Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025745, Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:40:33 -0300

ENC: [NABOKV-L] Spring in Fialta : J.Aisenberg, Fran Assa
J. Aisenberg: “Spring In Fialta”… has a complex structure as well as a somewhat paradoxical center… the first six paragraphs of the story, which comprise a kind of scene-setting prologue in panoramic view…takes us to the point where Victor, the narrator, runs into Nina. These paragraphs establish not exactly a present tense from which the flashbacks are able to depart, because the time frame of the story itself, in the first sentence of the second paragraph, is established as already past …Using internal clues …we can establish the platform of the Fialta time-frame fairly exactly... It takes place during Lent, in 1932. Lent began February 10th of that year and ended Easter, March 27th…Spring officially begins on either the 19th or 20th of March, which means that the events in Fialta probably took place sometime the week before Easter… The first paragraph not only builds Fialta as an impressionistic place for the story to unfold in, as Maxim Shrayer noted …in his book The World of Nabokov’s Stories, it also establishes an existential, metaphysical sense of the world as perception: past and present, real and unreal, specific and individual, trite and commercial—before revealing in the second paragraph that the story is a first person narrative. "

Jansy: The choice of violets and purples is another indicative of Lent and the Christian Easter (as celebrated in Italy?). However, further on J.Aisenberg notes: "Nabokov gives trash it’s amusing, poetic due, adding humorous depth to his tragic-erotic fantasia…The second para carries forward the “souvenir trash” theme, combining it with the second element of the tale not much noted previously, that is Christian mythical imagery: 'coral crucifixes in a shop window' [ ] And remember the yellow orange peels. This color, along with the blue and the mist and the sea, constantly come back." I remember from "S,M" and from "The Defense" Nabokov's sentimental, but never "trashy" description of Orthodox Christian Easter rituals in Russia, similar in tone to what is mentioned by JA in another note, in connection to para 2 and 6: "her making the sign of the cross gives us more Christian imagery that may perhaps be a callback to the St. George legend."[… ] “she would rapidly make the sign of the cross over me every time we parted”,

J.A: " In paragraph 3 we are told that the narrator will only be in Fialta a short time on leave from his family: “I had left my wife and children at home, and that was an island of happiness always present in the clear north of my being, always floating beside me, and even through me, I dare say, but yet keeping on the outside of me most of the time.” This is one of those interesting sentences which manages to unsay the point it's trying to make by the end, that is that his home life is happy—he leaves us feeling that the happiness he speaks of though always present in the “clear north of his being” by remaining outside himself “most of the time” means he’s really quite alienated from his banal life[ ] The 6th para points out the flimsy nature of the narrator’s and Nina’s relationship—he “fail[s] to find the precise term” for it in fact.”

Jansy: I’d like to draw a parallel between Victor’s description of his family life in connection to “remaining outside himself…alienated from his banal life” which are suggestive of Henri Bergson’s ideas concerning duration (la durée) but, at this exact point, as being indicative of “fake duration” - and another approach by Nabokov when he contrasts married love to his love for Nina, as in Fran Assas’s selection from Spring in Fialta where she observes that the lines about V’s family life are “out of keeping with the rest of the story, and seems uncharacteristically awkward,” before she notes that: “… most significantly, the flow of real time is interspersed with the narrator’s story of their history together, all chance meetings since their youth. (“Back into the past, back into the past, as I did every time I met her, repeating the whole accumulation of the plot from the very beginning up to the last increment—thus in Russian fairy tales the already told bunched up again at every new turn of the story”). Here, although this reference to “real time” has no Bergsonian connotation, it seems to me that Fran came close to Nabokov’s inclusion of “atemporality” in his story. Nevertheless, Fran seems to have shunned this “mystic dimension” to dwell on the heart-rending expressions of “pity” present in quotidian and in “family” loves.
As Fran writes: “He puzzles over the fact that ‘Again and again she hurriedly appeared in the margins of my life, without influencing in the least its basic text.’ […] The crux of his feelings for her are found in the following paragraph: “... my married life remained unimpaired […] I grew apprehensive because something lovely, delicate and unrepeatable was being wasted: something which I abused by snapping off pure bright bits in gross haste while neglecting the modest but true core that perhaps it kept offering me in a pitiful whisper.[...]
As I see it, VN/V was unable to “de-temporalize” his love for Nina and to free it from the ever constant edge human mortality (the non-farsical aspect of VN’s mystic approach).

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