Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025036, Thu, 30 Jan 2014 00:37:44 -0200

Re: [Sightings] V.Nabokov and hyperboles
Still revolving around the initial thread with the help of search-tools:

1. "The Case of the Missing Line - Nabokov's Mathematics in Pale Fire" by Jens Juhl Jensen [ http://www.lmfk.dk/artikler/data/artikler/1104/1104_39.pdf.] where we read that " ... arithmetical entities belong to the signifiant, rather than the signifié, and may also direct the shape of prose texts, for instance the writings of Nabokov. Pale Fire (i.e. John Francis Shade's poem) is a case in point. Already in the very first pages of the Foreword Charles Kinbote asserts that right from the start the text was intended to cover 1.000 lines, of which only 999 have been preserved. "The loss, however, is not very great: 'Nay, I shall even assert (as our shadows still walk with us) that there remained to be written only one line of the poem (namely verse 1000) which would have been identical to line 1 and would have completed the symmetry of the structure." Further developments carry us to ancient Persian texts and to Vergil, with lots of surprises lying in wait.

2. As regards topology in literature, and the Moebius strip in particular, we find in http://www.carliner-remes.com/jacob/math/project/lit.htm a report bringing up "several examples in literature where the subject of the narrative is non-orientables surfaces ..., or where the narrative itself takes the shape of a moebius strip. The ...two we chose to include in our course are "The No-sided Professor," by Martin Gardner, and "A Subway Named Moebius," by A.J. Deutsch. They can both be found in the collection of short stories called Fantasia Mathematica, assembled by Clifton Fadiman. We also found two examples of works where the plot resembled a Moebius strip--Ionesco's play The Bald Soprano and Nabokov's novel The Gift. The Bald Soprano is very accessible too--it is an easy read, and the Moebius strip analogy is straightforward. The Gift, on the other hand, is more obscure, and we suggest that only the more advanced readers try to tackle it.*

3. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Euclidean_geometry
"Non-Euclidean geometry often makes appearances in works of science fiction and fantasy.
Professor James Moriarty a character in the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a criminal mastermind with a PhD in non-Euclidean geometries.
In 1895 H. G. Wells published the short story "The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes".
The main character in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance mentioned Riemannian Geometry on multiple occasions.
In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky discusses non-Euclidean geometry through his main character Ivan.
Christopher Priest's novel Inverted World describes the struggle of living on a planet with the form of a rotating pseudosphere.
Robert Heinlein's The Number of the Beast utilizes non-Euclidean geometry to explain instantaneous transport through space and time and between parallel and fictional universes. Alexander Bruce's Antichamber uses non-Euclidean geometry to create a brilliant, minimal, Escher-like world, where geometry and space follow unfamiliar rules[ ]
In H.P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, the sunken city of R'lyeh is characterized by its non-Euclidean geometry. It is heavily implied this is achieved as a side effect of not following the natural laws of this universe rather than simply using an alternate geometric model, as the sheer innate wrongness of it is said to be capable of driving those who look upon it insane."
obs: What I didn't find, among the cited works by the wikipedia, was a reference to V.Nabokov's early novel, The Luzhin Defense, with the description of young Luzhin's reaction to "the mysteries of parallelism," when he risked an imaginary catastrophe by "forcing the inclined line to jump off" by reconstructing the ideal parallel lines in the Euclidean space.
"The secret for which he strove was simplicity, harmonious simplicity, which can amaze one far more than the most intricate magic.[ ] However, it was just at this time that he had become extraordinarily engrossed in a collection of problems entitled 'Merry Mathematics,' in the fantastical misbehavior of numbers and the wayward frolics of geometric lines, in everything that the schoolbook lacked. He experienced both bliss and horror in contemplating the way an inclined line, rotating spokelike, slid upwards along another, vertical one - in an example illustrating the mysteries of parallelism. The vertical one as infinite, like all lines, and the inclined one, also infinite, sliding along it and rising ever higher as its angle decreased, was doomed to eternal motion, for it was impossible for it to slip off, and the point of their intersection, together with his soul, glided upwards along an endless path. But with the aid of a ruler he forced them to unlock: he simply redrew them, parallel to one another, and this gave him the feeling that out there, in infinity, where he had forced the inclined line to jump off, an unthinkable catastrophe had taken place, an inexplicable miracle, and he lingered long, in those heavens where earthly lines go out of their mind." The Luzhin Defense: Ch.2


* Excerpts: "Nabokov's style is incredibly rich-every single phrase overflows with meaning, with images begging to be unloaded and interpreted [and] full of mathematical references. In fact, one of the first sentences of The Gift reads thus: "Running along [the van's] entire side was the name of the moving company in yard-high blue letters, each of which (including a square dot) was shaded laterally with black paint: a dishonest attempt to climb into the next dimension." The author alludes to geometrical configurations and to distortions of space and time throughout his book, so it is no surprise to find Moebius metaphors in it as well."
In the The Gift "One plot line emerges from another, until you have lost track of where to find the "true" narrative. Nabokov himself called Chapter four, the book within a book, a "spiral within a sonnet"-quite a beautiful image to portray the narrative twists in The Gift.[ ] Fyodor is on the inside of the narrative at the beginning of the work: he is a character who Nabokov, author of The Gift, is writing about, describing his beginnings as a writer, and how he comes to meet his girlfriend Zina. Once we get to the final chapter, however, Fyodor discusses with Zina the book he wants to write: "Here is what I'd like to do," he said. "Something similar to destiny's work in regard to us. Think how fate started it three and a half odd years ago." From there, Fyodor proceeds to explain that he wants to write a book about exactly what we just read: his emergence as a writer and the gradual evolution of his relationship with Zina. Fyodor is no longer the character of Nabokov's The Gift, but the author of his own The Gift. He is now on the outside! "
Was Nabokov aware that his book imitated a Moebius strip? [ ] In fact, the inventor of the Moebius metaphor in The Gift seems to be Omry Ronen, who used to be a literature professor at Yale and is now at University of Michigan [ ] From a formal point of view of the narrative, therefore, The Gift imitates a Moebius strip. Furthermore, if we examine the language of The Gift, there are a number of moments which relate to Moebius strips also. The idea of flips and twists comes up often: "at the end, there is always one that does a kind of flip, and then hastily assumes its position," says the narrator about a commercial [ ] Or still later on in the narrative: "you look at a person and you see him as clearly as if he were fashioned of glass and you were the glass blower, while at the same time without in the least impinging upon the clarity you notice some trifle on the side--such as the similarity of the telephone receiver's shadow to a jug, slightly crushed ant, and (all this simultaneously) the convergence is joined by a third thought--the memory of a sunny evening at a Russian small railway station; ie. images having no rational connection with the conversation you are carrying on while your mind runs around the outside of our own words and along the inside of those of your interlocutor."

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