Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027458, Mon, 14 Aug 2017 14:26:45 -0700

Re: WIP: Pale Fire = Cryptomnesia?
I've had several off-line responses to this post, asking the same question, "Do you have evidence of Nabokov ever reading Jung", so I will answer here.

There are only two places I have found the name “Jung” in Nabokov’s work or comments, one that may be argued as specious, but is tantalizing nonetheless. In his screenplay for Lolita, he gives the Haze neighbor known in the book only as the “junk man” the name “Mr. Jung”. Did he choose this name just for it’s cognate sense, or was he mocking his field of work? Either way, we might surmise at least that Jung was on his mind at the time that he was writing Pale Fire, as both works were begun in 1960.

The man himself does receive some brief Nabokovian scorn in a passage from Pnin. Listing all the popular psychological tests of the day that Pnin’s genius son Victor was imperviously subjected to, he includes this:

“Nor did any of Victor’s casual sketches represent the so-called mandala – a term supposedly meaning (in Sanskrit) a magic ring, and applied by Dr. Jung and others to any doodle in the shape of a more or less fourfold spreading structure, such as a halved mangosteen, or a cross, or the wheel on which egos are broken like Morphos, or more exactly, the molecule of carbon, with its four valences – that main chemical component of the brain, automatically magnified and reflected on paper.” (Nabokov, Novels 1955-1962, P.362)

Not the most pointed jab of Nabokov’s bodkin wit, this seems mostly dismissive (“so-called”, “supposedly”) of the word origin, which would not be difficult to corroborate. His definition of the word is reasonably accurate, demonstrating his familiarity, at least, with Jung.

I have not found implications of Jung’s mandala interest in Pale Fire, except for some quaternities and perhaps the allusion to a spider’s web. Perhaps this just didn’t interest him. Jung’s archetypes and occult interest, however, abound.

Freud, as well as psychoanalysis in general, were Nabokov's particular bete noir. Nabokov claimed to have only "bookish knowledge" of the field. One might assume the same for Jung. Freud's sexual theory was complete anathema for Nabokov, however Jung broke from Freud on his disagreement with the sexual theory as the basis of the unconscious. Jung felt that the unconscious held the higher spiritual and creative aspects as well as negative repressed issues.

Just to be clear, my thesis is not an interpretation of Pale Fire through a Jungian lens - one could do that with a lot of other works as well given the universality of the his archetypes. I demonstrate in my thesis not only N's intentional use of Jungian theories, but also that the two men were actually very similar in many ways. I try to stay clear of attempting any psychoanalysis and let the quotes from the two men dialogue. I suspect that Nabokov must have had some grudging respect for Jung. Jung was hugely responsible for a resurgence of interest in alchemy as spiritual transformation (also a theme which runs through PF). The "Shadow" archetype is pretty much a give-away, but upon examination the other archetypes are all there, the "Anima" becoming especially important. Jung's theory of the process of Individuation is also seen in the theme of transcendence in Pale Fire.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L