‘Mary’, by Vladimir Nabokov

3

March 21, 2011 by Me and My Monkeys

Mary, by Vladimir Nabokov
“The dancers are asleep on the divan.”

Mary is Nabokov’s first novel, so I tried to find evidence of boyish naivety. I was confronted only by my own.

Like N’s protagonist, Ganin, I frequently “felt such a sudden access to sadness”, found myself “quite incapable of renunciation or flight”, and encountered “that aching feeling of loneliness …when someone dear to us surrenders to a daydream in which we have no place”.

As for Vladimir, he just drifts through this daydream – hinting at his own presence – like the host of an English (or Russian) Literature department wine and cheese party. There is, already lurking, the obsessive Humbertian lover who admires “the delicate curve of [Mary’s] nostril”.  And there is also the labyrinth of memory, shadow and simulacra that transform every statement into a question. “Surely memories won’t die when I do”.

The dancers are asleep on the divan?  I won’t elaborate. Just a metaphor for all that has been lost: love, life, opportunity.  And yet the book is not depressing. We are left with reality: “life in all the thrilling beauty of despair and happiness”.

Nabokov writes that “[m]usic transforms everything into a significant and immortal gesture”.  So does He.

Recommended? Yes, and highly. If you like a melancholy ache in your joints.

Out of 10? A solid, and perhaps unlucky, 8.

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3 thoughts on “‘Mary’, by Vladimir Nabokov

  1. cricketmuse says:

    I am impressed by your eclectic tastes and insightful reviews. I have yet to get around to Nabokov–I find myself stuck in Regency England for most of my historical period reading. Thanks for the stop by..
    Blue Skies,
    Cricket Muse

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