Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Barchester Towers, Bend Sinister, Faerie Queene

I finished Barchester Towers, not really much to add to what I wrote before.  Except that, of all the Victorian novelists I've read, Trollope's sexism is by far the hardest to overlook.  I think it's because he has such a strong authorial voice, and his narrator constantly tells us what's ladylike and what's not.

Anyways, having finished that, I started listening to Nabokov's Bend Sinister.  In retrospect, it's not really a natural choice for listening to.  The narration is very slippery, jumping between 1st and 3rd person without notice, with one long foray into 2nd.  I must admit that I'm still not sure of the identity of the 1st person narrator (not finished the novel yet), although I suspect it is Adam Krug himself.

This novel has obvious political overtones, but they're almost not worth discussing, they're so blatant.  Instead, I think that a major theme of this novel is reflections.  They're a subject we'll see Nabokov return to later, in Pale Fire and (AFAIK) Ada.  Nabokov's title already tells us as much, as the introduction tells us.  In addition, we find police arresting people in pairs; there are two boys who get mixed up; and so on.  I think that some otherwise pointless digressions make sense in this light. 

The Padukgraph, which makes copies of a person's handwriting, takes up an inordinate amount of space in this trim novel.  The otherwise puzzling Hamlet discussion can also be seen in this light -- Fortinbras is seen as a sort of double for Hamlet, but Fortinbras, in this reading, is the real hero of the novel.  Even small oddities make some sense here.  For example, the narrator constantly inserts words and phrases in French, German, Russian (I think that's all of them), immediately followed by a translation into English.  In other novels, Nabokov is certainly not averse to non-English phrases, but he almost never translates them.  I think that the constant translation gives you a feel that you're seeing a refracted reflection -- it's like the original, but not the same.

Is there an ultimate deeper meaning to all the twinning?  I'm not sure yet; I'll have to write more as I finish listening.

Lastly, I'm reading Spenser's Faerie Queene.  Not so much to say about it, except that I love the poetry of it.  It's inventive like Orlando Furioso, but I think it's more poetic (although of course, I've only read Orlando  in translation).

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