Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027477, Thu, 24 Aug 2017 15:04:09 -0700

Re: Pale Fire and the Tri-partite Man
Mathew Roth, Thank you so much for your encouragement! I have read with interest your and Tiffany DeRewal's paper on "John Shade's Duplicate Selves" so I know you have been exploring the "tri-part" being that is S/K/G. I feel that the Jungian trope encompasses that in a way that explains the relationship of the characters without a lot of twisting of who's really who. It also helps explain other characters (maybe all), especially Sybil and Disa, as anima figures.

As for why Nabokov would choose to use Jung as a major subtext: I don't think, given the paucity of his remarks on the man, anything definitive can be proved. There is no "conclusive evidence" - by the way I also try to demonstrate that his revised biography,"Speak Memory" was an attempt to drop more clues to PF. I believe he was disappointed that so few people picked up on the plethora of tropes and references in PF, but he still did not want to give it all away so he peppered SM with more "evidence".

I do believe I have a preponderance of evidence for Jung that would hopefully be enough to sway. Briefly, the "why" can be stated succinctly here:

“What is your position in the world of letters?"
"Jolly good view from up here.” (Strong Opinions, P181)

Pale Fire is a grand parade of parody, and pastiche of poetic allusions and literary leg-pulling. I believe PF is an answer to his critics about plagiarism (self and otherwise). It is a demonstration of his superior genius. His mission statement is given by ol' Uncle Conmal:

"I am not slave! Let be my critic slave
I cannot be. And Shakespeare would not want thus.
Let drawing students copy the acanthus
I work with Master on the architrave!"

Demonstrating that Nabokov was a genius with a monumental ego is well known and certainly not enough. I try to avoid any armchair psychoanalysis.

Actually, I think the lack of direct attacks on Jung may help support my theory. He absolutely excoriates Freud and psychoanalysis; he could easily have done the same with Jung, whose star was at its zenith at the time. My contention, which I hope I demonstrate convincingly, is that Nabokov shared a lot of similarities, both personal and especially metaphysical with Jung. Both men were highly creative while intellectually rigorous. Jung championed the individual and the creative life. They were both natural mystics. Jung wrote beautifully. I can only surmise, ultimately, that there was some grudging respect. It would be hard for him to give that outright, as he was already known for his hatred of psychoanalysis. This, of course, is conjecture.

My guess is that the area Nabokov would NOT like, would be Jung's concept of the collective unconscious. If there is one thing a lonely genius would hate more than anything, would be to be shown that he is not unique. I have a feeling that he felt similarly to Joseph Campbell, whose work based on Jung was very popular at the time. As I've shown already, the basic "Hero's Journey" is Kinbote's story - clearly a send-up. Being, as it is, a universal story, it is a ready-made structure for PF - a way to hold together all the other tropes, the warp and weft of the "underside of the weave." I have not found any references to N mentioning Joseph Campbell, either, but as a scholar on Joyce I would bet N read him, and the reference to Kinbote's "boring" and lame tutor would suggest he did not care for him.

Another possibility is that he wanted to use the most unlikely source that anyone would expect.

The final scene becomes not just parody, but outright burlesque, as though he is camping "Oh dearie me, whatever will I do now that I am without my higher and lower powers!". Still, he recognizes that he has not overcome his demons, and that there will be an even bigger price to pay eventually.

Again, thank you for your encouragement. I very much welcome your thoughts and critique.

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