NABOKV-L post 0026478, Mon, 28 Sep 2015 11:06:40 -0500

Re: [THOUGHTS] Associations related to a TV series: compassion
and pity?
Right you should ask, Jansy. VN's books are very much about pity, and yet it seems confined to the books, and not shared by the writer, who keeps an authorial distance. Who are we to judge a man who kept his private life very private. He was an obsessive--it was all about his work. The best authors are like that. There was much to make him saddened, but he avoided that assiduously. In St. Petersburg I went to the museum of the siege of Leningrad. Hundreds of thousands died of starvation during the siege which lasted 900 days. I recently looked over his correspondence from that period to see if there was anything about Leningrad. Didn't find anything. Then I looked at the NYTimes archives to see what was being reported about it. It looks like the Soviets, for propaganda reasons, kept the lid on what was happening--reporting greatly underestimated numbers. The Russians and Germans were in a propaganda war at the time, each trying to convince the other to surrender.
Date: Sun, 27 Sep 2015 11:38:34 -0300
From: jansy.mello@OUTLOOK.COM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] [THOUGHTS] Associations related to a TV series: compassion and pity?

ENC: litoWhen Lito (episode 5, “Art and Religion” in “Sense8”, a Netflix series) forgetting his role as a rude character in a Mexican movie began to shed tears, he explained to the director that his grief was caused by the realization that “all beauty is temporary.” * This is a common enough sentence: mourning about the transience of life and beauty has been expressed by countless poets and writers over the centuries. Why was I reminded of Nabokov just then? The scene belongs to a set of little comic mishaps contrasting with the director’s search for “realism,” something that he believed could be reached by filming the wanton destruction of an enormous collection of priceless archeological sculptures. Everything seemed to be disjointed and ludicrous in it. Why Nabokov?
The lines that I had in mind, from his Lecture on Kafka, are: “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.” Today I was able to accept that I felt uncomfortable by it and that I could never fully understand its meaning. After all, VN was not indicating “human compassion”, was he?
In VN’s afterword to Lolita we find: “For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm” . Tenderness, kindness, pity? Towards whom?**
*-director: And action! (sobs) Cut! Lito, what are you doing? Tears are not hot. Tears are not sexy.
Lito: Sorry. My fault. Um... I'm just feeling a little emotional today. (whispers) I was suddenly struck by her beauty and the knowledge that... all beauty is temporary. Decay and death haunt every breath we take.
director: Lito, are you kidding me? Lighten up. "Decay and death"? This is a movie, for f*ck's sake. OK, people. Come on. Nachito! We don't have all day! Come on! man: Take your positions, everyone! We're going again!
Read more at:
commentaries: Lito is "part of the episode’s most outwardly comedic story line.... [He] breaks down crying ...telling the director that in the moment he realized the fleeting nature of beauty...The whole scene is played for laughs, and while a man going through hormonal swings brought on by a period could be very base humor, it works here, mostly due to how evocative and unhinged Miguel Ángel Silvestre’s performance is."**- VN had no access to the comforts of religion, such as the Jesuit poet’s G.M.Hopkins (now I have in mind “Spring and Fall” that ends with “It ís the blight man was born for. It is Margaret you mourn for”, cf. ). In his annotated copy of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” we read: “The soul has died with Gregor; the healthy young animal takes over. The parasites have fattened themselves on Gregor.” However, this personal lamentation doesn’t show in the body of his lecture, which he ends with a very objective paragraph: “You will mark Kafka's style. Its clarity, its precise and formal intonation in such striking contrast to the nightmare matter of his tale. No poetical metaphors ornament his stark black-and-white story. The limpidity of his style stresses the dark richness of his fantasy. Contrast and unity, style and matter, manner and plot are most perfectly integrated.”

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