Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023600, Sun, 20 Jan 2013 12:57:37 -0500

Re: [ NABOKV-L] [Thoughts] eternal recurrence or infinity?
Nabokov's words are in his letter to Katherine White (of the New Yorker)
on 17 March 1951. He is disappointed (to put it mildly) that she hasn't
appreciated "The Vane Sisters".

He says he does not understand what she means by (his) "overwhelming
style". He writes a sentence which it occurs to me might have been, and still
might be, made more of by people discussing Nabokov: "For me, 'style' is
matter." (Beckett's remark on Joyce's Work in Progress is endlessly quoted:
"Form is content, content is form." I expect Nabokov was alluding to this.)

Nabokov explains his purpose in "The Vane Sisters", culminating in the
acrostic of the last two paragraphs.

He writes: "Most of the stories I am contemplating (and some I have written
in the past -- you actually published one with such an 'inside' -- the one
about the old Jewish couple and their sick boy) will be composed on these
lines, according to this system wherein a second (main) story is woven
into, or placed behind, the superficial semitransparent one. I am really very
disappointed that you, such a subtle and loving reader, should not have seen
the inner scheme of my story."

He points out that one New Yorker reader of his story "finds it unusual
that a college girl wears a hat at an exam". Nabokov retorts with a bit of
the social reality so well known to him, as a seasoned lecturer to, and
examiner of, college girls: "They all do it when they want to catch a bus or a
train immediately afterwards."

He writes: "I am really quite depressed by the whole business.... what
matters most is the fact that people whom I so much like and admire have
completely failed me as readers in the present case."

So Nabokov is not here "announc[ing] that there's always an important story
lurking behind a manifest plot", as Jansy puts it, but he is saying that
in some of his past and most of his future stories there was or will be such
a "second (main) story".

It's worth comparing this with Freud's notion, in the "Elisabeth von R."
case in Studies on Hysteria (1895), of the real "Leidensgeschichte" (passion
narrative, existential history of suffering) discovered by his
"archaeological method" as a deeper layer beneath the "banal Leidensgeschichte" that
the "patient" and everyone else already knows. Only by his encouraging her
to tell the "deep", "buried" "Leidensgeschichte" can the "patient" be
"cured". It is what "Anna O." called the "talking cure".

Anthony Stadlen
2A Alexandra Avenue
GB - London N22 7XE
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857
For Existential Psychotherapy and Inner Circle Seminars see:
_http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com_ (http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/)

In a message dated 20/01/2013 16:04:40 GMT Standard Time, jansy@AETERN.US

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

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