Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000086, Thu, 19 Aug 1993 19:36:58 -0700

Reply to John Foster (fwd)
---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1993 11:39:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Reply to John Foster

Dear John,
I very much enjoyed your thorough responses to Galya, Leona, and
myself. I agree with Galya insofar as I think I've exhausted (for the nonce
) my thoughts on MARY, but I'd like to briefly address some issues raised
in your recent posts.
First, thanks for pointing out "the return of the Alferovs" in The
Defense. I had forgotten about that. Second, to the point about "knochilsia
navsegda"--I don't think I share wholly your or Galya's opinion on the
"rejection of the past" point. For me, the sentence does sound very final,
but given the double meaning of "roman", I suspect Ganin (or Nabokov) is
trying to distance himself from something with a finality that is not
possible. We have all had a first love, and I think one's longing to
recapture the magic of those moments is cyclical. Yes, Ganin's romance with
MARY (as Nabokov's with Tamara) is definitively over. But .... I think fond
memories of Mary will return later in his life as he changes, just as
Nabokov returned to Tamara years later. The circle is closed and begins to
spiral skyward.
On your third point. Yes, absolutely, I agree that the ending is
surprising, and, I find, delightful and aesthetically pleasing. Jorge Luis
Borges once defined the aesthetic experience as "the imminence of a
revelation that does not occur." MARY is precisely this, as is The Return
of Chorb, to which I hope the discussion will presently turn. I have to
admit that I'm unsure of what definition we are attaching to the term
"futurism" in our discussion, so I am unable to understand its relationship
to Ganin's abrupt decision to leave. I do think the image of the house
under construction is charged with meaning--I'll reread your and Galya's
comments on it to see if I can't come up with a firm opinion.
Finally, to Nietzsche, or rather, away from Nietzsche, since I think
I'm in way over my head. Your distinction between esoteric and vulgar
Nietzscheanism is a valuable one. Alas, my understanding of his thought is
too limited to permit me to offer any valuable comments on it. Sometimes
when words like "Nietzscheanism" and "modernism" are pushed around (like
great blocs of unhewn granite), I feel a sort of vertigo and fear that
behind these monoliths the sunlight dappling the birch trunks may be
blocked and the butterflies all risk being crushed.

Jeff Edmunds