NABOKV-L post 0026026, Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:52:21 -0200

Hurtling through Time and memory: a query.

I’ve been puzzling over the narrator’s assertions, in TT, that “the future
is but a figure of speech, a specter of thought,” by contrasting them with
V.Nabokov’s ideas on how to witness or engender a set of “future
recollections” while isolating them from the processes of creating literary
“future recollections.”*

“Here's the person I want. Hullo, person! Doesn't hear me.

Perhaps if the future existed, concretely and individually, as something
that could be discerned by a better brain, the past would not be so
seductive: its demands would be balanced by those of the future. Persons
might then straddle the middle stretch of the seesaw when considering this
or that object. It might be fun.

But the future has no such reality (as the pictured past and the perceived
present possess); the future is but a figure of speech, a specter of

Hullo, person! What's the matter, don't pull me. I'm not bothering him. Oh,
all right. Hullo, person . . . (last time, in a very small voice).”
(V.Nabokov, Transparent Things)

In a later chapter in TT it becomes clear that this “rejected” future refers
to the order of causality and to prosaic reality: “Direct interference in a
person's life does not enter our scope of activity, nor, on the other,
tralatitiously speaking, hand, is his destiny a chain of predeterminate
links: some 'future' events may be linked to others, O.K., but all are
chimeric, and every cause-and-effect sequence is always a hit-and-miss
affair, even if the lunette has actually closed around your neck, and the
cretinous crowd holds its breath.” (V.Nabokov Transparent Things,1972, Ch.

Another favorite quote (that I found used in various sites about economy,
art, modernism, architecture and ballet performances often without
indications of its source, sometimes even, without mentioning the author’s
name), departs from the same “utilitarian” perspective: “ ‘The future’,
writes Nabokov, ‘is but the obsolete in reverse.’ [ ] As he put it in
Ada(1969), a novel seeded with wry bits of counterfactual history, ‘The
present is only the top of the past, and the future does not exist.’”
<> **

In a different context, would I be wrong by assuming that competent
chess-players can discern “the future”? Or that in a “suimate” (as explained
in “The Defense”, or in creating other kinds of chess problems), and if the
player is not identified with either blacks or whites, his victory
implicates his having gained control of his envisioned future and over his
“other”? ***

What set me on this track originally derives from another VN sentence but
this specific quote remains untraceable through internet short-cuts.

Help is welcome! I’m searching for the novel in which VN observes that it is
different to recollect the past by departing from a present situation and by
projecting oneself in a future and then looking backwards to an imagined
‘past’ that has engulfed the present. The closest I came to it was through
S.E Sweeney’s article “Playing Nabokov” when she writes: “The idea
consisted of parodizing a biographic approach projected, as it were, into
the future and thus transforming the very specious present into a kind of
paralyzed past as perceived by a doddering memoirist who recalls, through a
helpless haze, his acquaintance with a great writer when both were young.
For instance either Lidia or I (it was a mater of chance inspiration) might
say, on the terrace after supper: ‘The writer liked to go out on the terrace
after supper’…” (248) …Brian Boyd’s biography confirms that Nabokov did
indeed play such a game, in imitation of Pushkin’s biographers, with Lidia
Tokmakov (Russian 147). The passage in Speak, Memory implies that they each
took the role of memoirist; according to an unpublished chapter of
Conclusive Evidence, however, Nabokov alone narrated his “own movements or
words in the reminiscent, slightly mincing manner [she] might be supposed to
develop many years later when writing her memoirs” (quoted in Boyd,Russian
147). In other words, he described himself in the third person by
appropriating her voice. <> Cycnos | Volume 10 n°1 NABOKOV :
Autobiography, Biography and Fiction – Playing Nabokov by Susan Elizabeth

However, it’s more likely that it is to be found in LATH…#


* - “His answer to eternal decay is to make just such an exact record of
even ordinary everyday trifles in order that the sense of life they
represent should be available to those who live on after us: ‘here lies the
sense of literary creation: to portray ordinary objects as they will be
reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times’.” (p.94). “To play further
with the connections between time, memory, and identity, he goes on to
describe the pub in which he and his companion are sitting. He notices the
publican’s son who he thinks ‘will remember the billiard table and…my empty
right sleeve and scarred face’ which he then designates as ‘somebody’s
future recollection’ (p.98) – neatly projecting his own identity and the
boy’s memory into an imagined future. Even though he was wrong about Berlin
streetcars and could be wrong about the boy’s future memory, the idea is a
very deft encapsulation of Nabokov’s early speculations on time, memory, and
evanescence – but most importantly of all it reveals his confidence in the
power of literary creation to transcend all three.”© Roy Johnson 2005

