Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005167, Fri, 9 Jun 2000 10:13:39 -0700

Re: LATH! (and EO) (fwd)
**As to the critic mentioned here, whose name Ken Tapscott does not
remember, I strongly suspect it is Richard F. Patteson, whose
article "Nabokov's _Look at the Harlequins!_: Endless Recreation of the
Self" first appeared in _Russian Literature Triquarterly_ 14
(1976): 84-98. GD **

From Ken Tapscott <kentapscott@hotmail.com>

I have a general query. I am not a Nabokov scholar, but have been
familiar with N's works since the mid-70's and have read all of his novels
four or five times each, as well as everything else he published in English.
I have always been intrigued by Look at the Harlequins!, and have had an
overwhelming sense that there was something uncanny going on in that book.
In particular, I recall one critic, name now forgotten, who has taken pains
to demonstrate that all of the characters in the novel seem to be closely,
if occultly, related to V.V., the narrator/author of the book. The novel
seems to me to be a sort of parody of the biography of a "bestselling"
author (just as Ada is in many ways a parody of a sensationalistic, "Jackie
Susann" (sp?) type of popular bestseller from the late '60's; and LATH! is
of course a strange kind of "parody" of the never-written, but always
projected, continuation of Nabokov's own autobiography. I know that there
was a thumbnail annotation of things concerning LATH in A Book of Things
About V. Nabokov; and there is the critic's article mentioned above, and I'm
embarrassed to say I can't recall exactly whose it was. But my question is,
are there any other detailed studies of this novel that I may have
overlooked, especially since I have not had good access to a university
library for about 10 years now?
It's difficult to put my finger on it, but I have a strong sense that
something very crafty is happening in that book, and I have to say that I've
been intrigued about it enough so that I've read that novel as many times as
I have N.'s acknowledged masterpieces, Lolita, Pale Fire, The Gift and Ada.
As I said, I'm not a Nabokov scholar and my Russian can only be called
rudimentary, at best, so I'm hesitant to speculate publicly about these
things, but I have always wondered whether or not the things experienced by
V.V. in LATH! might not refer to, or parody in some way, similar passages
from the actual Nabokov novels which are referred to in the versions which
V.V. is writing at the particular time in the progression of LATH. In other
words, since V.V. is writing works which reflect -his- personal experiences
in ways which he is at pains to explain, and since V.V.'s novels, based upon
their titles and descriptions, are parodies of VVN's real novels, then
might it not be the case that V.V.'s described experiences might derive
factually, and particularly stylistically, from the -real- Nabokov novels
upon which V.V's "experience" comes? It seems to me to be the type of ploy
Nabokov might have been very interested in, and in LATH! V.V. never tires of
reiterating his suspicion that he is in fact living someone else's life. In
the bizarre, turn-about world of LATH! Nabokov might well have taken the
"ordinary reader's" expectation, i.e., that an author creates his novels
based upon his own real-life experiences, and turned it completely around so
that we would have an author, V.V., whose "real life" experiences would
consist entirely of the "experiences" of the fictional characters in
Nabokov's own novels. In LATH! the reader is led to believe or assume by
V.V. that the source of this other, "double" life might be Nabokov himself
(who is unknown to poor V.V.), but what if it were in fact that the literary
creation, V.V., is having the experiences of Nabokov's literary creations
themselves, since V.V. is in some obscure way plagiarizing Nabokov's
literary works? Is this too far-fetched? Insane? There are a few moments in
the book, when V.V. is having his bizarre spatial attacks, when he seems
pointedly to indicate that something like what I have said here might be
what is going on in the novel. In any case, I am certain that something very
elaborate is at work in LATH! and as I said, I've not seen any convincing
attempts to work it out. Any comments about this? Has this been discussed

And since this is the Nabokov list-serve, I'll add that a friend of mine
last week sent me an attachment to the following Web address, which contains
a breathtaking rhymed translation of the opening stanzas of Eugene Onegin. I
think that even N. himself would grudgingly admit that this is about the
most one could hope for from a rhymed translation. I haven't found out who
the translator is yet, but this person is most definitely a major
American/English poet, known or unknown, based on this amazing translation.
Here's the site:


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