Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024614, Sat, 21 Sep 2013 18:48:02 -0300

Re: [Thoughts] Art's higher level correction
Frances Assa:: "What kind of truth are you after? Delightful question! As a lawyer I would answer: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! But then, Nabokov isn’t on the stand. I think Nabokov was very respectful of memories, and somewhere said something (I wish I had your recall!) to the effect that the more one revisits a memory, the weaker it gets because it becomes associated with later matter...it's quite possible that Nabokov reserved certain memories for himself, to keep them pristine. Anyway, my point is certainly not that Nabokov is a liar. Quite the opposite. He is a natural truth teller, I think, in disguise. I would point to the exact book you did, RLSK, for proof of this assertion. I think the truth teller and the author were supremely in charge and that Nabokov intentionally revealed more about himself in that fictional biography than in any other fiction. I am "after" same truth Nabokov is after: the kind of truth that the real Goodmans find so hard to deliver! This gets into the book I’m writing, which is more history and biography than anything else. Like Nabokov, I am no lover of Freud. I’m not looking for his unconscious, and will take at face value all the genuine gems of biography he throws into his fiction. He did this quite a bit, I think, in his earlier books, but as you noted in one of your responses, by the time he got to Harlequins, he may have been far more circumspect.It is a fair question to ask what the heck I meant by an unreliable author. Maybe Goodman would be an example. Nabokov’s point with Goodman was that there are lots of real authors who sound just like him. Those real authors are all unreliable. But I was actually just playing with words when I wrote that, to see if anyone might take it up with some brilliant segway." - "I’ve enjoyed this tete-a-tete very much. Maybe we should continue it, if it should be continued, off-line?"

Jansy Mello: Like me, Fran Assa is hoping that more Nablers took up certain topics or offered a "brilliant segway." (or else, to comply with the VN-L rules, we'd be forced to continue our tete-a-tete off-list - and I'd welcome that too!). My abilities to recall VN lines are not very outstanding, quite often I must pore over possibilities in two or three novels or peruse what I underlined in Speak,Memory or S.O. Fortunately most of the snippets that I happen to remember are enough to lead me through google entries related to them.

While I was searching about "unreliable narrators" I found an interesting article on Pnin, (Pnin and the narrator as doubles and Pnin trying to discredit him as a liar!) and I separated as a future read since, at a first look, there was a lot in it that puzzled me or about which I had not sufficient background to pursue.
Here is the link: http://www.marcmanley.com/nabokov-pnin-and-the-preposterous/
Here are a few samples of it: "there is no doubt whatsoever that Nabokov is playing with the novel as a form. From the very beginning of the narrative, the title’s protagonist is charged with being on the wrong train. This contention, like many others the narrator makes, proves to be incorrect as the novel proceeds. The technique proves to be very useful in not only challenging the unreliable narrator’s omniscience, but to also establish as to what I see is a key element in Nabokov’s literary double: competition between the doubles [ ] I will examine what Leona Toker touches upon in her article “Self-Conscious Paralepsis”...[ ] This competition between Pnin and the narrator builds throughout the novel as the main character fights back against the tide of unreliable information that is given to the reader: “Pnin cried to Dr. Barakan across the table: ‘Now don’t believe a word he says, Georgiy Aramovich. He makes up everything’.” (185). As Pninprogresses, Nabokov incrementally moves the narrator from the position of intradiegetic to homodiegitc by forcing the narrator to become part of the story".

I don't know if Fran [ the more one revisits a memory, the weaker it gets because it becomes associated with later matter] is referring to an interview in SO in which Nabokov laments that, after he transforms a particular recollection into an element in his works of fiction, it looses its emotional strength.*
Fran tells us that she is "no lover of Freud.." For my part, I'm no lover of any Freudian "applied psychoanalysis". The right to keep one's uncomfortable secrets unviolated is undisputable in my eyes, even if this defense of individual "opacity" and creative deceitfulness becomes an invitation to my beheading...(Unfortunately, sometimes one slips).Perhaps I'm an unreliable reader! (human truth has many facets .. Nabokov was able to develop "serial selves", too).


* - I didn't find the lines I wanted, but got a few others that are equally illuminating. Cf 1969 http://lib.ru/NABOKOW/Inter13.txt_with-big-pictures.html
Q:Memory often presents a life broken into episodes, more or less perfectly recalled. Do you see any themes working through from one episode to another?
A: Everyone can sort out convenient patterns of related themes in the past development of his life. Here again I had to provide pegs and echoes when furnishing my reception halls [in writing Speak,Memory].
Q: In your acute scrutiny of your past, can you find the instruments that fashioned you?
A: Yes-- unless I refashion them retrospectively, by the very act of evoking them. There is quite a lot of give and take in the game of metaphors.
Q: Does the inevitable distortion of detail worry you?
A: Not at all. The distortion of a remembered image may not only enhance its beauty with an added refraction, but provide informative links with earlier or later patches of the past.
Q: Is the capacity to recall and to celebrate patches of past time a special quality of yours?
A: No, I don't think so. I could name many writers, English, Russian, and French, who have done it at least as well as I have. Funny, I notice that when mentioning my three tongues, I list them in that order because it is the best rhythmic arrangement: either dactylic, with one syllable skipped, "English, Russian, and French," or anapestic, "English, Russian, and French." Little lesson in prosody.

However, the reference I searched for is mentioned here: French Echoes in "Mademoiselle O" by Jacqueline Hamrit
: "Living, for Nabokov, is equally the experience of a gift, as is writing. In the first paragraph of the story, he declares that every time he offers some part of his past to one of the characters in his books, he feels dispossessed of himself. Playing on the semantic chain of "lending, taking, giving, losing," Nabokov explains how he has the impression that his characters have "appropriated" his past whenever he lent them some portion of it. Writing is therefore associated with the act of giving something of oneself, losing it, and nevertheless feeling that it has somehow managed to survive. Survival is a term that does not appear per se in the French version of "Mademoiselle O," but it is mentioned in the last paragraph of the final version in Speak, Memory, to which Nabokov added the following information: "There is an appendix to Mademoiselle's story. When I first wrote it I did not know about certain amazing survivals."
and the exact words (I hope) in another entry (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30594.Speak_Memory) "I have often noticed that after I had bestowed on the characters of my novels some treasured item of my past, it would pine away in the artificial world where I had so abruptly placed it. Although it lingered on in my mind, its personal warmth, its retrospective appeal had gone and, presently, it became more closely identified with my novel than with my former self, where it had seemed to be so safe from the intrusion of the artist."

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