NABOKV-L post 0017070, Thu, 18 Sep 2008 22:32:01 -0300

Re: Fw: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] [QUERY] Sebastian Knight
Stan K-B addresses Chaz/JA/JM: it is quite strange that certain words sound ugly to certain ears without upsetting others. Is it the combination of sound and meaning that grates? Recall Saussure’s key notion that the mapping from signifier to signified is quite arbitrary...It’s fine to indulge in puns and word games as long as you don’t start attaching mystical significance to accidental resonances and anagrams... Judging sounds as sweet or sour is very much a cultural exercise...So, why does sex sound ugly while the same sibilants and gutturals in exciting (literally) sound so exciting? Is there a lurking puritanical objection to the sex act itself? Exactly!
JM: A puritanical objection seems to be present in V's remark: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. And yet, I slowly realized that he must have had a motive, one quite similar to Nabokov's own, to object ( judging him, a young man that is quite inexperienced in sex, speaking here as a "puritanical", now became meaningless) V. states that he believes that "granting 'sex' a special situation when tackling a human problem, or worse still, letting the 'sexual idea', if such a thing exists, pervade and 'explain' all the test is a grave error of reasoning.", now returning to the expression "sexual idea", thereby dispelling what seemed to be a prudish sulking mood. What is, indeed, a "sexual idea"? Certainly not related to the juicy and seldom gentle genital conjunctio?
Horizontal and vertical semiotics are usually at war in VN's texts: he cultivates the modern mirroring and self-referentiality of the first - without giving up the incantatory power of words or, as V. states, their "undulations and resonances".

Matt Roth: brings up Carasik, Michael. "Transcending the Boundary of Death: Ecclesiastes Through a Nabokovian Lens." Biblical Interpretation 14.5 (15 Oct. 2006): 425-443.[ ...Ch. 12 of Ecclesiastes depicts a scene that combines elements of the death of a person with others that describe the death of an entire world. Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Invitation to a Beheading ends with a similar scene...] and notes that "Carasik does a fine job exploring his thesis. He does not argue that Nabokov was influenced by Ecclesiastes; rather he concludes that the writer of Ecclesiastes and Nabokov are both dealing with similar problems and have found similar solutions....Moreover, both writers expressed this idea artistically by allowing a higher-order reality to appear in their own works as the result of an apparent death in the lower-order reality of the world they had created with words."

J.A.: ...I myself have always wondered at precisely how one could be "laughingly alive" in books as well, which are just words, but I think this literalizes an idea of N.'s.[...] I supose he means that the best and truest part of Sebastian is his artistic output.[...] Is Sebastian really a great writer? [ Goodman didn't believe he was...] The quotes certainly bristle with tons of style, but the works as described by V. sound like arch parodies of Nabokov's work.[...] As to V.'s opinion that he's not able to imitate Sebastian's style, that's patently false--the quotes from the books[...] sound exactly the same as V.

JM: An exercise in style, then. Who wrote these titillating born-again idioms and alusions, quoted below? A Russian with little experience of the English?

p.7: "far too easy to talk of a dead author behind the backs of his books";

p.9: " he felt satisfaction at having got the upper hand in his dealings with destiny";

p.12 ( on sharing the same mistress): "It's nobody's fault that you and I were in the same boat once";

p.15 (Hamlet) "prompted by the desire to get one's book into the market while the flowers on a fresh grave may still be watered with profit";

p.40 (Mariane Moore, "a real toad in an imaginary garden") " repellent bulldog type of man, getting fatter in a world of photographic backgrounds and real front gardens" if we compare with p.154 Mme Lecerf's "frog-faced, wheezing, black bulldog" (btw it is also a commentary on "laughingly alive in books")

p.53: "I intended to follow his life stage by stage without overtaking him"; ( as announced by a firm of undertakers: "we'll be the last to let you down")

p.61: "One critic even went as far as to take his hat off to Mr. Goodman - who, let it be added, had used his own merely to talk through it"

p.99 "can't you see that happiness at its very best is but the zany of its own mortality?"

p.99: "even the door is as dead as its nail"

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