Memory, some say, is fate's shorthand

Dontbsad
Direct interference in a person's life does not enter our scope of activity, nor, on the other, tralatitiously speaking, hand, is his destiny a chain of predeterminate links: some 'future' events may be linked to others, O.K., but all are chimeric, and every cause-and-effect sequence is always a hit-and-miss affair, even if the lunette has actually closed around your neck, and the cretinous crowd holds its breath. Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things


the sickening involutions and interpenetrations of space and time

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“Whenever I start thinking of my love for a person, I am in the habit of immediately drawing radii from my love – from my heart, from the tender nucleus of a personal matter – to monstrously remote points of the universe. Something impels me to measure the consciousness of my love against such unimaginable and incalculable things as the behavior of nebulae (whose very remoteness seems a form of insanity), the dreadful pitfalls of eternity, the unknowledgeable beyond the unknown, the helplessness, the cold, the sickening involutions and interpenetrations of space and time… When that slow-motion, silent explosion of love takes place in me, unfolding its melting fringes and overwhelming me with the sense of something much vaster, much more enduring and powerful than the accumulation of matter or energy in any imaginable cosmos, then my mind cannot but pinch itself to see if it is really awake. I have to make a rapid inventory of the universe, just as a man in a dream tries to condone the absurdity of his position by making sure he is dreaming. I have to have all space and all time participate in my emotion, in my mortal love, so that the edge of its mortality is taken off, thus helping me to fight the utter degradation, ridicule, and horror of having developed an infinity of sensation and thought within a finite existence.”
 
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

The only convincing love story

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Lolita is not about love, because love is always mutual; Lolita is about obsession, which is never, ever love, and Nabokov himself was so disappointed that people did not understand this and take away the right message… For how could anyone call this feeding frenzy of selfishness, devouring, and destruction “love”?
— In her preface to LOLITA, Mary Gaitskill reflects on a review by Vanity Fair’s Gregor von Rezzori in which he calls the novel: “The only convincing love story of the century”

LoveISLost


We shall now discuss love.

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We shall now discuss love.   

What powerful words, what weapons, are stored up in the mountains, at suitable spots, in special caches of the granite heart, behind painted surfaces of steel made to resemble the mottling of the adjacent rocks! But when moved to express his love, in the days of brief courtship and marriage, Hugh Person did not know where to look for words that would convince her, that would touch her, that would bring bright tears to her hard dark eyes! Per contra, something he said by chance, not planning the pang and the poetry, some trivial phrase, would prompt suddenly a hysterically happy response on the part of that dry-souled, essentially unhappy woman. Conscious attempts failed. If, as happened sometimes, at the grayest of hours, without the remotest sexual intent, he interrupted his reading to walk into her room and advance toward her on his knees and elbows like an ecstatic, undescribed, unarboreal sloth, howling his adoration, cool Armande would tell him to get up and stop playing the fool. The most ardent addresses he could think up - my princess, my sweetheart, my angel, my animal, my exquisite beast - merely exasperated her. “Why,” she inquired, “can’t you talk to me in a natural human manner, as a gentleman talks to a lady, why must you put on such a clownish act, why can’t you be serious, and plain, and believable?” But love, he said, was anything but believable, real life was ridiculous, yokels laughed at love. He tried to kiss the hem of her skirt or bite the crease of her trouserleg, her instep, the toe of her furious foot - and as he groveled, his unmusical voice muttering maudlin, exotic, rare, common nothings and every-things, into his own ear, as it were, the simple expression of love became a kind of degenerate avian performance executed by the male alone, with no female in sight - long neck straight, then curved, beak dipped, neck straightened again. It all made him ashamed of himself but he could not stop and she could not understand, for at such times he never came up with the right word, the right waterweed. 

— Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things


our brain is not an ideal organ for constant retrospection

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Jake & Dinos Chapman, One Day You Will No Longer Be Loved III, 2008 

PERSONAL PAST

Pure Time, Perceptual Time, Tangible Time, Time free of content and context, this, then, is the kind of Time described by my creature under my sympathetic direction. The Past is also part of the tissue, part of the present, but it looks somewhat out of focus. The Past is a constant accumulation of images, but our brain is not an ideal organ for constant retrospection and the best we can do is to pick out and try to retain those patches of rainbow light flitting through memory. The act of retention is the act of art, artistic selection, artistic blending, artistic re-combination of actual events. The bad memoirist re-touches his past, and the result is a blue-tinted or pink-shaded photograph taken by a stranger to console sentimental bereavement. The good memoirist, on the other hand, does his best! to preserve the utmost truth of the detail. One of the ways he achieves his intent is to find the right spot on his canvas for placing the right patch of remembered color. 

Vladimir Nabokov, Interview with Kurt Hoffman for the Bayerischer Rundfunk in 1971.


Anna Karenina

Burnbook

+ An A from Nabokov "It was officially called “European Literature of the Nineteenth Century,” but unofficially called “Dirty Lit” by the Cornell Daily Sun, since it dealt with adultery in Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary"

+ Books: 10 All-Time Greatest 1. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1878)

Nabokov allows that “the thing cannot be done: Tolstoy is homogeneous, is one,” and the “truth which he was ponderously groping for or magically finding just around the corner, was always the same truth — the truth was he and this he was an art.”

+ Reading “Anna Karenina”
 themodelburnbook 

Vladimir Nabokov died on this day in 1977

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“A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature
+ “The Art of Translation” BY VLADIMIR NABOKOV: “Mr. Nabokov is in the habit of introducing any job of this kind which he undertakes by an announcement that he is unique and incomparable,” Wilson wrote in a 1965 review of Nabokov’s translation of Eugene Onegin, “and that everybody else who has attempted it is an oaf and an ignoramus.”
“Véra has blue eyes and a birdlike profile. Her hair is completely white. They are soon to celebrate a wedding anniversary, “our golden,” Nabokov says. They met in Berlin and married there in 1925, but they might as easily have met in Leningrad. “We went to the same dancing class, didn’t we?” he asks. It has not been an unhappy marriage then? “That is the understatement of the century,” Nabokov smiles.”
+ An Old Magician Named Nabokov Writes and Lives in Splendid Exile by James Salter

‘You’ll never be a writer.’

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Nationality: without. Eyes: grey.

‘Mr. Nabokov, I want to be a writer.’ Nabokov looks up from his reading and points to a tree outside his office window.

‘What kind of tree is that?’ he asks the student.

‘What?’

‘What is the name of that tree?’ asks Nabokov. ‘The one outside my window.’

‘I don’t know,’ says the student.

‘You’ll never be a writer.’ says Nabokov.

 kinbote / wordmeds 

Reality is a very subjective affair

Reality is a very subjective affair. I can only define it as a kind of gradual accumulation of information; and as specialization. If we take a lily, for instance, or any other kind of natural object, a lily is more real to a naturalist than it is to an ordinary person. But it is still more real to a botanist. And yet another stage of reality is reached with that botanist who is a specialist in lilies. You can get nearer and nearer, so to speak, to reality; but you never get near enough because reality is an infinite succession of steps, levels of perception, false bottoms, and hence unquenchable, unattainable. You can know more and more about one thing but you can never know everything about one thing: it’s hopeless. So that we live surrounded by more or less ghostly objects— that machine, there, for instance. It’s a complete ghost to me— I don’t understand a thing about it and, well, it’s a mystery to me, as much of a mystery as it would be to Lord Byron.
Vladimir Nabokov

A work of art has no importance whatever to society

Lobooktable
I want you to come live with me, and die with me, and everything with me.
Nabokov, LOLITA

+ NYT - Reading Lolita in Moscow: "A work of art has no importance whatever to society,” Vladimir Nabokov insisted. “It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me.” Nabokov was in fact notoriously averse to groups or “movements” of any sort, whether political, artistic or social.

