Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000067, Fri, 13 Aug 1993 10:30:08 -0700

MARY (Reply to Jeff Edmonds) (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 93 23:08 EST
To: nabokv-l@ucsbvm
Subject: MARY (Reply to Jeff Edmonds)

Subject: MARY (Response to Jeff Edmunds)

Dear Jeff Edmunds,

Several points in your memo of August 11 come very close to
interests of my own. The scene showing that Mary's image
actually preceded Ganin's first encounter with her is
central to the theory of "anticipatory memory" developed in
my chapter on MARY. Past and future (not just the present)
coalesce in a striking way to produce the complex time
consciousness associated with memory in this novel.

Also, I give very careful attention to Ganin's reminiscence
of Nietzschean "eternal recurrence" in chapter 4 of MARY.
Bernice Rosenthal's NIETZSCHE IN RUSSIA suggests that
Nietzsche was everywhere when Nabokov was growing up, but
I've been intrigued by Brian Boyd's information that Nabokov
actually read Nietzsche during his time in the Crimea. It
was also during this period that he played his elaborate
games with "future retrospection" (SPEAK, MEMORY 248), which
is a kind of reverse counterpart to anticipatory memory.

I do have some difficulty with your comment that the past
"as such remains irrecuperable and not open to rejection."
Perhaps you need to explain these words in greater detail;
but the novel does make it clear that Ganin had managed NOT
to remember Mary throughout many years in the past. Also,
on the last page of the novel, there is a telling temporal
glide in the way Ganin concludes that all is over with Mary:
"he realized with merciless clarity that his romance with
Mary was over" [ The reader thinks he is referring to the
youthful infatuation ]. "It had lasted no more than four
days--four days which were perhaps the happiest days of his
life" [ The reader realizes, Oh--it is the period of intense
memory that is meant ].

Again I get the sense (particularly from "MERCILESS clarity"
and "was over" -- the Russian "konchilsia navsegda" seems
even more forceful here) that the memories themselves are
being rejected, though as I noted in my response to Galya
Diment, the basic nature of an open ending is to leave our
interpretations in a certain state of suspension.

John Foster ["jfoster@gmuvax.gmu.edu"]