Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005187, Wed, 21 Jun 2000 19:11:26 -0700

Re: LATH! (and EO) (fwd)
Greetings from N. Carolina!

In re the below (and counter to the suggestion of my esteemed
co-editor), Ken Tapscott may have in mind one of my essays
on LATH! included in _Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of Vladimir
Nabokov_ (1985). I proposed that all of Vadim's wives (except the
last) were his half sisters. He and they are the children of the
mysterious old Russian diplomat who befriends Vadim.
Mr. Tapscott is certainly right in his general line of thinking
about LATH. If memory serves, Brian Boyd had an article in the first issue
of BIBLION, the journal of the New York Public Library, asserting (and
documenting) that
LATH was triggered VN's by Andrew Field's bibliography of him.


D. Barton Johnson
Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies
Phelps Hall
University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone and Fax: (805) 687-1825
Home Phone: (805) 682-4618

On Fri, 9 Jun 2000, Galya Diment wrote:

> **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
> elsewhere?
> 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:
> -Thanks.
> kentapscott@hotmail.com
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