Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000069, Fri, 13 Aug 1993 19:29:47 -0700

MARY (Response to John Foster) (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 1993 12:26:04 -0700 (PDT)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
To: vladimir nabokov <nabokv-l%ucsbvm.BITNET@uwavm.u.washington.edu>
Subject: MARY (Response to John Foster)

Dear John,

I think we can strike a healthy compromise if we agree that a) Ganin is
indeed ready to leave his relationship with Mary behind him (as he leaves
behind Podtyagin, who, through his poem that Mashenka quoted in her letter to
Ganin, becomes, in a sense, a token of their relationship) but b) he never
rejects or denies his past. Moving beyond one's youth and first love does
not automatically mean rejecting them. I re-read the Russian variant of
"he had exhausted his memories, was sated by them" and it sounds actually
even more "final" there (which is sort of a point in your favor as far as
my interpretation of "exhausted" goes): "on do kontsa ischerpal svoe
vospominanie, do kontsa nasytilsia im." But I still maintain that it
means, simply, that he realizes you cannot go back in time and he is ready
to move on. His memory of Mashen'ka (both anticipatory and
contemporaneous) will remain a source of his spiritual sustenance.

Is Ganin a "chosen one" -- i.e. a true Artist?
I think he is meant to be. He is definitely a variation of the Supreme,
All-that-Matters, Larger-than-Life consciousness which we find in most of
Nabokov's novels. Next to Ganin, Fedor, Cincinnatus, Krug other characters
are lifeless and meaningless UNLESS they manage to become important to the
central EGO of the work. Marthe gains meaning because, regardless of what
she is, she has become a part of Cincinnatus; Mashen'ka and Podtyagin
obtain their legitimacy as human beings because they are liked by Ganin.
One can even argue that this is the explanation for Ganin's smile which
disturbs Klara so as the poet is dying: Ganin has "internalized"
Podtyagin, made him a part of HIS being (again, largely because of the
poem which Mary and he shared), has thus "immortalized" him, because he,
as an Artist, is immortal. So the "real" Podtyagin is forever saved, and
it is only the shell of Podtyagin which is about to vanish.

Ganin is indeed reminiscent of Chorb, partially, no doubt, because MARY
and THE RETURN OF CHORB were written the same year. Boyd links the two in
his biography (I, 249), and I think the parallel is definitely there. But
Chorb, in my opinion, is not quite as fully-fledged as Ganin, we do not
have there hints of heroic past (as we do in Ganin); therefore Chorb is
not strong and willful enough to survive the blow he receives while Ganin
is. The crucial difference, then, boils down to the issue of the
"ubermensch" which Jeff Edmunds introduced the other day. Ganin is one,
and as an Artist he has a right to be one (in Nabokov's world); Chorb is
not, and that leads him to a mere "mortal" disintegration.

This reply is becoming too long for an e-mail communication. I'll address
other issues you touch on --futurism and "cultural framework" in a
different message.

Galya Diment