Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025163, Thu, 6 Mar 2014 21:02:48 -0800

Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] Escher in Pale Fire, the poem?
Thanks to Matt and Jansy for solving this one so quickly. Interesting that Dmitri took umbrage at Hofstadter's translation of "One Gin" and, so like father and son, therefore took umbrage ever after. I wonder if anyone knows if VN was aware of Vikram Seth's use of the Onegin stanza in his novel "San Francisco Bridge" (not sure I got that right). I thought it was brilliant - not a translation of the novel but a translation of the use of the stanza into English, wish I could quote you a stanza or two - wish he'd try his hand at Onegin. 

Fugue and fugitive - very good, Matt. Also Gradus ad Parnassum and fugues - very good again. It was the note at the beginning of the index stating that the three main characters were S, C and K that set me on the road to my solving of the riddle. 

And Matt, might those cells refer also to the incarceration of Shade and Kinbote? Whatever did happen to Gradus, by the way? He didn't end up in jail or the mental ward that I can recall. Poof - one shot and he's done. Not too surprising I suppose, since he's but a figment of a figment. 


From: Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US>
Sent: Thursday, March 6, 2014 8:13 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] Escher in Pale Fire, the poem?

RES: [NABOKV-L] Escher in Pale Fire, the poem?
Carolyn Kunin[to JM’s:"Objectively, the poem was ready before VN finished writing C.K’s annotations.  Perhaps we could begin by distinguishing “fugal time” and Escher recurrences as they appear in the poem itself from CK’s later contributions."]Well, here you take a leap of faith or of something else, I cannot say. How do you know that the poem was written and completed by VN before the annotations were completed? The line references? but they could have been added at any time. Perhaps someone who has seen the original note cards can shed light on this question.I don't believe Escher plays any role in the poem itself since Shade is oblivious of the fugues going on in his brain. 
Jansy Mello: No leap of faith in that affirmation. You may read aboutthis "fact"inone ofV.Nabokov's letters tohisvarious editors(the collected letters are unavailableto meright now for correct indications and quotes).He even contactedan editor- was it The Atlantic Monthly's? - with the intent of getting "Pale Fire"(the poem)published with no CK's annotations.
Thisitemwasalsomentioned earlier in the VN-L. You maylike totake the troubleandlook it up.
Btw: when I searched for Dmitri's objections to Hofstadter's "…The eternal golden braid," I foundreferencesto a previous bookin which he studies Pushkin and V.Nabokov's translations (1999). Iisolated only one of such past itemsbecause it might avoid anembarrassof redundanciesat present. Here it is:
Matt Roth(Oct.2008):"…I have yet to catch up on all the messages posted here over the past month or so, but with regard to the question of fugal structure in VN's work, I would like to recommend Gerard de Vries's article from Cycnos, "Nabokov's Pale Fire, Its Structure and the Last Works of J.S. Bach." I think it's accessible here:http://revel.unice.fr/cycnos/document.html?id=1052  Gerard nicely establishes the premise that VN was more knowledgeable of, and interested in, the musical structure of the fugue than he admits in his interviews. His short story "Bachmann" confirms this. Gerard then begins to show how the three main characters in PF together form a fugue in three parts, as delineated by Fux in his treatise on counterpoint and fugue, Gradus Ad Parnassus. While Gerard's article does quite a bit of heavy lifting already, I think there is more that could be said about this. It would be fun to read through both the counterpoint and fugue
sections of Fux in order to try to isolate with even more specificity some of the motions and parts of the fugue which seem to operate in PF. For instance, it seems clear to me that Shade's poem should be considered the cantus firmus, or given melody, against which the parts (textures) represented by Kinbote and Gradus move in "florid counterpoint" via direct, contrary, and oblique motion (Fux's terms). Fux calls three-part composition (note against note in three parts) "the most perfect of all" contrapuntal structures--and one which, as Gerard points out, seems aptly described by Shade's image of "A system of cells interlinked within / Cells interlinked within cells interlinked / Within one stem" (704-706).
I also wonder if we should see Kinbote's status as a "fugitive"--a word that appears eleven times in the novel--as a link to the fugue (and possibly to the psychological "fugue state," which we've talked about before on this list).  Likewise, if those systems of cells are indeed representative of the three main characters, we must consider whether the one stem is the novel itself, or might it also point us to the idea that Shade's brain stem contains these other cell systems (persons)."


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