November 21, 2015

"For the more mortal among us, there is cold comfort in the idea that even Nabokov could not coax two entire vocabularies out of reckless passion."

Writes Stacy Schiff in a biography of Vladimir Nabokov's wife Véra. The quote appears in a New Yorker piece by Judith Thurman titled "Silent Partner/What do Nabokov’s letters conceal?" Nabokov and his wife had a long, extremely close relationship, and he wrote many letters to her, praising her in terms that, as Thurman puts it, are "hard to distinguish from self-infatuation ('It’s as if in your soul there is a prepared spot for every one of my thoughts')." But he cheated on her and, at one point, "Nabokov is enjoying torrid sex with his worshipful mistress while lying to his wife about ending the affair," and:
He suffers not a little shame, yet tells Irina he can’t live without her. He even hints that he will leave Véra—given time. And, in letters that might have made a fascinating appendix, he extolls his and Irina’s uncanny compatibility in suspiciously familiar prose. “For the more mortal among us,” Schiff observes, “there is cold comfort in the idea that even Nabokov could not coax two entire vocabularies out of reckless passion.”

8 comments:

rhhardin said...

The shortest path through the thesaurus from words to sex is very long

words libretto lines part persona personality magnetism seductiveness voluptuousness sexuality sex

(when done right, any three in a row have the same meaning, but any four do not. Shortest paths are sometimes of the hot to cold variety, but more often they are story lines).

cubanbob said...

Apparently he needed two wives; one for sex and one for everything else. I suppose even Nabakov couldn't have it all.

Anonymous said...

Still haven't forgiven a professor for making us write a paper on this asshat. Iirc, the professor's wife was pissed off as well. If it were today, I'd formally protest, but those were still Early Days. It was a good paper anyway, as far as it goes.

robother said...

"Unhh, unhh, unhh." "Oh god!" "Yes, yes yes yes yes!" "Ahhhhhh."

We're all pretty linguistically limited when it comes... to coaxing vocabularies out of sexual experience.
(And don't get me started on the muffled expressions of oral.)

sydney said...

Affairs usually do spring from narcissism. It isn't so much that the marriage partner is inadequate, it's that the person having the affair is flattered that YET ANOTHER person finds them desirable. All egoism.

Sebastian said...

So if he had coaxed two "vocabularies" out of reckless passion, that would have been more comforting?

By the way, did N ever describe sex as "torrid"?

buwaya puti said...

Asshat maybe, but a genius.
Strangely I like all his stuff BUT Lolita.
Pnin and Speak,Memory at the top.
Having a mistress is hardly the worst sin conceivable for a man if his sort. One would have to abandon French literature entirely on this point, if it came to it.

Ann Althouse said...

The narcissism tag was for "It’s as if in your soul there is a prepared spot for every one of my thoughts')."