Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026468, Tue, 22 Sep 2015 15:24:41 -0300

Lines 1000-1001 in Pale Fire & ampersand

Anthony Stadlen: I don't think there's any "must". This list had a grand
competition for line 1000, at my instigation, some years ago.
A. Sklyarenko: Well, I win. Once you’ve realized that Shade’s poem should
have had a “coda,” you see that, first, Line 1000 = Line 1 = Line 131 (I
was the shadow of the waxwing slain), and, second, Line 1001 (the poem’s
coda) can not be anything but the version proposed by me: By its own double
in the window pane. Shade, Kinbote and Gradus seem to represent three
different aspects of V. Botkin, the American scholar of Russian descent who
can be, for all we know, VN’s double. Dvoynik (“The Double,” 1904) is
also a poem by Nik. T-o (Annenski’s penname that means “nobody” and is
almost Botkin backwards). It begins: [ ] Not I, and not he, and not
you,/Both what I am, and what I am not…

Jansy Mello: Leave it to VN’s “Pale Fire” to instigate readers again and
again. I wonder how it will be read in twenty years from now. No
short-circuits, I hope!

While searching for an apt quote (thanks to the wonders of the internet) I
came to Brian Walter’s article in Zembla and now, instead of just referring
to a joyful dance around the fire, I’ll bring up again a few of his
paragraphs (every new reading of Nabokv demands a step into the past and
amplifies its investigative territory and jewels ad infinitum):

“As is often the case, Nabokov anticipated and defined an approach that
critics would find useful in the illumination his work, describing the
intricate process of solving one of his chess compositions in terms that
lend themselves quite well to the reader's experience of “Pale Fire”:

‘I remember one particular problem I had been trying to compose for months
. . . It was meant for the delectation of the very expert solver. The
unsophisticated might miss the point of the problem entirely, and discover
its fairly simple, 'thetic' solution without having passed through the
pleasurable torments prepared for the sophisticated one. The latter would
start by falling for an illusory pattern of play based on a fashionable
avant-garde theme . . . which the composer had taken the greatest pains to
'plant' . . . . Having passed through this 'antithetic' inferno the by now
ultrasophisticated solver would reach the simple key move . . . as somebody
on a wild goose chase might go from Albany to New York by way of Vancouver,
Eurasia and the Azores. The pleasant experience of the roundabout route
(strange landscapes, gongs, tigers, exotic customs, the thrice-repeated
circuit of a newly married couple around the sacred fire of an earthen
brazier) would amply reward him for the misery of the deceit, and after
that, his arrival at the simple key would provide him with a synthesis of
poignant artistic delight.’ (Speak, Memory 291-2)

Similarly, Nabokov's intricate compositions welcome the cooperative reader
who will follow the 'false' leads simply for the pleasure of the chase.
Nabokov’s ideal reader, in fact, will consent to join Kinbote in a
circuitous dance around “Pale Fire.” And if the analogy holds true, then
the pliant reader will reap the benefit of a new found
“ultrasophistication" and in the "synthesis of poignant artistic delight"
that results from the process…”

In a recent posting, A.Sklyarenko brought up John Shade’s lines on the
figure that bicycle tires leave on the sand: “The infinity symbol ∞ is
sometimes called “lemniscate.” ∞ is a poem by Nik. T-o (I. Annenski)
included in Tikhie pesni (“Quiet Songs,” 1904)”.
So there’s a poem by Nik. T-o (Nobody) with the infinite as its title. It
gives an additional intricacy to the pattern when we remember include PF’s
actress Iris Acht (Acht: eight,8…attention), as it’s been discussed in the
past. Going back to the tires on the sand, the word “sand” itself carries
us over to a forgotten rubber band and Shade’s verses:

“…this good ink, this rhyme,

This index card, this
slender rubber band

Which always forms, when
dropped, an ampersand,

Are found in Heaven by the

Stored in its strongholds
through the years.” (532-36)

The rubber band, in this case, must have been ruptured somewhere for, as an
“ampersand” it extrapolates the sign for “infinite”- but it’s also
preserved in Shade’s particular Heaven.

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