Joseph Aisenberg:  “… despite its brevity and language [CCL] doesn't come off [  ] Nabokov tries to use his meta tick to divert from the obviousness of the story's rhetoric, the deliberate mystification of the tale's eponymous imagery [  ] Nabokov started with an amusing premise here, a nightmare version of those little groups of tourists but he piles it on so thick, makes Vasiliy so passive a receptacle of group violence that one may start to question it or turn against it [  ] Nabokov doesn't give us any space here so that when he finally brings on the cloud, castle and lake of the title one may be struck by the lameness of this paradise.[  ]  Vasiliy barely fights back once the group has him on the train at the end where they descend on him in a savage horde that seems entirely unmotivated, unless Nabokov's just trying to suggest that these philistines are releasing a kind a jealous rage on him, because he's got depths and sensitivity they don't have, setting him apart from the group. The pointless, in context, reference to Invitation to a Beheading seems to suggest as much, that Vasiliy is a poor sweet holder of secret density, gnostical turpitude. There's something always thin and unconvincing when N. gets on a romantic high horse about individuality and turns it to a spiritual conceit--as if tying it to anything real and pragmatic would cheapen it [  ]

Jansy Mello: CCL is one of VN’s short-stories that I enjoy most, particularly its “afterglow” and the delirious smiling landscape with its (vain) promise. However, when it is analyzed bit after bit, its ghostly pattern is undone and “it doesn’t come off, as in J.A’s comment. I suppose that its clumsy mixture of concrete (pragmatic) physical reality and flesh, as embodied by the narrator’s representative, and the metaphoric vertex ( an artist’s individuality, mind or soul) may be responsible for the story’s lack of proportion. After all the caricature of the philistine tourists and their governmental instigators may also be read as part of an all-embracing abstract scenery about the hostility of the masses towards those that don’t fit into the group and involuntarily denounce its basic “herd-behavior” premises. Perhaps this is what J.A means when he writes about “when N. gets on a romantic high horse about individuality and turns it to a spiritual conceit--as if tying it to anything real and pragmatic would cheapen it.” (I underlined the point in question here).

As in the recently quoted lines from VN’s preface to Bend Sinister, the author indicates that: “…the influence of my epoch on my present book is as negligible as the influence of my books, or at least of this book, on my epoch. There can be distinguished, no doubt, certain reflections in the glass directly caused by the idiotic and despicable regimes that we all know and that have brushed against me.” He may be wrong in relation to what comes out in CCL for the epoch he lived in in fact pressed and distorted the minds of those who participated it, directly or indirectly. As it happens with the waxwings, something is shattered against the reflected sky in a glass.

Here, as I discern it now, V.Nabokov’s uncanny ability to travel in and out of madness and, like Dante, describe what he saw, was shattered. Therefore, the entire setting of CCL becomes, actually, as paranoid as the epoch he wrote it was – and, surprisingly, this time he could not adequately reset this perspective, its inconsistencies, anguish, idealizations, persecutions, delirious stances and “inhumanity, as he usually did on his way out of a nightmare. Berlin, in the thirties, is an example of an epoch that is hostile to metaphors, while metaphors themselves are insufficient tools for thinking and acting through the horror. 

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