Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Nabokov and Pale Fire and deception

Vladimir Nabokov found boys interesting, and there are gay characters in almost all of his 17 novels.

Vladimir came from a ‘liberal’ family which contained a number of ‘gay’ characters.

When Vladimir occasionally used ‘homophobic slurs’ this did not neccessarily mean that he was not fond of young males.

With Nabokov things are not always what they seem.

Some quotes from Nabokov’s ‘Pale Fire’:

"When he was a dark strong lad of thirteen ... he had several dear playmates but none could compete with Oleg, Duke of Rahl. In those days growing boys of high-born families wore on festive occasions ... sleeveless jerseys, white anklesocks with black buckle shoes, and very tight, very short shorts called hotinguens ...

"Both lads were handsome, long-legged specimens of Varangian boyhood... Oleg ... stripped and shiny in the mist of the bath house, his bold virilia...

"Oleg’s last visit, when for the first time the two boys had been allowed to share the same bed, and the tingle of their misbehavior...

"A secret passage... his soft blond locks ...his golden brows ... the downy warmth of that crimson ear ... dark passageways ... stealthy intrusion ... blind pokings ... penetrations ...dusky odor ...

"Oleg walked in front : his shapely buttocks encased in tight indigo cotton moved alertly, and his own erect radiance, rather than his flambeau, seemed to illume with leaps of light the low ceiling and crowding walls. Behind him the young Prince’s electric torch played on the ground and gave a coating of flower to the back of Oleg’s bare thighs... smooth entrance ...

"You’re all chalky behind," said the young Prince ... Both were in a manly state and moaning like doves...

"He inhaled the hair oil of the pretty page who had bent to brush a rose petal off the footstool...

"The King waded into the damp ...its odor, its lacy resilience, and the mixture of soft growth and steep ground...a bare kneed mountain lad like a tawny angel...

"The boy-handsome tousle-haired girlfriend...

"Some of his predecessors, rough alderkings who burned for boys...

"He saw nineteen-year-old Disa ..She had come in male dress, as a Tirolese boy...

"Gordon ... A slender but strong-looking lad of fourteen or fifteen dyed a nectarine hue by the sun. He had nothing on save a leopard-spotted loincloth... The graceful boy wreathed about the loins with ivy...

"The boy wiped his wet hands on his black bathing trunks... The boy striking his flanks clothed in white tennis shorts... The young woodwose had closed his eyes and was stretched out supine on the pool’s marble margin; his Tarzan brief had ben cast aside on the turf..."

~~~

In the 1950s Nabokov wrote Lolita. For six months it was the number one bestseller in America.

Nabokov liked girls, so long as they looked like boys. Lolita was the girl with the ‘puerile hips’, the girl wearing ‘shorts’.

~~~

A quote from Timon of Athens: "The moon's an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun."

~~~

With Nabokov things are not always what they seem.

In Pale Fire, the commentator appears to be Charles Kinbote. But, Nabokov reveals in his diary that the commentator is Prof. Vseslav Botkin, a Russian and an academic. Nabokov was Russian and an academic.

According to Nabokov, in Pale Fire :

"reality is neither the subject nor the object of true art which creates its own special reality having nothing to do with the average ‘reality’ perceived by the communal eye."

Vladimir Nabokov's 1962 novel, Pale Fire, is about things not being as simple as they first appear.

Pale Fire, Kinbote, Zembla, Charles II, and Gradus, may be the elaborate creation of the Russian academic. Are any of us what we appear to be?

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