Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000092, Sun, 22 Aug 1993 19:24:03 -0700

Chorb1 (fwd)
NABOKOVIANS: Here is the first installment of the discussion on VN's 1925
short story CHORB. This story was touched upon in the MARY discussion and
some of the participants wanted to examine it in more detail.
Consequently, I am taking John Lavagnino's message as a starting point.
All subscribers are welcome to join in. In order to help keep the exchange
of message straight, each message will carry CHORB1, CHORB2, CHORB3, etc.
as the subject heading Editor

---------- Text of forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1993 23:18 EDT
From: John Lavagnino <LAV@BRANDEIS.BITNET>
Subject: Chorb

"Chorb" doesn't strike me as being particularly similar to *Mary*. It's
not about preserving the past, it's about wanting to remain in an
unchanging state of innocence. Note how Mrs. Chorb [for lack of any
other name for referring to her] is always depicted as childlike,
laughing, fascinated by pebbles and leaves, and apparently sexless (or
so the description of the Chorbs' wedding night suggests). Chorb seeks
to preserve a perfect, timeless image of her, or really of their
existence together: not only frozen at childhood (this part on its own
doesn't look like a bad thing in the story), but meant to shield him
from all new experiences of any kind. Chorb's morose return trip is
very different from the trip out, in this respect---how much Mrs. Chorb
would have been amused by the clergyman or the prostitute whom Chorb
barely registers!

To pick up two terms that the story is careful to plant, Chorb wants to
be a Parsifal but he winds up being an Orpheus. Except he doesn't do
anything that suggests much Orphean artistic ability: all we have is the
narrator's statement that he's a litterateur. And Parsifal, like Mrs.
Chorb, didn't have to work to achieve or maintain innocence; he just
*was* innocent, and it didn't mean he stopped having new adventures.
Chorb's attempt to fix the past has a literalism about it that defeats
it, since inevitably he's confronted with signs of change: the seasons
have moved on and the surrogate Mrs. Chorb he comes up with is not at
all an asexual childlike woman. The story isn't against innocence
itself, but it is opposed to this sort of rejection of the present.

[I got up in the middle of the night just to put this cigarette butt in
the mail... hope everyone is properly impressed.]

John Lavagnino
Department of English, Brandeis University