Sunday, 21 July 2013

Nabokov the master Nabokov the monster

Decide to stop reading "The gift". The fact that it was originally written in Russian may have been a factor making it almost unintelligible to an illiterate like me. All the big words floated about, before my eyes, I couldn't comprehend how they were connected to each other and what the combinations meant. All those commas, all those clauses. 
I think, after all I have always preferred Fitzgerald to Nabokov, on 1 hand admiring his insight and ability to say so much with so few words while remaining poetic and not simple and journalistic, on the other hand feeling connected to him on a personal level and inspired by him. Reading Nabokov I am overwhelmed and full of admiration but intimidated and anxious and self-hating instead of inspired, for I can't help feeling uneasy with the complicated, sophisticated words he uses and his vast vocabulary and then hating myself for my limited intelligence and hopeless lack of talent. There's always a certain detachment when I read Nabokov, perhaps with the sole exception of "The real life of Sebastian Knight", his 1st novel in English. Perhaps it's because Nabokov's always been valued more highly than Fitzgerald? That's possible, but to make a comparison between Tolstoy and Nabokov, I admire them both and feel a certain detachment from both of them (which I can't and won't try to measure), but while it seems like, mentally and emotionally, Tolstoy strikes me and moves me deeply and makes a profound impact on my thinking and I think I have learnt something from him, with Nabokov I have to struggle to get the meaning of the words and then the whole sentences and then the paragraphs and I get all mixed up and confused in a matrix of words and wordplays and puns and alliterations and exhaust myself and end up feeling hollow and empty, and the strongest feeling that remains is the admiration for his undeniable genius. Nabokov's arrogant, sometimes pompous, and his pomposity can be very tiresome or at least depressing. I do not mean his books are empty. Nor do I support those writers who say one should write as simply as possible. Yet his writing style can, at least once in a while, create a barrier to anyone who walks into his world. It's horrible, I feel stupid and ignorant- I didn't finish "Ada or ardor: A family chronicle", I only read a few pages of "Pnin", a few pages of "Pale fire" and now a few pages of "The gift". See, an author like Nabokov is dangerous, an author like Nabokov is a monster. When I read his books I feel stupid. When I put down his books I also feel stupid. 
What can one do?

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