Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027475, Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:04:24 -0700

WIP: Hodge shall not be shot
WIP From "Art, Alchemy and Failed Transcendence" Jungian Influences in Nabokov's Pale Fire

The epigram for Pale Fire is a quote from Boswell's Life of Johnson:

This reminds me of the ludicrous account he have Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young gentleman of good family. “Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.” And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, “But Hodge shan’t be shot: no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.” James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

The meaning of this could be said, “Others may, but I shall not be touched by death”.

John Shade iterates this sentiment in his syllogism:

"A syllogism: other men die, but I am not another, therefore I’ll not die. "

When an author has an epigram at the beginning of a work, you can be sure it is because it represents a distillation of the main theme. And what is the common theme? "The ego does not want to die". This is the central issue that Shade is dealing with. Ultimately it is the issue Kinbote has been running from. It is also, clearly, Nabokov’s major concern.

“…the dreadful pitfalls of eternity, the unknowledgeable beyond the unknown, the helplessness, the cold, the sickening involutions and interpenetrations of space and time.” (Speak Memory, P.297)

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