Saturday, September 02, 2006

From Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature

From Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature...

On "The Good Reader":

[...]It is he--the good, the excellent reader--who has saved the artist again and again from being destroyed by emperors, dictators, priests, puritans, philistines, political moralists, policemen, postmasters, and prigs. Let me define this admirable reader. He does not belong to any specific nation or class. No director of conscience and no book club can manage his soul. His approach to a work of fiction is not governed by those juvenile emotions that make the mediocre reader identify himself with this or that character and "skip descriptions." The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed the book. [...]The admirable reader is not concerned with general ideas: he is interested in the particular vision

On Russian Literature under communism:
It is difficult to refrain from the relief of irony, from the luxury of contempt, when surveying the mess that meek hands, obedient tentacles guided by the bloated octopus of the state, have managed to make out of that fiery, fanciful free thing--literature. Even more: I have learned to treasure my disgust, because I know that by feeling so strongly about it I am saving what I can of the spirit of Russian literature. Next to the right to create, the right to criticise is the richest gift that liberty of thought and speech can offer. Living as you do in freedom, in that spirital open where you were born and bred, you may be apt to regard stories of prison life coming from remote lands as exagerrated accounts spread by panting fugitives. That a country exists where for almost a quarter of century literature has been limited to illustrating the advertisements of a firm of slave-traders is hardly credible to people for whom writing and reading books is synonymous with having and voicing individual opinions. But if you do not believe in the existence of such conditions, you may at least imagine them, and once you have imagined them you will realize with new purity and pride the value of real books written by free men for free men to read.

On Gogol's Dead Souls:

I repeat however for the benefit of those who like books to provide them with "real people" and "real crime" and a "message" (that horror of horrors borrowed from the jargon of quack reformers) that Dead Souls will get them nowhere.

On Gogol's The Overcoat
The Russian who thinks Turgenev was a great writer, and bases his notion of Pushkin upon Chaykovski's [Tchaikovsky] vile libretti, will merely paddle into the gentlest wavelets of Gogol's mysterious sea and limit his reaction to an enjoyment of what he takes to be whimsical humour and colourful quips. But the diver, the seeker for black pearls, the man who prefers the monsters of the deep to the sunshades on the beach, will find in The Overcoat shadows linking our state of existence to those other states and modes which we dimly apprehend in our rare moments of irrational perception.


At this superhigh level of art, literature is of course not concerned with pitying the underdog or cursing the upperdog. It appeals to that secret depth of the human soul where the shadows of other worlds pass like the shadows of nameless and soundless ships.


Vidya said...

>>and bases his notion of Pushkin upon Chaykovski's [Tchaikovsky] vile libretti

This was a nice dig at T.But in his defence Pushkin was not alive at that time to confer with him.I need to get a copy of Queen of Spades sometime.

Alok said...

I am completely in the dark about both Tchaikovsky and Pushkin, never having seen, heard or read any thing by them. :(

Vidya said...

Tchaikovsky wrote an opera based on Pushkin's shortstory, The Queen of Spades. It was not a faithful repetition but the composer modified the work to suit his needs.Many folks of that period have criticized the composer for making it melodramatic,though it might have suited well for an opera.See this link

Alok said...

thanks for the link. that was a lot of information.

tchaikovsky's adpatation of pushkin's eugene onegin is also quite famous.

javieth said...

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