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Language: English
Creator: Hannah, Samantha
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2013
Publication Date: 2013


Subjects / Keywords: Vladimir Nabokov
Artist and Authorship
Despair and Invitation to Beheading
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theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis explores the role of the artist in Vladimir Nabokov's two novels, Despair and Invitation to a Beheading. In my thesis, I argue that in order for Nabokov's characters to become true artists and free themselves from the novel, they must emancipate themselves from the control of the author and compete with Nabokov for the authorship of their life stories. I specifically examine the two different creative spirits that Nabokov presents in his novels, and how these spirits interact with their external worlds. In Despair, Hermann Karlovich, is a self-proclaimed artistic genius that cannot see the autonomy of others and thus, projects his solipsistic fantasies onto the world around him. In Invitation to a Beheading, Cincinnatus C. must overcome the pressures of the artificial world that imprisons him by trusting the potential of his creativity. Unlike in Despair where Nabokov shows a false artist who incorrectly believes that an "artful" murder of another human being will establish his God-like power over everyone, making him the sole author of his life, in Invitation to a Beheading, Nabokov displays a character who has the ability to transcend into the role of a true artist once he manages to reject the authoritarian world in which he is imprisoned while simultaneously allowing his artistic spirit to come to fruition.
Statement of Responsibility: by Samantha Hannah
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2013
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Wyman, Alina

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Material Information

Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Hannah, Samantha
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2013
Publication Date: 2013


Subjects / Keywords: Vladimir Nabokov
Artist and Authorship
Despair and Invitation to Beheading
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis explores the role of the artist in Vladimir Nabokov's two novels, Despair and Invitation to a Beheading. In my thesis, I argue that in order for Nabokov's characters to become true artists and free themselves from the novel, they must emancipate themselves from the control of the author and compete with Nabokov for the authorship of their life stories. I specifically examine the two different creative spirits that Nabokov presents in his novels, and how these spirits interact with their external worlds. In Despair, Hermann Karlovich, is a self-proclaimed artistic genius that cannot see the autonomy of others and thus, projects his solipsistic fantasies onto the world around him. In Invitation to a Beheading, Cincinnatus C. must overcome the pressures of the artificial world that imprisons him by trusting the potential of his creativity. Unlike in Despair where Nabokov shows a false artist who incorrectly believes that an "artful" murder of another human being will establish his God-like power over everyone, making him the sole author of his life, in Invitation to a Beheading, Nabokov displays a character who has the ability to transcend into the role of a true artist once he manages to reject the authoritarian world in which he is imprisoned while simultaneously allowing his artistic spirit to come to fruition.
Statement of Responsibility: by Samantha Hannah
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2013
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Wyman, Alina

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2013 H24
System ID: NCFE004778:00001

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! AUTHORITY AND AUTHORSHIP: THE PLIGHT OF THE ARTIST IN VLADIMIR NABOKOV'S DESPAIR AND INVITATION TO A BEHEADING BY SAMANTHA HANNAH A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Alina Wyman Sarasota, Florida May, 2013


! ii A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS To the New College faculty, thank you for inspiring, teaching, and encouraging me during my time here at New College. I would especially like to thank my committee for their unwavering support and endurance over my thesis process. To Dr. Alina Wyman for being my amazing Russian language and literature professor for the past three years. I couldn't have asked for a better thesis sponsor. Thank you for your constant attention, diligence, and support which made my thesis experience va luable. To Dr. Miriam Wallace thank you for being an excellent professor and advisor during my New College career, as well as a supportive committee member for my thesis. Your academic advising, positivity and reassurance allowed me to not only make a c omeback after a difficult first year but, to also, make the most out of my academic experience. To Dr. JosŽ Alberto Portugal, for being a fantastic professor and committee member. Though I only had the chance to take one course with you, that course beca me one of the most insightful and rewarding literature classes that I have taken at this college. To Dr. David Schatz, for inspiring me to pursue Russian language and literature. Your phenomenal teachings pushed me to discover my love of literature. To Dr. Maribeth Clark, for providing me with the well needed support that would allow me continue my studies at New College. Your teachings and guidance aided me in the writing process of my thesis. To my wonderful friends who I have come to cherish during my time here at New College. You have provided me with the greatest of memories and helped shape me into the person who I am today.


