Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026344, Fri, 7 Aug 2015 17:32:42 -0300

Sighting: Eavesdropping Eden and Eve's two apples - resending
Former Posting by JM: “The connection in Lolita between “creeping and eavesdropping” and Satan (in Theo Hobson’s developments related to John Milton’s Paradise Lost) intrigues me. This theme appears quite often in VN’s novels. There’s Quilty (thru HH’s lenses), there’s Pale Fire’s Kinbote, there’s Ada’s multiple “leavesdroppings”, with Blanche, photographer Kim, various other blackmailers and also Lucette’s angry green pursuit of her elder siblings (“spying on Eden”) that ends by destroying her. These examples don’t indicate a Satanic figure to me, although a “demonic” influence cannot be discarded. Still, would this hypothesis that links references to spying and Satan in Lolita provide a reasonable point of departure to understand anew those additional characters? I don’t think so…”

Jansy Mello: Eden (when not Arcadia) is also favorite theme in V.Nabokov’s novels. I found it interesting to learn that Edmund Wilson (Dear Bunny, dear Volodya) mentioned that he preferred Pushkin’s “part about the Garden of Eden” in the “The Gavriliada” to John Milton’s verses on this subject, in “Paradise Lost”. In letter 44 he writes: “…do you think he had any intention beyond what is obvious in “The Gavriliada”? Did he mean to imply that we can’t be sure whether Christ was the son of Gabriel, the Devil or God? The part about the Garden of Eden is quite beautiful – I prefer it to Milton on the same subject.”

A.D.P Briggs in “Alexander Pushkin: A Critical Study” informs that “The Gabrieliad runs a double risk, being both blasphemous and erotic [ ]repeatedly he had to deny that it was his. / He sat down at the end of Lent in 1821 and wrote his satirical amalgam of several of the Church’s most revered dogmas, the Annunciation, the Virgin Birth and the Fall of Adam and Eve prominent among them [ ] The Lord appears to [Mary] in a dream but, visiting his court, she takes a stronger fancy to the handsome Angel Gabriel. Before either of them can take matters further the Devil presents himself to Mary as a snake, seduces her spiritually [ ]Gabriel drives him off and repeats the debauchery. Only God is left …”
[ ]” Eve is aroused to awareness by a rather obvious symbol, ‘Two apples dangling from a wondrous bough’ …” .

Catriona Kelly in “Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction” seems to concur: “From ‘the father of Russian literature’, Pushkin had become a jester, a participant at bachelor revels. He was even paid the dubious compliment of a pornographic forgery, his so-called Secret Memoirs of 1836 and 1837, which confessed, among other things, to three-in-a-bed frolics with his wife Natalya and her sister Aleksandra*. And his key works now included, besides Evgeny Onegin, … The Little House at Kolomna, The Gabrieliad, and Count Nulin [ ] Modernists as Nabokov, who held much Russian Realist prose to be as bogus in intention as it was garrulous in expression, and who detested psychological literalism, commented of Pushkin’s Evgeny Onegin that he is ‘fluid and flaccid as soon as he starts to feel, as soon as he departs from the existence he has acquired from his maker in terms of colorful parody and as a catchall for many irrelevant and immortal matters’. It was above all as a triumph of surface-painting that he admired the novel.” <http://library.atgti.az/categories/literature/Russian%20Literature.pdf> http://library.atgti.az/categories/literature/Russian%20Literature.pdf

V.Nabokov answers E.Wilson in August 12, 1942 (letter 46) but, although he mentions the implications from “the Gavriliada” and Pushkin’s atheism, he doesn’t expand the theme. He seems to be intent on winning his friend over to “The Stone Guest” and to establish a fruitful, diverting and serious discussion about English and Russian meter.

The spurious confession, in Pushkin’s “Secret Journal”, related to “three-in-a-bed frolics with his wife Natalya and her sister Aleksandra” reminded me of a sort of “convex mirror”, Eric’s “ciel mirror” vision of Van, Ada and Lucette’s ménage à trois one day after their dinner at the Ursus.

