Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021066, Wed, 15 Dec 2010 00:52:16 +0000

Re: query; music and Nabokov

Jansy: I¹m not sure if VN¹s pun is obvious to all readers? And, of course,
there¹s no reason why the pun should work in all languages. Anglophone Chess
players will know that Œcombination¹ has a technical meaning beyond the
everyday sense of Œmixture/compound/amalgam.¹ In chess, it¹s a brilliantly
unexpected sequence of moves, often involving apparently suicidal material
sacrifices. Annotated games indicate a beautiful and surprising move with
one or more exclamation signs, e.g.,
35 Q x P!! P x Q?? 36 B-Kt5++ (?? means that accepting White¹s queen
sacrifice is a very, very poor move by Black, instantly punished by
checkmate, indicated by ++.)

So VN¹s statement that Œa good combination should always contain a certain
element of deception¹ is damned near tautological for a Chess combination!
So I find his Œas in art¹ rather teasing. Not that perfect Nabokovians,
comme nous, would ever object to being teased! Part of entrance fee.
Whichever of the many meanings you attach to Œdeception,¹ there are clear
differences between the sneaky deceptions of a Chess master (ALL subject to
FIDE¹s documented, implacable, unambiguous Règle du Jeu), and those of
artists, free creative spirits (we hope) able to invent their own, seldom
publicly-enumerated, Œrules.¹ Indeed, are free to change their Œrules¹
between, and even during works.

In Chess, all games end with win/draw/loss (occasional suspensions!):
however devious the play, we can later examine the recorded moves, and
mechanically check their legality (note, no undetectable human deception
here.) And with those artificial positions created by Chess Problemists,
such as VN, however devious, either solutions exist or they don¹t. Two flaws
do occasionally surface: the problem has no solution (maybe a printing
error), or even more embarrassing, there are two or more solutions.

All problems puzzle, but not all that puzzles us can be cast in the form of
a Œsoluble¹ problem © Harry Stottle.
(By Œsoluble¹ we mean either solutions are found, or can be proved not to

In particular, whatever puzzles we encounter in Pale Fire, whether through
deliberate deceptions, missed allusions, inadequate dictionaries, &/or
simply because the themes themselves are eternally challenging (I
meantersay, Madness, Poetry, Life and Death!), I can¹t, pace Brian Boyd,
pace Nabokov, find any useful analogy between improving my
understanding/enjoyment by re-...re-reading Pale Fire (and BB¹s latest
guide), and trying to solve a Chess Problem, however fiendish. As a last
resort, I can always CHEAT using IBM¹s Deep Azure ... Er Deep Blue.

Stan Kelly-Bootle

On 14/12/2010 16:12, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

> Don Stanley [JM: How could we describe "deception" in music?] "As far as music
> being deceptive, I suppose you could look at it that way...."
> JM: But I don't! (I only mentioned it because Nabokov wrote that
> "deception in chess, as in art, is...part of the combination. I think a good
> combination should always contain a certain element of deception.") One
> shouldn't confuse Nabokov's manoeuvers of "deception" in art, with "fiction",
> "reality" or "illusion."

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/