! iii To Lucia Selena Guatney for being my splendid Writing Resource Center student writing assistant and fellow lover of Vladi mir Vladimirovich Nabokov's works. Lastly, t o my loving and supportive family whose unconditional love and care made all of this possible. I love you all very much and hope to continue making you all proud. You all are my world and my inspiration.


! iv TAB LE OF CONTENTS Page ACKN OWLEDGEMENTS ... i i TABLE O F CONTENTS ..iv A BSTRACT .. v i INTRODUCTION ......1 CHAPTER ONE: FAILING TO TRANSCEND THE ROLE OF CHARACTER THROUGH ART AND CRIMINALITY IN DESPAIR 13 Herman's N arrative Discourse14 Mirrors a nd Replication..19 Herman made Charac ter through Subjection..26 The False Art ist and the God...30 Failure..3 6 CHAPTER TWO: THE ARTIST'S ENTRAPMENT IN THE AUTHORITARIAN UNIVERSE IN INVITATION TO A BEHEADING .44 The Artificial World: The Fantastic, the Theatrical, and the Bureaucratic ..45 The Bureaucrati c Authoritarian World.... .47 The Theatrical Fantastic World....49 The Permeabi lity of the World.56 Opacity and Transparency....60 CHAPTER THREE: THE STRUGGLE TO TRANSCEND: ARTISTIC SUPRESSION AND THE FR UITION OF THE ARTIST63 Suppression of the Artist: Withholding of Information.. ................................63 Treating Cincinnatus as a Child... .64 D evocalization..70 Cincinna tus the Writer.. 7 3 Self S uppressio n of the Artist...77 The Suppression of Narrative Discourse...78


! v Execution and Transgression82 CONCLUSION ... 85 BIBLIOGR APHY .......91


! vi Authority and Authorship: The Plight of the Artist in Vladimir Nabokov's Despair and Invitation to a Beheading Samantha Hannah New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT This thesis explores the role of the artist in Vladimir Nabokov's two novels, Despair and Invitation to a Beheading. In my thesis, I argue that in order for Nabokov's characters to become true artists and free themselves from the novel, they must emancipate themselves from the control of the author and compete with Nabokov for the authorship of their life stori es. I spec ifically examine the two different creative spirits that Nabokov presents in his novels, and how these spirits interact with their external worlds In Despair Hermann Karlovich, is a self proclaimed artistic genius that cannot see the autonomy of others a nd thus, projects his solipsistic fantasies onto the world around him. In Invitation to a Beheading Cincinnatus C. must overcome the pressures of the artificial world that imprisons him by trusti ng the potential of his creativity Unlike in Despair where Nabokov shows a false artist who incorrectly be lieves that an "artful" murder o f another human being will establish his God like power over everyone, making him the sole author of his life, in Invitation to a Beheading Nabokov displays a character who ha s the ability to transcend into the role of a true artist once he manages to reject the authoritarian world in which he is imprisoned while simultaneously allowing his artistic spirit to come to fruition. Dr. Alina Wyman Division of Humanities


! 1 Introduction Throughout literary tradition, there exists a tightly knit relationship between authority and authorship. Though this relationship is often examined and criticized, especially in relation to the strength at which it plays in analytical approaches to a nove l 1 T he connection between the two can be traced down to the etymology of both terms. Authorship can be defined as both "the function of being a writer" and "literary origin" especially in reference to an author (Harper). Authority has many definitions including the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine", right to respect or acceptance of one's word command, thought, etc.; commanding influence ," and mastery in execution or performance, as of a work of art or literature or a piece of music" ( ). Both words have an e tymological link to the Russian term !"#$% or in English author meaning "a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work" and "the maker of anything; creator; originator" ( ), which originates from the Latin te rm auctor meaning author, originator, creator, instigator and enl arger, founder, master, leader,' literally one who causes to grow,'" (Harper). In other words, both authority and authorship find their origin in the term author. The role of an author is to create and become "parent" to one's creation. He or she becomes the master of his or her work and gains the power of commanding influence over his or her creation and characters. The manner in which an author displays his or her artistic control !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In his essay "The Death of the Author Roland Barthe's highlights the idea of the author as the father and nurturer of the novel: The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after. The Author is thought to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecedence to hi s work as a father to his child" (Barthes 1324)


