Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020840, Wed, 6 Oct 2010 13:48:41 -0300

THOUGHT: the whole codology
James Twiggs:"I don't see how the uncertainty view ties in with his [GLS] transformational thesis, which I do not endorse. But as far as I know, Gary's version of the transformational view is completely original. I'm sorry if I inadvertently suggested otherwise. Back to the uncertainty view, I agree with what Jansy said today:"btw: Nabokov was also ambiguous about his belief of poltergeists and ESP phenomena..." I think that the entire novel reflects VN's inner conflict about this very belief, or set of beliefs, to the point that the conflict itself is one its major themes."
JM: I agree with your hypothesis that VN's inner conflict about ESP phenomena is a major theme in "Pale Fire." I'm not sure, though, that it was a part of Nabokov's conscious project.

JT: "we need to remember that the uncertainty interpretation of Pale Fire goes back a long way."
GLS: "I would not want to be seen as claiming to be the first reader to write about the uncertainty abiding in Pale Fire. Hardly."
JM: One of the lanes to explore "the uncertainty interpretation" relates to what, in the past (1962), Umberto Eco designated as "Opera Aperta" (The Open Work) and his thesis has been informally indicated in the Nab-List, at least once, in connection to N's novel. ( I understand that Rorty's views on Nabokov remain predominant in America?)

Piera Smith:"I would say that Nabokov was playing (emphasis on that word) with hermeneutics and the hermenauts (amongst whom Freud was captain), if that matters. What we should now ask is why codology matters so much, not so much to VN (though it does seem to matter a great deal to him) but to us".
GLS: "Why do interpretations matter? Is this mere argumentativeness? Most people, dedicated dadaist excepted perhaps, don't enjoy reading nonsense. Beyond that there arguably exists a greater sense of closure as more details are explained and related to each other. Essentially more meaning, possessing greater certainty, equates to greater pleasure...I agree that Nabokov was playing... with hermeneutics,suggesting meanings that may later turn out to be false...but does such play render the search for meanings valueless to the reader? Probably a great deal of our sense of engagement along the lines of conjecture is as innate and automatic as reading itself. It is a kind of wide belief that is, I think, constantly being reinforced: that we inhabit a meaningful world."
JFriedman: "Thanks to Anthony Stadlen for his knowledge of psychology, particularly that Kinbote's occasional awareness of Botkin is not all that strange. [JM wrote that, in her] "opinion, we run the risk of deviating into another set of tracks when we plan to investigate psychological facts and "realities" following Nabokov's inventiveness and satirical turn of mind. What could be the answer for what's "psychologically strange" in Kinbote's reference to Botkin, outside of the boundaries of Nabokov's novel?" and DP [added that he can] "completely agree with Jansy that it is reductive to try to fit VN's creation into a single (controversial, at that) diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder." Friedman says that he hopes "that it's not reductive to wonder what's strange and what isn't. The novel must make sense, but it needn't make that particular kind of sense. I agree, too, that it is important not to lose sight of the satirical dimension of the novel. ..to my taste any flaws in Gulliver's Travels are in the satire, not the fantasy.But I'm not sure Nabokov would have been happy with your use of "satirical", considering that he said, "Satire is a lesson, parody is a game." If anything in the novel is didactic, I don't think it's the mocking lements.Of course Kinbote/Botkin's character must maintain a certain kind of consistency, even if only to make the conceit successful. In fact, this sort of reversal of "reality" and "fantasy" seems quite typical for Nabokov...

JM: For the Freudian Jacques Lacan meaning is as necessary as having a body that sustains the writing finger, and meaning, like an "external reality," belongs to the imaginary dimension. For Lacan, symbols are not signs (inspite of Nabokov's joining them in the title of a short-story) for they belong to a different order and obey a specific law (of the signifier).
More briefly stated: one must choose between a life of "meanings" and a life of "truths"*.
The assertion that "parody is a game and satire is a lesson" is meaningful to Nabokov (and to some of his readers). What we can ask, as his readers, is if Nabokov's observation is consistently employed by him in his writings and to what ends.

* Two lines by Keats immediately came to my mind: "O for a life of Sensations rather than of Thougts" and "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," as soon as I set down my alternative view.The emergence of this association helped me to perceive that, like Nabokov and Keats, I'd expressed something that is only meaningful to me, it is not anything lapidarily immortal.
It's simply a personal truth...
When I tried to check the precision of Keats verses, I came across two comments that confirm my point and I'll add them here as a curiosity: "One nineteenth century critic went so far as to assert not merely that Keats had "a mind constitutionally inapt for abstract thinking," but that he "had no mind." Keats's much-quoted outcry, "O for a life of Sensation rather than of Thoughts!" (letter, November 22, 1817) has been cited to support this view." ... " This ode contains the most discussed two lines in all of Keats's poetry - '"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.' The exact meaning of those lines is disputed by everyone; no less a critic than TS Eliot considered them a blight upon an otherwise beautiful poem. Scholars have been unable to agree to whom the last thirteen lines of the poem are addressed. Arguments can be made for any of the four most obvious possibilities, -poet to reader, urn to reader, poet to urn, poet to figures on the urn. The issue is further confused by the change in quotation marks between the original manuscript copy of the ode and the 1820 published edition."

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