NABOKV-L post 0026593, Tue, 3 Nov 2015 12:04:21 -0200

L*lita... Occam's Razor? II
Anthony Stadlen: Jansy's hypothesis seems reasonable to me. I agree that it is in accord with Occam's RZor.

Joseph Eisenberg: I think the reason there is so much squabbling on this front is that Nabokov insisted to an unusual degree on his total originality, claiming that he was influenced by NO ONE! [ ] There's so much Anxiety of Influence in N.'s thinking that the subject of his borrowing a title and situation from another source is a bigger deal than it would be with other authors. N. is so freaked out by the idea we'll dismiss his artistic originality that he resorts in his denials to placing us into the position of the author's dysfunctional children, expected to ignore the parent's contradictions, forced to deny what we read with our own eyes, that there is a whole darn lot of influence in the work, because otherwise we're calling him a liar, and nobody wants to do that. But really everyone's influenced by everything. Nabokov was influenced for Lolita by the Prince Stavrogin confession in Dostoyevsky's The Possessed, a real life kidnapping case in America, the case of a sex maniac in his favorite psychiatrist's ouevre whose name escapes me now. Lichberg, would be only one more. N. probably read this guy and didn't fess up about it--I'm skeptical of this cryptomnesia idea. What's the big deal? Hadn't there been other versions of Lear before Shakespeare? [ ] we're not we're not supposed to even entertain the idea Lichberg might make a nice footnote in papers on Lolita, because N. claimed he's completely original to such a literal degree that one sometimes wonders how he managed to invent breaking up narratives into chapters and figured out how to use quotation marks with attributions like "he said" and "she said," a very old fashioned device developed in parallel to literature by the author apparently, since he never imitated one thing in his life. [ ] …if you tone down the hyperbole you understand she means he was a great and unique artist and person. Who wouldn't agree with that? …

Jansy Mello: Thank you for expressing your thoughts about some of the points of view that spoil the idealistic grandeur of a writer who was sometimes humanly contradictory* and profoundly disturbed by the slightest menace to his artistic originality.

Here is a quote in which VN explains what he means by “reality” (…and fantasy and fiction). I assume that he is also writing about what “originality” means but, although he wrote so convincingly about objective and subjective realities, his fears of being influenced by other authors and of being refused sufficient recognition for his unique expression of his erceptions, emotions and thoughts weren’t assuaged by his knowledge.

Well, perhaps human reality, set “against the backdrop of great works of art” (as he expressed it for Gogol’s, Stevenson’s and Kafka’s “specific fantasies”) was being described only as a reflection about the way people look and react at the “external” world, without considering how people themselves look and react to other people which are a part of this same “external” world and who are stamped by the rules of language, culture and society (the downplay of the importance of human interaction). If this is the case then this kind of omission might have charged too high a fee from his self-appraisal, forcing him to try to become his own Creator.

"The Carrick," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and "The Metamorphosis": all three are commonly called fantasies. From my point of view, any outstanding work of art is a fantasy insofar as it reflects the unique world of a unique individual. But when people call these three stories fantasies, they merely imply that the stories depart in their subject matter from what is commonly called reality. Let us therefore examine what reality is, in order to discover in what manner and to what extent so-called fantasies depart from so-called reality.

Let us take three types of men walking through the same landscape. Number One is a city man on a well-deserved vacation. Number Two is a professional botanist. Number Three is a local farmer. Number One, the city man, is what is called a realistic, commonsensical, matter-of-fact type: he sees trees as trees and knows from his map that the road he is following is a nice new road leading to Newton, where there is a nice eating place recommended to him by a friend in his office. The botanist looks around and sees his environment in the very exact terms of plant life, precise biological and classified units such as specific trees and grasses, flowers and ferns, and for him, this is reality; to him the world of the stolid tourist (who cannot distinguish an oak from an elm) seems a fantastic, vague, dreamy, never-never world. Finally the world of the local farmer differs from the two others in that his world is intensely emotional and personal since he has been born and bred there, and knows every trail and individual tree, and every shadow from every tree across every trail, all in warm connection with his everyday work, and his childhood, and a thousand small things and patterns which the other two—the humdrum tourist and the botanical taxonomist—simply cannot know in the given place at the given time. Our farmer will not know the relation of the surrounding vegetation to a botanical conception of the world, and the botanist will know nothing of any importance to him about that barn or that old field or that old house under its cottonwoods, which are afloat, as it were, in a medium of personal memories for one who was born there.

So here we have three different worlds—three men, ordinary men who have different realities—and, of course, we could bring in a number of other beings: a blind man with a dog, a hunter with a dog, a dog with his man, a painter cruising in quest of a sunset, a girl out of gas— In every case it would be a world completely different from the rest since the most objective words tree, road, flower, sky, barn, thumb, rain have, in each, totally different subjective connotations. Indeed, this subjective life is so strong that it makes an empty and broken shell of the so-called objective existence. The only way back to objective reality is the following one: we can take these several individual worlds, mix them thoroughly together, scoop up a drop of that mixture, and call it objective reality. We may taste in it a particle of madness if a lunatic passed through that locality, or a particle of complete and beautiful nonsense if a man has been looking at a lovely field and imagining upon it a lovely factory producing buttons or bombs; but on the whole these mad particles would be diluted in the drop of objective reality that we hold up to the light in our test tube. Moreover, this objective reality will contain something that transcends optical illusions and laboratory tests. It will have elements of poetry, of lofty emotion, of energy and endeavor (and even here the button king may find his rightful place), of pity, pride, passion—and the craving for a thick steak at the recommended roadside eating place.

So when we say reality, we are really thinking of all this—in one drop—an average sample of a mixture of a million individual realities. And it is in this sense (of human reality) that I use the term reality when placing it against a backdrop, such as the worlds of "The Carrick," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and "The Metamorphosis," which are specific fantasies.,209,0,0,1,0


* “When Nabokov was looking for a publisher for the completed book he stressed the element of character: ‘In Pnin I have created an entirely new character, the like of which has never appeared in any other book. A man of great moral courage, a pure man, a scholar and a staunch friend, serenely wise, faithful to a single love, he never descends from a high plane of life characterised by authenticity and integrity. But handicapped and hemmed in by his incapability to learn a language, he seems a figure of fun to many an average intellectual...’ Nabokov was not always so admiring of his creation. Sending the first story, "Pnin", to his editor at the New Yorker, Katharine White, he wrote in a covering letter, ‘he is not a very nice person but he is fun’. The stance of author to character implied in the work itself comes somewhere between these two extremes, and is complicated by the ambiguous relationship between the narrator and Vladimir Nabokov. [snip] [snip] - This is an edited extract from David Lodge's introduction to Pnin, published by Everyman's Library. <>

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