! 2 differs from writer to writer. In the case of Vladimir Nabokov, not only d oes he exhibit strict artistic control as an author, but authorship and authority are important themes in his works. Vladimir Nabokov grew up in a prominent and well to do Russian family in St. Petersburg. He and his family were forced to flee Russia aft er the Bolshevik Revolution and never returned to their homeland again. After graduating from Cambridge, Nabokov settled in Berlin, where he wrote his nine Russian novels; Mary ( !"#$%&'"), King, Queen, Knave ( ()*)+&, ,"-", ."+$/), The Luzhin Defense also k nown as The Defense ( 0"12/" 3452%" ), The Eye ( 6)7+8,"/"9 ), Glory ( :),.27 ), Camera Obscura also known as Laughter in the Dark ( ("-$*" ;<='4*" ), Despair ( ;/>"8%2$ ) Invitation to a Beheading ( :*27+"#$%2$ %" '"?%& ), and The Gift ( @"* ). Nabokov would eventually be driven out of Germany and later France by the advancing Nazi Reich. He fled to America where he began writing in English, eventually producing his most famous novels Lolita and Pale Fire He later retired and moved with his w ife Vera to Montreux, Switzerland where he would live out the rest of his life in private. Nabokov's tight stylistic control extends to his self image in the public eye. In the short documentary How Do You Solve a Problem like Lolita? the host Stephen S mith discusses Nabokov's enigmatic life style in his later life as well as the staged appearances he and his wife periodically made before the public, Just like his books, Nabokov wasn't easy to get to the bottom of He could appear aloof, haughtyHe liv ed with his wife Vera. They were intense, interior, and private. Only occasionally opening doors to let themselves be filmed in


! 3 staged photo opportunitiesNabokov's years in Montreux are the best documented, but in some ways the least revealing too. What h e presented to the world, when he chose to appear before it at all, that is, was a mask that deliberately concealed his true feelings ( How Do You Solve a Problem like Lolita? ) In this scene that accompanies the voiceover, the staged footage shown is that of Nabokov and Vera happily playing chess against one another, on occasion they flash a pleasant smile at the camera. All of which seems to be covering up a much deeper, private, and enigmatic relationship and life style. Nabokov's interviews, most of whic h took place in this later time period, also display a strict, planned performance on Nabokov's part. In his essay "Nabokov's life and art," Zoran Kuzmanovich comments on Nabokov's "cagey self image," focusing primarily on Nabokov's efforts to control the interview process. Referring to an interview with Nocholas Garnham conducted on September 3, 1968 for the BBC, Kuzmanovich discusses Nabokov's handling of the interview, As usual, Nabokov had had the list of questions sent to him and then responded to t he questions in writing, insisting on his complete answers being quotedliterary chit chat, discussions of influence, and the inevitable handicapping of literary reputations often turned into a lesson, usually a lesson on reading Nabokov. He had sacrificed spontaneity and simultaneity, distancing himself from his interlocutors while making sure that what he said was remembered and that those quotable bits moreover were linked by some undercurrents of internal logic across a number of topics and occasions. ( Kuzmanovich 13)


! 4 After listening to Nabokov's interview with James Mossman in 1969, I find that his responses sound brilliant in content, with almost every answer capable of standing alone, as an aphorism. For example, JM: Have you ever experienced halluci nations, or heard voices, or seen things? And if so, have these visions been illuminating? VN: I don't know about the word "illuminating," but it is quite true that w hen about to fall aslee p after a good deal of writing and readingwhen my eyes are tired and excited, I often enjoy, if that is the right word, what some drug addicts experience a c ontinuous series of extraordinaril y bright, fluidly changing pictures. Their type is different nightly, but on a given night it remains the same: one night it may be a banal kaleidoscope of endlessly recombined and reshaped stained window designs; next time comes a subhuman or superhuman face with a formidably growing blue eye; or and this is the most striking type I see in realistic detail a long dead friend slowly turning toward s me and melting into another remembered figure against the black velvet of my eyelids' inner side. (Nabokov, Interview by James Mossman ") Here, Nabokov demonstrates his artistic ability of creating very vivid and engaging visual ima ges. Despite occasional brief pauses, Nabokov's description lacks the spontaneity of a genuine, unprepared response. Nabokov's prosaic and scripted speech even infiltrates his description of the joys and frustrations associated with the writing process, JM: Is writing your novels pleasure or drudgery?


