NABOKV-L post 0023402, Tue, 16 Oct 2012 14:02:59 -0300

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Re: THOUGHT: VN's aesthetic
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Anthony Stadlen: I take it you know that, in March 1959, "The Vane Sisters" was published in Encounter, and VN set a competition to look for "a coded message that occurs on the last page of the story. A prize of one guinea is offered to the first five readers who crack the code." And, in the next issue, April 1959, VN offered his congratulations to the first five readers -- all named -- who had won their guinea by doing so. So he had hinted that there was a code, and roughly where it was, but had not yet revealed, the code. When something like this recurs in Pale Fire and Transparent Things, and is alleged by Alexander Dolinin already to have been the basis of "Signs and Symbols", is it not justified to suspect that the communication of the dead, possibly "tongued with fire beyond the language of the living" but in a rather trivialising, puzzle-setting, table-tapping sense, is a kind of underlying metaphysics of VN's oeuvre?

Jansy Mello: A well-argued point about a kind of underlying metaphysics... - and a wondrous quote ('tongued with fire...").
Here's a kind of confirmation from RLSK:"As often was the way with Sebastian Knight he used parody as a kind of springboard for leaping into the highest region of serious emotion. J. L. Coleman has called it 'al clown developing wings, an angel mimicking a tumbler pigeon', and the metaphor seems to me very apt. Based cunningly on a parody of certain tricks of the literary trade, The Prismatic Bezel soars skyward. With something akin to fanatical hate Sebastian Knight was ever hunting out the things which had once been fresh and bright but which were now worn to a thread, dead things among living ones; dead things shamming life, painted and repainted, continuing to be accepted by lazy minds serenely unaware of the fraud. The decayed idea might be in itself quite innocent and it may be argued that there is not much sin in continually exploiting this or that thoroughly worn subject or style if it still pleases and amuses."

I wonder if ghostly interventions are a part of the same scheme. The additions to "love at first sight" (a worn sentence) to the lines in Lolita represent the kind of "ghostly revival" as intended in the preceding novel and attributed to S.Knight, or following the beautiful demonstration of "Nabokov's art of counterpoint" brought up by Didier Machu. *



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* - Didier Machu ..."In connection with "love at ever and ever sight" I just wish to add that Charlotte, falling on her knees, acknowledges Humbert as “her ruler and her god” (Vintage 91 / Penguin 102): “forever and ever” (68 / 75), says the letter she writes after praying the Lord and asking Him for advice re Humbert--while the latter availed himself of her being at church to say his own mute prayer ("Let her stay, let her stay . . .") and prevent "any act of God" (59 / 65) that would remove the golden load from his lap (a nice example of Nabokov's art of the counterpoint).
[EDNOTE. I also thought that "ever and ever" might echo the end of the Lord's Prayer, as recited in various Christian denominations: "forever and ever." -- SES]



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