Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024741, Sun, 3 Nov 2013 12:14:40 -0800

the Real Question regarding Humbert's Innocence
Dear Jansy and the List,

The concept of original sin post-dates Judaism. We are currently reading Genesis (another pair of murderous twins have just been born) and it seems to me that disobedience only (i.e. not hubris) is closer to what Adam and Eve did and for which they were punished with mortality. 

In regards to Humbert's guilt or innocence, I personally lean toward innocence partly because there has been no trial, and except in Wonderland, the trial usually precedes the verdict. But what I think is the most important question raised has so far not been addressed by the List, to wit, is Humbert a reliable narrator, which those who condemn him must accept at least to some degree, and if so, can someone please give me another example from Nabokov's oeuvre?

That is the real question.


p.s. I am a very lackadaisical Nabokovian and have not read most of the novels, so this is a serious, not a rhetorical, question.

From: Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US>
Sent: Sunday, November 3, 2013 3:03 AM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] An Exchange on Humbert's Innocence

A. Stadlen's arguments about HH and Humpty
Dumpty humoristically indicate that  "Humbert's fall, like
Humpty's, like Finnegan's, is the Fall of Mankind. But the Fall is a Christian
notion. Judaism does not have Original Sin [    ] "Lolita" may have no moral in tow, but this is because it itself is the
pilot not the piloted, being moral through and through, the paradigmatic moral
and negative-theological discourse of our age. Disprove that! It's a possible
hypothesis.." However, part of his assertions seem to mingle informations
derived from common-sense reality and established dogmas, with those
that are purely fictional (a very Nabokovian trait) - like the
philosophical implications related to "the Fall." (I always thought that
biblical Adam's and Eve's disobedience and hybris, later imaged in Lucifer's
fall, were related to the theory of the Original Sin and were still
valid for Christians and for Jews.) 
Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to bring up an instance from
"Pale Fire" (CK's note to line 549) in which we find Shade and Nabokov
discussing sin, in the context of "obsolete terminology." 
shade: All
the seven deadly sins are peccadilloes but without three of them, Pride, Lust
and Sloth, poetry might never have been born.
kinbote: Is
it fair to base objections upon obsolete
shade: All
religions are based upon obsolete
What we term Original Sin can never grow
shade: I
know nothing about that. In fact when I was small I thought it meant Cain
killing Abel. Personally, I am with the old snuff-takers: L’homme est né
kinbote: Yet
disobeying the Divine Will is a fundamental definition of
shade: I
cannot disobey something which I do not know and the reality of which I have the
right to deny.
Tut-tut. Do you also deny that there are
shade: I can
name only two: murder, and the deliberate infliction of pain.
Nowadays words like "honor" and "dignity" like
"sin" seem to be losing their former impact. Would they be obsolete, too,
in John Shade's eyes? (V.Nabokov, elsewhere,* mentions "a norm," not sin or
I agree with A.Stadlen's and J.Aisenberg's ideas,
following J.A's quotes from "Lolita,"about HH having made up the information
concerning the paternity of Lolita. (there are many other discrepancies in
the plot related to it).  

* For Nabokov “a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic
bliss” (Lolita, Afterword, page 314), described as "a sense of being somehow,
somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity,
tenderness, kindness) is the
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