Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022464, Fri, 24 Feb 2012 07:23:59 -0500

Re: Nabokov and Twelve-Year-Old Girls ...
How can Humbert's so-called "redemption" entail his going straight off to
commit his filthy murder, in which not he but another is Clearly Guilty --
both of child-sex-crime and his own murder? I am using Nabokov's own
adjective: "There is no rhetorical link between a filthy murderer [Raskolnikov],
and this unfortunate girl [Sonya]." (Lectures in Russian Literature, 1981,
p. 110.) Nabokov was clear-sighted, not sentimental -- or, at least, much
more clear-sighted than sentimental. His summing-up of Humbert was: "a vain
and cruel wretch who manages to appear ' touching ' ''. (Strong Opinions,
1973, p. 84.) And: "Both [Hermann and Humbert] are neurotic scoundrels, yet
there is a green lane in Paradise where Humbert is permitted to wander at
dusk once a year; but Hell shall never parole Hermann." (Preface to Despair,
1965.) So a fraction of one-365th or -366th "redemption" is all that is
granted Humbert by his creator, ten years on.

Anthony Stadlen

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In a message dated 24/02/2012 02:31:48 GMT Standard Time, Rsgwynn1@CS.COM

In a message dated 2/22/2012 8:09:58 PM Central Standard Time,

Does Humbert ultimately receive some moment of Grace? I like to think he
has, as he sits overlooking and overhearing the children near the end of
the novel. It does move in a mysterious way, its wonders to perform.

Brian Boyd has long ago pointed to Nabokov's brilliance and insight in
having Humbert seductively place this passage just where it is near the end of
his narrative. Nabokov ruthlessly exposes readers who are seduced by the
rhetoric of a child-rapist and murderer. This does not mean that Humbert's
fleeting insight had no validity, but it was fleeting, and he did not have
the integrity to act on it.

Anthony Stadlen

I would set this alongside what Humbert ultimately says and does in his
last meeting with dowdy, pregnant Lo. I think, or like to think, that he has
effected his own catharsis, his own redemption, before dying. He surely
has nothing tangible to gain by writing these things in his "confessions."
It does strike me as a "moral" ending to the novel, if such is possible.
Burgess extends the same possibility of redemption to Alex in the "missing"
21st chapter of A Clockwork Orange, as does Dostoyevsky to Raskolnikov,
even though "that is another story," as does Tolstoy to Ivan Ilyich, who, in
his own way, is a great sinner too. In most classic novels the protagonist
dies with some grace, with the possible exception of poor Emma, to whom
none is offered by either God or the author.

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