Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026330, Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:04:03 -0300

ENC: [NABOKV-L] Orson Welles and Nabokov
The movie “Citizen Kane,” directed by Orson Welles, will be discussed in Rio
by the Brazilian psychoanalyst, Luiz Gallego, and he’s been sending me
snippets of his text. At first, Nabokov popped into my mind while he
described the journalists’s quest after the meaning of Kane’s dying word,
“rosebud” (only the spectators, in the end, will learn that it relates to a
sled ): instead of the orthodox Freudian view relating the child’s plaything
and his mother’s cold abandonment to the Oedipus theory, Gallego chose to
emphasize the movie’s obsessive quest after a “person’s truth” in such a way
that made me think not only about Sophocles tragedy but also about RLSK,
Despair and VN’s own choices to construct a plot that demands the complicity
of the reader. After Luiz Gallego added new information about the musical
performance in the movie, I was certain that V.Nabokov (even if no music
lover himself) would have been enchanted: the composer, Bernard Hermann (who
would later write music for Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and “Psychosis”), made his
cinematic debut with “Citizen Kane” (here’s a link to its performance in the
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrwTzh0X1H8 ) and his background
music follows, in “Citizen Kane,” two themes like a Wagner’s Leitmotif, the
“Rosebud theme” and the “Power theme”: the latter, with four notes, follows
Rachmaninoff’s for “The Island of the Dead”, inspired in a Gregorian Requiem
for “Dies Irae”. So, when the “power theme” plays during Kane’s dying
moments it works as an indicator of the “Final judgement” that pervade the
Requiem. Many of the movie procedures and its patchwork quality and twists
share elements with VN’s way of constructing and developing a plot.

Consequently, I decided to Google “Nabokov-Kane” and, from the VN-L, * I
selected the following paragraph:
“I don't think that there is a "Citizen Kane" connection with "Lolita,"
except in one rather obscure coincidental sense: the rose/vagina
connection." Rosebud," as most fans of the Welles film know, was a bit of a
dirty trick on the part of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, since he had
known Kane's model, William Randolph Hearst, personally, and knew that
"Rosebud" was his pet name for the pudenda of his lover, the actress Marion
Davies. Dolores Haze, too, is constantly connected with the image of a rose
-- beautiful but temporary -- and Humbert refers to her pubis as her "brown
rose." This is not, however, an uncommon literary image, and I doubt one had
much to do with the other.” Rodney Welch (9 March, 2001.)
(Luiz Gallego was well aware of this “smutty” connection but he noted that
it was a rumor that started with Gore Vidal but, as he didn’t trust this
information, he also dismissed Manckiewicz’s participation in it.)

VN’s own response to “Citizen Kane” was also mentioned at the VN-L:
“Appel does in fact verify that Nabokov loved “Citizen Kane”; apparently,
Nabokov described it as "Extraordinary! A masterpiece" (p. 57). Appel even
asks Nabokov about the famous "'Rosebud' ending," which Welles labeled
"dollar-book Freud"; by way of reply, Nabokov apparently "shrugged his
shoulders, and the conversation turned to soccer" (57-8) Brian Walter (9
March 2001).*

In fact, to automatically apply Freud’s Oedipus theory and those related to
repressed traumatic experiences onto a complex movie like “Citizen Kane” is
very impoverishing. There’s the systematic search after “truth” or after the
“real life of a character” to consider, one that equally belongs to another
figure, the prophet Tiresias, who tries to warn “detective” Oedipus against
investigating the death of his predecessor, King Laius ( Oedipus ignored
that Laius was his biological father or that it was he who had killed him at
the Thebe/Daulis crossroads.) As everyone knows the sophoclean finale
discloses that it was “the detective who was the murderer” ( in “Despair”
Hermann plays with the idea of “the victim who was the murderer,” in an
equally surprising twist). However, who is being led after this “truth,” in
“Citizen Kane” is not Kane himself but the snoopy detectives and, perhaps,
the narrative enticement of “rosebud…sled” is actually not indicative of
anything oedipal in the character, but the screenwriters’s “red-herring” or
their creation of a “missed encounter with the truth” (only the spectator
knows about the sled), reminiscent of RLSK’s investigations and Sebastian’s
last hours. Welles is reported to have described the “rosebud” ending as
suggestive of a “crude bar-chat freudism,” but that another French director,
Truffaut, had wished he’d have invented that image….

Google produced other associations between VN and Orson Welles’s Kane in
various random ways: Cf.
http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2004/03/nabokov_mushroo.html “People who
haven’t read Lolita assume it is a perverted book about a child molestor.
Well, it is. But that’s like saying Citizen Kane is a movie about a sled.”
Cf. also “ Nabokov’s Cinematic Afterlife” by Ewa Mazierka, p.30, when she
writes about Kubrick’s “Lolita”: “The whole film is a story of searching for
the “true Quilty”, not unlike in Citizen Kane (1941), which cenetered on a
search for the “true Kane”.” And Cf. Reviewed Works: Nabokov's Dark Cinema
by Alfred Appel, Jr.; The Spoken Seen by Frank D. McConnell, by Stefan
Fleischer (Film Quarterly- Vol. 30, No. 4, Special Book Issue (Summer,
1977), pp. 38-44) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1211584 and
abokov.html: “Like "Citizen Kane" there's a prelapsarian moment which
becomes the point where all things went wrong; where the young boy is told
he will now be known by his family name "Luzhin"; yet there's no "Rosebud"
for Luzhin, rather, he hangs onto chess as a life raft that takes him away
from a world that is infinite in its disorder. In one of many affecting
scenes, we see him looking at the atlas of the world and finding no sense of
order or meaning in the way the planet's land masses are laid out. The chess
board offers this secular man a sense of spiritual meaning like no other
thing; yet in its infinite variations, there is also the impossibility of a
life "won".



