Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000089, Fri, 20 Aug 1993 09:17:06 -0700

CORRECTION! In announcing the change-over to CHORB I mistakenly gave
Monday, 16 August as the effective date. The correct date is 23
August, i.e., NEXT Monday.
Apologies from the Editor

---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1993 17:48:18 +0100
From: leona toker <mstoker@pluto.cc.huji.ac.il>
To: NABOKV-L@ucsbvm.bitnet

1. Mr. Lavagnino's remarks about William James are very much
to the point. I think Don Johnson also makes a similar
reference in "Worlds in Regression." Another possible
"source" is Schopenhauer who believed in forcing oneself
to do things that one dislikes doing so as to subdue
the Will (to turn it into a verbal paradox: use will-power
to fight the Will). On a lighter note: where was it that
S. Maugham referred to a very happy time in his life, a
time when every day he did only two things that he did not
want to do--got up in the morning and went to bed at night?
2. I agree with Galya that the main thing for Ganin in
the "postbox" matter is to foster his will-power, to make
himself get up in the middle of the night. But imagine
what someone like Victor Wind would invent as a checkpoint
for accomplishing that. He would probably make himself get
up in order to see some detail of the nocturnal landscape
(like the one at the end of the "Pnin meets Victor" section),
not to litter a postbox. Here I accept the "broader" view of
morality as proposed in Iris Murdoch's philosophical works:
expanding the sphere of morality from one's choices of action
made in given situations to (also) one's inner life.
One's moral being is expressed not only in "decisions" but
also in little things--what makes one smile,
what makes one blush, when one does or does not feel pity. The
advantage of this theory is that on the one hand it allows for
an element of determinism (one acts "in character", incident is
an expression of character and vice versa--I do not remember the
exact wording of Henry James, and to that extent characters
are "galley slaves"), on the other hand, one's character is
self-fostering because real freedom lies in the choice of a mode
of reflection or in the choice of commitments well prior to
the actions in which they are eventually expressed. I think that
in Nabokov's work one can detect an affinity with this way of
thinking, esp. since a great deal of his characters' inner life
obviously involves choices (often terribly unfortunates ones) of
modes of inner engagement with reality.
3. Galya believes that we have to stop averting our eyes from some
of the less appealing of Nabokov's pre-war attitudes. She may have put
it rather too strongly, but there may, indeed, be feminist objections
to some aspects of his work. And even if no strong case could then be made
in his defense, he may, in this repect, have just spoken the language
of his time.
Leona Toker