NABOKV-L post 0000768, Thu, 19 Oct 1995 14:30:45 -0700

Re: CLOUD, CASTLE, LAKE - A Response (fwd)
EDITORIAL NOTE. Roy Johnson's discussion of the VN short story, "Cloud,
Castle, Lake" (15 Oct.) elicited comments from Marilyn Edelstein and
Dieter Zimmer (both on 16 October). Roy Johnson responds to M.E. below
and to D.Z. in the following posting.

In your message dated Monday 16, October 1995 you wrote :

Thanks to Marilyn Edelstein for her comments on "Cloud, Castle, Lake"

> But let me suggest
> that the abrupt shifts between a realistic fictive world and a fantastic
> one--done in a poetic way--is characteristic of much recent Latin American
> fiction, especially in its use of what is called "magical realism."

Yes - this is true, and the Magical Realists have had a very powerful
impact on English-speaking writers, especially here in the UK. But I don't
think the influence has always been a very good one. Marquez and others
have pointed out that what might seem ridiculous exaggeration to 'Western'
readers has a basis in reality so far as Latin America is concerned. They
point to the fact that L-A is a continent of extremes, and one where the
ancient and modern co-exist, in everything from topography to philosophic
beliefs. This is not so true in the USA and the UK.

> I think one could say
> that Nabokov's story anticipates this sort of postmodernist fiction
> (as well as drawing on a tradition exemplified by Kafka or Gogol,
> in which the impossible--waking up a giant bug, turning into a
> giant nose--occurs in an otherwise realistic story in which the
> fantastic elements are treated as mundane). Such works suggest
> that the borders between fiction and reality are fluid and
> shifting.

This I think is a much stronger point, and we are closer to the tradition
to which VN belonged [and to which he nods repeatedly in his work].
However, the two instances Marylin cites are interesting in that both
Kafka and Gogol don't drift in and out of fantasy. They posit a single
remarkable or absurd idea at the start of their stories [which we as
readers can accept or reject] but then they pursue the absurd logic of that
idea through the story. Once we have accepted that Gregor has turned
into a giant insect, the rest follows logically. Once we accept that
Yakovlev gets up one morning with no nose, the rest follows ...

and of course we normally read these stories as symbolic fictions,
perhaps in the tradition of Poe and Hawthorne

Dr Roy Johnson |
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Manchester 20 | Fax +44 0161 443 2766