RES: [NABOKV-L] [THOUGHTS] Associations related to a TV series: compassion and pity?
Jansy Mello <>
10/1/2015 7:39 PM
'Vladimir Nabokov Forum' <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Former posting: VN not only pairs beauty and pity in his Lecture on Kafka( Beauty plus pity-that is the closest we can get to a definition of art.”), but also in his words about Cervantes’ Don Quixote: “His blazon is pity, his banner is beauty. He stands for everything that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish, and gallant.”#  Here, the pity VN has attributed to Don Quixote is of a different sort than the one he expressed in L*lita’s afterword. It’s not “selfish” ( a lamentation caused by the realization that ourselves and our art are condemned to death and destruction) but it arises as an expression of  what’s best in humanity. / In many articles on VN’s ethics and underlying philosophy both kinds of pity are blended into one (the “humanistic” type) and, as I see it, it’s a mistake. After all, VN allows himself to feel “virtual” pity towards most of his characters


Present posting (JM): It took me so many years to understand a bit more about VN’s open disgust and anger towards Cervantes and his open affection and dedication to Cervantes’  creation “Don Quixote”. I concluded that VN felt indignant not because Cervantes had savagely mocked and tortured one of his characters in a “novel” ( this had always seemed very contradictory to me), he was furious because Cervantes attacked and parodied the values which his crazy don represented (“gentle, forlorn…gallant”), namely, what “chivalry” had stimulated and brought forth during the harsh medieval days – and that he might have wanted to preserve at all costs.


Btw: Probably the best word for VN’s pity in his novels isn’t “virtual,” but “vicarious”. I don’t have a native speaker’s feeling and this is why I’m still doubtful, for “vicarious” suggests something that is false or devious or unreal, and this is not what I mean.
I chose to dwell on this matter because it’s related to some ideas that came to me after I received and leafed through a book about “L*litas” in Japan (the friend who brought it to me had to select among a vast array of “L*lita” (so-called) renditions by many different painters and designers). The title of the book is “Mr. by “Mr.”* In the second page there’s a sentence in Japanese and its translation: “I hate this world, where there is nothing permanent. There are no fairies either.  I know that, and yet, I cannot help but look for permanence and express it.”  

The juvenile puppet-like drawings in them showed these “L*litas” as young sly happy temptresses in a way that is quite different from what Humbert Humbert describes as his “L*lita”. In VN’s novel HH’s own fantasies were initially entertained in isolation before he was moved into obtaining a few vicarious pleasures while Charlotte was alive (the Carmen-apple-couch scene), and then, into acting them out with a real girl.


The published collection of now easily available images of fake innocence was not what surprised me in particular, but the realization of the kind of freedom to express “forbidden” fantasies in public, as if in this instance fantasy life and real life could be kept into two totally distinct dimensions by artists and viewers. This separation doesn’t last in VN’s novel but, like it seems to occur with the manga and anime productions, the transgression is equally “not real” since it’s attributed to a novelistic fiction. However, the difference between Western and Eastern cultures in connection to “fantasy” life events and their “publication” seems to be rather big. Anyway, there’s still a lot to learn before I can be certain that their “L*litas” and even “a L*lita complex” * share nothing with HH’s nymphet: after all she was his (and only his?) nymphet.   




*Wiki informs me:  “ Mr. (b. 1969, Cupa, real name Masakatsu Iwamoto, is a Japanese contemporary artist, based in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. A former protégé of Takashi Murakami, Mr.'s work debuted in both solo and group exhibitions in 1996, and has since been seen in museum and gallery exhibitions in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Paris, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Miami, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and London./He works in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, and video, though his works are all closely related in aesthetics, style, and theme. A self-proclaimed otaku with a L*lita complex, which he says he does not act upon, his pieces depict young boys and girls in an anime/manga style, drawing upon the aesthetics and attitudes of otaku culture, and lolicon themes. While quite cute and innocent on the surface, many of his works are also quite sexualized, tying into the anime phenomenon of fanservice, and leaving it an open question as to how innocent his works are in the end. Critics have also questioned whether Mr.'s work reflects a commentary on otaku culture, or glimpses into a private fantasy world, though Mr. has said his art is about expressing his personal fantasies, and not about cultural commentary.” 


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