NABOKV-L post 0017048, Sat, 13 Sep 2008 13:02:38 -0700

Re: [NABOKOV-L] [QUERY] Sebastian Knight

--- On Thu, 9/11/08, jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

From: jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US>
Subject: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] [QUERY] Sebastian Knight
Date: Thursday, September 11, 2008, 9:42 AM

The book "V" is writing, very probably the one I happen to be reading, is named "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight".
Mr. Goodman's biography ( it doesn't mention SK's half-brother, our "V", who is therefore publicly turned into a "garrulous impostor") received the title "Tragedy of Sebastian Knight."
Query: The choice of omitting a more familiar "The" has a special meaning or context for English-speaking  folks?
J.A. In my Library of America edition of the book, pg. 53, the title to Goodman's biography reads The Tragedy of Sebastian Knight, with the article out front, and also lists it that way on page 49 as well. Even if it did not, aside from a certain awkwardness, there would be no special meaning that I could think of. On your second query, I have not read any full articles myself comparing them, but Michael Wood in his discussion of the TRLSK, "Lost Souls", in The Magician's doubts, does make one little connection that I thought was interesting. He points out that this line: 'Naturally, I cannot touch upon the intimate side of their relationship, firstly, because it would be ridculous to discuss what no one can definitely assert, and secondly because the very sound of the word "sex" with its hissing vulgarity and the "ks, ks" catcall at the end, seems so inane to me that I cannot help doubting whether there is any real idea behind the word.' (pg. 81
Library of Americ ed.)--has a certain similarity to the hysterical hypocritical prissy tone of some of Kinbote's writing. Off the subject, in Emund Wilson's letter to Nabokov responding to the book he said he also thought "sex" was an ugly word too, as if Nabokov's and the narrator's opinions were one and the same. There definitely does seem to be an odd echo between V. and Kinbote, except that V. is a mild mannered and completely ethical person set adrift by mourning for a lost loved one and Kinbote a freak without much in the way of scruples, though both of them try to appropriate their subjects in a strange internal way for personal purposes that are hard to grasp. In both books Nabokov lets an ambiguity about the dramatis personae hang over them at the end. In both he suggests that either the narrators invented their subjects, or that conversely that the narrators were the ones invented by their subjects, then suddenly at the end hints, in both
TRLSK and PF, that the whole thing was invented by Nabokov himself so that separations between narrator and subject melt together without entirely dissolving them; in these books he doesn't go as far as he did in Bend Sinister. I've never been exactly sure why he does this half-measure version of self-revelation. Seems meant to suggest something cosmic while simultaneously funning illusionism without ever quite doing either, probably because he was trying to acheive both. Or maybe he wanted to have it point to a truth outside the book while retaining a kind of psychological coherence--this melting of themselves into the other is what the narrators would like to do and at the end, once we've seen their utter failures in this department, ironically claim to have acheived.
A second (minor) query: Could anyone inform me if there are articles that compare "V" and Charles Kinbote? 
(The first paragraph, revealing Olga Olegovna Orlov's name and filled with personal garrulous insertions looks very kinbotean in my eyes...)

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