Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000066, Fri, 13 Aug 1993 10:27:36 -0700

MARY (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1993 16:27:22 -0700 (PDT)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
To: vladimir nabokov <nabokv-l%ucsbvm.BITNET@uwavm.u.washington.edu>
Subject: MARY

I agree with Jeff Edmunds that there are strong "Ubermensch" qualities to
many of Nabokov characters. Most of them pride themselves on being strong
(Ganin, Fedor, Krug) and healthy (Fedor's admiration of tanned healthy
bodies, including his own, is sadly reminiscent of the Nazi ideal of
masculine beauty). Cincinnatus is quite an exception -- it is mostly those
we ought to despise who are usually shown to be weak (Paduk, for example)
and otherwise physically imperfect (many of the "evil" characters either
stammer or have other disabilities). It is almost as if Nabokov believed
that "V zdorovom tele--zdorovyi dukh," and, more importantly, vice versa.
We find it mostly in Nabokov's earlier prose, so it was probably the
arrogance of youth rather than strong philosophical convictions, and yet
we should not ignore it. Another "ubermensch" character who is very akin
to Ganin is Kuznetsov from "Chelovek iz SSSR" (The Man from the USSR). He
is brutal to women who fall for him, ruthless with some of his comrades
whom he feeds to GPU (KGB) in order to save the operation he is in charge
with -- and yet the reader/spectator should, according to Nabokov's
design, as I read it, admire him. If we look closely at Nabokov's
portrayal of his father in Speak, Memory, V. D. Nabokov comes across as a
definite "superman" with no touch of irony on V. V. Nabokov's part. The
same can be said about Fedor's father in DAR -- the famous scene where he
sends Fedor's mother home as soon as she arrives, after many days, to the
site of his expedition is not meant to undercut the character but, on the
contrary, it's supposed to show his strong masculine determination and his
WILL which has to be obeyed.