NABOKV-L post 0011970, Fri, 23 Sep 2005 17:58:13 -0700

Subject
DN Comment on Mr. Dolinin's letter
Date
Body
MessageEDNOTE. CODA

----- Original Message -----
From: DN
To: 'D. Barton Johnson'
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 8:14 AM
Subject: Comment on Mr. Dolinin's letter


Dear Don,

As the Russian song says, "Coachman, hold your horses!" ["Ямщик, не гони лошадей!"]. In your very own words, you encouraged me [and AD] "to continue [our] dialogue" on this forum (your message to me of 18 Sept 2005). Yet you preface AD's letter of Sept 21st as follows: "I would suggest that Alexander Dolinin's statement below conclude the discussion". If we are still playing by civilized rules, I think you will agree that I have every right to make a civil reply to that statement.

I acknowledge what appears to be AD's effort to impart a more conciliatory perspective. I must take issue, however, with a purported incident he relates that he seems to consider a definitive analogy to my father's -- and his own -- thoughts. I quote Mr. Dolinin: "Actually, I try to say in my own words something close to what Nabokov himself meant when, talking to Dmitri about his double literary achievement, he pointed at two mountain peaks of equal height". What meaning? What mountain peaks? What thoughts? I challenge AD to document this happening. Either his memory is failing badly or he is indulging in some (rather elegant) mythmaking of his own. He may have been propelled by the vague recollection of an incident I once related: Father and I were making what was likely to be the last of our mountain rambles while summering near Gstaad and Rougemont, Switzerland. Armed with our butterfly nets, we had taken the gondola lift to the summit of a mountain called La Videmanette above Rougemont, which was an old haunt for me because I had skied it at least 80 times. It was in fact a double summit of unequal height, and we were sitting on a trail near the saddle joining those two peaks. Unexpectedly, we had the kind of dialogue that generally occurs only in books. My father started sharing with me an assessment of his achievements and an insight into his creative process. Without distinguishing among lands or languages, he said he had attained his aim of becoming a great writer. He had written almost everything he had wanted to, and his method was, he said, simple. Everything existed in his mind like an undeveloped film, and his sole function was to set it down -- a concept of creation he thought was not unlike Schopenhauer's. He did not discuss or compare the height of the peaks between which we were sitting, or that of any others. This bloomer alone, in a sense, discredits AD's entire disquisition. I shall not dwell on various others, such as the bizarre notion that Nabokov considered his Russian oeuvre (should we include The Gift here?) an inferior "apprenticeship" to his later, English writings.

My best to you and to AD,

DN