By Laurie Clancy (auth.)
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Extra resources for The Novels of Vladimir Nabokov
Here not only is the imagery oflight unified with that of chess but also the passage is an ominous figurative foreboding of the eventual collapse of Luzhin. Elsewhere in the novel the same effect is achieved less forcefully by simile: 'sometimes a small picture would trick him, because it looked like a chess problem in the diffuse darkness' (p. 48). With the adult Luzhin, of course, the process is intensified and the images become not only more frequent but also more directly and overtly threatening.
With Franz, the author tends to concentrate on the youth's neurotic preoccupation with the natural processes. In the opening scene, the surface of conventional farewell is penetrated by observations of such phenomena as the 'flecks of sunlight and spittle' (p. I) or the 'unpleasant, empty-stomach smell' of Franz's sister that penetrates his consciousness. Shortly afterwards, on the train, he is horrified by the old man who spits mucus, which carries his memory back to his schoolmates 'eager to impart some spitterish secret' (p.
This attractive novel', and so on (p. 2 It is true that the novel touches on much deeper currents of feeling than King, Queen, Knave and is certainly much more attractive. But the problems seem to me twofold. The first is that while the book has an apparent complexity, much greater and more conspicuous than that of, say, Laughter in the Dark, that quality proves to be very much of the surface only, a matter of display rather than essence. The story itself - of a champion chess player who suffers a nervous breakdown during a tournament, begins to perceive the world solely in chess patterns of a threatening kind, and finally commits suicide - allows for the frequent and easy introduction of metaphors and constructional analogues from chess.
The Novels of Vladimir Nabokov by Laurie Clancy (auth.)