Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023602, Mon, 21 Jan 2013 18:18:46 -0200

Re: [ NABOKV-L] [Thoughts] eternal recurrence or infinity?
A. Stadlen answers to JM: "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 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" [ ] "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." [ ]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" [ ]."

Jansy Mello: The "old Jewish couple and their sick boy" might have been the reference to "Signs and Symbols" that I only vaguely remembered. Your observations were most helpful.

Concerning "style is matter" (a philosophical issue I fouond explored, under the issues of "form and content," by the mathematician Douglas Hofstadter, in one of his popular columns, probably those written for the Scientific American), you might be interested in Leland de la Durantaye's Style is Matter www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~deladur/book.htm -.

You brought up one of Freud's hysterics very precisely, noting the use of the word "Geschichte" (narrative, story).
It's always worth considering how Nabokov dealt with speech and the unconscious. He might have tried to control the subconscious/unconscious discourse by his reference to an "underside of the weave," but that's exactly what I haven't yet managed to figure out. Kinbote's tapestry (or whatever) represents a closed system (dominated by his narcisistic, individualistic prison), unlike the Freudian unconscious. I may have been kept confused by Nabokov's use of "weaving" only in a metaphorical sense (was it?), unlike Freud's image in "The Interpretation of Dreams," extracted from a poem by JWGoethe, that relates to the textile process, the fixed warp and the moving weft (will try to locate it later on) .

Laurence Hochard added Marina Grishakova's text about "the models of space time and vision in Nabokov's fiction," a very apt and useful reminder of MG's extensive work on this subject. Wonderful! Thanks.

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