Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026396, Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:01:35 -0300

THOUGHTS: Arnie Perstein; My "enchanted hunting" for veiled
allusions in L_o_l_i_t_a
EDNote: In a twist, instead of truncating the novel's name, I thought
perhaps inserting underscores might avert filter-tripping. Fingers crossed.
Again, Dear Nablers, we eds. would appreciate it if you would alter this
novel's name (and its heroine's nickname) in your posts in some similar
fashion. There is, sad to say, a seedy industry that has adopted the lovely
name. –SB

Jansy Mello: A few days ago I reached this information about Dieter Zimmer’s
researches at <http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/vnplays.htm>
http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/vnplays.htm, where he cites
“the adaptation of V.Nabokov’s “L-lita” by Oliver Reese: “Lolita - 90
minute monologue from the novel. Theater: Kammerspiele of the Deutsches
Theater, Berlin; Director: Oliver Reese; Set: Hansjorg Hartung; Cast: Ingo
Holsmann (Humbert Humbert); Performed: from 16-Mar-2003 into 2005”[ ]

… because this adaptation will be performed again next September 2015 in the
city of Köln. Cf.

When I tried to get more info in English about this fascinating adaptation
of VN’s novel, I googled using the words “L-lita”and “Köln.” Instead of
being led to anything related to the arts, my page opened to more than
twenty entries to “escort” addresses.

The need for a more careful reference to Dolly’s nickname in the subject
line began to make sense to me. I hope the same restriction is not expected
to be obeyed in the message proper!

Arnie Perlstein quoted one of my comments to his post about “the Mansfield
Park I see in L_o_l_i_t_a”: [ ] “the kind of “covert wink” to Jane Austen,
and to rape in MP, which you are describing leads nowhere inside the novel
or outside it (it would be an “inconsequential” denouncement on VN’s part by
its being only “a covert wink”).” He told me he has “no wish to argue with
you about the significance of Nabokov’s covert allusion, in L_o_l_i_t_a, to
Mansfield Park—you read literature very differently than I do, and I bring
these discoveries forward for those…who share my belief in their
interpretive value [ ] In response to that very thinly veiled critique of
claims like mine about veiled allusions, it just so happens that as I
followed up on the Austen allusion in L_o_l_i_t_a, I came across another
veiled allusion in L_o_l_i_t_a, that you will have more trouble dismissing
out of hand as “leading nowhere”. And, as with so many of my discoveries in
great literature over the past decade---literature that, like L_o_l_i_t_a,
that has been studied closely by many brilliant scholars over a long period
of time…”

I have the impression that Arnie Perlstein understood that I’d been
criticizing Nabokovian “veiled allusions” in general, and not this specific
example, the one about VN’s covert wink to Austen’s possible allusion to
rape by her uncle “Bert” in MP. In a past posting to the List he wrote: “As
some of you here in this Nabokov Forum will recall, I've made various claims
in the past few years about Nabokov having secretly been an extreme Janeite,
covertly alluding to Austen's novels in a variety of ways.I’ve long believed
that Nabokov (in the subversive tradition previously observed by C. Bronte
and M. Twain) merely pretended to damn Jane Austen’s writing with faint
praise, while simultaneously covertly winking, to those with eyes to see,
his subtle, sophisticated, complex homage to Jane Austen’s fiction. [
]Today, I turn my attention to L-lita. Since last year I’ve had the strong
suspicion that the relationship between L-lita and Humbert Humbert is a
diabolically clever reworking of Fanny and Sir Thomas Bertram (for starters,
note how Nabokov repeats that“Bert” twice in his patriarch’s pseudonym).[
] Just as it has been argued that readers are seduced into accepting H.H.’s
point of view, and therefore miss out on the horrific significance of clues
like L-lita’s frequent crying as evidence of her resistance to his
pedophilic campaign (which Humbert Humbert spins innocently), so too do we
hear a lot about Fanny crying, which most Janeite readers are quick to
accept as solely a function of her low status at Mansfield Park, and her
unrequited longing for Edmund, instead of seeing it as a clue to a much
darker barely-hidden sexual horror that she has been forced to endure. I’ve
often written about the young Fanny as the victim of relentless sexual
predation at Mansfield Park….but now I know that Nabokov saw it as well, as
I’ll now explain.[ ]”

Well, I didn’t. I was not criticizing VN’s allusions in any way. Great part
of the fun that can also be found during a full experience of reading VN’s
works resides in his tongue-in-cheek observations and malicious winks to his
readers. What I argued against was at the particular instance that’s was
brought up by Arnie Perlstein since it suggests that VN was merely showing
off his clever reading of Austen and enlisting the complicity of other
similarly subtle readers just for the pleasure of the game. In this case
he’d be leaving out the seriousness of the “barely-hidden sexual horror”
that could have been witnessed and transformed into art by writer Jane, now
by glossing over the theme of “rape” in a kind of ego-trip. This just
doesn’t seem to belong to VN’s spirit. In the context of HH’s detailed
confessions, a covert reference to JA at this point seems to be
inconsequential and unnecessary.
I tried to show that VN had other means to express his admiration for JA,
just that.


*In a review in German by Sascha Westphal we find – Die Acting Accomplices
suchen im Kölner Bauturm-Theater das Menschliche im Monströsen Sympathy for
Humbert Humbert :

“Wenn Hendrik Vogts Humbert Humbert sich selbst als naiv und unwissend
beschreibt, wenn er seinen verbotenen Neigungen gar einen Anstrich von
Unschuld verleihen will, fällt es zunächst gar nicht schwer, ihm zu glauben.
[ ] Oliver Reeses 2003 am Deutschen Theater in Berlin uraufgeführte
Adaption von Vladimir Nabokovs Roman ist vor allem eine Verschärfung. [ ]
Er wirkt verloren auf der leeren schwarzen Bühne. Ein Gefangener seiner
eigenen Begierden, die zweifellos verderblich, aber eben auch menschlich
sind. Ihn zum Monster zu erklären, das wäre viel zu einfach und letzten
Endes auch eine große Lüge.”

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