Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020766, Sun, 26 Sep 2010 10:03:03 -0300

Re: film review of Despair containing phrase
Darryl Schade located a phrase, which might have been written by Nabokov in his 1936 novel "Despair" - in its transposition to English in 1965 - in a report about the script.
David Powelstock, before him, gave 99,9% garantee that these lines were not to be found in the novel itself.

Schade sent: Despair (1978)/ Screen: Nabokov's 'Despair':A Cousin of Lolita/ By Vincent Canby / Published: February 16, 1979.
Excerpts: "IN the 1965 preface to his revised edition of "Despair," his novel first published in 1936. Vladimir Nabokov described the original Russian title, "Otchayanie," as being "a far more sonorous howl" than the English word he had chosen. But "Despair" will do for both the novel and for Rainer Werner Fassbinder's elegant, comic, purposely precious film version, adapted by the playwright Tom Stoppard, who has been inspired by Nabokov to attain new heights of splendid lunacy, and acted by Dirk Bogarde, who gives one of the wittiest performances of his entire career...When Hermann makes love to Lydia (Andrea Ferreol), his plump, pretty wife who has a fondness for baby talk ("intelligence" says Hermann, "would take the bloom off your carnality"), he mentally separates himself from the scene, sitting in the living room of their flat while he watches and stage-manages their play in the bedroom./Hermann is truly impossible — dandified, sarcastic and dishonest even about the details of his background. But, as he says at one point, "All the information I have about myself is from forged documents." With that acute sensitivity that often heralds approaching illness, Hermann responds to all of the world's vulgarities as if they were a kind of physical torture...The Stoppard script is a joy for anyone who likes the English language. There are very few puns here. Instead, he has miraculously turned Nabokov's exposition into spoken dialogue that matches the tone of the original. "A line has length but no breadth," says Hermann. "If you could see it, it wouldn't be a line." That's pure Stoppard, inspired by Nabokov, and the result is perfectly seamless."

In a discussion about the acceleration that follows new technological improvements in writing, reading texts and images, Jean Claude-Carrière explains how movies pass from long planes to a sequence of decoupages by which the action no longer resides in the action that is taking place through the motions of a character on screen. "It is the technique that expresses the action, as if the action resided in the camera and not in what it shows." *
JC Carrière notes that "many novelists believe that they can move on from writing a novel to readying a script.They are mistaken. They don't see that these two written objects - a novel, a script - demand two different kinds of writing..." We are all familiar about Nabokov's comments in connection to Kubrick's "Lolita" and what he thought of the director's alteration of his original screen-play. We can also witness how, in "Ada, or Ardor", quite often the passage from thought into action, dreamlife and "real time" dialogue, sets of views about characters in motion employs "cinematic" resources. However, Nabokov, for all his genius, was not sufficiently familiar with the acceleration demanded by modern techniques and languages nor would he be able to compete with a child's abilities in dealing with fast-moving challenges as we get in present-day computer-games or Play-Station 3 shifts of perspectives, or its increasing levels of complexity.

My interest, here, is not so much about Nabokov's abilities as a screenplay writer, if we consider present day movie-making (a sequence of 3 sec planes, for example), or his innovative insertion of movie-making tactics into his novels.
By the actual developments in games and movies, with the emergence of different languages and velocity to express human ordeals and sentiments, also by the speed in which they supersede one another, I started to wonder if last century's novels, their written text I mean, shall one day become incomprehensible to modern readers, trained as they are in the fast moving resources which are now available for them.

Another perspective on Fassbinder's film "Despair", "which was adapted from Nabokov's 1934 novel of the same name, also abounds with scenes that need to be tactfully handled, for all that the actress who plays Herman's dim-witted wife has been overly sexualized...The comic effect that Fassbinder thus achieves serves to reinforce the audience's awareness that Herman has 'slipped out' of normality and now exists in the parallel world of his imagination. Fassbinder intensifies this feeling with the set design; he fills the apartment with a multitude of mirrors. The intersecting reflections support the illusion of duality..." and, probably, some answers to the item I propose for the discussion of the Nab-List, can be found in the internet. I refer to Yuri Leving, "Filming Nabokov" ( On the Visual Poetics of the Text) published in Russian Studies in Literature, vol. 40, n.3, Summer 2004, p 6-31.

* - "não contem com o fim do livro" (Ed.Record,2010) "N´espérez pas vous débarasser des livres" by U. Eco and J-C Carrière,2009.

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