‘Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!’ commanded Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow.

She sat down with a bump on a chair, pressing one hand to her brow.[ ] Tropes are the dreams of speech. Through the boxwood maze and bagatelle arches of Ardis, Van passed into sleep. When he reopened his eyes it was nine a.m. She lay curved away from him, with nothing beyond the opened parenthesis, its contents not yet ready to be enclosed, and the beloved, beautiful, treacherous, blue-black-bronze hair smelt of Ardis, but also of Lucette’s ‘Oh-de-grâce.’[ ] Ada, being at twenty a long morning sleeper, his usual practice, ever since their new life together had started, was to shower before she awoke and… being anxious to have an engagement with Ada before the day began, even if it meant intruding upon her warm sleep, Van sped up his ablutions, robustly dried himself, powdered his groin, and without bothering to put anything on re-entered the bedroom in full pride, only to find a tousled and sulky Lucette, still in her willow green nightie, sitting on the far edge of the concubital bed, while fat-nippled Ada, already wearing, for ritual and fatidic reasons, his river of diamonds, was inhaling her first smoke of the day and trying to make her little sister decide whether she would like to try the Monaco’s pancakes with Potomac syrup, or, perhaps, their incomparable amber-and-ruby bacon [ ]Lucette shrugged her shoulders and made as if to leave, but Ada’s avid hand restrained her.[ ] ‘Pet stays right here,’ cried audacious Ada, and with one graceful swoop plucked her sister’s nightdress off. Involuntarily Lucette bent her head and frail spine; then she lay back on the outer half of Ada’s pillow in a martyr’s pudibund swoon, her locks spreading their orange blaze against the black velvet of the padded headboard.

‘Uncross your arms, silly,’ ordered Ada and kicked off the top sheet that partly covered six legs. Simultaneously, without turning her head, she slapped furtive Van away from her rear, and with her other hand made magic passes over the small but very pretty breasts, gemmed with sweat, and along the flat palpitating belly of a seasand nymph, down to the firebird seen by Van once, fully fledged now, and as fascinating in its own way as his favorite’s blue raven. Enchantress! Acrasia!/ What we have now is not so much a Casanovanic situation (that double-wencher had a definitely monochromatic pencil — in keeping with the memoirs of his dingy era) as a much earlier canvas, of the Venetian (sensu largo) school, reproduced (in ‘Forbidden Masterpieces’) expertly enough to stand the scrutiny of a borders vue d’oiseau.[ ] The fire of Lucette’s amber runs through the night of Ada’s odor and ardor, and stops at the threshold of Van’s lavender goat. Ten eager, evil, loving, long fingers belonging to two different young demons caress their helpless bed pet. Ada’s loose black hair accidentally tickles the local curio she holds in her left fist, magnanimously demonstrating her acquisition. Unsigned and unframed.[ ] ‘She’s terribly nervous, the poor kid,’ remarked Ada stretching across Van toward the Wipex. ‘You can order that breakfast now — unless... Oh, what a good sight! Orchids. I’ve never seen a man make such a speedy recovery.’” (ADA,II, ch 8)


* - Wikipedia: “In 1986, a book entitled Secret Journal 1836–1837 was published by a Minneapolis publishing house (M.I.P. Company), claiming to be the decoded content of an encrypted private journal kept by Pushkin. Promoted with few details about its contents, and touted for many years as being 'banned in Russia', it was an erotic novel narrated from Pushkin's perspective. Some mail-order publishers still carry the work under its fictional description. In 2001 it was first published in Moscow by Ladomir Publishing House which created a scandal. In 2006 a bilingual Russian-English edition was published in Russia by Retro Publishing House. Now published in 25 countries. Staged in Paris in 2006.[25] In 2011 new editions were published in France by Belfond,[26] in Spain by Funambulista[27] and in the USA by M.I.P. Company.[25] The first academic publication of the Secret Journal and Parapushkinistika in one volume[28] was published in 2013 by M.I.P. Company.”

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