Blackwell, Stephen H. Nabokov, Mach, and Monism. 2002

Bibliographic title
Nabokov, Mach, and Monism
Publisher, city
Periodical or collection
Nabokov's World: The Shape of Nabokov's World
Periodical issue
v. 1
Publication year

Stephen Blackwell also turns to contemporary thinking in his closely argued chapter "Nabokov, Mach and Monism", where he attempts an understanding of Nabokov's vision of the world by considering other philosophies of science, in particular "Machian monism." Teasing out the "mystification" of his self-definition as "an indivisible monist," Blackwell shows that Nabokov's monism appears to have held the universes unitary and consistent, and thus opposed to any kind of dualism, but distinct from the subjective ideal monism of Berkeley. Mach, who was the first to photograph shock waves traveling faster than sound, sought a universal theory based on the "subjective mind's grasp of the world, through knowledge of the world." As an empirical physicist, he believed in material existence but not in the possibility of direct apprehension of "objective reality" through cognition. Our conception of reality could, however, be expanded by perception of what had previously been invisible. This sounds remarkably similar to Nabokov's aims in the recreation of his own patterned universe by the interweaving of multiple webs of sense to create dense, tensile spheres for the reader to negotiate. Blackwell pertinently remarks, in a footnote, that "Perception ... is a rough synonym for 'conscious world creation,' an activity which lies at the core of Nabokov's art." (From review by Jenefer Coates)