Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027489, Tue, 29 Aug 2017 15:34:26 -0700

Re: Pale Fire and the Tri-partite Man
I just realized that my reply to Mathew Roth was cut off. I am re-posting the latter half of it. I have discovered that this seems to happen with the listserve. Am I doing something wrong, or any suggestions?

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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