Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0018106, Tue, 31 Mar 2009 10:38:08 -0400

Re: the meaning of preterist
I think Shade uses preterist in the sense of "one whose chief interest or
pleasure is in the past." This is the first definition in Webster's 2nd. I
connect this sentiment with the following lines where he vows "never to
forget" and his anxiety that "we die every day; oblivion thrives . . . on
blood-ripe lives." I think people often miss the inference here: that death
occurs in life. Going back to Canto Two we find, just after a discussion of
Aunt Maud's decline,

What moment in the gradual decay
Does resurrection choose? What year? What day?
Who has the stopwatch? Who rewinds the tape?
Are some less lucky, or do all escape?
A syllogism: other men die; but I
Am not another; therefore I'll not die.

It seems to me that Shade is here asserting that one can be resurrected
before physical death, just as one can die before the body dies. Notice
that he doesn't ask, as we might expect, what moment Death chooses; rather
he asks when, during the process of decay-in-life, might one "escape"?
Escape into what? And what would it mean to be "less lucky"? The syllogism,
I believe, is meant to cleverly suggest that when Shade dies ("But Doctor, I
was dead!" "Just half a shade.") at the Crashaw Club he becomes another.
(Other men die; "I was dead"; therefore I became another.) I don't think
Shade realizes all of the implications himself, but VN wants us to sort them
out. But perhaps I'm wrong. If so, I'd be interested to hear what others
think Shade means in lines 209-212.

Jansy, you said that you thought VN read Freud in the German. I was under
the impression VN intentionally refused to learn German while living in


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