Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025440, Sat, 7 Jun 2014 17:55:54 -0300

[ IDLE THOUGHTS] Comic and Cosmic
Vladimir Nabokov’s depiction of Terra and Anti Terra, or his reference to an anti-terran paradise, remain as puzzling to me as Dante’s Divina Commedia, where stationary Earth lies at the center of a swirling universe with hell in its fiery core, in which circles and spheres are predominant and motion is always related to ascending spirals. Probably I’m lost because one should not blend geography and metaphors to follow cosmic fictions in search of a simple sort of order in literary texts since there are other instruments and visions to apply in these explorations. How to understand V.Nabokov’s (well, Van Veen's and John Shade's) rendering of "time and space" to arrive at some sort of mental picture of his words? Or the flatness of a chess-board or a tritptych to suspect their adumbrated multidimensional spaces?

A summary from wiki comes in handy:
“In the original 1964 edition of The Ambidextrous Universe, Gardner quoted two lines of poetry from Vladimir Nabokov's 1962 novel Pale Fire which are supposed to have been written by a poet, "John Shade", who is actually fictional. As a joke, Gardner credited the lines only to Shade and put Shade's name in the index as if he were a real person. In his 1969 novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, Nabokov returned the favor by having the character Van Veen "quote" the Gardner book along with the two lines of verse:
"Space is a swarming in the eyes, and Time a singing in the ears," says John Shade, a modern poet, as quoted by an invented philosopher ("Martin Gardiner" [sic]) in The Ambidextrous Universe, page 165 [sic]… Nabokov misspells Gardner's name and gives the wrong page number (it's actually 168), both of which may have been intentional.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ambidextrous_Universe]*

Anyway, I haven’t read Martin Gardner’s book, nor did I dwell long in Dante’s Commedy and it’s too late for me to learn Russian. Nabokov, however, demands a lot from his readers. Even very small things, such as that birds (and other animals, including dinosaurs) eat pebbles to digest grains.**

Yesterday I was discussing Borges’s short-story “The Library of Babel” and contrasting it to Italo Calvino’s “Memory of the World” (included in “Numbers in the Dark”) and our group progressed from considerations about an encyclopaedist’s ambition towards the Google. However, invaluable as it is, Google isn’t enough to lead me out of my particular Nabokovian chaos relative to my vision of “Ada,” or to VN’s very hidden, but omnipresent, encyclopaedia.


*- Besides…"...Time is a fluid medium for the culture of metaphors." [ and ] "Tropes are the dreams of speech." (Ada)
** - - “At a very early stage of the novel’s development I get this urge to garner bits of straw and fluff, and eat pebbles.” (SO,31) and “In a sense, we are all crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at the trifles–no matter the imminent peril–these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness.” [The Art of Literature and Common Sense, LL,372-74)

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