Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026067, Tue, 10 Mar 2015 19:48:03 -0300

ENC: [NABOKV-L] Hurtling through Time and memory - correction
Former postings: . "hurtling through time and memory", after quoting
[Nabokov] in TT in which time [the future] becomes "a specter of thought" [
] I chose a paragraph from "The Art of Literature and Common Sense": "The
inspiration of genius adds a third ingredient; it is the past, the present
and the future (your book) that come together in a sudden flash; thus the
entire cicle of time is perceived, which is another way of saying that time
ceases to exist. It is a combined sensation of having the whole universe
entering you and of yourself wholly dissolving in the universe surrounding
you. It is the prison wall of the ego suddenly crumbling away with the
nonego rushing in from the outside to save the prisoner - who is already
dancing in the open." [ ] In 'The Art of Literature and Commonsense' ,
according to V.Alexandrov, Nabokov states that "time and sequence cannot
exist in the author's mind because no time element and no space element had
ruled the initial vision" that constitutes the germ of the future work
(pp.379-80).Thus, although the reader may have to confront a temporal
dimension when reading a novel, the author does not when it is first born in
his mind."

Present posting (Jansy Mello) - The third ingredient of inspiration, the
future ("your book", a "figure of style.a specter of thought"), still
baffles me when I place these assertions side by side. The writer's
atemporal epiphany would also ( if I follow Alexandrov and his quote from
Nabokov) be non-spacial, despite VN's analogy with the instantaneous vision
that painting affords him. Should I insist to consider (and I do) the visual
element, the personal image I conjure up leads me to a sort of globalized or
spherical "idea."

When he begins to write his book, the author must return to mortal time,
together with his characters (perhaps the latter is not obligatory) and
therefore they need to inhabit a present, with or without information about
or explicit links with the past and future, although they'll be inscribed in
all three . Although the writer cannot know his own future (except that he
will die someday), inspiration has provided him with a complete landscape
and story for the people he invents. His creations are inserted in a
deterministic plot and, on top of everything else, the writer already knows
their future!

And what is this future for Nabokov? Does it differ significantly from one
novel to another?

A great many of his main characters meet death in the end. Pnin doesn't, and
he reappears as a "regular martinet" in "Pale Fire". But the novel "Pnin"
didn't start with this inspirational vision. John Shade dies but his poetry
lives on in "Ada" while undergoing some kind of metamorphosis or distortion
(the "meta"play with Martin Gardner's quote in "Ambidextrous universe" or
Ada's translations). Kinbote's death appears as an information that is
independent of the novel. "Ada or Ardor" has its characters die of old age
("One can even surmise that if our time-racked, flat-lying couple ever
intended to die they would die, as it were, into the finished book, into
Eden or Hades, into the prose of the book or the poetry of its blurb.")
forming something circular (like in the sentence about "my end was my
beginning.") In TT the "otherworld" pulls the condemned Person.
The most interesting deaths may have been those of Lolita and Humbert
Humbert, since they are the condition demanded by HH to have his
"confessions" published as a book in which they are very actively alive. The
information that they are dead is not turned into a part of their tragedy.

I had never before considered the weight of this given deterministic vision
(characters are "galley slaves," they don't alter the narrative by an act of
fictional "free will") in relation to the kind of future I'd expect to meet
at the close of a Nabokov novel.The only exception I can bring to my mind as
to what concerns a character's dying happens in "Bend Sinister," when the
author intervenes in Krug's tragic destiny and then goes back to his study
and hears a moth "twang" against the window. Here it's no longer "the
future", it's Krug's death that is "a question of style".

However, when we bring together this closing episode with the moth, in "BS,"
and the bumblebee rebounding in "Speak, Memory," the sense of timelessness
and immutability of the writer's original inspiration is recovered.*

Bend Sinister: "As I had thought, a big moth was clinging with furry feet to
the netting, on the night's side; its marbled wings kept vibrating, its eyes
glowed like two miniature coals. I had just time to make out its streamlined
brownish-pink body and a twinned spot of colour; and then it let go and
swung back into the warm damp darkness.

Well, that was all. The various parts of my comparative paradise - the
bedside lamp, the sleeping tablets, the glass of milk - looked with perfect
submission into my eyes. I knew that the immortality I had conferred on the
poor fellow was a slippery sophism, a play upon words. But the very last lap
of his life had been happy and it had been proven to him that death was but
a question of style. Some tower clock which I could never exactly locate,
which, in fact, I never heard in the daytime, struck twice, then hesitated
and was left behind by the smooth fast silence that continued to stream
through the veins of my aching temples; a question of rhythm."


*Speak, Memory:" I see again my schoolroom in Vyra, the blue roses of the
wallpaper, the open window. Its reflection fills the oval mirror above the
leathern couch where my uncle sits, gloating over a tattered book. A sense
of security, of well-being, of summer warmth pervades my memory. That robust
reality makes a ghost of the present. The mirror brims with brightness; a
bumblebee has entered the room and bumps against the ceiling. Everything is
as it should be, nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die."

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