Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000065, Thu, 12 Aug 1993 15:04:26 -0700

Mary (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1993 09:31:43 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Mary

This post will address some points raised by John Foster in his response to
Galya Diment's original comments. I'll also introduce some ramblings of my
own. First I wanted to quote the Sologub line I alluded to earlier: "IA--
bog tainstvennogo mira // Ves mir v odnikh moikh mechtakh". I likened this
to the line from Mashen'ka "On byl bogom, vozsozdaiushchim pogibshii mir."
The lines are Nietzschean in tone. John Foster mentions Nietzsche with
respect to Ganin's flirting with the concept of "eternal return". I am
intrigued by the Nietzschean aspect of Ganin's personality, Ganin as an
"overman". Foster in his most recent post characterizes Ganin as an
adventurer, as brutal. He (G.) exercises his will as some people exercise their
muscles, and when he feels listless, Nabokov refers to this state as a
"dispersion of will." Ganin is indifferent to Liudmila's feelings of
rejection, indifferent to Klara's undeclared love, indifferent to
Podtyagin's death. Ubermensch?
Next, to futurism. When the old poet relates his nightmare and refers
to "futurist painting", I did not think of Italian futurism, with its mish-
mash of superimposed buildings and blurry dogs on leashes, but rather of
German Expressionist film sets, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for example.
Since their are other cinematic references in the novel, I'd be curious to
know other people's impressions of Podyagin's disturbing dream. (I also
couldn't help recalling the dark and nasty St. Petersburg of Gogol's
Galya Diment brings up Julian Connolly's emphasis on Ganin's dozing
off at the novel's end. I see this less as an implied retreat into the
world of dreams than as the day of rest of a tired god. Foster mentions
Sebastian Knight. I see Ganin's doze as akin to Knight's exhaustion at the
end of one chapter. A person enters to see Sebastian spreadeagled on the
floor, who says "No, I'm not dead. I have just finshed creating a world and
this is my Sabbath rest." [I paraphrase.]
The point in Foster's post with which I find myself least in sympathy
(perhaps through lack of complete understanding) is what he calls Mary's
"open ending", "a radical lack of closure about the ultimate fate of the
characters". My own feeling is that the book ends the only way it could and
thus is admirably closed. The only book with an "open ending" in the book
that never ends. I'm not sure what is meant by "ultimate fate of the
characters". For me ultimate fate is their fate as of the book's final line
. I am reminded of a line from Korol', dama, valet. Dreyer is immersed in a
book, and "Vne solntsem osveshchennoi stranitsy ne sushchestvovalo nichego
." As to the specific question of how Mary will react when no one meets
her at the station, it is my belief, based upon no more than a subtle
shiver of intuition, that it is not she but her hungover husband who is
doomed to pace the deserted platform, because, you see, she decided not to
come to Berlin after all.

Jeff Edmunds
(jhe@psulias.bitnet or