Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025574, Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:23:04 -0300

Re: Ada online link (Kyoto reading circule) correction
Former posting: (Ada KRC)
10.6-7 the price of such footlights as insomnia, fancy, arrogant art - "the
cost (not of the ticket, as one might expect, but) of the composition: the
playwright's insomnia, creative imagination and arrogant art" (Boyd)? This
seems rather abrupt.

Jansy Mello: … I wanted to search for John Shade's lines on insomnia but was
misled into Nabokov's closing lines on an Evening of Russian Poetry [ ]
“Insomnia, your stare is dull and ashen”…
The quote I was looking for is: “Instead of poetry divinely
terse,/Disjointed notes, Insomnia’s mean verse!” and, in both instances, the
verses suggest that for VN insomnia is not an inspiring muse.

I looked into B.Boyds’s Ada Online annotations to understand the
interrogation mark at the end of the quote. I found out that he is
questioning VN’s obscure phrase and, therefore, that he is not yet
interpreting it in full (cf. underlined quote).

As an actress, she had none of the breath-taking quality that makes the
skill of mimicry seem, at least while the show lasts, worth even more than
the price of such footlights as insomnia,fancy, arrogant art; yet on that
particular night, with soft snow falling beyond the plush and the paint, la
Durmanska [ ] had been from the start of the trashy ephemeron [ ] so
dreamy, so lovely, so stirring, that Demon [ ] made a bet with his
orchestra-seat neighbor, Prince N., bribed a series of green-roomattendants,
and then, in a cabinet reculé [ ] proceeded to possess her between two
scenes [ ]

<http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/ada12.htm#10.05> 10.05-07: makes the skill
of mimicry seem . . . worth even more than the price of such footlights as
insomnia, fancy, arrogant art: rather obscurely phrased, though the sense
seems clear: "makes the skill of acting seem worth even more than the cost
(not of the ticket, as one might expect, but) of the composition: the
playwright's insomnia, creative imagination, and arrogant art." The last two
words, with their alliteration and their attitude, seem to allude to the
arrogance of the persona Nabokov cultivated in forewords and interviews in
the 1960s, partly as a provocation, partly as protection against the
intrusions of fame. Why "insomnia, fancy, arrogant art" should be
"footlights," and why these "footlights" have a "price" that needs to be
recouped, seem less than clear.

There’s a slight suggestion of an artificial light (the theatrical stage
lights) produced by “fancy, arrogant art” but, in fact, there’s no clue
about any price, nor for its link with “mimicry.”

Art imitates nature, nature imitates art but… shouldn’t we consider now
something different? After all, mimetism in nature can be described as
“nature imitating nature” in what, to our eyes, looks like “Art” and,
therefore, imitation will not always be a sign of falseness and
artificiality. However, as Van Veen suggests, the entire play that’s being
described results from a double attempt at plagiarism: it unsuccessfully
copies another author’s art which, itself, copies nature’s art, producing
“bogus life.” However, even so, there’s still room for a miracle when we
consider that there is an echo between “possess her between two scenes” and
the “two bogus fulgurations” mentioned in another paragraph: “His heart
missed a beat and never regretted the lovely loss, as she ran, flushed and
flustered, in a pink dress into the orchard.
[ ] Her meeting with Baron O., who strolled out of a side alley, all spurs
and green tails, somehow eluded Demon’s consciousness, so struck was he by
the wonder of that brief abyss of absolute reality between two bogus
fulgurations of fabricated life.”). Demon, inspite of all the sham art, was
able to access a “brief abyss of absolute reality.” It was when his “heart
missed a beat,” in a similar way as the one which their son, Van Veen, shall
describe when dealing with “the Tender Interval” and “True Time.”*

Any thoughts?


* - … many years later, when working on his Texture of Time, Van found in
that phenomenon additional proof of real time’s being connected with the
interval between events, not with their ‘passage,’ not with their blending,
not with their shading the gap wherein the pure and impenetrable texture of
time transpires.[ ] We have suggested earlier that the dim intervals
between the dark beats have the feel of the texture of Time [ ] Maybe the
only thing that hints at a sense of Time is rhythm; not the recurrent beats
of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats, the gray gap between black
beats: the Tender Interval.

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