NABOKV-L post 0017316, Fri, 14 Nov 2008 10:56:55 -0200

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[NABOKOV-L] [DARWINIAN MUSINGS] Gradus,
Sybil and superior victims...
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Yesterday I quoted some lines (949-952):written by Shade and realized they are among my favourite ones in PF ( I'm usually not very fond of Shade...)

And all the time, and all the time, my love,
You too are there, beneath the word, above

The syllable, to underscore and stress

The vital rhythm.


Then I noticed that these verses had been parodied, or their idea perversely stolen and inverted by C.Kinbote who, in his note to line 17, wrote: "We shall accompany Gradus in constant thought[...], through the entire length of the poem, following the road of its rhythm, riding past in a rhyme, skidding around the corner of a run-on, breathing with the caesura [...] hiding between two words [...] steadily marching nearer in iambic motion[...], boarding a new train of thought[...] while Shade blots out a word, and falling asleep as the poet lays down his pen for the night [...] Kinbote also uses the same image in note 131 (on the return of a waxwing slain): "The force propelling him is the magic action of Shade's poem itself, the very mechanism and sweep of verse, the powerful iambic motor. Never before has the inexorable advance of fate received such a sensuous form..."

Shade's love ( for Sybil?) recognizes in her physical and mental presence a signal of a "vital rythm". Kinbote's jealousy towards Sybil, and Shade, propels him along with Gradus' iambic motor to entrap Shade. Words of love and life, words of hate and death...



This led me next to Kinbote's commentary on line 596 (he'd indicated in the corpus of his note 17): "We all know those dreams in which something Stygian soaks through and Lethe leaks in the dreary terms of defective plumbing [...] I hope the reader will feel something of the chill that ran down my long and supple spine when I discovered this variant:

Should the dead murderer try to embrace

His outraged victim whom he now must face?

Do objects have a soul? Or perish must

Alike great temples and Tanagra dust?

His incoming note (to lines 597-608) ends with: Let me close this important note with a rather anti-Darwinian aphorism: The one who kills is always his victim's inferior.



And here are my own darwinian musings on the "survival of the fittest":

I'd been watching Animal Planet where a tiny spider weaves the web which she carries along, instead of spreading it out like a clothes-line. When it spots its prey, it jumps onto it but only after it entraps it with the portable hunting-net.

At first I wondered why did it "bother" to weave a net, if it had to directly catch its prey like a tiger jumping on an elephant. But I soon discovered that, since this spider is so very tiny, it would be crushed should it not first immobilize the enemy, just like certain snakes and toads eject their venom before they are able to engulf their food.

Spiders, snakes and toads are "sly cowards"! Until then I'd only imagined mimetism in nature as an elegant defensive device (insects like dry twigs, butterflies like leaves or with enormous owlish eyes...) - as if Nature only cheated in self-defence. Hunting down for food must follow the rules of "fair-play" in a body-to-body combat among equals, or so I thought! But actually weak deceivers, in nature as well as in life, are the fittest...Dust, even Tanagra's, is soft and small but, in the end, it shall await us all? In VN's lines I can still feel the shock running down my long and not so supple spine related to cowardice and VN's father's assassination.

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