Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001472, Thu, 21 Nov 1996 13:46:27 -0800

Yet more on poshlost (fwd)
From: Vitaly Kupisk <104361.1700@CompuServe.COM>

Yet more on poshlost':

As I recall (not having the book in front of me), VN gave a deep definition of
poshlost' close to the end of his essay on it in "Nikolay Gogol". After the
description of a magazine ad (grace and joy via a kitchen appliance), he
continues to describe poshlost' as this (I paraphrase) pseudo-beauty,
pseudo-insight (Freudism and other quackery), pseudo-kindness (father making the
family happy by the purchase), pseudo-love, etc. And, he goes on, this fraud is
something that neither the purveyor of poshlost nor its consumer believe in
their heart of hearts.

Thus, there is a genuine organ in us all (this heart of hearts) that can
distinguish true beauty, truth, love, etc., but which is blocked by various
reasons in so many. Poshlost', then, is a fraudulent attempt to replace the
true tingle of the spine with an easy something, something that bears a
resemblance to the movements and tone of the real thing, yet is thoroughly dead.
And yet even those who accept this substitute know in some place of their soul
that it's a fraud. And that is the crux of their weakness (weakness of liars to
themselves) and their blindness (blindness of those deceived by themselves).

And, just as in 1940's, the obvious instances of poshlost' -- amateurish
sex-commercialism, pink flamingo kitsch --- are less insidious than some of the
stuff around us that counterfeits insight, art and love much more deftly.

A very broad definition of poshlost', to be sure, but serving VN's specific
focus and mission: not just a matter of "good taste" but of art unlocking the
deepest riddles of human condition.

Pardon all the parentheses and purple patches.

Vitaly Kupisk
Berkeley, CA