I recently began re-reading LATH, a book I did not care for on first reading. This second time around I find there are some interesting connections that I missed before. The conflated and skewed authorial re-inventions shed light on Nabokov’s estimations of his previous novels, and suggest keys to their salient points. In fact, it may even be the point and purpose of the novel, like in Speak, Memory where he hopes for closer readings because he “hates to have to point such things out.”
My interest and focus has been on Jungian influences in Pale Fire; did VN want to prod readers with something they had missed in PF with LATH’s psychoanalysts, the “Junkers”?
Vadim, the narrator/authorial doppleganger, awakens from typical Nabokovian nightmares: a ray of light portends something terrifying. It seems he is on the brink of either madness or illumination. This consciousness/transcendence theme is iterated in a number of VN’s novels, particularly TG, ITAB, BS, and Pale Fire.
Vadim consults a married pair of psychoanalysts, the “Junkers.”
“They were supposed by their patients to be particularly alert on Mondays, but I was not, having got frightfully tight in one or two pubs before reaching the mean quarter where the Junkers and other doctors lived…”
The “Junkers” suggest Jung and his wife, Emma Jung, who was also a psychoanalyst and worked closely with her husband. I believe this keys into PF with the curious word “alert.” I say “curious” because there are no indications that the Junkers were otherwise generally not alert on other days.
In Pale Fire there is a curious Dr. AHLERT, and an “alert” doctor who deems Shade “only half a shade” after his swoon. Both Kinbote and Shade see Dr. Ahlert. This suggests the two as dissociated personalities of Botkin. Like Vadim, Kinbote is so nervous beforehand that he buys, not booze (Shade’s weakness), but some Valerian.
Kinbote says of this same “alert” doctor:
Incidentally: the reader should not take too seriously or too literally the passage about
the alert doctor (an alert doctor, who as I well know once confused neuralgia with
Anytime Kinbote downplays something, we know it is time to pay particular attention. This apparent diagnosis is of Kinbote, not Shade, and I believe the misdiagnosis is cerebral sclerosis, not neuralgia (possibly the other way around? But that would make Kinbote seriously ill). Cerebral sclerosis is similar to MS, but some patients manifest psychosis, confusion, and personality changes. The doctor must have noted some odd behavior in K’s presenting symptoms.
In LATH, Mrs. Jung, although a psychoanalyst, diagnoses Vadim with neuralgia of the jaw and sends him to a dentist (with oneiric results – possibly hypnosis?). I am not sure whether this diagnosis is supposed to be the same, or opposite to Dr. Ahlert’s.
Is Dr. Ahlert a psychoanalyst, perhaps a Jungian? I think so, although I don’t know why the emphasis on “AHLERT” in capitals. It suggests an anagram. The only anagrams I have come up with are “lather,” "halter", and “thaler” (a German coin from which “dollar” originates). An acronym?
“Junker” is originally a noble honorific used across the German-speaking realm. In support of my contention of the connection to Jung, I offer another, although less noble, instance where Nabokov suggests Jung/junk: In his screenplay for Lolita, Nabokov changes the name of the Haze neighbor, known simply as the “junk man” to “Mr. Jung.”
See my early post from 08/15/17 that presents this and other possible references of VN’s to Jung (and also a comment from Joseph Aisenberg of the usual reasons why Jung is hard for Nabokovians to accept. I reply now that VN did not have to like Jung to reference him, as can be seen in Vadim’s joking through the interview and his wry declaration that “the consultation was not a success.”)