NABOKV-L post 0006080, Fri, 20 Jul 2001 12:37:49 -0700

[Fwd: restraining Socrates]
Mary Bellino wrote:

> EDITOR's NOTE. Mary Bellino is an Associate Editor of the journal NABOKOV
> STUDIES--a must for all serious Nabokovians. Subscription info is available on

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> >From Mary Bellino (
> Our editor's Socratic musings raise the interesting question of
> Nabokov's reception of Plato -- how much of Plato had VN read and what
> specific use did he make of it in his writings? As David Andrews has
> pointed out, there are pretty clear references to the Phaedo in
> Invitation to a Beheading. I would add that the "cave" of Republic VII
> is (or may be) alluded to in an early chapter of Speak, Memory, and that
> Nabokov once told an interviewer that he wouldn't have liked Plato's
> regime of "militarism and music" (or something similar -- I am away from
> my books and regret that I can't supply page references or exact
> quotes). I'm not sure whether the latter quote refers to the Republic or
> the Laws -- no one but a serious student of Plato would read the Laws,
> so that would be significant, but I suspect he was referring again to
> the Republic. Most of the other Platonic mentions that I can think of
> have to do with various aspects of the two-world theory relating either
> to the otherworld or to the question of poetic inspiration.
> There's no doubt that Nabokov was familiar with the broader outlines of
> Plato's thought, but it would be useful to try to determine exactly
> WHICH specific dialogues he may have read. Any thoughts?
> Mary
> "D. Barton Johnson" wrote:
> >
> > I am rereading SPEAK, MEMORY. AT the begining of Chapter II, VN
> > discusses, inter alia, his "mild hallucinations." Speaking of their lack
> > of profitability, he goes on to say "The fatidic accents that
> > restrained Socrates or egged on Joaneta Darc have degenerated with me to
> > the level....." ALthough I have often read this passage, today I
> > suddenly stopped to wonder about "that restrained Socrates." The
> > "egged on" Joan of Arc is clear enough. She famously heard voices that
> > prompted her to her valorous deeds. But Socrates? And why "restrained"?
> > Consulting my trusty Britannica, I learned that Socrates is said to have
> > heard a voice from childhood on that would enjoin him NOT to do certain
> > things--often of no great moment. The notable thing is that the advice
> > was never positive, only negative.