Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025233, Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:22:16 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] Fairy Chess Variants in Pale Fire
JM: In a future posting I’ll explore another paragraph in connection to one of VN’s analogies present in “Strong Opinions” and some arguments provided by the surrealists and by Heidegger (I need to consult VN’s palpable SM book first) extracted from Jonathan Lethem http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/the-ecstasy-of-influence/?single=1

Jansy Mello: Whenever I peruse “Strong Opinions” I get side-tracked by parallel issues, underlining various quotes which are unrelated to the object of my search. Actually, one of the sentences I was looking for was not to be found in SO but, in the process of extracting those that were close to what I had in mind, I reached “reality” and then came to an internet opening to Leland De la Durantaye’s “Style is Matter” (p.46/47) and… to Rowe’s Symbols. Yes! Rowe. It was now easy to find what I’d been looking for in the wrong place, like the drunkard in a joke who searched for his lost car-keys, not where they went missing but under a lamppost, whose light he needed.

The first quote I had in mind is actually found in SO: “In my memoirs, quotable ideas are merely passing visions, suggestions, mirages of the mind. They lose their colors or explode like football fish when lifted out of the context of their tropical sea” (146) It depends of several others for gaining a spread-out context for them*

The second quote is found in Rowe’s Symbols, <http://www.nybooks.com/contributors/vladimir-nabokov/> Vladimir Nabokov http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/oct/07/rowes-symbols/

“The various words that Mr. Rowe mistakes for the "symbols" of academic jargon, supposedly planted by an idiotically sly novelist to keep schoolmen busy, are not labels, not pointers, and certainly not the garbage cans of a Viennese tenement, but live fragments of specific description, rudiments of metaphor, and echoes of creative emotion. The fatal flaw in Mr. Rowe's treatment of recurrent words, such as "garden" or "water," is his regarding them as abstractions, and not realizing that the sound of a bath being filled, say, in the world of Laughter in the Dark, is as different from the limes rustling in the rain of Speak, Memory as the Garden of Delights in Ada is from the lawns in Lolita. If every "come" and "part" on the pages of my books is supposedly used by me to represent "climax" and "genitals," one can well imagine the naughty treasures Mr. Rowe might find in any French novel where the prefix "con"' occurs so frequently as to make every chapter a veritable compote of female organs. I do not think, however, that his French is sufficient for such feasts; nor is his Russian good enough for his manipulations if he believes that"'otblesk" (confused apparently with otliv) means "low tide" (page III) or that the nonexistent "triazh" stands for "tyranny" (page 41) when actually the word that I used (and that he wrongly transcribed), tirazh, is merely a publisher's term for "circulation."

Here are the excerpts from J. Lethem’s article where his associations made me think about V.Nabokov’s opinions on words and “thingnesses”:

“ The surrealists believed that objects in the world possess a certain but unspecifiable intensity that had been dulled by everyday use and utility. They meant to reanimate this dormant intensity, to bring their minds once again into close contact with the matter that made up their world. André Breton’s maxim “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table” is an expression of the belief that simply placing objects in an unexpected context reinvigorates their mysterious qualities. / This “crisis” the surrealists identified was being simultaneously diagnosed by others. Martin Heidegger held that the essence of modernity was found in a certain technological orientation he called “enframing.” This tendency encourages us to see the objects in our world only in terms of how they can serve us or be used by us. The task he identified was to find ways to resituate ourselves vis-à-vis these “objects,” so that we may see them as “things” pulled into relief against the ground of their functionality. Heidegger believed that art had the great potential to reveal the “thingness” of objects./ The surrealists understood that photography and cinema could carry out this reanimating process automatically; the process of framing objects in a lens was often enough to create the charge they sought. Describing the effect, Walter Benjamin drew a comparison between the photographic apparatus and Freud’s psychoanalytic methods. Just as Freud’s theories “isolated and made analyzable things which had heretofore floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of perception,” the photographic apparatus focuses on “hidden details of familiar objects,” revealing “entirely new structural formations of the subject…” http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/the-ecstasy-of-influence/?single=1

* - The other quotes were: “so that we live surrounded by more or less ghostly objects – that machine, there, for instance. It’s a complete ghost to me – I don’t understand a thing about it and, well, it’s a mystery to me, as much of a mystery as it would be to Lord Byron” (SO,11)

“…the only real and authentic worlds are, of course, those that seem unusual. When my fancies will have been sufficiently imitated, they, too, will enter the common domain of average reality, which will be false, too, but within a new context which we cannot yet guess. Average reality begins to rot and stink as soon as the act of individual creation ceases to animate a subjectively perceived texture.” (118)

“In art, an individual style is essentially as futile and as organic as a fata morgana. The sleight-of-hand you mention is hardly more than an insect’s sleight-of-wing…A grateful spectator is content to applaud the grace with which the masked performer melts into Nature’s background.” (153)

“whatever the mind grasps, it does so with the assistance of creative fancy, that drop of water on a glass slide which gives distinctness and relief to the observed organism.” (154)

(SO Vintage International, paperback, 1990)

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