! 5 VN: Pleasure and agony while composing the book in my mind; harrowing irritation when struggling with my tools and viscera the pencil that needs resharpening, the card that has to be rewritten, the bladde r that has to be drained, the word that I always misspell and always have to look up. Then the labor of reading the typescript prepared by a secretary, the correction of my major mistakes and her minor ones, transferring corrections to other copies, mispla cing pages, trying to remember something that had to be crossed out or inserted. Repeating the process when proofreading. Unpacking the radiant, beautiful, plump advance copy, opening it and discovering a stupid oversight committed by me, allowed by me t o survive. After a month or so, I get used to the book's final stage, to its having been weaned from my brain. I now regard it with a kind of amused tenderness as a man regards not his son, but the young wife of his son. This description feels lifted up f rom the speech of one of Nabokov's artist characters in one of his novels. The lengthy exhibition and meticulous examination of one's work only to find a foolish flaw in its final form occurs not only for Nabokov, but also for his character Hermann in Desp air which I will discuss briefly here shortly and in depth in Chapter One. Nabokov's answers are extremely meticulous; hesitant, but in the sense of measured pacing and word usage; and overall fluid. Nabokov's voice adapts and hastens to match the mood he chooses to express. As he delivers the quotation above, for example, Nabokov both slowly enunciates the words that express begrudging activities while simultaneously speeding his flow into the next listed activity, as if to bombard and weigh down the list ener. Nabokov's controlled descriptions, even in speech, activate all of the listener's senses, an ability that may be attributed to his synesthesia. Nabokov's


! 6 readers often critiqued both his composure and prosaic style. Kuzmanovich discusses two of Nabo kov's critics, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates, who gave two very opposing commentaries on Nabokov's composure in his work, John Updike, an astute reader of Nabokov, found the whole of Nabokov's work not only composed but in fact so composed as to give "the happy impression of an uvre of a continuous task carried forward" (Updike 318 19, Qtd. in Kuzmanovich 13)No mean stylist himself, Updike concluded that Nabokov writes ecstatic prose whose "every corner rewards inspection." By using the term ecstasy Updike locates Nabokov's prose outside of Nabokov. Moving in the opposite direction, Joyce Carol Oates complains that Nabokov's prose is a habit through which "Nabokov empties the universe of everything except Nabokov"(Oates 37, Qtd. in Kuzmanovich 13). Where Updike finds "the autobiographical elementscunningly rearranged and transformed by a fictional design," Oates complains that a Nabokov filled universe is "only sterile, monomaniacal, deadening to retain for very long in one's imagination" (Kuzmanovi ch 13). Nabokov's style, demands a certain specific reading of which Updike, as Nabokov's kindred spirit, may be more capable. Kuzamanovich in discussing Updike's opinion being the more meaningful of the two, states that "Updike's evaluation should be take n more seriously if for no other reason than Nabokov's high opinion of Updike's own writing, a hint that Updike was one of the readers Nabokov, for all his professed indifference to readers, cultivated as an audience: I write mainly for artists, fellow ar tist


! 7 and follow artists'" (13 14). Not only would Nabokov want a re reader, but also the creative force that is an artist as his ideal reader. Nabokov writes for the artist and also makes the artist the central character in his novels. Thus, Nabokov's con sciousness of the artist extends outside and inside his literary frame. The artist becomes the dominant figure of Nabokov's works. Yet, the relationship in which Nabokov has with his artist character becomes complicated from novel to novel even as the basi c plot situation remains the same. In his essay "Nabokov as storyteller," Brian Boyd characterizes Nabokov's character type and the relationship between Nabokov and his characters. Boyd nicely summarizes the role of character in Nabokov's novels, Nabokov d rives stories by means of character rather than plot. But his stories are unique in their intense focus on one character. Nabokov respects individual experience as primary, as all that any of us can know from the inside. Each of his novels highlights the c entrality and isolation of the consciousness of the hero. Usually there will be a marked disparity between the individual and his (it is almost without exception his ) environment. The environment itselfwill be superbly evoked, but the hero will have a tra gic or comic or tragic comic disjunction from it. He will usually be driven by an obsession love, chess, art, murder, a real or imagined lost homeland which gives an urgency to the story and an edge to the irony of the disjunction between the individua l and his world. (Boyd 32 33)


