Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027120, Wed, 20 Jul 2016 11:03:43 -0300

: [NABOKV-L] Cold enlightment: Ultima Thule and more

> De: "Jansy Mello"
> After a lot of "desultory clicking" # to find out more about V.Nabokov's
> frequent references to the arctic regions and to polar expeditions (Humbert
> Humbert's in "Lolita", for example, Krolik in "Ada", Kinbote's associations
> to "parhelia"), I came to various old sightings from which I selected two
> (or three).
> The first one is "Nabokov's Secret Knowledge" [
> https://petersonion.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/nabokovs-secret-knowledge/] and
> here are a few excerpts:
> "Consider the following statement by Vladimir Nabokov: "To be quite candid -
> and what I am going to say now is something I have never said before, and I
> hope that it provokes a salutary chill - I know more than I can express in
> words, and the little that I can express would not have been expressed, had
> I not known more (Strong Opinions, pg. 45)." He made this statement in the
> Playboy interview in response to Toffler's asking him whether or not he
> believed in God. For some time now these words have not failed to provoke
> their intended "chill" when I think about them. Whether it is "salutary" or
> not remains debatable, since it has thrown again into confusion for me an
> area of inquiry I have long (and very happily) considered settled. I mean
> the question of spiritual enlightenment [snip] ...why do those innocuous
> words, quoted above, bother me coming out of Nabokov's mouth?
> They bother me simply because they have opened up the question again. I
> could find reasons to suspect every historical mouth-piece of enlightenment
> (Buddha, Jesus, Plato, the Zohar, etc.) for merely seeking to furnish
> authority for some agenda, whether political, moral or instinctual. So I
> had reason also to doubt the reality of enlightenment. But to me, Vladimir
> Nabokov is not mere dictum. I can think of no reason to suspect what he has
> to say outside the scope of his novels. His hunger for being, as he put it,
> "fantastically deceitful," was satisfied with them. So if what he is
> suggesting in that statement in Playboy is that he is enlightened... then
> I'm not sure, I sort of have to rethink the issue again.
> This begs the following questions: (1) Why is Nabokov such a credible
> source, and (2) How can we know Nabokov is speaking about enlightenment?
> Nabokov is a credible source because he is perhaps the only writer in
> history short of maybe Shakespeare who had no discernable agenda. Beyond
> being a master of style, he is notable for being the opposite of an
> ideologue.[ ] His family was dispossessed and his father was murdered by
> ideologues: he was intimate with the consequences of hypocrisy.
> Moreover his books are visionary, not idealistic. In literary metaphor as
> well as lepidopteral taxonomy, his goal was precision. The best way of
> triggering, as he saw it, the aesthetic experience, was to assist clarity in
> understanding. Nothing primitive, obscuritanist or mystical. For Nabokov
> consciousness - specifically human consciousness - was an unqualified good
> and warranted expansion, not through mystical mortification of the self, but
> through the orderly identification of reality.
> How I know he is talking about enlightenment is slightly harder to prove. I
> think this because, first of all, the statement's context was on a question
> of God, not art or science; and secondly, because using the phrase "I mean
> more than I can say in words" concerning emotions and so forth is a cliché
> of the worst sort, and that was not Nabokov's way. He clearly meant to
> emphasize some sort of significant difference between himself and others; a
> possession more than just talent that made his books possible. He says
> "know" - so what kind of secret knowledge does he have, and won through what
> kind of elusive experience?
> Below is a passage from his abandoned novel Ultima Thule. The premise is
> that Truth was one evening revealed to a man named Falter, and it was fatal.
> He cried out all night in mortal pain - but somehow he survived the
> onslaught. When his neighbors sent the doctor the next morning to check on
> him, Falter spoke a certain word to him and it killed him. I can think of
> only two other sources with this concept of "fatal enlightenment": UG
> Krishnamurti and the ancient Hebrews. But Krishnamurti was after Nabokov's
> time, and the Bible gives no glimpse into the experience. [ ] "For the
> sake of somehow starting our talk, I shall temporarily accept your refusal.
> Let us proceed ab ovo. Now then, Falter, I understand that the essence of
> things has been revealed to you." [ ] For whatever reason, this and the
> rest of passage makes more sense to me than any sutra or Upanishad I have
> had the misery to slog through. I feel that the words could only have been
> written from within the thing they are speaking about. The problem, of
> course, is that this passage is in a work of fiction, and therefore falls
> within the scope of Nabokov's being "fantastically deceitful."
> The other one is more recent: Ice Friday: Vladimir Nabokov's Essential Truth
> Posted on July 1, 2016
> <http://mcphedranbadside.com/ice-friday-vladimir-nabokovs-essential-truth/>
> http://mcphedranbadside.com/ice-friday-vladimir-nabokovs-essential-truth/
> "Wait! There, I feel once again that I shall really express myself, shall
> bring the words to bay.
> <http://mcphedranbadside.com/ice-friday-vladimir-nabokovs-essential-truth/im
> g_4549/>
> I myself picture all of this so clearly, but you are not I, and therein lies
> the calamity."
> (From Vladimir Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading)
> From all the definitions and characterizations of Ultima Thule (even
> considering the very real Arctic post founded by Kund Rasmussen) I selected
> one by Virgil that I found through wikipedia:" Virgil
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil> coined the term Ultima Thule
> (Georgics <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgics> , 1. 30) meaning furthest
> land as a symbolic reference to denote a far-off land or an unattainable
> goal."[12] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thule>
> ............................................................................
> ............................................................................
> ...............................................................
> * -.borrowing Justin E A Smith's words ( http://www.jehsmith.com/1/ )
> In one of his titles in his blog, from 2013, he mentions V. Nabokov: "I
> consider myself politically progressive, but there are a few major sticking
> points that keep me perpetually at odds with my would-be allies. I hold in
> utter contempt anyone who would attempt to dictate to me a list of things I
> am forbidden to say, and it is generally more from the left than from other
> quarters that such dictation comes. I am part of that minority that
> continues to consider political correctness a real threat, and not a
> momentary excess of the early 1990s, when we heard all that reactionary
> huffing about how soon enough they'll be making us say 'vertically
> challenged' instead of 'short' and so on. I speak not with Rush Limbaugh but
> with Vladimir Nabokov when I say that I am horrified by the limitation of
> free expression, by which I don't mean the usual 'expression of unpopular
> ideas' beloved of 'card-carrying members of the ACLU', but rather the
> creative use of language where a Schillerian free play of the imagination is
> the only source of regulation. I believe the desire to regulate externally
> stems not just from a misunderstanding of how political progress is made,
> but also of how language functions." JULY 6, 2013
> http://www.jehsmith.com/1/2013/07/punish-the-jester.html

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