Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027130, Sun, 31 Jul 2016 19:22:38 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] [Queries] Tension film: Staring fish and
amusement parks in PF and TT. Engine Power stereotypes - musings
Former posting: I also felt curious about a stereotyped repetition (stemming
from VN!) when he mentions motor engines. The word "powerful" appears
twelve times in PF. In six of them he is describing his car (there's another
one, related to the King's powerful motorboat). He seems to be excessively
aware of the relation between engine power and speed of locomotion, as we
also find it in his note about the forces that propelled the verbal advance
of Gradus (the assassin employs cars, trains, escalators and airplanes but
he is felt as if he were maintaining a "sustained glide over sea and land"
thanks to the sensuous form endowed to him by inexorable fate - through CK's
or J.Shade's moving pencils) [...] CK's note to lines 131-32: "Although
Gradus availed himself of all varieties of locomotion - rented cars, local
trains, escalators, airplanes - somehow the eye of the mind sees him, and
the muscles of the mind feel him, as always streaking across the sky with
black traveling bag in one hand and loosely folded umbrella in the other, in
a sustained glide high over sea and land. The force propelling him is the
magic action of Shade's poem itself, the very mechanism and sweep of verse,
the powerful iambic motor. Never before has the inexorable advance of fate
received such a sensuous form (for other images of that transcendental
tramp's approach see note to line 17). What about electricity? That's how
the "muscles of the mind" work, no?

Jansy Mello: An adjective applied to Gradus in CK's note to lines 131-132
(see above), "transcendental tramp", caught my interest. In line 17, where
his approach is described, we read:
"We shall accompany Gradus in constant thought, as he makes his way from
distant dim Zembla to green Appalachia, through the entire length of the
poem, following the road of its rhythm, riding past in a rhyme, skidding
around the corner of a run-on, breathing with the caesura, swinging down to
the foot of the page from line to line as from branch to branch, hiding
between two words (see note to line 596), reappearing on the horizon of a
new canto, steadily marching nearer in iambic motion, crossing streets,
moving up with his valise on the escalator of the pentameter, stepping off,
boarding a new train of thought, entering the hall of a hotel, putting out
the bedlight, while Shade blots out a word, and falling asleep as the poet
lays down his pen for the night."

How could I have missed it before? Gradus is part of the thoughts,words,
rythm and structure of "Pale Fire." This, of course, is no novelty as a
construct but, for me, the emotional experience suffered a turn with the
addition of "transcendent," most probably associated to the "inexorable
advance of death." Kinbote's commentary also reveal the project of
representing, and controlling death by the means of literary devices.

At the end of Kinbote's commentary, indicating line 1000 (returning to the
first line of the poem), this transcendental Gradus will reappear:

" 'And you, what will you be doing with yourself, poor King, poor Kinbote?'
a gentle young voice may inquire.

God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example
of two other characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may
assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist. I may turn up
yet, on another campus [...] I may pander to the simple tastes of theatrical
critics and cook up a stage play, an old-fashioned melodrama with three
principles: a lunatic who intends to kill an imaginary king, another lunatic
who imagines himself to be that king, and a distinguished old poet who
stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and perishes in the clash between
the two figments. Oh, I may do many things![...]. But whatever happens,
wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out -
somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a
ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a
million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door - a bigger,
more respectable, more competent Gradus."

It seems to me that the Author, along with his characters, recognizes that -
inspite of all his efforts and despite of the transcendent power of
literature and the fictional world - he is doomed to disappear because death
is also a part of the process of creation.

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