! 8 The gap between the character and his environment often creates the conflict in Nabokov's novels. There is a significant disparity between the internal world and the external world of the character, which I will discuss in mor e detail in my examination of Despair and Invitation to a Beheading. Boyd then continues to briefly discuss Nabokov's style while explaining the relationship that exists between the author and his characters, [Nabokov] does not impose technical innovations for their own sake, but nor will he accept a convention like first or third person narration simply because it exists as a convention. When one of his first person narrators tells his own story, Nabokov will always supply him with a motive, a means, an o ccasion, and an audience, and the relationship between the telling and the tale will transform both. As his uvre expands he resorts increasingly rarely to third person narration, but if he does he will question or complicate it according to the needs or o pportunities of the story. (33) Boyd's characterization of the relationship validates the notion of tremendous authorial control exhibited by Nabokov over his characters. Many of Nabokov's characters are narrators of their tales and consider themselves artists. In Despair, which is told by the first person narrator and protagonist Hermann, Hermann is provided with a distorted psyche (a motive, a means, and an occasion to commit murder), as well as the desire to convey his art and his story to an audience. When the narrative is given from the third person perspective, Nabokov makes sure to complicate this perspective. In Invitation to a Beheading a power struggle develops between the protagonist Cincinnatus C., the world that confines him, and the unknown omniscient narrator. As Cincinnatu s develops into an


! 9 artist he acquires some control over the narrative of Invitation and gains a voice of his own that competes with that of the novel's third person narrator. Boyd emphasizes the power of the author in Nabokov's prose: [Nabokov] constructs his stories to reflect the unique, unpredictable rhythm of an individual character. He also shapes his stories so that each poses an overarching problem where the force of characters' moves and countermoves often seems less significant than their combinin g into an artfully playful and puzzling authorial design. (46) In other words, when it comes to Nabokov's characters, though they are individuals with their own stories, Nabokov, the arch narrator, portrays and manipulates their narrative efforts. Moving on from his relationship to his characters, Nabokov's most prominent display of authorial control appears in his distinct style. One display of this overriding authority embedded in the novel, can be seen in Nabokov's inclusion of common themes and even h is own name. In the essay "Dimming the Bliss of Narcissus," Julian Connolly demonstrates how in both the English and, more evidently in the Russian version of Despair Nabokov implants "author watermarks" into the Hermann's narrative. Alexander Dolinin sum s up the two "watermarks" embedded in the Russian version of Despair As Connolly and several other scholars have shown, in the original version these "watermarks" include two cases when the name and pseudonym of Nabokov Sirin


! 10 is encoded into the very texture of Hermann's narration: "malinovoi siren'iu v naboko i v aze" [-"+2%).)9 &'%() &A )!*$+ )9 ."?$] (meaning: ) and "svernuv s bul'vara na bokov uiu ulitsu" [6.$*%4. )! *$+ ).4A 4+2B4] (meaning: ). There are many more similar plays upon "siren" and "sir enevyi" [ =2*$%$.C9 ] (lilac) as well as "bok" [ <)' ] (side) throughout the text; in addition, Nabokov's pen name is anagrammatized in a number of marked places Nabokov uses the same technique for such key words of the novel as "palka" [ D"+'" ] (stick), "avto r" [ "./)* ] (author), and "son" [ =)% ] (dream) whose phonic "doubles" and anagrams remain unnoticed by the narrator. (Dolinin) The fact that Nabokov's voice infiltrates Hermann's discourse and manages to remain unnoticed by the character (and inattentive re ader), shows Nabokov's dominant presence in the narrative realm. As I will discuss in Chapter one this presence becomes especially domineering and problematic in relation to Hermann who is not willing to share his authorial power with anyone else. Anoth er important aspect of Nabokov's style is his mastery of deception and limitation of knowledge for both his characters and his reader. Boyd explains this ability briefly as it pertains to Nabokov as the storyteller, Nabokov pays especially close attention to what both his characters and his readers can know at a particular point in the story. He has a superb command of anticipation and recapitulation so central to the traditional impetus and impact of the story, and heightened in his work by the hero's of ten obsessive quest after a goal. (Boyd 33 34)


