I was reading to my wife Nabokov's opening of "Speak Memory", when she spoke the obvious: "But he's a bloke." I had thought what she thought, but not bothered to articulate it before. But surely it is crucial.
Nabokov's account of the "identical twin" "abysses" (posthumous and "pre-natal" [sic]) may be phenomenologically true to the particular defective and distorted experience of the young "chronophobiac" who is frightened by seeing film of a few weeks before his birth when, supposedly, he did not "exist". But it is certainly not true to my experience, for example. And my wife was speaking as a mother. To her it was absurd that a baby (foetus) in the womb should be thought not to exist, either by the mother or the baby. And indeed it is to me, too. Even without the explicit memories of the womb which some people have, there is surely for many people a more general feeling of having been there: it is certainly not an "abyss". Once this has been pointed out, Nabokov's description seems as incompetent because as inaccurate as Henry James's description of the lighted "tip" of a cigar or innumerable poets' descriptions of single nightingales seemed to Nabokov.
Heidegger, in a lecture course a year or so after he published Sein und Zeit (1927), mentioned that many people had asked him why, since he had made so much of death in that work, he did not deal with birth also. He replied that birth and death were not a symmetric pair in the way implied. Surely he was right.
Anthony Stadlen
Anthony Stadlen
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Founder (in 1996) and convenor of the Inner Circle Seminars: an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy
"Existential Psychotherapy & Inner Circle Seminars" at http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/ for programme of future Inner Circle Seminars and complete archive of past seminars
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