NABOKV-L post 0014287, Tue, 5 Dec 2006 16:20:18 -0800

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Zsenszkoe nacsalo v romane Nabokova «Masenyka»
Author: György Zoltán Józsa

Source: Studia Slavica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Volume 45, Numbers 1-4, 19 January 2001, pp. 363-382(20)

Abstract:

The article deals with Nabokov's first Russian novel subsequently translated into English. It provides a review concerning early Russian emigré criticism misinterpreting the novel. The chief aim of the article however is to establish a link between traditions of turn-of-the-century Russian Symbolist mainstream and themes incorporated in Nabokov's prose. Thus the non-existent heroine, Maenka is discussed as a female type around which the poetry of Aleksandr Blok and Andrei Belyj would crystallyse, i.e. the Holy Sophia, whose coming would signal the coming of the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost, an entire transformation of the world and Humankind envisaged as early as the Age of German Romanticism, as the Birth of Theocracy, prophesied later by Russian religious philosophers first and foremost in the works of Vl. Solov´ev. Several motifs throughout the novel will confirm that Nabokov starts a dialogue with Blok, referring to the image of the Beautiful Lady, which was identified with not only the Virgin Mary, but the Gnostic erotically conceptualized image of Sophia as well. Creating his own microcosm, Nabokov in a letter openly admits his rivalry with the Creator, thus disclosing his credo concerning the art of literature. (NB. nearly the same con-cept will be echoed in his theoretical works later on.) From this one can conclude Nabokov partially exhibits his kinship to the Russian Religious Symbolists, following their concept of creation termed 'the theurgical way'. Maenka, taken as the inevitable feminine principle therefore is deeply rooted in the ideal of spiritual transformation awaiting the hero, Ganin, who consequently gives up nursing hopes for the rebirth of his adolescent love affair, choos-ing the way of spiritual resurrection in a locus that is associated with Provence in the novel. The Berlin boarding house filled with phantom-like figures embodying recollections of czarist Russia establishes a realistic depiction of the life of the exiled Russians, however memories will prevail, thus leading the reader to interpret the novel rather as a novel about initiation, the sharing of spirituality.

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