Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000064, Wed, 11 Aug 1993 13:25:04 -0700

MARY (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1993 11:36:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
To: vladimir nabokov <nabokv-l%ucsbvm.BITNET@uwavm.u.washington.edu>
Subject: MARY

Dear John,

Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed response to my comment. I want
to address some of the issues you raise in it pretty much in the order in
which they appear.

1. That Ganin "had exhausted his memories, was sated by them" could
possibly mean that he was ready to reject his past.

I draw a very different conclusion from it. He was "sated" by his memories
in a very positive sense, like someone having a very good dinner,
"exhausting" all its ingredients, and being "sated" at the end of it. It
does not mean that the person is about to reject good food -- it just
means that he/she is ready to move on for now, until the next time when a
good dinner is needed. That is exactly what happens to Ganin, I believe.
He has gotten from his past everything he needed at this point to go on
with his present. I have no doubts that he will continue re-capturing and
re-constructing his past as he moves along; his past has become a vital
part of his human identity, and he can hardly afford to reject it.

2. That there is a significant "distance" between Ganin and Nabokov.

Every time I teach MARY my students want to see the distance between the
two -- esp. when Ganin throws cigarette buts into mailboxes or makes poor
Alferov totally drunk. But I was never convinced that a true ironic
distance is really there. He does parody at least one of Ganin's more
"stupid" actions in INVITATION TO A BEHEADING, when Pierre lifts the chair
with his false teeth, but to me this is not enough evidence that the
initial distance was really there. Ganin is a very Nabokovian character;
the fact that we are often embarrassed and horrified by his actions does
not mean, it seems to me, that Nabokov ever was. He did believe that
certain people who possess what others do not possess (the GIFT) should
not be judged by the "normal" standards of behavior. Ganin's gift is his
ability to use "the art of memory" -- it does make him an artist in
Nabokov's view.

3. Finally, Art of Memory.

That it evolved "modally" -- I would be foolish not to agree. That Nabokov
becomes better presenting it also goes without saying. But this is all a
kind of development that is easily expected of any writer. It is the
"cultural framework" that I am having problems with. Not because I believe
that Nabokov's "art of memory" is Russian, but because I think it is
primarily Nabokovian, as Joyce's is primarily Joycean, and Proust's is
primarily Proustian -- and in that sense it remained the same. I work with
Joyce a lot as well, and Joyce's uses and re-constructions of memory while
evolving "modally" and "qualitatively" too, in ESSENCE remained the same,
in my opinion, despite all his travels and exiles. And his art of memory
was not Irish, to begin with, but his own. An interviewer once asked
Nabokov about his "Proustian sense of places" and he responded that his
"sense of places is Nabokovian rather than Proustian." I am not the one to
agree with everything Nabokov ever said about himself and his writings,
but this statement does ring true.