Re: Rosebud (fwd)


Galya Diment <[log in to unmask]
3> >


Vladimir Nabokov Forum <[log in to unmask]
3> >


Fri, 9 Mar 2001 20:34:58 -0800




B=--&T=TEXT%2FPLAIN;%20charset=US-ASCII&header=1> (117 lines)

From: Rodney Welch <[log in to unmask]
3> >

Since reading Proust, I've found it hard to believe that Nabokov was
invulnerable to influence. I don't know if "Lolita" could have been created
by someone who had not read Proust, and not just because of the allusions;
it's hard for me to read "Lolita" without sensing distant echoes of
Albertine, Gilberte, et al. The same goes for Nabokov's first novel,
Indeed, "In Search of Lost Time" could serve as a title for "Lolita" had it
not already been taken. Aren't both novels testaments to the recreative and
inventive possibilities of memory?

Columbia, SC

> From: Galya Diment <[log in to unmask]
3> >
> Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <[log in to unmask]
3> >
> Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 14:27:19 -0800
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Rosebud (fwd)
> From: Kiran Krishna <[log in to unmask]
3> >
> I usually accept Nabokov's insistent denials of influence (Ignoring them
> has led to some rather dreadful errors in the past: Someone's - Her name
> escapes me - essay on Kafka comes to mind; Influence, as Appel
> acknowledges, is a troublesome question), and I agree that there is no
> reason to doubt his denial. However, I hadn't read the book since I
> couldn't find it at our library, and I presumed that it was no different
> from the essay. Still, as with Stravinsky, there are some interesting
> similarities.
> On Fri, 9 Mar 2001, Galya Diment wrote:
>> From: Brian Walter <[log in to unmask]
3> >
>> Appel's essay "Nabokov's Dark Cinema" may not mention Welles, but his
>> *Nabokov's Dark Cinema* (OUP, 1974) certainly does. Appel does in fact
>> verify that Nabokov loved *Citizen Kane*; apparently, Nabokov described
>> as "Extraordinary! A masterpiece" (p. 57). Appel even asks Nabokov
>> the famous "'Rosebud' ending," which Welles labeled "dollar-book Freud";
>> way of reply, Nabokov apparently "shrugged his shoulders, and the
>> conversation turned to soccer" (57-8).
>> Unfortunately for this line of inquiry, the same passage has Nabokov
>> rejecting any possibility of influence or allusion, as he informed Appel
>> that he had seen *Citizen Kane* only in 1972, on Swiss television (57).
>> It's probably a good idea to take any of Nabokov's insistent denials of
>> influence or allusion with a grain of salt (apart from Freud, few things
>> seem to have sparked Nabokov's competitive zeal more readily than a
>> suggestion that he was not self-engendered as a writer, one who
>> skipped the gestation of apprenticeship and imitation that so many other
>> artists acknowledge; see, for instance, just about any interview in
>> Opinions*). But in this case, there seems no reason not to take Nabokov
>> his word.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Galya Diment <[log in to unmask]
3> >
>> To: <[log in to unmask]
3> >
>> Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001 10:40 AM
>> Subject: Rosebud (fwd)
>> From: Kiran Krishna <[log in to unmask]
3> >
>> It just occurred to me that in the following sentence (Part 1, Chapter
>> Page 23 in the annotated edition):
>> "Next day, an asthmatic woman, coarsely painted, garrulous, garlicky,
>> an almost farcical Provencal accent and a black mustache above a purple
>> lip, took me to what was her own domicile, and there, after explosively
>> kissing the bunched tips of her fat fingers to signify the delectable
>> rosebud quality of her merchandise, she theatrically drew aside a
>> to reveal what I judged was that part of the room where a large and
>> unfastidious family usually slept."
>> Rosebud could be interpreted as a reference to Orson Welles' Citizen
>> Kane. Of course, allusions cannot really be discerned from single words,
>> but Welles, like a number of other great artists, has a fascination with
>> vulgarity (though in Citizen Kane, the vulgarity is closer to kitsch
>> than poshlost'). Ada (especially Dan Veen, the dream chapter - Part 2,
>> Chapter 3, and the dozen elderly townsmen of Part 1, Chapter 39, which
>> reminds me of the dozen vacationers in the west wing of Xanadu) suggests
>> Citizen Kane much more strongly. However, I find that Appel's essay
>> among other things is remarkable for its appreciation of Stravinsky's
>> Oedipus Rex), 'Nabokov's Dark Cinema' (collected, if you cannot find it
>> itself, in 'The Bitter Air of Exile') makes no mention at all of Welles,
>> and neither, I notice, does Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Still,
>> think it would be a fascinating area of research, and would be delighted
>> to hear other views on this subject.
> Cheers!
> yours
> Kiran
> "I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
> - Vladimir Nabokov

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