Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024989, Thu, 9 Jan 2014 17:49:47 -0200

[THOUGHTS] The sense of touch in novel and fiction: "a good-bye
to objects"

Moving ahead, from V.Nabokov's (1951) poem "Voluptates Tactionum"* and lines from his novel ADA**, intrigued by what appears to me as a particular quandary he found himself in, one that's related to the enhanced experiences he achieves by visual and auditory "synesthaesia," because he cannot reach them by his registers of touch, I noticed two things.

The first one relates to his prophetic visionary processings (following Verne and Wells?) as they are at times rendered in his novels.
Compare his verses on what he named as a "Magnotack" in the fifties and the modern researches in haptics (a word I couldn't find in his texts until now).**
The considerable setback connecting the "magnotack" to modern instrumentations is that, until now, it seems that haptic technology remains dependent of visual information and therefore it isn't applicable as a true "visual aid" to the blind, except by allowing them to perceive (touch) things that lie in the distance.

The second one depends on my going back to the novels, and even to some of VN's scientific articles, to be able to find elements to ground an assertion that is related to "touch" in Nabokov.
What set me on this trail were his lines, in ADA, "a tactile sensation is a blind spot; we touch in silhouette. "***
I remember reading that for John Updike "Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written - that is, ecstatically" and, for Martin Amis, "The variety, force and richness of Nabokov's perceptions have not even the palest rival in modern fiction. To read him in full flight is to experience stimulation that is at once intellectual, imaginative and aesthetic, the nearest thing to pure sensual pleasure that prose can offer".
Yes! V.Nabokov's prose is born from and engenders "sensual pleasure" and, if this kind of "aesthesia" is his aim, then his perspective should fail to achieve the objectiveness of traditional "scientific writing" (but, perhaps, it could be even more faithful to the world of nature.)

For example, should I conclude that vision allows one to touch a distant object with one's eyes (I couldn't find the original reference to this statement), my standpoint will not be related to any direct "sensuous" input (albeit it's dependent on the information obtained by my senses of vision and touch), it shall be cold and objective, related to the world of information and thought ( my arguments are highly disputable, but I'm awaiting a contestation here to proceed...).
However, when I observe that "a tactile sensation is a blind spot" together with the recognition that now, although "nothing seemed changed in one sense, all was lost in another", I fiind myself tied to a subjective apprehension of something that is desired but impossible to reach in its totality: it is a permanent sign of some sort of loss and frustration.#

* - "Grouped before a Magnotack, / Clubs and families/ Will clutch everywhere/ The same compact paradise/ (In terms of touch).[ ] Palpitating fingertips/ Will caress the flossy hair/ And investigate the lips/Simulated in mid-air..."

** - B. Boyd's Annotations to ADA "After blinding Kim Beauharnais for attempting to use his photographs of himself and Ada for blackmail purposes, Van keeps him "safe and snug in a nice Home for Disabled Professional People, where he gets from me loads of nicely brailled books on new processes in chromophotography" (446.05-07).

** - Wikipedia: Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology which takes advantage of the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user. This mechanical stimulation can be used to assist in the creation of virtual objects in a computer simulation, to control such virtual objects, and to enhance the remote control of machines and devices (telerobotics). It has been described as "doing for the sense of touch what computer graphics does for vision".[ ] The word haptic, from the Greek ??????? (haptikos), means pertaining to the sense of touch and comes from the Greek verb ???????? haptesthai, meaning to contact or to touch. [ ] Future applications of haptic technology cover a wide spectrum of human interaction with technology. Current research focuses on the mastery of tactile interaction with holograms and distant objects, which if successful may result in applications and advancements in gaming, movies, manufacturing, medical, and other industries.[ ]Future advancements in haptic technology may create new industries that were previously not feasible nor realistic.[ ] Researchers at the University of Tokyo are working on adding haptic feedback to holographic projections. The feedback allows the user to interact with a hologram and receive tactile responses as if the holographic object were real. [ ]One currently developing medical innovation is a central workstation used by surgeons to perform operations remotely. [ ]Haptic technology provides tactile and resistance feedback to surgeons as they operate the robotic device. As the surgeon makes an incision, they feel ligaments as if working directly on the patient[ ]Haptic technology aids in the simulation by creating a realistic environment of touch. Much like telepresence surgery, surgeons feel simulated ligaments, or the pressure of a virtual incision as if it were real. [An] inventor in the United States built a "spider-sense" bodysuit, equipped with ultrasonic sensors and haptic feedback systems, which alerts the wearer of incoming threats; allowing them to respond to attackers even when blindfolded.

***- ADA I, ch.16: "After the first contact, so light, so mute, between his soft lips and her softer skin had been established - high up in that dappled tree, with only that stray ardilla daintily leavesdropping - nothing seemed changed in one sense, all was lost in another. Such-contacts evolve their own texture; a tactile sensation is a blind spot; we touch in silhouette. Henceforth, at certain moments of their otherwise indolent days, in certain recurrent circumstances of controlled madness, a secret sign was erected, a veil drawn between him and her -[ ] - not to be removed until he got rid of what the necessity of dissimulation kept degrading to the level of a wretched itch."

# - I have in mind now Mikhail Epstein (in A Small Alpine Form: Studies in Nabokov's Short Fiction, ed. by Gene Barabtarlo and Charles Nicol, New York: Garland Publishers (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1580), 1993, pp. 217-224.), particularly the quote in his opening paragraph: "My life is a perpetual good-bye to objects."?[Moia zhizn' - sploshnoe proshchanie s predmetami...]?V. Nabokov. In Memory of L.I.Shigaev, he'll develop more fully in his article.?

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