! 11 In Despair and even more so in Invitation to a Beheading this act of limiting the knowledge of the reader and the protagonist becomes an indication of authority. In his essay "The Honesty of Nabokovian Decep tion," William W. Rowe discusses the highly deceptive quality of Nabokov's writing. He categorizes several techniques which he terms "Nabokovian honest Deception" (Rowe 171) For this introduction, I will demonstrate the first two techniques and Rowe's use of Despair to exemplify them. The first technique he calls "easily unnoticed precision" and describes as Nabokov's use of vivid detail which "promotes the reader's false impression. It is almost as if the author uses his reader's own perceptiveness agains t him (Rowe 171)". Rowe uses an example from Despair in which Hermann returns to his hotel room and he reports, discovering his double Felix there, "amid mercurial shadows and framed in frizzly bronze, Felix awaiting [him]" ( Despair 14). Rowe explains that "since this is not Felix'the reader may feel unfairly deceived when he discovers that Hermann is consulting a mirror. Yet the mirror is clearly suggested, prior to the word Felix,' by the phrase framed in frizzly bronze.' Mercurial' also serves as a n easily unnoticed hint at the truth" (Rowe 172). These moments where Nabokov uses the reader's first impression against him demonstrates Nabokov's strength in manipulating the language to create the effect of "honest deception". Rowe calls the second tec hnique "premature key information": "the reader is given information which proves crucial only much later (Rowe 174)". Rowe once again explains this technique on the level of diction and uses Hermann's dissociative episode as an example. He explains that r eaders will at first believe that Hermann is projecting himself into the role of the spectator as he makes love. However, after a close


! 12 examination of Hermann's diction, the reader can determine that Hermann is really just imagining his performance. Naboko v's relationship with his reader is often described as that between a chess problemist and the solver of the proposed chess problem. In this relationship, Nabokov, once again, gains the authorial position of creator, whereas the reader plays a less active, predetermined role.. Thus, as we have seen, Vladimir Nabokov exerts strict control over his characters and his reader. I argue that, in order to become true artists, Nabokov's characters need to, at least partly, free themselves from that control and com pete with Nabokov for the authorship of their life stories. In Despair Hermann Karlovich, is a "narcissistic figure who aggressively projects his solipsistic fantasies onto the world around him" (Connolly 5). However, when the world resists his "dictorial approach," his delusions become rejected "by a reality that is more independent and autonomous than he conceives" (Connolly 5). In Invitation to a Beheading Cincinnatus C. must overcome the pressures of the artificial world that imprisons him by trusting the potential of his creative prowess. Whereas in Despair, Nabokov shows a false artist who incorrectly be lieves that an "artful" murder of another h u man being will establish his God like power over everyone, making him the sole author of his life, in Invitation to a Beheading Nabokov displays a character who has the ability to transcend into the role of a true artist once he manages to reject the authoritarian world in which he is imprisoned while simultaneously allowing his creative spirit to come to fruition.


