NABOKV-L post 0024562, Sun, 8 Sep 2013 08:55:52 -0300

Fw: {NABOKV-L] Isolated quotes

PS to! "His thoughts on the inevitably autobiographical nature of fiction seem to manifest, playfully, here.[citation needed]."

One of the sentences in the wikipedia entry about LATH (warning about a "citation needed") seems to be a distortion of VN's thoughts. Even the most divine creator, of course, must resort to cherished or hated memories and on his experiences in the surrounding world, to be able to become inteligible and not totally isolated, inhabiting an exotic universe he shares with nobody (I'll return to this matter in a jiffy). Humans (even those who mock Freud) resort to psychic mechanisms of "introjection" and "projection" (coloring their perception of the universe by their feelings and needs, and v.v). Nevertheless, I doubt that VN would have admitted the "inevitability of the autobiographical nature of fiction." (in fact, citation is needed!) This assertion might be a twisted version of what VN wrote in "Nikolai Gogol": "The crudest curriculum vitae crows and flaps its wings in a style peculiar to the undersigner. I doubt whether you can even give your telephone number without giving something of yourself." (itself, a perfectly Freudian view: "He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.")

The attribution of an arrogant isolationist stance in Nabokov that I recently encountered in an old critical essay by Alfred Kazin is still another distortion promoted by a quote taken out of its context.*. It's important that we extract words and statements from VN's narrative to perceive their irradiating meanings, punning twists, etc.but this procedure is rather dangerous and our deductions shall be always controversial. I selected from Kazin the following extract from ADA followed by a brief commentary:

"Van in Ada says, "For him the written word existed only in its abstract purity, in its unrepeatable appeal to an equally ideal mind. It belonged solely to its creator and could not be spoken of or enacted by a mime without letting the deadly stab of another's mind destroy the artist in the very lair of his art." The "deadly stab of another's mind" was something that the lordly Nabokov certainly resisted. He not so much rejected as mentally obliterated (he thought) Freud, Faulkner, Conrad, Camus, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn--not to forget much of Dostoevsky"!

When we read the paragraph from which this sentence is derived, what emerges is another view. In the first place, A.Kazin seems to bind Van Veen to Vladimir Nabokov, accepting VV's ideas (and here I mean Van Veen) as seamlessly representing Nabokov's own. Secondly, what we find in ADA is not at all a platonic "Idea," nor VV's words seem to imply in the absence of communication with, or influence from "another's mind"
VN offers a string of complex but incomplete associations, voiced by both Ada and Van, that intend to distinguish a written play from its public rendition (when it's acted on stage or in the "talking pictures").**

In the novel we read: "Ada discussed her 'dramatic career.' The whole matter secretly nauseated Van [ ] For him the written word existed only in its abstract purity, in its unrepeatable appeal to an equally ideal mind. It belonged solely to its creator and could not be spoken or enacted by a mime (as Ada insisted) without letting the deadly stab of another's mind destroy the artist in the very lair of his art. A written play was intrinsically superior to the best performance of it, even if directed by the author himself [ ]. 'I seem to have always felt, for example, that acting should be focused not on "characters," not on "types" of something or other, not on the fokus-pokus of a social theme, but exclusively on the subjective and unique poetry of the author, because playwrights, as the greatest among them has shown, are closer to poets than to novelists. In "real" life we are creatures of chance in an absolute void - unless we be artists ourselves, naturally; but in a good play I feel authored, I feel passed by the board of censors, I feel secure, with only a breathing blackness before me (instead of our Fourth-Wall Time), I feel cuddled in the embrace of puzzled Will (he thought I was you) or in that of the much more normal Anton Pavlovich, who was always passionately fond of long dark hair'." (Ada's words).

* Although I managed to locate Nabokov's admission: "I know more than I can express in words, and the little I can express would not have been expressed, had I not known more" (SO,Vintage International,1990,p.45), I couldn'd find the source of "And that secret, ta-ta, ta-ta-ta, ta-ta, / But more than that I may not tell you." While googling after "ta-ta" I came to a critical essay by Alfred Kazin, written in July 23, 1977, where we find:"... as Nabokov describes the metre, "tra-tá-ta tra-tá-ta tra-tá," the lines are not really anapests, they're amphibrachs." ("Contemporary Literary Criticism,1978), actually completely unrelated to the quote I was looking for.

** - For more about "written communication" one might enjoy reading Derrida's lectures about it. (excerpt from "Limited Inc"
[ ] )
"Is it certain that to the word communication corresponds a concept that is unique, univocal, rigorously controllable, and transmittable: in a word, commu­nicable? Thus, in accordance with a strange figure of discourse, one must first of all ask oneself whether or not the word or signifier "communication" communi­cates a determinate content, an identifiable meaning, or a describable value. However, even to articulate and to propose this question I have had to anticipate the meaning of the word communication...[ ]: is there a rigorous and scientific concept of context? Or does the no­tion of context not conceal, behind a certain confusion, philosophical presuppositions of a very determinate nature? Stating it in the most summary manner possible, I shall try to demonstrate why a context is never absolutely determinable, or rather, why its determination can never be entirely certain or saturated. [ ] If we take the notion of writing in its currently accepted sense- one which should not- and that is essential- be considered innocent, primitive, or natural, it can only be seen as a means of communication. Indeed, one is compelled to regard it as an especially potent means of communication, extending enormous­ly, if not infinitely, the domain of oral or gestural communication...."

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