Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025244, Mon, 31 Mar 2014 18:09:29 -0300

Quotations and cancelations
When it comes to selected strong opinions and quotes one has to tread
lightly. Today's elected sentence was written by Eugene Onegin's annotator.
It may be profitably redirected to another one, namely Charles Kinbote, and
his reproduction of John Shade's "canceled readings" and physical presence:

"An artist should ruthlessly destroy his manuscripts after publication, lest
they mislead academic mediocrities into thinking that it is possible to
unravel the mysteries of genius by studying canceled readings. In art,
purpose and plan are nothing; only the results count."Vladimir Nabokov
(1899-1977), from the Introduction to Eugene Onegin (1964).

Foreword: "In my notes to the poem the reader will find these canceled
readings. Their places are indicated, or at least suggested, by the
draftings of established lines in their immediate neighborhood. In a sense,
many of them are more valuable artistically and historically than some of
the best passages in the final text [ ] His misshapen body, that gray mop
of abundant hair, the yellow nails of his pudgy fingers, the bags under his
lusterless eyes, were only intelligible if regarded as the waste products
eliminated from his intrinsic self by the same forces of perfection which
purified and chiseled his verse. He was his own cancellation." (single
instance of a doubled "l")

John Shade: Pale Fire "In method B the hand supports the thought,// The
abstract battle is concretely fought./ The pen stops in mid-air, then swoops
to bar/ A canceled sunset or restore a star."

Lines 433-434: "none could bear the sight of her automatic smile as she
turned from the agony of the disclosure to the polite trivialities required
of her. She would be canceling an illumination, or discussing hospital cots
with the head nurse, or merely ordering breakfast for two in the sea cave ."

Line 922: "After this line, instead of lines 923-930, we find the following,
lightly deleted, variant: "All artists have been born in what they call."
Having struck this out, the poet tried another theme, but these lines he
also canceled: "England where poets flew the highest, now/Wants them to plod
and Pegasus to plough..."

Many of the references in Pale Fire to "to cancel" and "cancelation," are
credited to the poet and taken as "variants." If fairy chess or "fairy"
literary moves are to be considered part of a deliberate authorial ploy, we
must remember that Kinbote's "variants" belong to the novel and, therefore,
that they are "results," i.e., they count.

Sybil, however.: "straightened herself, and swept the black and gray hair
off her forehead, and stared at me, and said: "What do you mean - shown any
of it? He never shows anything unfinished. Never, never. He will not even
discuss it with you until it is quite, quite finished."


Other references to "canceling" procedures: Line 149: ."But the vigilant
stutterer had finally exploded in spasmodic speech.; and the fugitives had
hardly covered a dozen miles, when a confused blaze in the darkness before
them, at the intersection of the old and new highways, revealed a roadblock
that at least had the merit of canceling both routes at one stroke."

Line 171: "Within minutes after the King and the actor had clattered down
the backstairs of the Royal Theater, every wing in the sky and on the ground
had been accounted for - such was the efficiency of the government. During
the next weeks not one private or commercial plane was allowed to take off,
and the inspection of transients became so rigorous and lengthy that
international lines decided to cancel stopovers at Onhava."

I should have included here references to lines 433-434 ("canceling an
illumination"), but I decided to leave them close to John Shade's own
"canceled sunset."


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