Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020672, Sun, 5 Sep 2010 08:13:15 -0400

Re: Botkin
On Sep 1, 2010, at 6:12 AM,
> Matthew Roth wrote:

> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: Re: Botkin
> Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 23:03:06 -0400
> From: Matthew Roth <mroth@messiah.edu>
> JF wrote: "Kinbote's sporadic awareness that he's somehow connected
> to Botkin may be psychologically strange, but I think it's fine for
> fiction."
> Jerry's observation (the psychological strangeness of Botkin's
> condition) has been too rarely acknowledged. The Index... seems to
> reveal... that Kinbote knows that he actually is Botkin... If
> Kinbote knows that he is a delusion...then he is not a delusion at
> all. Instead, he is... a brilliant indulgence, a daydream of V.
> Botkin, who may be strange, but is not insane...
> ... we are left with the... notion that Kinbote is... a pseudonym
> and Botkin is, as Shade is made to hint, a fellow poet, rather than
> VN's "madman." ...
> Matt Roth

Rereading this post I see a good deal to agree with.
A person who wants to be addressed by a different name and spins or
tells fantastic stories is not aptly described as a madman, as VN
describes Botkin, but merely as strange or eccentric. In fact the
description fits to a t an author writing under a pseudonym; like V.

Perhaps Botkin invents Kinbote and his notes as a way of retelling
Shade's life story. Perhaps Shade has left some things out or
misrepresented events, and Botkin knows this and is attempting, in his
own highly convoluted and symbolic way, to set the record straight.

At the end of Botkin's note to lines 433-4 (To the...sea Which we had
visited in thirty-three) in which he describes Disa's suffering
through an unconsummated marriage, and the effect that has had on
Kinbote, he ends with these thoughts about the limits of art as
respects privacy, and touches on a recurrent theme: sublimation.
Perhaps these thoughts apply here, to Botkin as well as Shade; two
very different poets.

When in the course of an evening stroll in May or June, 1959, I
offered Shade all this marvelous material, he looked at me quizzically
and said: "That's all very well, Charles. But there are just two
questions. How can you know that all this intimate stuff about your
rather appalling king is true? And if true, how can one hope to print
such personal things about people who, presumably, are still alive?"
"My dear John," I replied gently and urgently, "do not worry about
trifles. Once transmuted by you into poetry, the stuff will be true,
and the people will come alive. A poet's purified truth can cause no
pain, no offense. True art is above false honor."
"Sure, sure," said Shade. "One can harness words like performing fleas
and make them drive other fleas. Oh sure."

Speculatively yours,

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