Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016282, Tue, 29 Apr 2008 07:33:51 EDT

Re: SIGNS: A postscript to background re: earlier discussions on
A postscript, to the discussion about whether we should see this narrator as
"unreliable". He or she is reliable enough to tell a good "surface" story.
(And, as I conceded in December 2004, he or she may only be reporting the
official diagnosis and prognosis, not necessarily accepting it as the parents
have come to do.) The story works in its own terms. It moves from despair to
hope, from the father and mother's passive acceptance of the son's
incarceration in the sanatorium to their decision to have him home. Whether the son lives
or dies, they have redeemed their sin of despairingly giving up and
accepting what the doctors say. In this sense, it is a moving story.

But VN himself has indicated that there is more to it than this. What is
what he called the story's "inside"? Is it that the reader is tempted to try to
determine, by "referential mania", by "signs and symbols", what is in fact
undecidable: namely, whether the young man lives or dies? And that the reader
should come to see, in the end, after that labyrinthine diversion, that the
"surface" story is "right": that whether the boy lives or dies is, in a
non-callous sense, beside the point: the point is that the parents redeem their sin
of despair. They deserve their "unexpected festive midnight tea".

Anthony Stadlen

Search the archive: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html
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