Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024600, Tue, 17 Sep 2013 21:01:13 -0400

Re: [Thoughts] Art's higher level
With respect to Jansy's Reply and Addendum concerning Vadim's inability to "visualize a certain path
backwards" I find your statement that relates this inability to the fact that Nabokov's recollections of
his past are artistically doctored" very thought provoking. Is it your thesis that Nabokov wants us to see that Vadim's path is a metaphor for his (Vadim's) thinking about his past? Is Vadim's conundrum a peek into Nabokov's own psychology? If he wants us to think that about Vadim how does that relate to the work overall?

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2013 18:35:12 -0300
From: jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] [Thoughts] Art's higher level

Addenda to Frances Assa
"..I might add to these observations his ability to do
chess problems, and see the world (through Luzhin) as organizeable into 8 by 8
squares. A chess board works no matter
how you turn it, and may thus have been particularly pleasing to VN.
This brings up something that has always puzzled me. I think it is in Look
at the Harlequins that the protagonist, who shares a lot of VN's life, is
chagrined because he is unable to visualize a certain path backwards... and
to my reply concerning Vadim's inability to "visualize
a certain path backwards" in connection to the organizational urge
that could inspire some of the chess players."Nabokov's recollections of his past are artistically

Jansy Mello: While I was going
through my old Nabokov files, I came upon a review about "The Gift,"
in which I found an interesting echo of my observation concerning Nabokov's
"organized memoirs."

It was published on The New
Republic in July 6, 1963 (http://www.tnr.com), under the
title: Nabokov: Old News from Old Prospero by Hilary Corke. The
reviewer brings
up Nabokov's assertion that ."it has always
been my particular concern to show that the distinction between 'novel' and
'life' is a false one. In Speak Memory I was at particular pains to
point out the incredible leitmotifs of life, the way that something
apparently (but only apparently) irrelevant, like a box of matches, may crop up
again and again at the nodal points of a career."
and, further on, she adds: "The fascination of Speak Memory
is the manner in which the raw material of a lived life has been transformed
into something with the exactness and shape of a classical novel. The weakness
of The Gift is that what, being a fiction, ought to be a constructed
novel, has been deliberately loosened into a pale ghost of a life.."

Hilary Corke
also brings
up several enchanting examples of pathetic fallacies in The
Gift: "Above all he is the conjuror, the literary illusionist. He
constructs his novels as though they were chess problems, with unpinning, pawns
to knights, and smothered mates. As an example of his deliberate heightening of
the air of mystery and mastery, we may consider a single repeated and strongly
characteristic trick--the metaphorical animation of the inanimate. Thus, "The rain began coming down faster: someone had suddenly tilted the
sky." Or, describing the effect of a hot sun appearing and disappearing
behind clouds, "As the light got stronger or died away, all
the shadows in the forest breathed and did push-ups." Or, in a Lewis
Carrollian vein, "The yawn begun by a woman in the lighted
windows of the first car [of a moving train] was completed by another woman--in
the last one."

After I read that "the purely
fictitious part--the passages about Fyodor's father, which were much the most
moving things in The Gift and culminated in perhaps the most memorably
hallucinating account of a dream in any literature--have also been extracted
recently, and with the addition of some new material been published as a short
story. The Lyre, in The New Yorker (April 13)" Here is what I got. http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1963-04-13#folio=044
Vladimir Nabokov and Michael Scammell, (trans.), Fiction, “The
Lyre,” The New Yorker, April
13, 1963,
."The author is a Russian, living in Berlin, some
years after the revolution. He tells the story of his father, a famous
lepidopterist, who spends the major part of his life away from his family,
exploring vast areas of the world. Many years ago the father left to continue
his researches and had never returned. Stories were circulated of his death, but
as they were unverified, his family was left in a state of speculation and were
unable to resign themselves to it. The author lives in as state of semi-poverty,
supporting himself by teaching English and writing poetry. When his mother comes
to visit, through their joint reminiscenses, he decides to gather all available
material on his father's career and write a book. His mother encourages him
after her return to Paris, but still he hesitates, doubting his ability to do
the project justice. The story ends with the miraculous return of the father and
the assurance of the son's writing the book".

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