Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023594, Sun, 20 Jan 2013 02:46:01 -0200

[ NABOKV-L] [Thoughts] eternal recurrence or infinity?
While I was watching Ang Lee's "The Life of Pi" (based on a novel by Yann Martel which is a variant reading of Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar's novel, Max e os Felinos ), a sentence floated by when the main character moans that he only got "infinite patterns and words" to comfort him. At first, Humbert Humbert's lamentation ( "Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!") came to my mind, but it was superseded by Kinbote's references to weaving and John Shade's "correlated patterns."

Kinbote writes in his foreword:"Such hearts, such brains, would be unable to comprehend that one's attachment to a masterpiece may be utterly overwhelming, especially when it is the underside of the weave that entrances the beholder and only begetter, whose own past intercoils there with the fate of the innocent author."*
And John Shade notes in his poem: ":... a web of sense/ Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find/ Some kind of link-and-bobolink, some kind/ of correlated pattern in the game..."

However, the lines in the movie that led me to Nabokov's have a metaphysical intention, related to infinity, that is not to be found either Pale Fire or in Lolita. Besides, Kinbote's "underside of the weave", as it now seems to me, forms a different image than the one I had in mind concerning a tapestry with its underlying varicolored interwoven threads and clearly discernible patterns on its opposite face. Actually, I cannot understand the meaning of what Kinbote has expressed! John Shade's "correlated patterns" are immediately comprehensible, though. They may suggest the idea that events in one's life may be connected by invisible threads to other lives and events.

A great many of Nabokov's novels elaborate on a theme lying beneath their surface patterning. I cannot remember, or find, his exact words about "Signs and Symbols," but I think that it's when he announces that there's always an important story lurking behind a manifest plot and I had surmised that such hidden stories could be compared to Kinbote's "underside of the weave" - and yet they are not, since they are intricately bound to what appears on the surface of the tapestry. And, although Nabokov created characters that lead a nomadic life (did Lolita ever return to her home-town or visit her mother's grave and disperse her father's ashes?) and he, himself, refused to go back to Russia or buy "real estate," as if the line of his life extended towards infinity, he imprisoned part of his memoirs in words to keep them protected inside the covers of a book and he also wrote about fated re-encounters and reversed steps, as if the past could be concretely retrieved or recovered without distortions or loss. There's a short-story bearing the title "The Return of Chorb", for example, and his novel "Transparent Things" carrying this impossible fantasy, like an expatriate's nostalgia, mingled with subtle traces of plights like those of Ulysses when he attempts to go back home (being met by Argus), and return to his original point of departure. And yet, the English word "hereafter" - that implies something that lies ahead or an extension into a future - at least for Shade (not for despairing Herman) is one that must reflect the same elements as those that have occurred in a remembered past.

Any ideas, quotes or helping hints about a Nietzschean recurrence and/or of infinity and openness, in Nabokov's writings?


* CK "Shade regularly read to Sybil cumulative parts of his poem but it also dawns upon me now that, just as regularly, she made him tone down or remove from his Fair Copy everything connected with the magnificent Zemblan theme with which I kept furnishing him and which, without knowing much about the growing work, I fondly believed would become the main rich thread in its weave" Also CK's commentary to line 238: "he brushed me off with a rather offensive anecdote about King Alfred who, it was said, liked the stories of a Norwegian attendant he had but drove him away when engaged in other business: "Oh, there you are," rude Alfred would say to the gentle Norwegian who had come to weave a subtly different variant of some old Norse myth he had already related before: "Oh there you are again!" And thus it came to pass, my dears, that a fabulous exile, a God-inspired northern bard, is known today to English schoolboys by the trivial nickname: Ohthere."

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