Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026269, Sun, 5 Jul 2015 13:10:19 -0400

Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] Dom Quixote: a world of cruelty and the
Jansy writes:

Is VN demonstrating, through his rejection of Cervantes’s writing that, in
any novel, life’s destructiveness and evil are to be portrayed only as
aspects of the real cruelty of the external world and its inhabitants? That
an author should never be an accomplice of the world’s evil to remain, at
most, an impartial observer?

I think the answer is an unequivocal Yes. It seems to me that, for all the
nastiness that Nabokov portrayed in his novels, and for all his nasty
narrators, he sets the reader the moral task of not colluding with evil, no
matter how brilliant or seductive the words he has given to the narrator. I am
not quite sure why it is worth the reader's while engaging in this contest,
game, or drama -- but it does somehow seem to be cathartic and redemptive:
not just leading to narcissistic self-congratulation on one's superiority
to the nastiness, but perhaps at best reliving and working through the
struggle for integrity that we have had to engage in while trying to make sense
of and evaluate the mystifying communications and actions of our elders
from childhood on.

Anthony Stadlen
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In a message dated 05/07/2015 17:46:40 GMT Daylight Time,
jansy.mello@OUTLOOK.COM writes:

Jansy Mello: I’ve always been surprised at the famous bouts of criticism
V.Nabokov directed against “Dom Quixote,” because his “Lecture on Quixote”
was lovingly researched and presented [ ]A few months ago I found a
statement relating VN’s criticism about this “cruel and crude …book” to the
way in which Cervantes treated his character and not to any other kind of
cruelty pertaining to its action nor in relation to the readers. [ ]Is VN
demonstrating, through his rejection of Cervantes’s writing that, in any
novel, life’s destructiveness and evil are to be portrayed only as aspects
of the real cruelty of the external world and its inhabitants? That an
author should never be an accomplice of the world’s evil to remain, at most,
an impartial observer? [ ]quote: “we do not laugh at [Don Quixote] any
longer. His blazon is pity, his banner is beauty. He stands for everything
that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish and gallant.”
Present posting: My initial query related to VN’s indignation at the ways
in which Cervantes tortured his unhappy knight has been amply explored by
scholars, * although my sweeping supposition about how VN seemed to
recommend that authors avoid becoming accomplices of the evil & cruelty presented
in a novel hasn’t been considered under the same light. Before examining
more deeply the articles available to me, or returning to VN’s original
lecture, I allowed myself to imagine that an artist’s pursuit of beauty and pity
must belong to a different dimension as that of an artwork’s materiality
(should VN have extended the same discipline of attention to detail and
neutrality of science to the art of creating a work of fiction that his words
about science and art attest). V.Nabokov’s words on Dom Quixote: “His
blazon is pity, his banner is beauty” are the same ones that he chose for his
definition of Art: “Beauty plus pity-that is the closest we can get to a
definition of art. Where there is beauty there is pity for the simple reason
that beauty must die: beauty always dies, the manner dies with the matter,
the world dies with the individual.” (Lecture on Kafka,LL,251). I wonder
what’s the fictional status of Dom Quixote after being alienated from his
creator’s work, or granted “immortality”.
The need to reexamine VN’s various choices for first-person narrators,
confessions and diaries in relation to his keeping an authorial distance from
the narrated events was clear to me, as well as the importance of
distinguishing them from his interventions and from his play with extradiegetic
levels. Nevertheless, I fear I’ll have to abandon my projects because… “
Vladimir Nabokov, with typical fastidiousness, squabbled that seldom has an
author been as cruel to his character, although he also recommended that we ‘do
our best to avoid the fatal error of looking for so-called ‘real life’ in
novels.’ Nabokov added: ‘Let us not try and reconcile the fiction of facts
with the facts of fiction. Don Quixote is a fairy tale, so is Bleak House,
so is Dead Souls. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenin are supreme fairy tales.
But without these fairy tales the world would not be real’.” (Ilan Stavans
cervantes ). Even after we leave out what’s habitually described as “ the
facts of the world” from fiction and fairy tale, the world of fantasy
still retains important links with the human mind. And did VN equally isolate “
pity” from “compassion”? It’s so very confusing.
*-quoting and indicating a few texts:
Don Quixote Restored by Guy Davenport (1983)
''I REMEMBER with delight,'' Vladimir Nabokov said in 1966 to Herbert
Gold, who had traveled to Montreux to interview him, ''tearing apart 'Don
Quixote,' a cruel and crude old book, before 600 students in Memorial Hall, much
to the horror and embarrassment of some of my more conservative
colleagues.'' [ ] What Nabokov's eyes kept seeing as he prepared his lectures was
the accurately perceived fact that the book elicits cruel laughter.
Cervantes' old man who had read himself into insanity and his smelly squire were
created to be the butt of mockery.”
“Cruel and Crude”: Nabokov Reading Cervantes by Catherine Kunce
Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America _13.2 (1993)_
(http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/cervante/csa/bcsaf93.htm) : 93-104.
“The late Stephen Gilman, however, caustically protests that Nabokov, ‘
the author of that most painfully méchant of novels, Bend Sinister, . . .
professed to be shocked both by the cruelty of Cervantes' treatment of his
hero and by the gales of laughter that that cruelty supposedly provoked’…
But Gilman reminds us that Cervantes' “two supremely naive protagonists are
used in order to illuminate ironically a society, swollen with
self-importance, that refused to make a place for him despite his past heroism”(44).
Gilman places Cervantes in the larger tradition of the novel, concluding that “
it was Fielding's conscious adaptation of Cervantine irony that opened the
way to the future of the novel”... To the degree, then, that Nabokov
refuses Cervantes his irony, he impugns the tenor of his own novels.[ ] There
is a further irony to consider, this time, in Nabokov's disdain for the “
violence” in Don Quixote. The word requires some scrutiny. Nabokov's
complaints of the innumerable beatings and the duchess and duke's “playful”
inhumanity towards Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are well taken, but this “violence”
is not for the mindless amusement of cloddish readers, as Nabokov
suggests: rather, it carries a psychological message.” ( “Cruel and Crude”:
Nabokov Reading Cervantes by Catherine Kunce)
The Imitation of Our Lord Don Quixote, by Simon Leys(1998) .
The New York Review of Books
“he was appalled by the crudeness and the savagery of Cervantes’
narrative. In the words of Brian Boyd, his biographer, “He detested the
belly-laughs Cervantes wanted his readers to derive from his hero’s discomfiture, and
he repeatedly compared the vicious ‘fun’ of the book with Christ’s
humiliation and crucifixion, with the Spanish Inquisition, with modern
bullfighting.” [ ] His distaste for Cervantes’ sadistic treatment of Don Quixote
reached such a point that he eventually excluded the book from his regular
lectures on foreign literature at Cornell: he could not bear to dwell on the
subject any further. But the corollary of his virulent hostility toward the
writer was a loving admiration for his creature” Simon Leys
One Master Many Cervantes Don Quixote in Translation By _Ilan Stavans_
(http://www.neh.gov/humanities/author/ilan-stavans) | HUMANITIES,
September/October 2008 | Volume 29, Number 5
The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov: edited by Julian W. Connolly
Nabokov’s Worldview, by Leona Toker.
Style Is Matter - The Moral Art of Vladimir Nabokov
Leland de la Durantaye Cornell University Press,2007

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