In “Pnin,” Nabokov o nce wrote ...
A good-faith attempt to embrace the unexpected
By Jessica A. Sequeira
Published: Monday, November 30, 2009
Every Thanksgiving, or at least for two years running, it has been the practice of the New York Times editorial page to print an appropriately grateful editorial. “Hard-hitting” would not, perhaps, be the most accurate descriptor for these pieces: Last year’s, for instance, emphasized the necessity for solidarity in tough times. This year’s waxed no less optimistic. “It will never cease to surprise how the condition of being human means we cannot foretell with any accuracy what next Thanksgiving will bring,” it declaimed. “Most of what life contains comes to us unexpectedly after all. It is our job to welcome it and give it meaning.”
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If this seems trivial, there’s no doubt that we should be grateful for the unpredicted survival of Nabokov’s incomplete final novel “The Original of Laura,” finally published a few weeks ago. Despite Nabokov’s request that it be posthumously burnt, his family suddenly concluded a tortured 30-year debate this fall by deciding to grant the public access to the fragments. Reviewers rightly note that the book falls far short of being a “Pale Fire” or “Lolita”—but we’re still lucky to have recourse to those passages which, in all their flawed beauty, throw light on his best.
In “Pnin,” Nabokov once wrote that “the order of the solar spectrum is not a closed circle but a spiral of tints from cadmium red and oranges through a strontian yellow and a pale paradisal green to cobalt blues and violets.” He would have been delighted by the chance findings of an Oregon State grad student this week, who in the process of experimenting with manganese oxide in a 2,000-degree furnace accidentally created a never-before-seen pigment of blue. Reportedly “shocked” at first, the professor in charge of the lab has confirmed that the crystal structure of the brilliant new color is stable, generating much excitement among chemists.
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Jessica A. Sequeira ’11, a Crimson associate editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Winthrop House.
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