Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000073, Mon, 16 Aug 1993 09:44:18 -0700

MARY (suite) (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1993 11:41:11 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: MARY (suite)

Subject: Responses to comments of John Foster and Galya Diment

As Galya pointed out in a recent post, replies can sometimes become too
swollen for e-mail. I can only hope my longwindedness will be tempered by
my exhaustion (O'Hare, delays ...).

John's suggestion that I expand on my statement that the past "remains
irrecuperable and not open to rejection" is a good one--I don't think I
made my point clear. What I was getting at was the distinction I see
between what (I think) we have been referring to as "the past" (events that
occurred before the present) and Ganin's evocation (and embellishments?) of
these events. I meant that these past events are gone forever and thus our
acceptance or rejection of them is irrelevant. What is really under
discussion here is not the past but Ganin's reconstruction of it. I think
what happens at the end of MARY is that Ganin "rejects" the past as a
shabby shadow of the shining original he has spent four days creating. I
note in passing that the book's title page reads "Mashen'ka : roman"--
translators have taken this as the traditional "[title] : a novel" formula,
but I like to think of "roman" as here signifying "romance". The Pushkin
epigraph on the following page lends resonance to this reading. The line
John Foster cites in which Ganin realizes "with merciless clarity that his
romance [romany] with Mary was over" pleases me by the blur that exists in
Russian between the word's possible senses. The "Mashen'ka" of the title is
not a real woman. She is a creation of Ganin's (a mashenkulus?) who
eventually saps the life of the human after whom she was modelled. This
ties in to Galya's comments about Ganin "immortalizing" Podtyagin.

I'll end, arbitrarily, here. In posting to the list I feel like a tennis
novice standing timidly across the net from a dozen or two automatic ball
servers all firing simultaneously. Which shot should I return? The
temptation is sometimes to duck or huddle sheepishly out of range.

Let's here more on Chorb!

Jeff Edmunds