Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026207, Sat, 30 May 2015 11:16:43 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] Art and Wit: similarities and differences -
quotes from Nabokov , Freud, Boyd.
PS: I didn't add Ada's initial reference to similarities and differences
because VN's intention was to criticize translators. On second thoughts, I
added it because a careful comparison between the original words and the
translators' "transfigurations" satirized by Nabokov also serve to suggest
false similarities produced by hasty and "more or less" vague
generalizations: 'All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all
unhappy ones are more or less alike,'[ .]There's a Nabokovian quality about
certain coincidences (a theme that has been explored in the latest issue of
"The Nabokovian") that makes me feel, for a little while, as if he's managed
to go on playing games with his readers (with us!), just like it happens in
"The Vane Sisters". .
Sergey Sakun: Here is another example of the "similarities and
differences"; and "false similarities produced by hasty and "more or less"
vague generalizations";and, at last, "certain coincidences". /from my LJ
(24.04.15)/ In the mirror of Nabokov's (and Tolstoy's) "opening sentence" we
can also to discern
JAMES BOSWELL, The Life of Samuel Johnson (vol. 2) <I mentioned Hume's
notion., that all who are happy are equally happy; a little miss with a new
gown at a dancing school ball, a general at the head of a victorious army,
and an orator, after having made an eloquent speech in a great assembly.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, that all who are happy, are equally happy, is not true. A
peasant and a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally happy.
Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness. A peasant
has not capacity for having equal happiness with a philosopher.' I remember
this very question very happily illustrated in opposition to Hume, by the
Reverend Mr. Robert Brown, at Utrecht. 'A small drinking-glass and a large
one, (said he,) may be equally full; but the large one holds more than the

Jansy Mello: I don't remember where V.Nabokov distinguished the mirror-image
similarities (the compared object is the same ),from other sorts of
resemblances [e g. the twin siblings who look "like two drops of blood"
S. Sakun,in addition, brings up "literary mirror-images" he associated to
translations and embedded references, an interesting idea because it
includes other sorts of distortive mirrors.

Btw, I recently read news about how the skin of the octopus reacts to light
like the eye; also how lizzards chemically respond to the substances of the
ground, stone or twig on which they stand in a short text about mimetism.
These findings made me question V.Nabokov's ideas about "intelligent design"
and "the marvelous coincidence of imitative aspect." Looking for instant

"As Boyd notes in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, "He could not accept
that the undirected randomness of natural selection would ever explain the
elaborateness of nature's designs, especially in the most complex cases of
mimicry where the design appears to exceed any predator's powers of
apprehension." [.]According to Boyd, Nabokov wrote "a major article,"
subsequently lost, "with 'furious refutations of "natural selection" and
"the struggle for life."'" He completed the paper in 1941 but all that
survives is a fragment in his memoir
f=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1216187720&sr=1-1> ,Speak, Memory:
The mysteries of mimicry had a special attraction for me. Its phenomena
showed an artistic perfection usually associated with man-wrought things.
Consider the imitation of oozing poison by bubblelike macules on a wing
(complete with pseudo-refraction) or by glossy yellow knobs on a chrysalis
("Don't eat me--I have already been squashed, sampled and rejected").
Consider the tricks of an acrobatic caterpillar (of the Lobster Moth) which
in infancy looks like bird's dung, but after molting develops scrabbly
hymenopteroid appendages and baroque characteristics, allowing the
extraordinary fellow to play two parts at once (like the actor in Oriental
shows who becomes a pair of intertwisted wrestlers): that of a writhing
larva and that of a big ant seemingly harrowing it. When a certain moth
resembles a certain wasp in shape and color, it also walks and moves its
antennae in a waspish, unmothlike manner. When a butterfly has to look like
a leaf, not only are all the details of a leaf beautifully rendered but
markings mimicking grub-bored holes are generously thrown in. "Natural
Selection," in the Darwinian sense, could not explain the miraculous
coincidence of imitative aspect and imitative behavior, nor could one appeal
to the theory of "the struggle for life" when a protective device was
carried to a point of mimetic subtlety, exuberance, and luxury far in excess
of a predator's power of appreciation. I discovered in nature the
nonutilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were a form of magic,
both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception.
Sounds like...intelligent design?" (Cf.further commentaries at

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