NABOKV-L post 0018653, Sat, 10 Oct 2009 05:16:13 -0300

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Re: Ada's first lines; Pontius
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Brian Boyd: May I just note that Jansy could have answered these questions (and much, much, more) by checking AdaOline (http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/) and clicking on Part 1 Chapter 1 and the Tolstoy references in the first paragraph?

JM: Sure, but this leaves out the pleasure of non-strictly Nabokov-related surprises which always appear during a discussion in the N-List.
Besides (a special failing of mine in our technological age), I prefer to read and underline your notes as they've been coming out, in print, in "The Nabokovian."


Fran Assa: please explain your comment about Gone with the Wind: what makes you think he specifically was parodying that book in "Lolita" ?
Your comment: "Nabokov's playing with one of the structuring principles of so many melodramatic works: the principal of oppositional characters: good girl/ bad girl; Kitty and Anna Karenina; Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedly from Vanity Fair; Scarlett O'hara and Melanie Wilkes in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With Wind, the movie of which Nabokov parodied in Lolita. " [EDNOTE. surely Jansy is referring to the description of Southern plantations in Technicolor, "with the devoted Negress shaking her head on the upper landing" (as I remember it) that appears in Humbert's account of the American sights that he and Dolores see. -- SES.]

JM: I wish the comment had been written by me, but it's Aisenberg's.



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Inspite of being of the opinion that, in fact, in RLSK "the composition is shaped around certain painful, undeniable, and at times humiliating autobiographical experiences," [Dale Peterson, "Knight's Move: Nabokov, Shklovsky and the Afterlife of Sirin," NS,11 (25-35)], I also agree that "Vs research project is that his book and life increasingly repeat the patterns and perceptions of Sebastian's books and life" (31) with "the curiously intechangeable burden of recorded experience in Sebastian's fiction and V's autobiographical narrative about the "real life" of his half-brother [...] carrying "coded allusions to Nabokov's life and Sirin's writings."(34), i.e that "RLSK performs the trick of side-stepping the end of a Russian literary career by translating Sirin into a 'laughingly alive' afterlife in the 'otherworld' of English prose"(xii), as elegantly argued in D.Peterson's article.

The intriguing element for me lies in that "In Nabokov's first appearance before English readers, those in the know cannot help but see refracted images of his own life: his much-regretted inattention to his younger sibling, Sergei..."(28-29). After all, the 1939/40 novel appeared around the time when Nabokov emigrated to the US and, from the spirit of VN's letters to Wilson, and N's chapter 14 in "Speak, Memory," I cannot discern this kind of regret as already operative in Nabokov.
From the ammount of scholarly references to VN's guilt-feelings towards Sergei having left their mark in RLSK, my misgivings must be totally unfounded!*

When D.Peterson described in RLSK the "larger leitmotif of abandonment"(28), I returned to my impression of "sibling rivalry" and to VN's hypothetical resentment when, not yet aged one, his mother "abandoned him" to produce another baby, Sergei, whom he tried to abandon in his turn.
Judging from VN's autobiography it is hard for me to realize how the tragedies of WWWII and Nabokov's emigration to America severed his real-life contacts with all his other siblings**.


*The most convincing argument against my misgivings comes from VN's lines in SM, about the mere recognition of such a want can neither replace nor redeem. It seems that this wording distantly echoes the spirit of a former sentence in RLSK: "I cannot even copy his manner because the manner of his prose was the manner of his thinking and that was a dazzling succession of gaps; and you cannot ape a gap because you are bound to fill it in somehow or other - and blot it out in the process."

** - Check for example, VN's letter 123 (September,1945): "Of my two European brothers the youngest has [...] traced me through my story in the New Yorker. My other brother was placed by the Germans in one of the worst concentration camps (near Hamburg) and perished there." and also, letter 311 (January 19, 1960),"We visited Geneva to see my sister (whom I had not seen since 1937)..."

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