C.Kunin [A. Pitzer]: I
would like to thank you for your most interesting research. As you probably
know, this is one of several references to arctic exploration in VN's work
-- Ada I think had a number of them [...] The truly groundbreaking
research done by Roland Huntford about the Scott & Amundsen rivalry came out
after Nabokov's death.
JM: The importance of Artic
explorations is very clear in ADA, as you remind us, with its references
to Russian expeditions, such as Lisianski's, plus incentives for
discovering a route bt. Alaska and Russia to develop fur-trade.
If I'm not mistaken, the reference to Amundsen
leads him to the South Pole in ADA.
We also find curious comments in "Despair"
about Nansen, "the poles of moral life" and Nietzschean Superman-ethics in
an article by Dolinin*. These might have a behring on another present
theme: John Shade as an upright, generous and wise poet examined under
a less optimistic perspective, such as James Twiggs', who distinguishes the
creation of Shade, as a character and fictional poet, from author Nabokov's
intentions in his "use" of Shade in the plot of the
M.Roth: "I believe it was
Claude Levi-Strauss who said that cannibalism is 'an alimentary form of
JM: A very interesting
observation: could you be more specific about your quote?
(Freud dealt with cannibalism in "Totem and
Taboo", but the anthropological data he relied on at the time was
incomplete as regards totemism and the sacrifice of the "father of the
*From an old posting (Aug 3, 2008, at 9:48 AM)
about Alexander Dolinin's "The Caning of Modernist Profaners: Parody in
Despair". Dolinin mentions that "Hermann's initial idea of committing a
perfect murder that would be aesthetically comparable with the greatest artistic
creations parodies the Symbolist philosophy of "zhiznetvorchestvo"
(life-creation) and decadent writings based on the concept of the artist as a
Nietzschean superman standing "beyond good and evil" and projecting his
'creative dreams'onto 'malleable reality'." He also points out that Leonid Andreev's story "The Thought"
("Mysl'") has striking parallels to "Despair" and that both texts reproduce the
narrative structure and intonations of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.
In a footnote Dolinin observes that "another
self-indulgent parallel both murderers draw is to contemporary Polar explorers.
Anton exclaims, "You would not dare call Nansen, that great man of the past
century, mad. Moral life, too, has its poles, and I wanted to reach one of them.
You are dismayed by the lack of jealousy, vengefulness, greed, and other truly
stupid motives [...] But then, you men of science will condemn Nansen, along
with the fools and ignoramuses who regard his enterprise as madness" (ibid.,
69). Cf. in Despair: "Somebody told me once that I looked like Amundsen, the
Polar explorer. Well, Felix, too, looked like Amundsen. But it is not every
person that can recall Amundsen's face. I myself recall it but faintly, nor am I
sure whether there had not been some mix-up with Nansen."