Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024580, Thu, 12 Sep 2013 18:46:10 +0300

Re: Chekhov's gun/ Tchékhow's clystère: second thoughts
Dear List,
The way I read it, it seems to me that "clystère de Tchékhov" is a
twisted-mirror image of "violon d'Ingres". Nabokov seemed to have held the
view that Chekhov's dabbling in medicine was by and large akin to Ingres'
ambitions in playing the violin, instead of sticking to what he was already
great at, namely painting. Nabokov made a remark to the effect of Chekhov
being an unremarkable physician (in SO, I suppose).
Peter Ratiu

On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 5:45 PM, Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@aetern.us>wrote:

> **
> *Jansy Mello*: It occurs to me that "clystère de Tchékhov" is not only a
> cruel reference to Chekhov's advice [ "*Chekhov's gun is a dramatic
> principle which requires that every element in a narrative be necessary and
> irreplaceable, and that everything else be removed"*, wiki ], but it
> equally promotes a distancing effect in the author by having been expressed
> in French. After all, in opposition to Chekhov, Nabokov enjoyed the
> cluttering effect of "red herrings" and crowds of incidental figures.
> I remember that he, in his lecture on Charles Dickens, praised the
> inclusion of an unnecessary coachman, who flipped his coin in the air and
> disappeared from the story. It's when Nabokov observes that: "A great
> writer's world is indeed a magic democracy where even some very minor
> character, even the most incidental character like the person who tosses
> the twopence, has the right to live and breed."LL,124).
> Yes! In ADA, too, there are various instances in which Nabokov introduces
> a character and warns the reader that this person was of no consequence to
> the plot and would not recur. I didn't find the examples I had in mind, but
> here is one that's close to what I mean but not really demonstrative: "The
> discomfitured machine was abandoned under a shrub to be fetched later by
> Bouteillan Junior, yet another household character." - but I'm certain
> that most of you remember such instances...
> There is a direct jab at Chekhov, though: "In the first edition of his
> play, which never quite manages to heave the soft sigh of a masterpiece,
> Tchechoff (as he spelled his name when living that year at the execrable
> Pension Russe, 9, rue Gounod, Nice) crammed into the two pages of a
> ludicrous expository scene all the information he wished to get rid of,
> great lumps of recollections and calendar dates — an impossible burden to
> place on the fragile shoulders of three unhappy Estotiwomen. Later he
> redistributed that information through a considerably longer scene in which
> the arrival of the monashka Varvara provides all the speeches needed to
> satisfy the restless curiosity of the audience. This was a neat stroke of
> stagecraft, but unfortunately (as so often occurs in the case of characters
> brought in for disingenuous purposes) the nun stayed on, and not until the
> third, penultimate, act was the author able to bundle her off, back to her
> convent." [ contrast that summing up sith Ada's observation concerning an
> English novelist: "as Jane Austen might have phrased it, for the sake of
> rapid narrative information (you recall Brown, don’t you, Smith?)."]
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