A few postings ago there was an exchante between Frances Assa and me in connection to "Nabokov's truth". While following his lecture on Tolstoy in "Lectures on Russian Literature," I found something else, namely, Nabokov's own vision of "artistic truth", "everyday truth" ("pravda") and "essential truth" ("istina") and how each one may enrich or weaken the quality of a true work of art.


Here it is:

"What obsessed Tolstoy, what obscured his genius, what now distresses the good reader, was that, somehow, the process of seeking the Trugh seemed more imiportant to him than the easy, vivid, brilliant discovery of the illusion of truth through the medium of his artistic genius. Old Russian truth was never a comfortable companionn; it had a violent temper and a heavy tread. It was not simply truth, not merely everyday pravda but immortal istina - but the inner light of truth.When Tolstoy did happen to find it in himself, in the splendor of his creative imagination, then, almosst unconsciously, he was on the right path. What does his tussle with the ruling Greek-Catholic Church matter, what importance do his ethical opinions have, in the light of this or that imaginative passage in any of his novels?

Essential truth, istina, is one of the few words in the Russian language that cannot be rhymed. It has no verbal mate, no verbal associations, it stands alone and aloof, with only a vague suggestion of the root "to stand" in the dark brilliancy of its immemorial rock.  Most Russian writers have been tremendously interested in Truth's exact whereabouts and essential properties [   ]Tolstoy marched straight at it, head bent and fists clenched, and found the place where the cross had once stood, or found - the image of his own self."  (LRL,p.141)


Google Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal" Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options Visit AdaOnline View NSJ Ada Annotations Temporary L-Soft Search the archive

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.