NABOKV-L post 0026398, Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:59:54 -0700

My "enchanted hunting" for veiled allusions in L_o_l_i_t_a
Jansy Mello replied to my latest post as follows:
“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. “

Then, Jansy, if I understand you correctly, above, we do not disagree at
all, since I do not for one second believe that Nabokov “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”. Nor do I for
one second believe that “he’d be leaving out the seriousness of the
‘barely-hidden sexual horror’…in a kind of ego trip”

You’ve misunderstood me—while I do believe that Nabokov was extremely
clever and subtle, and did enjoy leaving all those ‘malicious winks” to his
readers, I also believe that he, like Jane Austen, wrote these veiled tales
of sexual horror for deadly serious and honorable reasons.

In both cases, Austen and Nabokov were showing their readers how easy it
is to fall into the trap (Trapp) of accepting the hypocritical
rationalizations of evildoers as not being evil after all. Most
readers of *Mansfield
Park* come away believing that Sir Thomas Bertram was a well intentioned
but clueless father who did his best to run a Christian household but
failed---when I say that in the shadow story of *Mansfield Park *(as
brilliantly captured by Patricia Rozema in her 1999 film adaptation,
starring Harold Pinter playing the role of Sir Thomas with unsurpassed dark
perfection) Sir Thomas is a moral monster in every conceivable way, a truly
evil monster who believes his own B.S.

And similarly, it seems clear to me that Nabokov has taken this even one
step further, by capturing the reader in the first person narrative of
Humbert Humbert, and thereby leading many readers down the garden path of
overlooking or underestimating the evil that is so serpentinely
rationalized by HH throughout the novel.

When careful re-readers eventually understand that we have been "had", it
makes the moral lesson that much more powerful--we recognize that we all
have the potential to be like Sir Thomas Bertram and Humbert Humbert, and
to rationalize our sins, even make them sound like good things.

In short, that Nabokov and Austen were both diabolically clever and subtle
does not mean they were not also the authors of works of the greatest
genius and moral value.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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