! 13 Chapter One: Failing to Transcend the Role of Character through Art and Criminality in Despair Both crime and art challenge societal and structural limitations, whether those actions be deemed destructive to social welfare, or considered an aesthetic work that distinguishes its creator from society. Through crime or art, one may find refuge in one's creation or destruction, thus escaping social confinement. Thus, both crime and art may offer a means of transcending one's role as assigned by a higher, often societal, power. However, whereas art acts as a true means by which one may escape hi s or her subservient role, murder as Vladimir Nabokov demonstrates in Despair is a misguided and delusional m eans of expression that leads not only to moral but also aesthetic failure. In Despair Nabokov depicts a self proclaimed artist who is blinded by his solipsism. To prove himself a great artist and in a quest for immortality, this false artist ignores the autonomy of others and imposes his menacin g fantasies onto them The novel's protagonist, Hermann Karlovich, is a failing business owner n a failing marriage Despite Hermann's insistence that his wife Lydia is slavishly devoted to him, she appears to have a romantic relationship with her cousin Ardalion, who m Hermann describes as an awful artist. While on a business trip in Prague Hermann stumbles upon a homeless man named Felix who m he believes to be his double. Although Felix appears to be unaware of the resemblance, Hermann insists upon thei r likeness and, shortly after their second meeting, proposes a plan which will supposedly allow the two of them to benefit from their likeness. However, this plan is merely a disguise for Hermann to escape his poor financial situation by murdering his do uble and collectin g the insurance money. T hroughout the narrative, Hermann tries to explain


! 14 his criminal act as a means of artistic expression rather than a devious means to acquire money. In the end, his plan fails to receive the artistic recognition whi ch Hermann desired. As it turns out, the resemblance between Hermann and Felix does not exist. The murder is not perfect As a result, Hermann, about to be captured by the police in a small hotel room in France, where he had been hiding, tries to find a way to escape. In the end, Hermann, who has been retrospectively writing about the murder, makes one final attempt to escape while his narrative degenerates into a diary mode, the last entry being on April 1st. Hermann sees himself as the only genuine art ist in a world of fools and desires to define himself as an artist by imposing upon the life of others. Despite his obvious failure to define himself as an artist through his murder which he views as a work of art, Hermann attempts to transgress the role of character and enter the go d like position of the artist. Hermann's Narrative Discourse The story is told f rom Hermann's retroactive point of view. He is the first person narrator and the majority of his narrative shows him in the process of writing. Writing is not only a means by which Hermann recounts the events of his life but is also his second attempt to become an artist after the failure of his first attempt the insufficiently artful murder of Felix For this discussion, I shall be focusing on the way Hermann tries and fails to escape his role as a character through his narrative discourse. Though Hermann may not explicitly realize it, he does, at least, suspect that he is a character in somebody else's script. As I will discuss later in my analysis, Hermann reveals his suspicion of his subjection while vigorously denying the existence of God. Hermann's initial narrative discourse demonstr ates his attempts to transgress his position as merely a character of a


! 15 novel by infiltrating the realm of author and spectator. The novel begins with a first person narration in which the narrator, Hermann, addresses the process of writing and his confide nce in his ability to write, "If I were not perfectly sure of my power to write and of my marvelous ability to express ideas with the utmost grace and vividnessSo, more or less, I had thought of beginning my tale" (Nabokov Despair 3). Hermann opens by de scribing his ability to write a s a great artistic talent while simultaneously drawing attention to the process of writing. In this confident self declaration of artistic genius, the narrator already contradicts his actual writing, which here is shown to be incomplete and revealing of the writing process. This contradictio n is later made more apparent as Hermann's clutters his narrative with digressions a nd nervously addresses the reader time and again This tempo ral dislocation and digressions reveals the s hattered state of Hermann's mind and his insecurity as a writer. Not only has Hermann failed at becoming an artist in his first attempt to demonstrate his talent via the unusual "genre" of murder, but one instantly becomes aware of Hermann's disco mfort with the task of writing because his inconsistent narrative style. Hermann's narrative opening, a series of interrupted departures, feels like a trip through a distorted mind rather than a proper and coherent start to a manuscript. Hermann's narrative discourse becomes a means by which he attempts to gain and exercise authority. Hermann straightaway expresses a need to gain complete control over every aspect of his narration as well as the external world As mentioned earlier, Herman n has a self absorbed, solipsistic view of the world and as a result, does not respect the autonomy of other s He chooses to subsume the other in his artistic endeavors, as a way of gaining control over them. The reader (also known as the spectator, and l ater


