S.Klein [ http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24670443-16947,00.html ]: Recently a reviewer summed up many academics'
distaste for Gabriel Garcia Marquez's superb novel Love in the Time of Cholera
as "an attempt by the author to broaden his appeal by concentrating on the
universal and soft subject of love" [...] Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that many women writers are
not as interested in male protagonists as they are in the female characters.
Male authors, it seems, have a greater fascination with the opposite sex than
women do [...]One of the curious aspects of Vladimir Nabokov's success
with his perverted love story (although one-sided, it is a love story) is that
it emerged from the US. When you look at the canon of American literature, it's
easy to see how seldom love has been a significant
The elegantly expressed pleasures of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev (1803-1873)
provide the silken loveliness that poets of his generation often strove
for: The storm withdrew, but Thor had found its oak
[...]These lines could easily have been clunkers.
Instead they bring to mind the best of Edna St. Vincent Millay, generously
suggesting that it may be time to revive interest in both poets (Barbara
David Powelstock: ‘Lyre of mollitude’ translates
‘iznezhennuyu liru’ – ‘iznezhennyi’ is an adjective, here modifying and agree in
gender and case with the feminine noun ‘lira’ (lyre) in the accusative b/c it is
the direct object of ‘break’ (‘razbei’ – 2nd-person imperative, singular).
[...] The lyre stands here as a metonymy for poetry and the poet, both seen
as masculine pursuits, and which serve as the real target of the critique:
poetry has ceased to enjoin the battle for freedom and justice. Lermontov used
it a well-known to apply to his entire age: ‘nash vek iznezhennyi’: ‘our
sissified/effeminate/pampered age.’ Or, as VN might have it, “our age of
Victor Fet: изнеженный , “iznezhennyj”,
derived from “nezhnyi” (soft, tender, delicate, gentle), generally means
pampered, sybaritic, softened; it also could (when directed to a
male) mean effete, effeminate, emasculate, girly. (“Nezhnoe ditya”, “a
gentle child”, is a cliché). An archaic noun of the same root, “nega”
(which VN translated as “mollitude”) is Pushkin’s landmark. [...] In Pushkin’s
“Vol’nost”, as in a larger Russian poetical context, “iznezhennyj” has clearly a
Greek, Roman, or Byzanthine connection, taking on modern age being too
sybaritic and decadent.
JM: My entusiastic thanks
to you, VF and DP! I was sorry not to bring
up again your entire messages (it is possible to discern the fluent
ease in which you all move in language and poetry, the wealth of links
and information), because I chose to
highlight the intromission of gender issues: poetry as a "masculine
pursuit" (Pushkin) and their age as "sissified".
However, VN's employ of "mollitude" in
Ada, while describing Villa Venus, in contrast to what prevailed "in
their age", wouldn't it mainly apply to a more general
acception, such as a "pampered decadence"?
The examples you brought up from Lermontov and
Pushkin's EO are not as neutral because in these they seem
to see things, at least in relation to epic matters, from
an essentially virile perspective, inaccessible to women - in this
case "molittude" probably means exactly such a kind of
passive gentle effeminacy. And
yet, Pushkin's Vol'nost' remains very actual in
every aspect when we consider the rebellious
and pugnacious as not merely indicating that which is
biologically "virile", or the gentle and
tender as "effeminate"- inspite of its "mollitude".
Returning to the "broken lyre": Barbara Berman
(from SK's posting) wrote about F.I Tyutchev's "pleasures" coming
through in VN's translation, but she also demarcated this "silken
loveliness" as pertaining to the ambitions of the "poets of his generation"
(ie Lermontov's and Pushkin's, too). For
Nabokov "gentle Tyutchev's" life or personality does
not contain "that
romantic appeal which makes the biographies of Pushkin and Lermontov almost
homogeneous with their muses" whereas his poetry expresses
"elements which characterize the fin de siècle renaissance
of Russian poetry ( also called decadence...). For VN,
his lyrics "belong to the greatest ever
written in Russian."
Mixing the various postings, a new question is
raised: is passionate love "too soft" and "too falsely appealing" ( at
least, as a subject for novelists and poets) to be able to
represent the characteristics and demands of our present age, in
America at least?
Joseph Aisenberg writes in response to
the article "Love, actually," on LOLITA as a rare novel concerned with
love: "These are the sorts of shallow takes on literature that makes
one feel dirty using the L-word." YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS