Monday, 15 June 2015

Details and facts in fiction: the case of Nabokov (and Tolstoy)

3 brilliant, thought-provoking posts by D. G. Myers about Nabokov's attention to details and stress on accuracy:
"Nabokov liked to say that reality is the only word that should also be squeezed between the tongs of quotation marks. As I observed below, the colors that he assigned to Quilty’s cars were actual paint codes in American-made cars in the early fifties. And then this case, which bears such an uncanny similarity to the plot of Lolita that I almost suspect Nabokov of discovering in it the germ of his novel, and then concealing the source in a parenthetical sentence in an unimportant scene in a late chapter. Nabokov was a master illusionist—to conceal his necessary and sufficient realism."
(Pnin tells others of the exact day Anna Karenina starts). 
"Who on earth, they might protest, needs to know this stuff?
But Nabokov believed it was indispensable—not merely to scholarship and criticism, but to fiction itself. Now, this may sound the note of heresy, because as a novelist, Nabokov’s scorn for realism and didacticism is notorious. [...]
And yet, in his fiction, Nabokov takes excruciating pains to specify exactly where or when. Pnin is fifty-two when the novel bearing his name opens. The time is the Fall Semester of 1950. 
[...] Obscure pedant and great novelist are conjoined by a passion to know the exact day, and what ultimately separates them may be of lesser moment. Literature thrives on exactitude and abhors approximation." 

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