Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023535, Wed, 26 Dec 2012 13:17:47 -0200

Re: QUERY: Love and lust in VN's stories?
Jansy Mello: [ ].Vladimir Nabokov short stories concerned with the dangers of love, lust, beauty, or desire?
Laurence Hochard: Odd as it may seem, I'd suggest "Signs and Symbols", as a short story concerned with lust as the threshold to Hell.
Jansy Mello: [LH] started by noting that it would seem “odd” and I couldn’t agree more with him. Where lies the lust of the lost in it? Perhaps Laurence could remind us of anything particular he found in the photos, or does it lie in the similarity between a vision of a lovable arm that connects it to a scene in Lolita? (I have no access to the quotations now). I thought the original question was, itself, quite intriguing once we agree that everything in life is positively dangerous. Would any Nabokovian character have ever found himself hindered by the dangers of love, lust or beauty?
Alexander Drescher: Odd? Certainly not obvious. Please explicate.]
Laurence Hochard: "I'll do it willingly but a few days after Christmas if you don't mind, as I won't have access to Nabokov-L in the next few days and I don't have time right now. (to Jansy): Yes it does have something to do with the photos As for the "lovable arm", I don't see what scene in Lolita you have in mind, and the naked arm in Signs and Symbols is not at all lovable."

Jansy Mello: How interesting. I couldn't find now, while perusing Symbols and Signs, the reference to the naked arm I had in mind - and which LH acknowledged (for him it "is not at all lovable." ) I suppose he is referring to:
"Across the narrow courtyard, where the rain tinkled in the dark against some ash cans, windows were blandly alight, and in one of them a black-trousered man, with his hands clasped under his head and his elbows raised, could he seen lying supine on an untidy bed. She pulled the blind down and examined the photographs" (from the New Yorker edition on line), and some other previous reference that gave a particular meaning to these lines.

I associated it with Lolita's:
' I could list a great number of these one-sided diminutive romances. Some of them ended in a rich flavor of hell. It happened for instance that from my balcony I would notice a lighted window across the street and what looked like a nymphet in the act of undressing before a co-operative mirror. Thus isolated, thus removed, the vision acquired an especially keen charm that made me race with all speed toward my lone gratification. But abruptly, fiendishly, the tender pattern of nudity I had adored would be transformed into the disgusting lamp-lit bare arm of a man in his underclothes reading his paper by the open window in the hot, damp, hopeless summer night."

Although I now have access to the necessary quotations, I must confess that the connections I made were mainly the result of special vague recollections. In this case, a similarity in spirit between the equivocal lovely arm, that turns into something repulsive both in novel and in story. I'm alsmost certain this theme has already come up once in the List, but couldn't reach it thru my usual sources.

Any help to settle these matters is very welcome!

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