NABOKV-L post 0017245, Fri, 31 Oct 2008 15:23:45 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] La Veneziana and the Fourth-Wall
Dear List,

After weathering two chasms in La Veneziana (one of these, fenestral), a few maculae and an umbral interplay ( these came out quite naturally in the translation I was comparing with the English story), I realized there was a shift from light (occular after-images) into night (noises: crunchy crackling raucuous ). The painter's name equally changes from luscent Luciani into a gray leaden "del Piombo".
There are references to touch (ashes, dust, powder).
British red and yellow apples against Italian summery lemons in a veritable sensuous feast that constrasts, by the kind of its details from Robbe-Grillet's "snapshots", meticulously visual in kind.
I wonder about the rugby ball: a watermellon, indeed? [ and flew across the field with a leather watermellon under his arm...]

There are hints that the narrator is the famous collector and restorer McGore, who stretched sheets of canvas like tennis racquets are stretched , or get twisted in the damp. It was he who told simple Simpson about an experience of "entering a painting".
After all, why mention twice McGore's opinion about art and the world? ( he "regarded the world as a rather poor study daubed with unstable paints on a flimsy canvas",p.91 and "as we have already remarked, Mr.McGore considered life's Creator only a second-rate imitator of the masters...",p.92)

There is a detail in La Veneziana ( the title applies not only to the painting, but also to the short-story itself!) that is related to theatre and to the movies. Namely, the breaking down of an illusion by inviting the spectators to take part in a scene. This happens in relation to the "fourth wall".
There is a fourth wall in VN's short-story (p.111): "In the distance, instead of a fourth wall, a far, familiar hall glimmered like water..."
The narrator's constant invitations to make readers and characters share an illusion and his emphasis on his permanent control over the story confirm, in my eyes, that VN was applying the words "fourth wall" in a specific way...
The theatrical idea of the fourth-wall sets the readers "into" the short-story. Besides, if one pays attention to VN's description of the Colonel's "castle" we may realize that this castle is more like a painted scenery than a four-dimensional construction ( we only get to see its façade with French windows leading to/from the living and the dining-room, plus the valuable galery with its paintings). The lawn-tennis court looms big in its front, almost too big for its location. The characters don't move about inside it very much: the reader gets to find them already installed in their different rooms.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: