NABOKV-L post 0005350, Wed, 12 Jul 2000 06:34:28 -0700

Henry James and Nabokov. (fwd)
From: Arthur Glass <>

I am glad someone else has recognized similarities between James and
Nabokov.The problems of delusion and reality in _Pale Fire_, and the
reliability of a narrator who is, apparently, in the grips of a complicated
delusory system, seem to me similar to that raised by James's novella _The
Turn of the Screw_. Are the ghosts of Quint and Miss Jessel 'real' or are
they the delusions of the governess' imagination? A simple positive answer
on either side can be met with numerous objections from the text. If the
ghosts are delusions, how comes the governess to describe these figures so
accurately that Mrs Gross, the housekeeper, recogmizes them immediately? If
the ghosts are real, why can't Mrs Gross see them whem thay appear at the
lake , and why does she, for all intents and puposes, accuse the governess
of being imbalanced?

In_Pale Fire_, similarly, there are points at which the existence of Zembla
seems to be confirmed by other characters. In the note to l. 894, Kinbote
recounts a discussion of the Zemblan revolution and the fate of the king in
which Shade, 'Netochka' and the Pink professor of physics all seem to be
aware of events in Zembla and the disappearance of the King. Is Kinbote's
memory of this conversation the fabrication of a madman? This brings up the
question of narratorial reliability. When is Kinbote to be believed in his
recounting of 'facts' and conversations, and when is he fantasizing? We
can't, in all honesty, say he is telling the truth when that truth supports
out own reading of the novel.This question of narratorial reliability must
also be faced--on two levels-- in _Turn of the Screw. First, if the
governess is mentally unstable, what criteria can we apply to distinguish
fact from fiction in her account? Second, the governess narration is doubly
framed by 'outside' narrators, so it is a story within a story within a
story. A similar narrative complexity can be adduced for Conrad's 'The Heart
of Darkness,' but that is an adventure for another day.

----- Original Message -----
From: Galya Diment <>
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2000 5:57 PM
Subject: Henry James and Nabokov. (fwd)

> From:
> Nabokov found Henry James puzzling, but one critic credited James's
> technique, in his complex later phase, as the foundation for and
> indispensable to Joyce's stream of consciousness and a precursor of other
> modern approaches to fiction. Did James influence Nabokov in any way that
> Nabokov would not admit?
> Phillip Iannarelli
> Cleveland, Ohio