“Like an ordinary ‘object’ that ‘will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of
future times,’ as per the above-quoted ideal of the narrator’s poetic, the
man with the scarred face will live on in the future memory of a child. This
form of transcendence, although here in the form of enclosure in a more
conventional bearer of memory, is likewise the subject matter of Nabokov’s
1927 poem …“Snimok’/’The Snapshot’…” (p.262)[ “]’Torpid Smoke’ dramatizes a
young poet’s progressive submission to poetic inspiration in a story which
foregrounds such themes as cosmic synchronization, the trance of
inspiration, the poet’s loving attention to the details of being, and the
conscious registration of future memories, while simultaneously deploying
such Nabokovian motifs of containment and transition as the writer’s study
and desk at dusk and, especially, the liminal, transformative possibility
latent in the doorways placed throughout the narrative…”(263) “The linkage
of memory and poetry is noteworthy.[ ]Poetry, it is suggested, has its
source in memories from life, but also, in a deeper sense, the the memory of
an original source of consciousness antecedent to life and, presumably,
subsequent to death (292) I seem to remember my future works, although I
don’t even know what they will be about. I’ll recall them completely and
write them’” (294) Vladimir Nabokov: Poetry and the Lyric Voice by Paul D.
Morris.) (btw:VN’s striving towards a “conscious registration of future
memories,” as mentioned above by Morris, or by T. Lyaskovets below, must be
distinct from Proust’s instants of epiphany because these arise from the
artist’s “involuntary memory”)

“In her article "Time, Photography, and Optical Technology in Nabokov's
Speak, Memory" Tetyana Lyaskovets discusses how Vladimir Nabokov narrates
time in his autobiography by invoking photography and optical instruments.
Photography and optical technology function in Speak, Memory as metaphors
and probe the limits of chronological time. Nabokov portrays time as
personal and reversible time that collapses the past and the present and
allows one to glimpse the future. Because this temporal collapse is not
possible physically but, as Nabokov believes, can be achieved through one's
will, he engages optical technologies which provide a spatial form for his
project to re-enter his past. Optical technologies become a source of both
imagery and narrative structure when Nabokov writes about creating,
enlarging, and bringing images closer to the viewer in order to diminish
spatial and temporal distances between observer and object. Lyaskovets
argues that Nabokov's autobiography narrated through optical metaphors
allows us to engage in a response to our own past (abstract "Time,
Photography, and Optical Technology in Nabokov's Speak, Memory." CLCWeb:
Comparative Literature and Culture 16.3 ) Lyaskovets, Tetyana. (2014):

“By working these somber elements into a visual and emotional harmony, and
then framing the scene as a recollection, Grisha ensures that he will recall
it in the future just as he will recall more forcefully the image of his
dead mother that has become a part of that harmony. Recognizing his own
extended existence through the creation of a future memory, Grisha has
himself "taken shape" along with the scene in his mind. The perceptual
continuity that links the present moment with both past and future memories
carries with it a notion of self-sameness. Deeper than this theoretical
comprehension of identity, however, is his existential affirmation of being
in the present instant."[ ] The "he" of "Torpid Smoke," for example, not
only becomes "I" with the onset of a future memory of his father, but
recreates his epiphany so potently that the past tense yields to the
present."[ ] "she appeared as a delicately etched memory come alive: his
prescience had created the conditions for a kind of future memory."
&context=sttcl (Studies in 20th Century Literature Volume 11 | Issue 2
Article 7 1-1-1987 Practicing Nostalgia: Time and Memory in Nabokov 's Early
Russian Fiction Philip Sicker Fordham University.)

"W.G. Sebald learned much from Nabokov, who is a ghostly presence in The
Emigrants. In "Dream Textures: A Brief Note on Nabokov," collected in Campo
Santo, Sebald writes: "Nabokov also knew, better than most of his fellow
writers, that the desire to suspend time can prove its worth only in the
most precise re-evocation of things long overtaken by oblivion. The pattern
on the bathroom floor at Vyra, the white steam rising above the tub at which
the boy looks dreamily from his seat in the dimly lit lavatory, the curve of
the doorframe on which he leans his forehead—suddenly, with a few
well-chosen words, the whole cosmos of childhood is conjured up before our
eyes." Anecdotal Evidence-A blog about the intersection of books and life.

