NABOKV-L post 0026503, Tue, 6 Oct 2015 09:09:32 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] [Thoughts] The real and the semblance in Pale Fire
Former posting: “There are occasions when a familiar text suddenly opens up
onto a new query that adds a different perspective (to look at) an author’s
work. In this case, it’s point of departure came from a paragraph in VN’s
“Pouchkine, le vrai et le vraisemblable” ( I don’t have its translation in
English) …published for the first time in the NRF (1937) arguing about “the
real Pushkin.” […] I was reminded of John Shade’s poem “Pale Fire”, its
“real” autobiographical elements and the partially “real” and delirious
commentary by C.Kinbote. Fictive poet, fictive commentator, real author:
what is “real” in the novel, what is fake (duperie?)[…] The line that
stimulated me begins with: “A poet’s life is like the pastiche of his work”
(quoting: “La vie d’un poète est comme le pastiche de son oeuvre. Le
passage du temps semble vouloir répéter le geste du génie, em prêtant à son
existence imaginée la même teinte et le même contour que le poète avait
donnés à ses créatures... Qu’importe au fond, si ce que nous voyons n’est
q’une immense duperie.” Pouchkine: le vrai et le vraisemblable,1937.)

Present posting (JM): When VN refers to the life of a poet like a pastiche
of his work in his Pushkin lecture he is not considering the art of living.
At least, not at first, in the tight fitting of the context while he
enlarges upon the theme of an author’s “biography,” which he considers as
being tinged with the same imaginary colors as are those of a fictional
writer or poet (neither Mr. Goodman, nor V. would get to the truth of
Sebastian Knight’s “life” – even less Charles Kinbote’s information in his
notes to Shade’s verses…).

What I had in mind, in another context, were these lines from Pale Fire:

JS: “Man’s life as commentary to abstruse /Unfinished poem.”

CK: Note to Lines 939-940 “human life is but a series of footnotes to a
vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”

There are other parallels (which preserve their own perspective and
reflections) that reveal his conclusions about Art (and Life,

“Therefore, one would like to think that what we call art isn’t anything
else that the picturesque dimension of truth: it’s only necessary to know
how to catch hold of it. And life becomes amusing when one is immersed in
the spirit that reveals the singular light of the simplest things.” [“Donc,
on aimerait penser que ce que nous appelons art n’est en somme que le
pittoresque du vrai: il faut savoir l’attraper, voilà tout. Et que la vie
devient amusante lorsq’on se met dans cet étt d’esprit où les choses les
plus simples nous montrent leur éclat singulier.”] (Pouchkine, le vrai et le


“In a sense, we all are crashing to our death from the top story of our
birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal
Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to
wonder at trifles – no matter the imminent peril – these asides of the
spirit...are the highest forms of consciousness (“The Art of Literature and
Commonsense”, VN, Lectures on Literature, 372-74)


“ Therefore there is not a single moment in which Pushkin’s truth stopped to
shine at some place, as indestructible as a conscience […] But the eye of
the philosopher, in the process of exploring the world, still sparkles with
goodwill because he notices that what is essential never changes, that the
place of honor is always kept for what is good and beautiful. If life
sometimes seems to be overclouded it only happens because one is myopic. For
those who know how to look at it everyday life is as full of joys and
revelations as it had been in the eyes of the great poets of yore. By
heavens, (Pushkin was)an artist who, in one passing move, transformed life
into a little masterpiece.”

“Et pourtant il n’y a pas eu un seul moment où la vérité de Pouchkine ait
cessé de briller quelque part, indestructible comme une conscience[…]Mais
l’oeil du philosophe, lors qu’il surveille le monde, pétille de
bienvieillance en observant que l’essentiel ne change pas, que c’est
toujours au bien et au beau que la place d’honneur est réservée. Si la vie
semble quelquefois bien brumeuse, c’est parce que l’on est myope. Pour qui
sait regarder, la vie quotidienne est aussi pleine de révélations et de
jouissances qu’elle l’était aux yeux des grands poètes de jadis. On se
demande ma foi quel est cet artiste qui en passant change tout à coup la vie
en un petit chef-d’oeuvre.” (Pushknin,1937).*


*(the lines above express one of my past queries: “I must confess that I’m
trying to read V.Nabokov not simply as a ‘great XXth Century author’ but as
a harbinger of ‘new surprises,’ both in literature as in life [ and I don’t
mean death as in “Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should
not be an even greater one.”].”

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :