Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024914, Fri, 20 Dec 2013 18:35:44 -0800

Re: Dr Mertvago & Dr Swissair
To Alexey and the List,

I wasn't aware that Castro was a "Dr" but if he was, it was a doctor of death. On the other hand, the others were all doctors of Life. The life after death theme in VN bothers me, because it lessens the importance, "The Reverence of Life," as Dr Swissair entitled one of his books. If there is life after death, life itself is less important, is it not, whereas if that;s all there is* life is supremely important. That is why I dislike the possibility (I am not completely convinced) that VN believed in life after death. Certainly it is a major theme, an obsession perhaps, but that's as far as I personally am willing to go. Nota bene that Pushkin while obsessed by the idea of his own death, never (or am I wrong?) expressed any desire to outlive death.

As you refer to Pasternak'sSistra moya zhizn' (if you need us, me at least, to know what you posted back in May of last year, please include it), you know that life was that important to him. Freud - well, there you have the "life force" and the "death force," rather equally important. But again, if Freud believed that one survives death, then death too becomes less important.

So much for philosophy!

*Oddly cynical song made famous by Peggy Less as many will recall

From: Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark1970@MAIL.RU>
Sent: Friday, December 20, 2013 1:24 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Dr Mertvago & Dr Swissair

JM: "the Caribean, the place of Demon Veen's
Demon Veen falls (or, rather, disappears) above the
In the fourth or fifth worst airplane
disaster of the young century, a gigantic flying machine had inexplicably
disintegrated at fifteen thousand feet above the Pacific between Lisiansky and
Laysanov Islands in the Gavaille region. (3.7)
The critics of VN's "Strong Opinions"* should be
a bit more precise.
Btw., In Memory of Demon is the opening poem in
Pasternak's collection My Sister Life (subtitled "Summer of 1917"
and dedicated to Lermontov, the author of Prediction, 1830, Demon, 1829-39, and The Dream, 1841, all of them prophetic
poems). Demon Veen predicts his own death as he reads his son's palm
(1.38): "What puzzles me as a palmist is the strange
condition of the Sister of your Life." (see also my two posts of May
27, 2012)
Dorothy Vinelander (who in 1888 reverently visited Dr
Swissair in Lumbago) always
maintained that Van's [and
Ada's] father "resembled a Russian aristocrat much more than he did an Irish Baron" (3.8). Still, one also recalls W. B. Yeats's poem An Irish Airman
Foresees his Death (1918):
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the
clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely
impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all,
brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of
breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this
*I detest not one but four doctors: Dr.
Freud, Dr. Zhivago, Dr. Schweitzer, and Dr. Castro (SO, p. 115)
Alexey Sklyarenko (who is not a saint and who is not

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