Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000068, Fri, 13 Aug 1993 10:32:45 -0700

MARY (Reply to Galya Diment) (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 93 23:09 EST
To: nabokv-l@ucsbvm
Subject: MARY (Reply to Galya Diment)

Subject: MARY (Reply to Galya Diment)

Dear Galya,

I'll respond to your comments point by point.

1. From my perspective the point you make about the phrase
"had exhausted his memories, was sated by them" is
interesting if you are willing to consider it an intentional
ambiguity. My sense of Ganin is that he may want to reject
his memories, but in the future they could well flood back
over him. If we read the phrase as having the primary
meaning I got from it, but as including a tinge of possible
regeneration later on (drawing on your reading), I think we
may have a solution to our contrasting impressions. In
fact, that kind of ambiguity would fit with the conclusions
I draw from the next sentence, that Ganin ironizes about
memory, but does not push the ironies to their ultimate

I might add that I found your comment on "sated" and dining
more persuasive than your attempt to extend the eating
metaphor to "exhausted." Wouldn't it be simpler just to
think of the rhythms of physical exertion? He had exhausted
his memories (but tired bodies rebound), he was sated by
them (but appetites return).

2. On whether Nabokov approaches Ganin with a certain
amount of ironic distance, I feel the key issue is whether
he really possesses "THE GIFT" (as you put it) to the same
extent as Fyodor or Krug (or even Segelkrantz in KAMERA
OBSKURA). To my mind he does not yet show their level of
either creativity or "human depth" (I know this is a
problematic term, but space is limited on e-mail). For this
reason I say he tilts slightly toward the ironic side, but
of course he is far from being a Hermann or a Humbert. I'd
be curious to know how you would compare Ganin with Chorb,
whom I was tempted to discuss in NABOKOV'S ART OF MEMORY.

3. I have no problem with your quotation from STRONG
OPINIONS, that Nabokov's "sense of places is Nabokovian
rather than Proustian." But Nabokov's and Proust's arts of
memory are closer to each other (in the sense that I explain
in the next paragraph) than their respective topographical

I wonder if we have any real disagreement on the "cultural
framework" issue. At no point in Nabokov's evolving
relations with European modernism am I concerned to show
that he copies someone else's brand of modernism. In my
preceding response, I stressed his strong differences with
both T.S. Eliot and Paul de Man (in the sense that the logic
of his career questions de Man's theory of modernity). In
the case of Joyce and Proust, he clearly admires what he
regards as their best work, but he does not accept even this
"best" without reservations, and I explain how he differs.
For example, Nabokov does *not* accept Proust's theory of
involuntary memory (e.g. 119-120), nor does he accept the
Joycean stream of consciousness (e.g., the experiments in
BEND SINISTER, discussed on 173-175).

In other words, Nabokov's "intertextual signposting," as I
called it, measures *distances* from modernist landmarks,
though some of them (Mann, Freud, Eliot, Dostoevsky) are
much further away than others (Joyce, Proust, Bergson,
Flaubert). Thus, when I call Nabokov "strikingly original,"
don't I really agree with your statement that Nabokov's art
of memory is "primarily Nabokovian"?

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