Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026268, Sat, 4 Jul 2015 20:55:00 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] Dom Quixote: a world of cruelty and the author's
Jansy Mello: I’ve always been surprised at the famous bouts of criticism
V.Nabokov directed against “Dom Quixote,” because his “Lecture on Quixote”
was lovingly researched and presented [ ]A few months ago I found a
statement relating VN’s criticism about this “cruel and crude …book” to the
way in which Cervantes treated his character and not to any other kind of
cruelty pertaining to its action nor in relation to the readers. [ ]Is VN
demonstrating, through his rejection of Cervantes’s writing that, in any
novel, life’s destructiveness and evil are to be portrayed only as aspects
of the real cruelty of the external world and its inhabitants? That an
author should never be an accomplice of the world’s evil to remain, at most,
an impartial observer? [ ]quote: “we do not laugh at [Don Quixote] any
longer. His blazon is pity, his banner is beauty. He stands for everything
that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish and gallant.”

Present posting: My initial query related to VN’s indignation at the ways in
which Cervantes tortured his unhappy knight has been amply explored by
scholars, * although my sweeping supposition about how VN seemed to
recommend that authors avoid becoming accomplices of the evil & cruelty
presented in a novel hasn’t been considered under the same light. Before
examining more deeply the articles available to me, or returning to VN’s
original lecture, I allowed myself to imagine that an artist’s pursuit of
beauty and pity must belong to a different dimension as that of an artwork’s
materiality (should VN have extended the same discipline of attention to
detail and neutrality of science to the art of creating a work of fiction
that his words about science and art attest). V.Nabokov’s words on Dom
Quixote: “His blazon is pity, his banner is beauty” are the same ones that
he chose for his definition of Art: “Beauty plus pity-that is the closest
we can get to a definition of art. Where there is beauty there is pity for
the simple reason that beauty must die: beauty always dies, the manner dies
with the matter, the world dies with the individual.” (Lecture on
Kafka,LL,251). I wonder what’s the fictional status of Dom Quixote after
being alienated from his creator’s work, or granted “immortality”.

The need to reexamine VN’s various choices for first-person narrators,
confessions and diaries in relation to his keeping an authorial distance
from the narrated events was clear to me, as well as the importance of
distinguishing them from his interventions and from his play with
extradiegetic levels. Nevertheless, I fear I’ll have to abandon my projects
because… “Vladimir Nabokov, with typical fastidiousness, squabbled that
seldom has an author been as cruel to his character, although he also
recommended that we ‘do our best to avoid the fatal error of looking for
so-called ‘real life’ in novels.’ Nabokov added: ‘Let us not try and
reconcile the fiction of facts with the facts of fiction. Don Quixote is a
fairy tale, so is Bleak House, so is Dead Souls. Madame Bovary and Anna
Karenin are supreme fairy tales. But without these fairy tales the world
would not be real’.” (Ilan Stavans
cervantes ). Even after we leave out what’s habitually described as “ the
facts of the world” from fiction and fairy tale, the world of fantasy still
retains important links with the human mind. And did VN equally isolate
“pity” from “compassion”? It’s so very confusing.


*-quoting and indicating a few texts:

Don Quixote Restored by Guy Davenport (1983)
''I REMEMBER with delight,'' Vladimir Nabokov said in 1966 to Herbert Gold,
who had traveled to Montreux to interview him, ''tearing apart 'Don
Quixote,' a cruel and crude old book, before 600 students in Memorial Hall,
much to the horror and embarrassment of some of my more conservative
colleagues.'' [ ] What Nabokov's eyes kept seeing as he prepared his
lectures was the accurately perceived fact that the book elicits cruel
laughter. Cervantes' old man who had read himself into insanity and his
smelly squire were created to be the butt of mockery.”

“Cruel and Crude”: Nabokov Reading Cervantes by Catherine Kunce

Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
<http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/cervante/csa/bcsaf93.htm> 13.2 (1993): 93-104.
“The late Stephen Gilman, however, caustically protests that Nabokov, ‘the
author of that most painfully méchant of novels, Bend Sinister, . . .
professed to be shocked both by the cruelty of Cervantes' treatment of his
hero and by the gales of laughter that that cruelty supposedly provoked’…
But Gilman reminds us that Cervantes' “two supremely naive protagonists are
used in order to illuminate ironically a society, swollen with
self-importance, that refused to make a place for him despite his past
heroism”(44). Gilman places Cervantes in the larger tradition of the novel,
concluding that “it was Fielding's conscious adaptation of Cervantine irony
that opened the way to the future of the novel”... To the degree, then, that
Nabokov refuses Cervantes his irony, he impugns the tenor of his own
novels.[ ] There is a further irony to consider, this time, in Nabokov's
disdain for the “violence” in Don Quixote. The word requires some scrutiny.
Nabokov's complaints of the innumerable beatings and the duchess and duke's
“playful” inhumanity towards Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are well taken,
but this “violence” is not for the mindless amusement of cloddish readers,
as Nabokov suggests: rather, it carries a psychological message.” ( “Cruel
and Crude”: Nabokov Reading Cervantes by Catherine Kunce)

The Imitation of Our Lord Don Quixote, by Simon Leys(1998) .
rd-don-quixote/ The New York Review of Books

“he was appalled by the crudeness and the savagery of Cervantes’ narrative.
In the words of Brian Boyd, his biographer, “He detested the belly-laughs
Cervantes wanted his readers to derive from his hero’s discomfiture, and he
repeatedly compared the vicious ‘fun’ of the book with Christ’s humiliation
and crucifixion, with the Spanish Inquisition, with modern bullfighting.” [
] His distaste for Cervantes’ sadistic treatment of Don Quixote reached such
a point that he eventually excluded the book from his regular lectures on
foreign literature at Cornell: he could not bear to dwell on the subject any
further. But the corollary of his virulent hostility toward the writer was a
loving admiration for his creature” Simon Leys

One Master Many Cervantes Don Quixote in Translation By
<http://www.neh.gov/humanities/author/ilan-stavans> Ilan Stavans |
HUMANITIES, September/October 2008 | Volume 29, Number 5

The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov: edited by Julian W. Connolly
Nabokov’s Worldview, by Leona Toker.

Style Is Matter - The Moral Art of Vladimir Nabokov

Leland de la Durantaye Cornell University Press,2007

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