Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025058, Fri, 7 Feb 2014 22:10:05 -0200

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 precision - 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."

Jansy Mello: An excellent comparison between two literary sexual predators and their artistic hypocrisy.
The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa wrote (translated by Richard Zenith) "The poet is a faker/ Who's so good at his act/ He even fakes the pain/ Of pain he feels in fact." In a similar vein Humbert often overdramatized his true emotions.

I agree with you that "Humbert...cannot redeem himself by the arfulness of his final testament" but I wonder if HH was actually looking for redemption and not simply enjoying the "artful" show. Nevertheless, in my opinion, there are times when HH is sincere and I believe that he was often conscious of his violence towards Lolita, even if actually unrepentant. In that sense, he was a veritable gloating sinner.

Many have dwelt on that subject but what still strikes me afresh in Lolita's tragedy isn't related to sexual abuse but to how this young girl's tragedy resembles VN's own story of exile: she could never say goodbye to her friends, attend her mother's funeral, see once more her favorite toys, books or photographs nor any particular spot in her garden. She didn't ever go back home, nor was she able to recover her family roots and rights.

Humbert's confession placed him where he wanted to stand - in the spotlight denied to the living Lolita.
V.Nabokov's wry comment that "Lolita is famous, not I. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name." [Interview with Herbert Gold, The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at Work, 4th series (1977), p. 107] creates a humbertian loop.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/