Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003331, Mon, 24 Aug 1998 09:34:54 -0700

Re: Sentimentality in VN (fwd)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>

Tim's quote from Salinger is a gem! Here are three other quotes
which are worth pondering. The first is from Updike, and can be found in
Appel and Newman's _Vladimir Nabokov: Criticism, Reminiscences,
Translations, Tributes_ (p. 323): "Far from cold, [VN] has access to
European vaults of sentiment sealed to Americans; if he feasts the mind
like a prodigal son, it is because the heart's patrimony is assured."

The second is from _Ulysses_ and, in my mind, it comes very close to
VN's own understanding of how easily the concept of love can be exploited
and cheapened:

"Love loves to love love. Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14 A
loves Mary Kelly... Li Chi Han lovey up kissy Cha Pu Chow. Jumbo, the
elephant, loves Alice, the elephant... His Majesty the King loves Her
Majesty the Queen.. You love a certain person. And this person loves that
other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody."

Finally, one other quote, which comes from VN's colleague Meyer Abrams
(aka M. H. Abrams): "You know, Nabokov was warmly human, even sentimental"
(_The Achievements of VN_, p. 220).

I think between these three quotes, we may have a more or less complete --
albeit complex -- answer to the question of Nabokov and "sentimentality."

I also find myself fascinated by a certain irony in VN' treatment of a
genuine feeling as opposed to a false one: how, in order to avoid the
trivialization of such a feeling, he -- like Joyce -- employs what many
would actually consider rather "trivial" details but which in his hands
speak volumes and become poignant while lofty rhetoric in the hands
of others (D. H Lawrence comes to mind -- but I am prejudiced here since I
don't care for him much) often fails or backfires.

Galya Diment