NABOKV-L post 0026077, Sun, 15 Mar 2015 11:38:45 -0300

Van Bock's "artist's studio" and redemption?

Former posting: <> [ ] In an interview published
in 1973, Nabokov was asked how a reader should experience the end of one of
his novels. His answer shows that the tableau-vivant idea from thirty-five
years before had, at the very least, tapped a deep root in Nabokov's
conception of novelistic structure. [ ] And it is the off-kilter
reflexivity of Velasquez's masterpiece even more than Van Eyck's seminal
antecedent that Nabokov's "a picture in a picture" particularly describes:
"Velázquez," his paint brush poised, sizes us up as if we were the royal
couple reflected dimly in the mirror behind him which he is in the process
of painting onto the very canvas we are looking at. To wonder at this
topology is indeed to become "suspended." [ ] Could Nabokov in 1973 have
been pointing to the overlooked final pose of Laughter in the
Dark?––revisiting, as it were, the scene of the crime? Might he have been
confessing, as with the Steinberg and Soglow cartoons, something crucial
about the painter of Albinus's vengeful Dutch Landscape? [ JM ] a finished
book is, for him, like a finished painting: distant, visually complete,
glowing, atemporal and “redemptive”(endorsing Sebald’s words).The 1966 Van
Bock quote, though, adds another element. The finished book is “distant” for
its author but his “studio and style” of composing it are as much a part of
the image than the content of the picture inside the picture.

Present posting: David Brodie’s intent is related to what did VN have to
say about how a reader could experience the end of his novels, to show that
in Laughter in the Dark they’d find a “final pose” resulting from a “tableau
vivant”. In that case, V.Nabokov’s novel would be finished, closed within
the covers of the published book, but as complete and timeless as a painting
[this is how I read D.Brodie].*

However, somewhere, V.N stated that his novels are not about how the
characters interact, but how author and reader engage themselves in the
process (and embrace on top of a mountain etc etc ). This leads me also to
Ada’s lines on the infinite moves possible when there are two chessboards
and two minds playing the infinite variations obtainable in games with
identical openings and ends, when I consider that, for me, VN’s novels are
not closed but permanently open to interpretations by its various readers at
various times. For Nabokov every novel might be both closed like a
completed painting and, also, open because readers exist that give life to
the painting they wander in and over it, as in a story that culminates in a
“tableau vivant”.

Besides, there’s the “metafictional” level to consider: how the reader’s
minds interact with VN’s purposes and fantasies in response to his style
(the style is the man?) and authorial interventions. In this case, the
painting by Velazquez is an apt figuration for the “artist’s studio by Van
Bock” because the plot is a painting inside the painting confronting the
viewer, who must then interact with the complete scene, inside and out.


* - Btw: I hope Nablers have seen S. Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with
George. (George Seurat’s painting).

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :