" How obtuse of me! He is one of us! The fingers of his left hand involuntarily started to twitch as if he were pulling a kikapoo puppet over it [    ] "All right, I am ready. Give me the sign," he avidly said./ Gradus, deciding to risk it, glanced at the hand in Bretwit’s lap:unperceived by its owner, it seemed to be prompting Gradus in a manual whisper. He tried to copy what it was doing its best to convey — mere rudiments of the required sign./ "No, no," said Bretwit with an indulgent smile for the awkward novice. "The other hand, my friend. His Majesty is left-handed, you know." V. Nabokov, Pale Fire. C.Kinbote's notes to Line 286 (A jet’s pink trail above the sunset fire).


While discussing the lines I just quoted with a friend I stopped again at the marvellous image ("a manual whisper") to describe events that were taking place during Gradus' interview with Bretwit. Suddenly I realized that I'd been long familiar with this kind of unconscious chatter: "He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his finger-tips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore."  SE vii:77-78, S.Freud, 1905. Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria ("Dora").

During the Gradus/Bretwit exchange we witness a sort of communication that happens without one of the participants being aware of it - and yet, this occurrence is not an expression of the Freudian "repressed unconscious". Closer to the Freudian idea are V.  Nabokov's words in his biography of Gogol when he remarks remarks that "The crudest curriculum vitae crows and flaps its wings in a style peculiar to the undersigner. I doubt whether you can even give your telephone number without giving something of yourself". 

Richard Rorty once observed that the obsessive and strident animosity that Nabokov felt towards Freud was "the resentment of a precursor who may already have written all one's best lines."  The confrontation of the two Nabokov quotes with Freud's words on his patient Dora's anxious fingering her handbag undoubtedly presents various shared points - but I don't think that I'd endorse Richard Rorty's conclusion because, at least in these examples, he'd be giving prevalence to Freud's and Nabokov's shared observations over their aims and style.  

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