Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000100, Thu, 26 Aug 1993 10:40:31 -0700

I offer some miscellneous notes on the Chorb business.
1. The MARY discussion focussed on VN's attitude toward the past and the
meaning of the novel's ending. CHORB, written very soon after MARY's
completion seems to offer a clear-cut statement--although one can doubt
that that message applies to MARY. Chorb's attempt to resurrect an ideal
image of the perfect past so that he can then go ahead with his life ends
in a comic fiasco when the all too real present intrudes in the form of
his in-laws. Since I read MARY as Ganin leave-taking of the past and a
new start, perhaps CHORB should understood as Nabokov's counter argument
to MARY. Boyd points to VN's habit of writing one work as an inversion of
its predecessor, e.g., TRANSPARENT THINGS after ADA.
2. John Lavagnino mentions the Orpheus subtext which seems to me to
support the interpretation that VN is warning against absorption in the
past,i.e., look back and Eurydice will never make it out of Hades. The
Parsifal subtext also seems to argue against retrieval of the ideal past.
Part of such an interpretation derives from VN's negative linking of the
Wagner opera and the philistine Kellers. The Holy Grail bit fits in nicely
though with the sexlessness of the story noted by Charles Nicol and John L.
3. Speaking of the Kellers, Boyd Holmes--I think it was--asked about VN's
note on his translation about deleting "Varvara Klimovna" name from the
English. Nothing much is going on here. The name in Russian bears class
and social connations that wouldn't mean anything to a Russianless reader.
Nabokov has, in fact, inserted several words in the text where he omitted
her name in order to convey the information that the Russian reader would
infer from the name alone.
4. Miscellaneous notes:
a. Oom (a title) PAul Kruger who is mentioned to give
the 1925 reader a negative visual image of Keller was President of Transval
during the Boer War.
b. the electricity motif is interesting. Note it is still with us in PALE
c. The tragicomic fiasco of the ending is reminiscent of that of Gogol's
5. Note, finally, that the concise story's clever plot begs for diagramming
and structural analysis.