I recently finished Nabokov’s autobiography Speak, Memory. I feel like I understood most of it. With Nabokov there’s always a vague sense of embarrassment, even annoyance, that his writing in English — which is not even his native language, mind you — seems to be pitched at people with a level of literacy above my own. Forget about feeling in any way competitive with him as a writer; I’m talking about the struggle for basic comprehension on a survival level.
And then you come across a paragraph like this one, and what can you do but shake your head and bow in reverence?
Whenever in my dreams I see the dead, they always appear silent, bothered, strangely depressed, quite unlike their dear, bright selves. I am aware of them, without any astonishment, in surroundings they never visited during their earthly existence, in the house of some friend of mine they never knew. They sit apart, frowning at the floor, as if death were a dark taint, a shameful family secret. It is certainly not then – not in dreams – but when one is wide awake, at moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.
For today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, and always.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Space is generated by need. Let’s say you’d like to take a walk. You simply project in front of you the necessary space which you walk across as and when [you need it]. The same with time. Just as a spider secretes the thread down which she climbs, so you secrete the time you need to do whatever you have to, and you proceed along this thread which is visible only behind you but usable only ahead of you.
A Night of Serious Drinking
From “Seven Exemplary Fictions”:
What is life, after all, but a caravan of lifelike forgeries?
From the introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness:
I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
I happened to pick up Kurt Vonnegut’s Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons today and read the following:
He is the first President to hate the American people and all they stand for. He believes so vibrantly in his own purity, although he has committed crimes which are hideous, that I am bound to conclude that someone told him when he was very young that all serious crime was sexual, that no one could be a criminal who did not commit adultery or masturbate.
He is a useful man in that he has shown us that our Constitution is a defective document, which makes a childlike assumption that we would never elect a President who dislikes us so. So we must amend the Constitution in order that we can more easily eject such a person from office and even put him in jail.
KV was, of course, referring to Richard Nixon. Our current situation is different in that some of President-Elect Von Clownstick’s known crimes are indeed sexual in nature, which does not appear to prevent him from believing in his own moral and intellectual superiority. (more…)