Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002499, Fri, 24 Oct 1997 13:00:15 -0700

Re: nature and fusion in Pnin and Speak, Memory (fwd)
For starters, howzabout Van Veen's characterization of the artist as
"underground observatory" in Ada? Part of the repartee during a card
game as I recall.

Also take a good look at "Signs and Symbols" in Nabokov's Dozen and the
mental breakdown scene towards the end of "The Defense." But in those
cases it's less of a merging with the landscape, than a delusional fear
of one's surroundings.

"Cloud, Castle, Lake" in the aforementioned collection might also be
worth a look.
The healthy minds in VN seem to feel a kinship short of fusion with
nature: John Shade's "picture book from an early age/Was the painted
parchment papering our cage...Was I free?/How fully I felt nature glued
to me!"
Though there is a comic fusion in "Pale Fire" when Shade's fits come over
him...He feels space and time merging with his body..."Slaves make hay
between my mouth and nose...All tomorrows in my funnybone."
These quotes are from memory and may be inaccurate.

Donald Barton Johnson wrote:
> From: Kamni Gill <kamni@dolphin.upenn.edu>
> In Pnin, American children are described as healthy, tall, indolent and
> difficult with no Russian and no sense of nature. What is the narrator's
> sense of nature?
> Following this description is a scene in which Pnin feels porous and
> pregnable and dissolves into the immediate landscape and another of
> memory. It is an "awful feeling of sinking and melting into ones physical
> sruroundings." A similar scene-they are descriptions of Pnin's cardiac
> condition- occurs at the beginning of the novel.
> In Speak, Memory the physical description of a fusion with a natural
> elements is used to describe extreme happiness and wonder in at least two
> places- when Nabokov describes the highest enjoyment of timelessness-
> in a landscape selected at random among rare butterflies and their food
> plants and when a drop of water is observed falling from the a leaf:
> "Tip, leaf, dip relief--the instant it all took to happen seemed to me not
> so much a fraction of time as a fissure in it, a missed heartbeat, whcih
> was refunded at once by a patter of rhymes: I say "patter"
> intentionally, for when a gust of wind did come , the trees would briskly
> start to drip all together in as crude an imitation of the the recent
> downpour as the stanza I was already muttering resembled the shock of
> wonder I had experienced when for a moment heart and leaf had been one."
> Are there descriptions of this kind of melting, fusion with a
> natural landscape, or in other Nabokov works? I would like to think
> more carefully about these passages and others like them.
> Thank You
> Kamni Gill

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