Olympia Reader are inseparable from its literary excellence...precisely because the writer has had to complete the campaign of liberation initiated by Freud, because he has to overcome the verbal taboos, the hypocrisies of imagination in which former generations laboured when alluding to the most vital, complex part of man's being.// Moreover, two novels on his list are classics, books whose genius he recognized and with which his own name will remain proudly linked: Lolita and The Ginger Man. It is a piece of bleak irony - beautifully appropriate to the entire 'dirty book' industry - that a subsequent disagreement with Vladimir Nabokov now prevents Girodias from including anything of Lolita in his anthology.To all who fitst met Humbert Humbert in The Traveller's Companion series, a green cover and the Olympia Press's somewhat mannered typography will remain a part of one of the high moments of contemporary literature.

Real Presences, 1989.
Faber and Faber,p.195
"It takes uncanny strength and abstention from re-cognition, from imiplicit re-ference, to read the world and not the text of the world as it has been previously encoded for us (the sciences know of this bind). The exceptional artist or thinker reads being anews. We Sunday-walkers come in the wake of Rousseau. There are nymphets at our street corners since Nabokov's Lolita. Nor is this scripting and pre-figuration by the imaginary a dominant fact on only those civilizations we regard as technically literate. The hold of oral narrative, of inherited fiction over so-called 'primitive' or illiterate societies is even stronger. Sucho societies can almost be defined as communities of authorized remembrance of ritual pre-scription. Because we are language and image animals, and because the inception and transmission of the fictive (the mythical) is organic to language, much, perhaps the major portion, of our personal and social existence is already bespoken. And those who speak us are the poet.// 'It is the singer' , antrhopologists would say. Amd we know of no cultures where the poet and the singer are not, at the outset, the same. Intuitively, the son is held to have come first..."

No Passion Spent, 1996.
Faber and Faber
p.97: " Most thought-provoking, however, is the ample footnote on the lines immediately following. How, asks Pope, is one to excuse 'the extravagant Fiction of a Horse speaking? (Shades of Swift). Pope invokes "Fable, Tradition and History' , the latter in the person of Livy...Then comes Pope's trump card: Balaam's eloquent ass. With this biblical validation, the foot-note opens on universality: Homer inhabited an 'Age of Wonders' in which good taste and sensibility were receptive of the miraculous. In voice and pedantry, this note is Nabokovian. But the issue is capital. The tensed energies of Pope's Homer result from a constant conflict between the archaic matter of the epic, fable and the new criteria of Cartesian-Newtonian rationality, between the semantics of myth and language, whose ideals are those of logic in the Enlightenment."

p.152: "Who read, who could read what and when? What excerpts, reviews, citations and translations of the German idealists were actually available to Coleridge? How much did Dostoevsky actually know of Dickens or Balzac? How long - the question busied Nabokov in his magisterial, querulous edition of Eugene Onegin - did it take for French translations-imitations of Byron to reach the Caucasus? Had Shakespeare any acquaintance with the opening books of Chapman's Homer when he composed Troilus and Cressida?

p.201: "But this effect can occur also when the original is lamed by the mere fact that the translator is too high a master in his own right, that his version is too sovereign ( I have called this paradoxical betrayal 'transfiguration')... / In the great majority of cases, of course, tha damage done is that of diminution....One thinks of the long, lamentable history of successive 'translations' into English and American English of Dante or Goethe. Nabokov's jingle is a mordant summation:
What is translation? On a platter
The poet's pale and glaring head.
A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,
And profanation of the dead. "

p.222 "Equally, if not more significant, are the elements which Nabokov cites in his leviathan commentary; the formal parallels to Pushkin's Rusland and Ludmilla, the analogy between the frail baridge and the small weave of birch withes which were place under a maiden's pillow as an instrument of divination..."

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