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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Laughing with Nabokov- at Dostoyevsky?

In spite of what I wrote the other day, I'm putting Turgenev aside and currently reading Pnin (see how mercurial I am?)
It's hilarious.
For example: 
"... and languid Eileen Lane, whom somebody had told that by the time one had mastered the Russian alphabet one could practically read Anna Karamazov in the original..."
A blogger thinks Nabokov pokes fun at Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but I think he, on the 1 hand, makes fun of a) people who mix up Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (note: the narrator says Pnin's father treats Tolstoy, but later a woman says he's Dostoyevsky's doctor) or b) translators such as Constance Garnett, who made disappear all the stylistic differences between these 2 authors. On the other hand, the alphabet part seems to be an attack on students and so-called critics who praise literary works for simplicity and sincerity, which Nabokov sees as nonsense and which is indeed nonsense.
[By the way, he also makes a joke about the phrase I've just written: 
"... On the other hand, [...] On the 3rd hand (these mental states sprout additional forelimbs all the time)..."]
However, pay attention to this: 
"My patient was one of those singular and unfortunate people who regard their heart ('a hollow, muscular organ,' according to the gruesome definition in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, which Pnin's orphaned bag contained) with a queasy dread, a nervous repulsion, a sick hate, as if it were some strong slimy untouchable monster that one had to be parasitized with, alas..."
"Dread"? "Nervous"? "Repulsion"? "Sick"? "Hate"? Is it just me, or does this seem like mockery of Dostoyevsky? Such words are all over Dostoyevsky's works!

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