(for clarification of my previous posting)
Ivan Karamazov refuses God because of the existence of evil but then, if God doesn't exist, "all is allowed"*. This is the essence of Ivan's existential despair. Staretz Zosima answers that though beyond Man's understanding, evil has a place in the ultimate meaning of things, hence Nabokov's "then life is a joke." What Nabokov wants to denounce in this passage is DostoŽvski's and Zosima's inconsequent reasoning. This inconsequence  arranges a too easy way out of guilt.

As for art, it is not a means of redemption, only a "melancholy and very local palliative". It can do justice to Lolita, it obviously cannot restore to her her stolen childhood.


Laurence Hochard


*In Pale Fire (Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept
                     All is allowed, into some classes crept. (ll. 641-42))
,
 Nabokov gibes at Ivan's infantile idea that if God doesn't exist, then all is allowed, in other words, the idea that the fear of divine punishment is the only source of morals.



Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 19:25:21 -0500
From: nabokv-l@UTK.EDU
Subject: [NABOKV-L] [Old SIGHTING] Nabokov's Berlin: Nabokov, art and evil
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU

RE [NABOKV-L] [Old SIGHTING] Nabokov's Berlin Nabokov, art and evil
Subject:
RE: [NABOKV-L] [Old SIGHTING] Nabokov's Berlin: Nabokov, art and evil
From:
laurence hochard <laurence.hochard@hotmail.fr>
Date:
2/9/2014 9:22 AM
To:
Vladimir Nabokov Forum <nabokv-l@listserv.ucsb.edu>

Anthony Stadlen: "and also posturing penitent contemplating a turn to religion "

I don't think that Humbert's statement (
"Unless it can be proven to me ó to me as I am now, today, with my heart and by beard, and my putrefaction ó that in the infinite run it does not matter a jot that a North American girl-child named Dolores Haze had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac, unless this can be proven (and if it can, then life is a joke), I see nothing for the treatment of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of articulate art.") can be read as a turn to religion. Quite the contrary! This is one of Humbert's rare moments of lucidity when Humbert's and the author's voices fuse. In essence, what they say here is that there is no redemption whatsover for Humbert's crime, that no religious idea of atonement can never undo what has been done.
I suspect that this passage is a dig at Ivan's confession in DostoŽvski's The Brothers Karamazov. Indeed, Ivan confesses to having abused a little girl who afterwards commits suicide. If I remember well, this written confession is addressed to staretz Zosima who recommends total obedience and surrender to God as atonement for Ivan's sin. This is what Nabokov totally rejects.

Laurence Hochard
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