“In this extended sense, when Vladimir Nabokov’s protagonist, the despicable
litterateur and murderer and textually fabricated narrator of Lolita,
Humbert Humbert, evokes aurochs and angels and the immortal image or lyrical
butterfly net in his final elegiac epitaph to his love for the equally
textually fabricated Dolores Haze, as cited in the epigraph at the head of
his chapter, he also quite deliberately calls attention to the fact that
what is to be human is inextricably bound up with what can be said to be
other than the human and more pointedly to emerge from the human, not merely
in the temporality of biological sequence, of sex and death and progeny, but
through the fabricated eternity of art, invention and inscription, and the
instruments that enable them. Accordingly, if Nabokov expresses this
peculiarly human yearning for a quite possibly brief and thus faux
immortality through the inscriptive powers of the literary event, he is also
making a case, as the allusion to aurochs makes perfectly clear, for forms
of inscription beyond this relatively recent invention, with all the
aesthetic and evaluative impedimenta that is has accumulated in modernity.
He is making a case for a species of human action or expression, for what
seems to be an aesthetic imperative, that may well take the form of what
Aristotle called poeisis, but which is equally bound up with the more
functional realm of techne, both of which are determined and conditioned as
human making primarily by their relationship to time.” Beyond Human: From
Animality to Transhumanism. Ed.Charlie Blake, Claire Molloy, Steven
Shakespeare, 2012 (Cf. Inhuman Geometry: Aurochs , Angels and the Refuge of
Art. Charlie Blake, ch.10,p.211).

**- Cf. also: “In Lance (1952), a short story about time and space travel,
Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “the future is but the obsolete in reverse,”
suggesting that the impulse to hurtle into the future is always, already,
shadowed by its own imminent obsolescence, highlighting our complicated
relationship with preservation and the passage of time.”

***a. “Maurice Couturier masterfully analyzed the inner logic of Nabokov’s
poetics as a bid for dominance in the fame of narrative interaction. Writing
is compared by Nabokov to the devising of chess problems[ ] As in chess
problems, Couturier notes, the conflict in creative writing is not played
between the black and white pieces, but between the author and the readers.”
(273) Hindsight and Intertextuality, José A. Garcia Landa.

b. “Luzhin makes a dimensional transition when he commits suicide by jumping
out of a frosted bathroom window. Because much of Luzhin's life is presented
in terms of chess, it may be appropriate to consider this final "move" in
the context of the same imagery. If we associate the motion of chessmen
across a board with two-dimensionality, then Luzhin's suicide is dimensional
insofar as it takes him into the "white square" of the window. As in "Pale
Fire," this physical motion into a surface is accompanied by a metaphysical
transition (life into death). A similar image of entering a chessboard may
also play a role later in Pale Fire. According to one commentator, In Pale
Fire, King Alfin's old flame Iris Acht (d. 1888), may be seen as translating
to Iris Eight, i.e., i8 (or eye-8), in chess notation referring to a square
just off the 8x8 board (which only goes up to h8); her irisated photograph
hangs above the trapdoor escape 101 Shade associates himself with the
waxwing because he has, similarly, crossed the boundary between life and the
metaphysical world (through his art).142 that King Charles/Kinbote ("a
king-in-the-corner waiter of the solus rex type" 102) uses to evade capture.
This passage was first discovered whilst his guardians were diverted by A
Game of Chess, this being the name of the second part of Eliot's The Waste
Land parodied by Shade in the poem "Pale Fire" (Haa05) If this network of
associations is valid, then Kinbote makes a dimensional move that amounts to
motion into a chessboard—much as Luzhin does—when he escapes from his
captors through a secret passage. Kinbote's motion is furthermore connected
to a transition that is, if not metaphysical, at least associated with a
dramatic transition to a new life. 103 Motion into a flat image is also
addressed in the novel Glory. As a child, its protagonist, Martin, is told a
fairy tale by his mother in which a boy enters into a picture of a forest
that hangs on his wall (GL 4-5).” p.104 Between Us and Artistic
Appreciation: Nabokov and the Problem of Distortion,2011. James M Tonn.

# - These lines might have been referred to by Nora Scholz (“…essence has
been revealed to me. Umkreisungen des Nondualen im Prosawerk von Vladimir
Nabokov”,Frank and Timme, 2014.). Unfortunately I have only a copy of her
book in its original German and I’ve been hopelessly examining it for

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