NABOKV-L post 0024653, Wed, 2 Oct 2013 19:53:47 +0000

THOUGHTS: Visit to the Museum
Dear list,
Back in 2012 I posted a brief message to the list speculating that the narrator of "The Visit to the Museum" is narrating posthumously. I have developed that idea more fully on the Kobaltana blog here:

Here's a bit of it:

But how can we be sure that the unnamed narrator, like Mark Standfuss, has been run down by the "furious red bus"? To begin, let's look at the events immediately following the narrator's bare escape. First, the narrator tells us that he "crossed the asphalt thoroughfare." I have not conducted a survey of all the street crossings in Nabokov's fiction, so I cannot say what percentage of these crossings highlight some kind of physical or metaphysical change; however, it is fair to say that in at least three instances, Nabokov uses a literal crossing as a marker of the passage into death or an alternate state. As we have just seen, Mark Standfuss, after he is struck by the bus, witnesses himself "walking diagonally across the street." In an earlier story, "A Matter of Chance," the suicidal train attendant Luzhin walks "diagonally to the next track" just before he is struck and killed by a train. And in Pale Fire, Charles Kinbote tells us that just before John Shade is shot, the two men cross the road from Shade's property to Judge Goldsworth's (whose house Kinbote is renting): "One minute before his death, as we were crossing from his demesne to mine . . ." In each case, the crossing over prefigures, or marks, a character's death. So when the narrator of "The Visit to the Museum" crosses the thoroughfare after his close encounter with the bus tires, we should take this history into account.

Matt Roth

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