Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026386, Mon, 24 Aug 2015 10:15:35 -0700

Nabokov’s LOLITA winks at Mansfield Park’s “shocking trick for a young person to be always LOLLING UPON A SOFA.” & “easier to SWALLOW than to speak”
*"Jansy Mello*: Why did Nabokov only covertly wink to a special kind of
reader, instead of referring directly to Jane Austen? He lavished some
praise on her in his Lectures without forgetting to emphasize her
“feminine” style. I’ve forgotten the names of some of the other women
writers or poets whose writings he admired or dwelt upon (Colette?), but it
was quite rare. I expect there are articles dedicated to investigate VN and
the female authors. Can anyone indicate a bibliography related to this
theme? "

Even from my relatively modest acquaintance with Nabokov's writing
(compared to many of you in this listserv), it is obvious that Nabokov
loved to covertly wink at a myriad of allusive sources. I am merely adding
Nabokov's veiled allusions to Jane Austen's Mansfield Park to that very
long list. For example, the famous acrostic that Nabokov hid in plain sight
in "The Vane Sisters".

In January 1813, Jane Austen famously paraphrased Walter Scott's "Marmion"
when she wrote to her sister Cassandra, right after the publication of
Pride & Prejudice, that "she did not write for those dull elves who did not
have a great deal of ingenuity themselves."

Don't you agree that these same words might have been written by Nabokov
himself? It is clear to me that Nabokov recognized that riddling love of
charades and word puzzles that is subtly present in so much of Jane
Austen's writing, and he celebrated it in both his fiction and in his
famous Lectures on Literature.

As I wrote in my previous post, it's no aberration that Nabokov devotes a
page in his lecture on Mansfield Park to "The Sofa", which is Book One of
Cowper's poem "The Task", which Fanny Price quotes from in Mansfield Park.
Just as Austen winked at Cowper's "The Sofa" when Mrs. Norris castigates
Fanny for "lolling on the sofa", so too does Nabokov wink at both Cowper
and Austen (and at other sources which I will write about in the near
future) when he sets his crucial scene with Humbert and Lolita on the
"sacred sofa".

Nabokov, like Austen, chose to hide in plain sight in his fiction his
insights into the literature he loved--he was not about to be explicit in
his Lectures about what he saw, he was waiting for the sharp elves to
detect his subtle gamesmanship.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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