Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026919, Thu, 24 Mar 2016 17:45:33 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] Proustian bed and Procrustes

“ In his essay Texture of Time (Part Four of Ada) Van mentions the Proustian bed and the assassin pun: “But beware, anime meus, of the marcel wave of fashionable art; avoid the Proustian bed and the assassin pun (itself a suicide — as those who know their Verlaine will note).” In his poem Art Poétique (“Art of Poetry,” 1885) Paul Verlaine says that a poet should avoid la Pointe assassine, l'Esprit cruel et le Rire impur (the assassin Pun, the cruel Quip and the impure Laughter) [snip] – (quoted and explored by A.Sklyarenko)

J.Mello: Somewhat excessively VN brings in “the marcel wave” and the “Proustian bed” in the cited paragraph and he leads the reader’s attention towards Marcel Proust and away from his own “assassin pun”, namely the “Proust/Procustean bed” , performing a joke inside the joke and allowing for the absurd stretching of “ "a scheme or pattern into which someone or something is arbitrarily forced." www.merriam-webster.com/.../procrustean%20bed

Following the myth: “In the Greek myth, Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus, on the Sacred_Way between Athens Eleusis. There he had a bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith's hammer, to stretch them to fit. In later tellings, if the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fit the bed exactly. Procrustes continued his reign of terror until he was captured by Theseus, travelling to Athens along the sacred way, who "fitted" Procrustes to his own bed”. *

But why did VN suggest that this kind of “stretching” is a suicide (a voluntary death, a self-murder)? Here, in ch.4 (Ada or Ardor), what does it indicate?

* In relation to Nabokov what interests us now is not so much the myth but the “cultural references” associated to it . In the same site we find: “Procrustean bed is an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced. In https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe's The_Purloined_Letter", the private detective Dupin uses the metaphor of a Procrustean bed to describe the Parisian police's overly rigid method of looking for clues. Jacques_Derrida, in "The Purveyor of Truth", his response Jacques_Lacan's seminar on "The Purloined Letter" (1956), applies the metaphor to the structural analysis of texts: "By framing in this violent way, by cutting the narrated figure itself from a fourth side in order to see only triangles, one evades perhaps a certain complication. This is one of Deconstruction's central critiques of Formalism_(literature)) literary analysis. [ ] Procrustes_analysis is the process of performing a shape-preserving Euclidean_transformation to a set of shapes. This removes variations in translation, rotation and scaling across the dataset in order to move them into a common frame of reference. This is generally the precursor to further statistical analysis. A related problem in algebra is the Orthogonal_Procrustes_problem of finding the closest Orthogonal_matrix to any given Matrix_(mathematics). A Procrustean solution is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived structure.”

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