NABOKV-L post 0017476, Tue, 16 Dec 2008 13:44:24 -0200

Re: QUERY: Dostoevsky and Nabokov
Tim Henderson to Siri Bendtsen: Dostoevski, who dealt with themes accepted by most readers as universal in both scope and significance, is considered one of the world's great authors. Yet you have described him as "a cheap sensationalist, clumsy and vulgar." [...] Non-Russian readers do not realize two things: that not all Russians love Dostoevski as much as Americans do, and that most of those Russians who do, venerate him as a mystic and not as an artist.

JM: There's an awful lot of not only Russians and Americans who deeply dislike in Dostoevski. I refer you to Freud's 1927 article "Dostoevsky and Parricide" where he writes: "Four facets may be distinguished in the rich personality of Doestoevsky: the creative artist, the neurotic, the moralist and the sinner. How is one to find one's way in this bewildering complexity? The creative artist is the least doubtful: Doestoevsky's place is not far behind Shakespeare [...] the episode of the Grand Inquisitor [The Brothers Karamasov], one of the peaks in the literature of the world, can hardly be valued too highly. Before the problem of the creative artist analysis must, alas, lay down its arms. The moralist in Doestoevsky is the most readily assailable [...] He has not achieved the essence of morality...he reminds one of the barbarians of the great migrations, who murdered and did penance for it, till penance became an actual technique for enabling murder to be done[...] he landed in the retrograde position of submission both to a temporal and spiritual authority [...] of a narrow Russian natiolaism [...]The future of human civilization will have little to thank him for" ..
Susan Sontag (Where the Stress Falls) in A Poet's Prose stresses the romantic ideal according to which "poetry is a form of both language and being: an ideal intensity, absolute candor, nobility, heroism".* Perhaps VN's disparagement of TSEliot's entire oeuvre could be related to this ideal that holds that all great poetry has to be produced by a "great man."

*[ There is also a debatable observation by Sontag: "In the twentieth century, writing poems tends to be a dalliance of a prose writer's youth (Joyce, Beckett, Nabokov...) or an activity assumed with the left hand ( Borges, Updike...).]

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