Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001314, Mon, 16 Sep 1996 15:05:03 -0700

Re: Nabokov?Freud?Jung (fwd)
From: Vitaly Kupisk <104361.1700@CompuServe.COM>

I am unfamiliar with Phyllis Roth's, Geoffrey Green, or Jennifer Shute's work,
but I'd like to offer my point of view: it came into a better light after I
found out from Brian Boyd's biography and book on "Ada" that VN also objected
(but with much less vehemence, and distaste) to Darwinian evolution of the
species and Einstein's special theory of relativity. "Scientifically", these
are much less objectionable theories, and yet it seems that VN's resistance to
them stemmed from the same source as his outspoken derision of Freud.

To define terms: I am not speaking (nor, I believe, was VN), of the efficacy of
Freudian approach to treatment of psychological disorders. I mean here the
Freudian theory of human psychology, with innate drives, symbols, etc. I also
don't mean to drag in here the demented offspring of that theory, the Freudian
approach to art, since it rests on the theory of psychology and hardly goes
further than applying the same dictionary of symbols to everything, like that
poor student with "the author depicts trees as green because green is the color
of hope and Emma is hopeful".

I believe VN resisted these three theories because the particular focus of his
philosophical and artistic inquiry -- awareness of consciousness embodied in the
perishable flesh and the relationship of this consciousness to the phenomenal
world -- required rejection of united spacetime and its All-time word-lines, of
natural selection with its predator-prey-food-climate hatchet, and of the
postulates that reduced and perverted the subtlety and transcendence of
individual experience to unconscious, innate, and thwarted drives of sexual,
scatological, and patricidal nature. He did not call this quackery "medieval"
lightly; to him it must have been akin to the medieval views of the devil's work
through women, black cats, goats, and, yes, sex, theories that ruled the hearts
and minds of many.

VN's attitude towards space-time is explicated in Boyd's book on "Ada", and VN
himself touches on his attitude towards evolution and consciousness in "Speak,
Memory". In both cases, he saw a tired metaphor taken literally, rejection of
which (as applied to consciousness) was essential to the true awareness of

He may have dismissed in a more gentle fashion the inverted metaphor of the
child's trauma that lurks in Freud's constructs if he did not live in the heyday
of vigorous quacks and hacks winning so many less critical and more vulnerable