Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017445, Thu, 11 Dec 2008 02:25:00 -0200

Post Script to cithereal mollitude (added paragraph)
S.Klein [ http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24670443-16947,00.html ]: Recently a reviewer summed up many academics' distaste for Gabriel Garcia Marquez's superb novel Love in the Time of Cholera as "an attempt by the author to broaden his appeal by concentrating on the universal and soft subject of love" [...] Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that many women writers are not as interested in male protagonists as they are in the female characters. Male authors, it seems, have a greater fascination with the opposite sex than women do [...]One of the curious aspects of Vladimir Nabokov's success with his perverted love story (although one-sided, it is a love story) is that it emerged from the US. When you look at the canon of American literature, it's easy to see how seldom love has been a significant theme.
S.Klein [ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/09/DDTR13P2M0.DTL] The elegantly expressed pleasures of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev (1803-1873) provide the silken loveliness that poets of his generation often strove for: The storm withdrew, but Thor had found its oak [...]These lines could easily have been clunkers. Instead they bring to mind the best of Edna St. Vincent Millay, generously suggesting that it may be time to revive interest in both poets (Barbara Berman).
David Powelstock: ‘Lyre of mollitude’ translates ‘iznezhennuyu liru’ – ‘iznezhennyi’ is an adjective, here modifying and agree in gender and case with the feminine noun ‘lira’ (lyre) in the accusative b/c it is the direct object of ‘break’ (‘razbei’ – 2nd-person imperative, singular).
[...] The lyre stands here as a metonymy for poetry and the poet, both seen as masculine pursuits, and which serve as the real target of the critique: poetry has ceased to enjoin the battle for freedom and justice. Lermontov used it a well-known to apply to his entire age: ‘nash vek iznezhennyi’: ‘our sissified/effeminate/pampered age.’ Or, as VN might have it, “our age of mollitude.”
Victor Fet: изнеженный , “iznezhennyj”, derived from “nezhnyi” (soft, tender, delicate, gentle), generally means pampered, sybaritic, softened; it also could (when directed to a male) mean effete, effeminate, emasculate, girly. (“Nezhnoe ditya”, “a gentle child”, is a cliché). An archaic noun of the same root, “nega” (which VN translated as “mollitude”) is Pushkin’s landmark. [...] In Pushkin’s “Vol’nost”, as in a larger Russian poetical context, “iznezhennyj” has clearly a Greek, Roman, or Byzanthine connection, taking on modern age being too sybaritic and decadent.

JM: My entusiastic thanks to you, VF and DP! I was sorry not to bring up again your entire messages (it is possible to discern the fluent ease in which you all move in language and poetry, the wealth of links and information), because I chose to highlight the intromission of gender issues: poetry as a "masculine pursuit" (Pushkin) and their age as "sissified".
However, VN's employ of "mollitude" in Ada, while describing Villa Venus, in contrast to what prevailed "in their age", wouldn't it mainly apply to a more general acception, such as a "pampered decadence"?
The examples you brought up from Lermontov and Pushkin's EO are not as neutral because in these they seem to see things, at least in relation to epic matters, from an essentially virile perspective, inaccessible to women - in this case "molittude" probably means exactly such a kind of passive gentle effeminacy. And yet, Pushkin's Vol'nost' remains very actual in every aspect when we consider the rebellious and pugnacious as not merely indicating that which is biologically "virile", or the gentle and tender as "effeminate"- inspite of its "mollitude".

Returning to the "broken lyre": Barbara Berman (from SK's posting) wrote about F.I Tyutchev's "pleasures" coming through in VN's translation, but she also demarcated this "silken loveliness" as pertaining to the ambitions of the "poets of his generation" (ie Lermontov's and Pushkin's, too). For Nabokov "gentle Tyutchev's" life or personality does not contain "that romantic appeal which makes the biographies of Pushkin and Lermontov almost homogeneous with their muses" whereas his poetry expresses "elements which characterize the fin de siècle renaissance of Russian poetry ( also called decadence...). For VN, his lyrics "belong to the greatest ever written in Russian."

Mixing the various postings, a new question is raised: is passionate love "too soft" and "too falsely appealing" ( at least, as a subject for novelists and poets) to be able to represent the characteristics and demands of our present age, in America at least?
Joseph Aisenberg writes in response to the article "Love, actually," on LOLITA as a rare novel concerned with love: "These are the sorts of shallow takes on literature that makes one feel dirty using the L-word." YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/