Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021003, Sun, 28 Nov 2010 15:04:36 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] [QUERY] Mademoiselle's French
David Lodge, I think, once observed that scholars tend to read the works of other scholars more often than they read the original author under discussion, as if we'd entered an era of "reader's readers." Fortunately, that doesn't seem to happen with Nabokov: one has to return to him over and over.
Take the excerpts I extracted from "Speak, Memory" yesterday and posted here. In them we read something that is not simply a sequence of recollections, confessions, pure fiction...it's not philosophy, semiology, narratology, criticism and one's one certainty is only that it's been written by an artist of the word. There's rythm (a steady acceleration in "her slender voice sped on and on, never weakening..."), there are oximorons and contrasts (slender voice x fat body; Racine's pious sins...), there are actual reverberations ( distill - still; prison - person: "distilling her reading voice from the still prison of her person," "enormous and morose"; "she - chins"), repetition ("even flow of her voice....ebb and flow of governesses...")... Style.
There's equally something disquieting in the meaning that's been conveyed. What does Nabokov imply by "that swan whose agony was so much closer to artistic truth than a drooping dancer's pale arms"? What's art? Is it something only captured by an artist's eyes and ears, not present in his praxis and poiesis?
What's an "artistic truth" ( the "real" world?) Is Nabokov "deconstructing" art when he dismisses the transformation of a vision into words, dance, music? What is he constructing while he wonders if managed to "salvage her [Mademoiselle] from fiction" since "she" ... "is impossible in eternity"?
Is the entire chapter an indication of his search for an imortal and immaterial "she," when he confesses that "I catch myself wondering whether...I had not kept utterly missing something in her that was far more she than her chins..." ..."something perhaps akin to...artistic truth ...something, in short, that I could appreciate only after the things and beings that I had most loved in the secutiry of my childhood had been turned to ashes and shot through the heart."?) .

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