NABOKV-L post 0010855, Tue, 21 Dec 2004 09:34:41 -0800

Fwd: Re: Signs and Symbols

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Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 00:27:09 EST

In a message dated 21/12/2004 04:41:05 GMT Standard Time, writes:

> If the narrator started spouting Freudian jargon would we have to accept
> that?
> If that was the writer's choice, yes. Art can be an ugly business.
> We would surely take it that there was a tension between author and
> narrator, if
> the author were VN.
> Not necessarily. I suspect VN enjoyed every minute of writing the narratives
> of Humbert Humbert and Charles Kinbote, although he himself had nothing in
> common with either character.

I thank Andrew Brown for continuing the discussion in such detail.

I just want to comment on his two points above.

My word "tension" was crude. I could have just said "distinction". Of course
VN must have loved wrting "as" these people. But, as he said (in "On a book
entitled 'Lolita'"), it is childish to identify the author with the narrator,
and I am simply arguing that this principle applies to third-person as well as
to first-person narration in VN's fiction.

We have to "accept", tautologically, that Humbert, Kinbote, or a hypothetical
Freudian narrator lovingly-hatingly conjured up by VN is "writing" as he is,
as part of the fiction. Of course we can enjoy and admire a story set in a
flat world. But that is very different from our believing that the world is
And a significant part of the story may well be precisely that we have to
imagine such a flat world, precisely because we do not believe the world is

Anthony Stadlen

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