Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025491, Sat, 28 Jun 2014 09:15:16 -0400

CCL: Tone of first paragraph
Jansy Mello writes:

The first paragraph of CCL strikes me as almost “bureaucratic” in tone,
probably a deliberate echo of the paperwork required at that time and place
by employers and employees alike, suggesting also a distorted Germanic
sense of order encroaching upon citizen’s rights (the ironic “certificate
of *nonabsence* from the city for the summertime” given by the police,
added to a permission from the Ministry of Transportation) dominating the
narrator’s thoughts (he was the main character’s employer).

The same ambiguity pervades the pressure allied to an unhappy stroke of
luck by winning a lottery with an unwanted prize that will be forced upon
our hero. The fake “Pleasantrips” is descriptive of this other (not
Orwell’s) kind of “newspeak.”

The complication of dealing with a “nonabsence” (instead of a “presence”)
opens a world of associations related to the “disappearance” of unwanted
Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, or to common people’s blindness to the
particular alarms of that war.

“The summer was in full flood’ when everything “turned green in vain” hints
at a definite time and space (Nazi Germany, Berlin in the Summer, year of
1936 or 1937), when *Adolf Hitler's 1936 Summer Olympic Games took place:**
“*The Nazis schemed to exploit the Olympics by portraying Nazi Germany as a
peaceful member of the international community. Prior to the Summer Games,
Adolf Hitler ordered the removal of vicious anti-Jewish signs throughout
Berlin, such as "Jews are not wanted in this place." [ ] Through the
veneer, many saw the ugliness of Nazi racism. One German official groused
that the Americans were letting "non-humans, like [sprinter Jesse] Owens
and other Negro athletes," compete.” Or *“**April 27, 1937**:* “In support
of General Franco, the German air force in Spain carries out a bombing raid
that destroys the Basque city of Guernica.”

Full flood might be suggestive of “blood,” besides the actual and
metaphorical “inundation.”

In his preface to “Bend Sinister” V.Nabokov writes: “…the influence of my
epoch on my present book is as negligible as the influence of my books, or
at least of this book, on my epoch. There can be distinguished, no doubt,
certain reflections in the glass directly caused by the idiotic and
despicable regimes that we all know and that have brushed against me in the
course 'of my life: worlds of tyranny and torture, of Fascists and
Bolshevists, of Philistine thinkers and jackbooted baboons. No doubt, too,
without those infamous models before me I could not have interlarded this
fantasy with bits of Lenin's speeches, and a chunk of the Soviet
constitution, and gobs of Nazist pseudo-efficiency./ While the system of
holding people in hostage is as old as the oldest war, a fresher note is
introduced when a tyrannic state is at war with its own subjects and may
hold any citizen in hostage with no law to restrain it[ ] The story in *Bend
Sinister *is not really about life and death in a grotesque police state.
My characters are not 'types,' not carriers of this or that 'idea.' Paduk,
the abject dictator.…the farcical policeman Mac; the brutal and imbecile
soldiers — all of them are only absurd mirages, illusions oppressive to
Krug during his brief spell of being, but harmlessly fading away when I
dismiss the cast.” Can we apply VN’s *caveat*, related to *Bend Sinister*,
to some parts of CCL? Vasilyi isn’t part of a dismissible cast and, like
Krug, he enjoys a “brief spell of being” ( but in the end his employer and
narrator writes:”… he had not the strength to belong to mankind any longer.
Of course, I let him go.”) Krug’s and Vasilyi’s “dismissal” isn’t the same
as the other characters’s “dismissibleness.”

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/