NABOKV-L post 0018583, Wed, 16 Sep 2009 13:56:48 -0300

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Clarice Lispector and Nabokov
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JM: Off-List, S.K-B inquired if there is anything in common between the writings of Ukraine-born Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector and Nabokov, concerning "the mysteries of time" and "Ada" (for example).
My first impulse was to answer "no" but I was reminded of Lispector's short-story "The Egg" in "The Foreign Legion", published in 1992, with a translation of Giovanni Pontano. My association might have arisen due to Pavel G. Somov's "non-discursive" defense using "Transparent Things" and his quotes, which may be compared with Lispector's rendering about her "egg experience."*

VN in TT: 1. "When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!
Man-made objects, or natural ones, inert in themselves but much used by careless life...are particularly difficult to keep in surface focus: novices fall through the surface, humming happily to themselves, and are soon reveling with childish abandon in the story of this stone, of that heath...A thin veneer of immediate reality is spread over natural and artificial matter, and whoever wishes to remain in the now, with the now, on the now, should please not break its tension film. Otherwise the inexperienced miracle-worker will find himself no longer walking on water but descending upright among staring fish... "

2. " ...a pencil....It was not a hexagonal beauty of Virginia juniper or African cedar...Now comes the act of attention. In his shop, and long before that at the village school, the pencil has been worn down... A knife and a brass sharpener have thoroughly worked upon it and if it were necessary we could trace the complicated fate of the shavings...now reduced to atoms of dust whose wide, wide dispersal is panic catching its breath but one should be above it, one gets used to it fairly soon (there are worse terrors)...Going back a number of seasons (not as far, though, as Shakespeare's birth year ...) and then picking up the thing's story again in the "now" direction, we see graphite...which looks as if it retained the shape of an earthworm's digestive tract (but watch, watch, do not be deflected!)...Now let us not lose our precious bit of lead while we prepare the wood. Here's the tree! This particular pine! ...We recognize its presence in the log...We recognize that presence by something that is perfectly clear to us but nameless, and as impossible to describe as a smile to somebody who has never seen smiling eyes. Thus the entire little drama, from crystallized carbon and felled pine to this humble implement, to this transparent thing, unfolds in a twinkle. Alas, the solid pencil itself as fingered briefly by Hugh Person still somehow eludes us! But he won't, oh no."

C.Lispector in The Egg( transl.G.Pontano): "I take in the egg at a single glance. I immediately perceive that I cannot be seeing an egg...To see an egg never remains in the present. No sooner do I see an egg than I have seen an egg for the last three thousand years. The very instant an egg is seen, it is the memory of an egg - the only person to see the egg is someone who has already seen it. - Upon seeing the egg, it is already too late: an egg seen is an egg lost... To see the egg is the promise of being able to see the egg one day [...] The egg has no itself. Individually, it does not exist [...] Egg, to you I dedicate the beginning of time."

And yet, when Nabokov's narrator describes man-made objects, or natural ones, he is addressing a "novice". He must be an "expert", then and, as an expert, he states: "the solid pencil itself as fingered briefly by Hugh Person still somehow eludes us! But he won't, oh no."
For me this is the important part! It is something not shared with Lispector. Not with Zen-Buddhism either. Here the narrator describes and creates a Hugh Person who, in contrast to elusive artifacts or natural things, will not elude him and, hopefully, will not deceive the reader.
I understand that Nabokov is now presenting us his perspective about a fictional work, something that is fully (and discursively!) disclosed by the very act of writing and about which the author is in full control.
Would "opacity" be a useful word to apply to this perspective?
...........................................................................................................................

* - Nabokov's advice to novices in "TransparentThings" (cf. http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-living/2009/09/the-thin-ice-of-presence/) is applied by Pavel G. Somov to demonstrate that "Nabokov...whose own style is so ingeniously laden with association-rich detail, here, both de-constructs his own style and defines Zen: 'A thin veneer of immediate reality is spread over natural and artificial matter, and whoever wishes to remain in the now,with the now, on the now, should please not break its tension film'....Nabokov's advice is straight from Buddhism: to stay in the moment,we must somehow avoid weighing down "what is" with our pre-conceived notionsof "what it means."...Meaning is an artifact of the Past, not the actual fact of the Present... Language constructs perception: first, the word, then, the perceived reality...But in reality, we are all imprisoned in our "so-called" realities of habitual interpretation. Buddhism, particularly, Zen Buddhism, offers away out of this prison: non-discursive thought."



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