Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023723, Fri, 1 Mar 2013 20:33:35 -0300

Re: THOUGHTS: Double Consciousness in Wordsworth & Shade
Jansy Mello: ... Nabokov's world was rich with "superimposed pictures" and signs (polissemy in action through intertextuality) which, at one level, impede the reader to get "a single sharply defined landscape." ... Marina Grishakova's "On Some Allusions in V. Nabokov's Works" (TN, 43,1999) may provide us with an additional interpretation...she notes that "Nabokov resorts to the Pascalean metaphor again and again: 'infinity', 'dark eternity,' an 'abyss' or a 'pit' juxtaposed to human perceptual time." MG's perspective ...relates to what John Shade poetically refers to as "A thousand years ago five minutes were/ Equal to forty ounces of fine sand./ Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime and/ Infinite aftertime: above your head/They close like giant wings, and you are dead." (lines 120-124), but I'm willing to take the risk that John Shade's "quirk in space" may also be applied to time and eternity...

Part Two, to follow:"I'm willing to take the risk that John Shade's 'quirk in space' may also be applied to time and eternity"
...because, when I quoted other verses by Shade: "A thousand years ago five minutes were/ Equal to forty ounces of fine sand./, I didn't take into account that he was suggesting an hourglass right there and then! Here is what Marina Grishakova notes in the first paragraph of her Nabokovian note: "Let us turn to Adam Krug's hampered attempt to cross the bridge..." - when she quotes VN: "...Not a bridge but an hourglass which somebody keeps reversing, with me, the fluent fine sand, inside." before she adds: "An hourglass is an image of measurable infinity (as well as a verse line, a unit of poetry, another metaphor for the bridge). It visually resembles the mathematical sign of infinity and belongs to the leitmotival "signs and symbols associated with the point of contact between the novel's two worlds." (D.B.Johnson Worlds in Regression...)"

In the former posting, related to "a quirk in space" that dislodged two conscious recollections from their shared source, I compared this effect to some of Marina Grishakova's arguments. I had simply wanted to make a reduction from "two infinite abysses" (help!) to John Shade's description of how he is unable to see his home when he is looking in that direction in the present, with the one that had included his home in the past.

Matt Roth has asked: "Is the idea of “two consciousnesses” at the root of this passage?" [relating Wordsworth's lines to Shade's "quirk in space"*]. Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Wundt referred to "conscious awareness" by linking perception and consciousness, as you seem to imply it to be the case in Wordsworth's conclusions, and even Nabokov's.
Freud's innovations led him towards the acceptance of distorted recollections that could be either conscious or unconscious, the effects of which altered or influenced present perceptions. He also observed that when a person is remembering something, the perception of what surrounds him(her) is closed-off (and vice-versa).
For a writer to be able to indicate "two consciousnesses" ("aligning memory with immediate perception"), he must be relying on yet some kind of third consciousness - and on their mnemonic registers, however faulty.
Would Nabokov have advocated the reality or the objective truth of everything he could remember from his childhood years?

* - The complete quote, by M.Roth is: “But with ‘somewhat of a sad perplexity’ he [the poem’s speaker] registers a difference between the memory he has carried of the place and what he now sees. When he superimposes the picture held in memory over the actual scene, he finds they are mismatched. Wordsworth referred to this device of aligning memory with immediate perception as the ‘two consciousnesses.’ Imagine looking through a View-Master, that childhood toy that layers two images over each other to create a 3-D scene. You expect to see a single sharply defined landscape but instead see two pictures, one hovering over the other, their differences disconcertingly apparent.”

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