Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026194, Fri, 22 May 2015 00:28:06 -0300

"A crowd of tweedy Pninoids sustain Nabokov's legacy..."

Former message: “... I’m posting an excerpt of a “biographical summary” because it appears at a pretentious NNDV address, but only as an information… a disagreeable “curiosity.” <http://www.nndb.com/people/764/000027683/> http://www.nndb.com/people/764/000027683/

JM: In the first place, a necessary correction: the site is NNDB, not NNDV. Secondly, I’d like to add that even disagreeable and flippant statements may help us to shift from our current perspective towards a new one, even if the latter is rejected in the end, as in a game. We get to look at things from a deviant angle. For example, despite the disdainful tone of the assertion about “interpreting the optical illusions hidden in his prose”, the acceptance of an existing body of hidden “optical illusions” confirms and enhances our recognition of V.Nabokov’s skills as a painter who uses words as his brush, spatula, paint and canvas: it becomes some kind of “general fact” that, as a writer, he not only refers to, and describes the “trompe l’oeil,”or an “anamorphosis” but helps his readers to visually experience them (it’s more than just imagining what is being described, it entails in being visually affected by what has only been imagined).

Take the other assertion about how V. Nabokov “savaged the university in his prose, through the precious lecturer-poet in Pale Fire (1962), and the storybook about bumbling Professor Pnin (1957) -- the latter modeled viciously after a colleague at Ithaca. Both are pursued by a sociopathic narrator with murderous intent.” <http://www.nndb.com/people/764/000027683/> http://www.nndb.com/people/764/000027683/ . It turns Charles Kinbote into “a sociopathic narrator with murderous intent,” instead of just an unreliable commentator and editor who suffers from different kinds of delusion; it transforms him into a truly sick and murderous narrator who may now remind one of Hermann Hermann (actually, I’d recently brought the two characters together, but with a different twist). Nevertheless, Pale Fire’s humor, tragedy and its parodic intent suffer under this kind of direct interpretation. How V.Nabokov plays his “narrator games” becomes much more interesting after the consequences of NNDB author’s dismissive commentaries are examined, like when we read, in Alexandra Eking Kinney’s thesis [ “The Art of Morality and the Morality of Art: Satire and Parody in Three Novels by Vladimir Nabokov,” - http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1782 <http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1782&context=etd_hon_theses> &context=etd_hon_theses.]:

“Nabokov is famous (or perhaps infamous) for his narrative games, and the ‘narrator’ game is among his favorites.” […] Nabokov often manipulates […] narrative conventions* and thus toys with readers’ expectations as well. He frequently presents a narrative in one way, only to reveal through the course of the novel that this is far from the case, prompting readers to reevaluate – and often reread – the entire novel. [… ] The narrator of Pnin pretends to be a narrator-focalizer existing exclusively at the extradiegetic level, only to introduce himself into the diegetic level of the narrative at the end of the novel thus exposing his true nature as character-focalizer. When we realize that the narrator is in fact in the narrated world, we realize that he has something at stake, and readers are urged to reconsider the validity of all the information he presented as “true.” […] There are two narrator-focalizers in Pale Fire: the author of a poem, who we are inclined to believe, and the author of the commentary, who dominates the narrative and of whom we are inclined to be skeptical. Through the gaps and holes of the narrative, however, we see that the discrepancy between these two narrator-focalizers is far less extreme than we had originally thought and, in fact, the two are quite closely aligned. The precise nature of the narrator is additionally important because, as I suggest, the parody of each novel is in the hands of the narrator.”


*-“narrator-focalizers” (extradiegetic) and “character-focalizers”(diegetic).

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