Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025052, Fri, 7 Feb 2014 08:21:15 -0500

Re: [Old SIGHTING] Nabokov's Berlin: Nabokov, art and evil
------------------ Casaubon at <ian.leaderelliott@adelaide.edu.au>

Jansy Mello is unwilling to go further than the concession that
Humbert was possibly sincere in this valedictory testament. Doubt of his
sincerity is well justified: the feeling of sincerity is the most self
delusive of all emotions.

I am reminded on several levels of another sexual predator, another
pedophile probably, who sought redemption in art. In Oscar Wilde's tale,
Dorian Gray hoped that he might begin to restore the gorgeous, painted
image of his youthful beauty by renouncing common little Hetty Merton,
rather than debauching her. When he inspects the painting in the hope
that he will find that it has been transformed , even in some small way
by the renunciation, he discovers that the portrait of his degeneracy
has acquired a final painterly touch: a curve of hypocrisy about the
mouth and a gleam of cunning in the eyes: 'in hypocrisy he had worn the
mask of goodness'. Dorian Gray had insight enough to perceive his
hypocrisy when he saw it in the painting. Humbert is denied that
possibility of redemption. He seems quite unaware of the effect of what
he has written. There is the false note of his description of Dolores
Haze - which is far too self conscious and arch in its misplaced prec!
ision - as a 'North American girl-child'. There is the crucial ambiguity
of his reference to the 'maniac' who deprived her of her childhood.
Which maniac? And the 'moral duty' in the couplet from the 'old poet' is
paid in bogus coinage, for the old poet does not exist. But, above all,
there is the insistent possessiveness of his parting claim to 'my
Lolita', no longer distanced as a 'North American girl-child'.

Quite where that leaves Lesley Chamberlain's comment is uncertain.
Humbert certainly, cannot redeem himself by the artfulness of his final
testament. He only compounds his putrefaction. The reference to
putrefaction provides another strange parallel with Wilde's tale in
which Dorian Gray is transmuted in death, into the likeness of his
loathsome portrait.

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