Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027074, Sun, 26 Jun 2016 10:49:02 -0300

Sunday leisure: exploring the "equatorial theme" in a prismatic
connection to VN's works - excerpts
A first Equatorial indicator (google tool): ... "Terra Incognita" - a
fetid, increasingly densifying tale of jungle exploration in some unheard of
equatorial place. The prose, which begins as ornate, ends as hallucinatory
and demented. The language is as exquisite and toxic as poisonous flowers.
The darkness of the shadowy forest is "blinding." The three explorers walk
on "hissing and lip-smacking soil." An orchid appears to be "smeared with
egg yolk." "Glossy birds flew through the haze of the marsh." Nabokov
writes, "and, as they settled, one turned into the wooden knob of a bedpost,
another into a

Number two ( a curious reference to VN's "visual vocabulary"):


This exhibition (at the Momenta Gallery in Brooklyn NY in October of 2009)
... the work of Los Angeles-based photographer and critic George Porcari...
remarkable body of work spans almost four decades. Born in Lima, Peru in the
1950s, he emigrated to Los Angeles at age 11 and began taking photographs
ten years later to record his own sense of dislocation. In subsequent years,
Porcari went on to document his observations of cities (New York, Chicago,
Europe, Latin America) through occasional series of photographs...
Describing himself as a 'photo-journalist,' Porcari's visual vocabulary is
equally informed by Bresson, Robert Frank, and Vladmir Nabokov. His images
are bracingly realistic and incidentally lyrical. Writing about Porcari's
work, the novelist Veronica Gonzalez has noted "a sense of possibility mixed
in with regret . for all these images exist in the present, the present of
the work, a desire for cohesion, perhaps enacted here." Produced by Chris
Kraus for Semiotexte and Momenta,


Number Three:

AURELIAN"* Maxim D. Shrayer, Boston College

The protagonist of "Pil'gram" ("The Aurelian," 1930), a German shopkeeper
and entomologist, dies of a stroke at the threshold of his perfect dream.
The fifty-year old owner of a butterfly store in Weimar Berlin, Pil'gram
spends his entire adult life attempting to undertake a collecting trip to
one of the regions renowned for its rich butterfly population. All of his
attempts fail for various reasons... Finally, when Pil'gram has all but
given up on his obsessive plan, good fortune brings him a rich collector,
one Sommer, who buys from Pil'gram a major collection of lepidoptera. The
sum would only allow Pil'gram several months of economical travel, but he
embraces the salutory opportunity without hesitation. Leaving his pitiful
wife Eleanor behind without a source of income, Pil'gram sets out to go to
Spain. A fatal stroke (he had suffered one before) halts his journey. In the
morning, Eleanor finds him dead sitting on the floor of his shop [ ] In
the English, Nabokov decided to tone down the Russian version's deeply
lyrical recollection of Pil'gram's childhood discovery of a caterpillar...
In a sense Pil'grim longs to regain the lost Paradise of his childhood-a
leitmotif of Nabokov's works from the earliest stories to the latest, from
the novels Glory (1931-32) and The Gift (1937-38) to Lolita (1955) and Ada
(1969). Pil'gram refers to the possibility of a real trip as nothing other
than scast'e ("happiness"). Like Germann in Puskin's "Pikovaja dama" ("The
Queen of Spades," 1833) whose inflamed mind endows surrounding objects with
signs of "three, seven, ace," Pil'gram also sees everything in terms of the
way it relates to his "phantom" of happiness [ ] In Speak, Memory, Nabokov
also alludes to several butterfly collecting trips that illumine Pil'gram's
plans in the story. "In the summer of 1929," Nabokov reminisces, "every time
I walked through a village in the Eastern Pyrenees, and happened to look
back, I would see in my wake the villagers frozen in the various attitudes
my passage had caught them in, as if I were Sodom and they Lot's wife" (SM
131). In the Russian version of "The Aurelian," one finds a similar
description of the locals' reaction ("udivlenie i strax aborigenov,"
literally: "the aborigines' surprise and fear") to the "strange people who
have come from afar" (S 196). Nabokov's 1929 trip to the Eastern Pyrenees
near the Spanish border is also important because several of Pil'gram's
plans concern an expedition to Southern France and to Spain. ...Two more
references to Nabokov's life may elucidate the poetics of "The Aurelian."
One has to do with Nabokov's recurrent dream of undertaking a tropical
expedition that he never realized, much like his privileged character
Pil'gram. Nikolaj Raevskij, a writer who knew Nabokov in the 1920s in Prague
and shared his professional interest in lepidoptera, recalled how an excited
Nabokov told him about his dream of an expedition to New Guinea, French
Equatorial Africa, and the Solomon Islands: "The climate there is wretched
everywhere, but I am young, healthy, physically trained, so I would hope to
survive and bring back remarkable collections." Raevskij also recalled
warning Nabokov in the 1920s against undertaking a long expedition to exotic
lands because "the writer Nabokov could die an untimely death" in a
dangerous climate. Raevskij's memoir contains insightful remarks about the
relationship between Pil'gram and his creator. Raevskij suggests that "The
Aurelian" tells a story of Nabokov's own "unrealized entomological dream."
Raevskij speaks of the strength and irresistibility of Pil'gram's (and
Nabokov's) passion which preserved for life "the pure child's perception of
nature."... Raevskij apparently did not know that coming to America gave
Nabokov a chance to go on the kinds of collecting trips that he had dreamed
about as an emigre in Europe-to the American West and Southwest,- during
which Nabokov reexperienced the joys of his childhood.*



*the substitution of "equatorial regions" for the "American West and
Southwest" (contrasting with New England and Canada?), as it was pointed out
by Maxim Shrayer, in VN's active pursuit of "happiness", reminded me of a
line in "Pale Fire" with its "sublimated grouse finding your China right
behind my house."

And in the morning,
diamonds of frost

20 Express amazement: Whose
spurred feet have crossed

From left to right the
blank page of the road?

Reading from left to right
in winter's code:

A dot, an arrow pointing
back; repeat:

Dot, arrow pointing
back... A pheasant's feet!

Torquated beauty,
sublimated grouse,

Finding your China right
behind my house.

Ada made it to Patagonia but Van, if I recollect it correctly, only dreamt
of traveling to Africa and about traversing the equator (".It is not clear,
when you are falling asleep, why all continents except you begin with an
A.")- or mimicked navigator Vasco da Gama's exploration in reverse...

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