Style is Matter, The Moral Art of Vladimir Nabokov, Leland de la Durantaye, Part 2

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So, how shall we read Lolita and what may we learn in the reading? Leland de la Durantaye’s elegant theses revolve primarily around these questions. In particular, I respond to the clarity of the following passage, which reduces the novel to something conceptually more incisive than “Humbert Humbert, narrator of ‘Lolita‘, is a sadist, narcissist and sexual deviant”, (from the title of Martin Amis’ 1992 review of Lolita in The Independent):

“Entranced by his senses and pursuing his image of Lolita as if she were an inspiring image of art, Humbert fails to see that “there was in her a garden and a twilight, and a place gate.” These “dim and adorable regions” are forbidden to him because of the intensity and the single-mindedness with which he occludes them, with which he concentrates on “another Lolita,” an “image” created in his sensual haze that his desperation and desire lead him to call “more real” than the little girl in his charge. In this, Nabokov has Humbert fail to observe the line that divides art from life – that same line that Nabokov’s compatriot Khodasevich identified decades before Lolita as lying at the heart of the burgeoning writer’s aesthetics.

In works early and late – and nowhere more spectacularly than Lolita – Nabokov asked how the artist was to live in the world, how to balance fierce independence of vision with the necessity of seeing the world from the standpoint of others. This is a question of judgment: the question of how to balance the aesthetic with the ethical, the disinterested remove of aesthetic judgment with the interested proximity of moral judgment.”

One Response to “Style is Matter, The Moral Art of Vladimir Nabokov, Leland de la Durantaye, Part 2”

  1. Tim Lucas Says:

    “Leland de la Durantaye’s elegant theses” seems a turn of phrase that only VN could have cobbled together. He certainly could have picked no better name for an authority on his own work, aside from, perhaps, Vivian Darkbloom. I worry that this blog may coerce me into rereading vast quantities of Nabokoviana and trying to fill in the gaps of my collection of THE NABOKOVIAN, which is largely represented by copies from when it was still called THE VLADIMIR NABOKOV RESEARCH NEWSLETTER.

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