Team_Humbert_Humbert_by_MegaPandaSan
Humbert's association with a game is important, because Nabokov plays countless games with language. Humbert Humbert, of course, has a double name. John Ray, Jr. also has a double name of sorts (his initials are similar to his junior status). Nabokov parodies the German-influenced Doppelgänger tale throughout Lolita. The Doppelgänger tale pits one character against some kind of doubled version of himself; Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde is the premier example (and one greatly admired by Nabokov, who otherwise had great disdain for the Doppelgänger, calling it a "frightful bore"). One of his gripes is that the Doppelgänger makes moral divisions between the doubled pair absolutely clear; already we are subversively informed that the hero of Lolita is an immoral man.
summary and analysis

Why might Nabokov have chosen to name his protagonist “Humbert Humbert”? Does the name’s parodic double rumble end up distancing us from its owner’s depravity? Is it harder to take evil seriously when it goes under an outlandish name? What uses, comic and poetic, does Nabokov make of this name in the course of Lolita? reading group guide

eight hours of non-being

Brittany Nicol Fabry_1280
In less than a week Aqua had accumulated more than two hundred tablets of different potency. She knew most of them — the jejune sedatives, and the ones that knocked you out from eight p.m. till midnight, and several varieties of superior soporifics that left you with limpid limbs and a leaden head after eight hours of non-being, and a drug which was in itself delightful but a little lethal if combined with a draught of the cleansing fluid commercially known as Morona; and a plump purple pill reminding her, she had to laugh, of those with which the little gypsy enchantress in the Spanish tale (dear to Ladore schoolgirls) puts to sleep all the sportsmen and all their blood-hounds at the opening of the hunting season.
Nabokov
  Brittany Nicol Fabry 

My happiness is a kind of challenge


Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness , dear, my happiness will remain,in the moist reflection of a street lamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.
Vladimir Nabokov, Selected Letters
 kinbote  

"...my future wife is probably doing her calculus homework right now..."

“Most people live through the day with this or that part of their mind in a happy state of somnolence: a hungry man eating a steak is interested in his food and not, say, in the memory of a dream about angels wearing top-hats which he happened to see seven years ago; but in my case all the shutters and lids and doors of the mind would be open at once at all times of the day. Most brains have their Sundays, mine was even refused a half-holiday.”

— Sebastian Knight in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, by Vladimir Nabokov (via)

I've had a terrible and stressful day. I have to move in a few days and I detest moving. This year's excursion back to Austin was a catastrophic failure. I am ruined. Thank Buddha for my Mistress. She called me and I was able to loose myself in our intellectual conversation of secret origins, missing histories and youthful romances. It added some levity to my agitated state. We are both age-gap inclined so I made her laugh by saying that my future wife is probably 15 at the moment and doing homework, she'll find me in a few years when she's 18. I was trying to emulate the same age difference between my mistress and her very lucky future husband. Making her laugh is the best. Even though all you read is my depressive side here, I think she would attest to how funny I am on the phone. Today I realized just how much truth there is to my principal personal maxim: "I like Smart Girls in Short Skirts", being that two of my closest girlfriends are a doctor in training and a lawyer. I should have been a professor. Teaching and introducing "Lolita" to a new class every semester. Annotating "The Dark Knight Returns" for fun as an extra credit project (I tried to do this in High School and I convinced my English teacher into reading the book and appreciating it). Making fun of Dave Eggers and a long list of elitist literary twats. Elevating the prose issue of Detective Comics by Grant Morrison into the curriculum. Obviously Batman would be my hero with a 1000 faces of choice for discussion. Visiting all the places in Canada portrait in Beautiful Loosers for summer classes on the one book that blew my mind open when I was 18. I would be a peculiar professor no? Affairs with students: optional. This is making me want to watch "Wonder Boys". It's the middle of the night and the silence dictates I put the kind of movie that feels like a safety blanket. Something to make me feel better. "Lost In Translation" it is.