! 16 the critic) becomes an external other that Hermann seeks to exert authority over. In the beginning of his narration, when he asserts confidence in his writing ability, Hermann draws immediate attention to the presence of the reader, Further, I should have drawn the reader's attention to the fact that had I lacked that power, that ability, et cetera, not only should I have refrained from describing certain recent events, but there would have been nothing to describe, for, gentle reader, nothing at all would have happened. ( Despair 3) Even when Hermann undermines our confidence in his writing ability by a expressing a likely, but missed opport unity (made apparent by the phrase should have" ), Hermann still ascribes to himself complete agency in his dire cting of the reader. This relationship can be seen as Hermann playing a game with the reader in which he is extremely vague with the information he provides and in his playing grammatical gymnastics. Hermann, though showing a struggle in his ability to tak e control of his written creation, manages to maintain a syntactical control over his narration by directing the reader's attention to a supposed missed opportunity: the construction "should have" seems to express a missed opportunity, but with it, Hermann recaptures the supposed missed opportunity of capturing the reader's attention. In other words, when Hermann says, "I should have drawn the reader's attention," he in fact, captures the reader's attention. This effort to direct the reader proves to be an other attempt of Hermann's to transcend his role as character of the text. He believes that he is succeeding at influencing his audience, but, as I will discuss later, he is merely failing to understand the amount of authority he has as a character in comp arison to an author.


! 17 Not only does Hermann express control over the reader by acting as their guide to his narrative and director of their actions, but he also expresses a need to separate himself from his role as character of the novel by becoming a spec tator, and later a reader, of his own work. When referring to his sexual endeavors with his wife, Hermann describes a certain thrill with becoming a separate entity from himself, "I am referring to a well known kind of dissociation'The sensation of being in two places at once gave me an extraordinary kick" (27). This act of separation grows progressively more pleasurable for Hermann as he becomes a more distant being from himself, The dissociation had now reached its perfect phase. I sat in the armchair half a dozen paces away from the bed upon which Lydia had been properly placed and distributed. From my magical point of vantage I watched the ripples running and plunging along my muscular backI could see while that big back of mine had not yet slid off to prop up again its panting front half in the audience. The next phase came when I realized that the greater the interval between my two selves the more I was ecstasied; therefore I used to sit every night a few inches farther from the bed, and soon the back legs of my chair reached the threshold of the open door. Eventually I found myself sitting in the parlor while making love in the bedroom. (27 28) The source of Hermann's ecstasy in this scene is none other than Hermann himself, for he has completely objectified his wife, "Lydia had been properly placed and distributed," and both versions of Hermann embody the force of action in the scene, making his spectator self, and his actor self, take complete centrality of the moment in all its pleasure. Howeve r, more important to this argument than Hermann's narcissistic


! 18 characteristics, is Hermann's desire to remove himself even more from his role as character, It was not enough. I longed to discover some means to remove myself at least a hundred yards from t he lighted stage where I performed; I longed to contemplate that bedroom scene from some remote upper gallery in a blue mist under the swimming allegories of the starry vault; to watch a small but distant very active couple through opera glasses, field gla sses, a tremendous telescope, or optical instrument of yet unknown power that would grow larger in proportion to my increasing rapture. (28) In this description, Hermann's discourse turns to that of theater, in which, there is a clear distinction, between the audience and the actors. In his discourse, Hermann transforms this perceived moment in which he makes love to his wife, into the false world of the stage in order to further split and distance himself. Hermann splits himself into the actor and the spec tator. As a spectator Hermann expresses a longing "to contemplate that bedroom scene from some remote upper gallery" (28). By alluding to a remote upper gallery, Hermann expresses a desire to be in a physically higher place in which he can watch down upon the characters. His position as a spectator resembles that of a being that has transcended the novel's boundaries. He wants to be above the world of the stage, of the reality in which he exists, and even above the audience. He has addressed that he wants to be in a "remote upper gallery," which not only means that he chooses to be a part of a higher social standing th a n both the other spectators and the actors, but also that he is alone in this elevated status. The term remote echoes the line from the Push kin poem, "to a remote abode of work and pure delight" (xiv), included in the forward of the


! 19 novel, and which later is misquoted by Hermann, but I will address that in more detail in the second section of my analysis. As a result of his playing the chara cter, the author, and the spectator Hermann' s control over his narrative begins to weaken and eventually collapses at the end of the novel. There are several reasons I attribute to the collapse of Hermann's control, many of which will be addressed in the discussion of Hermann's failure, but one of the central reasons behind the decomposing of his narrative and of his pow er is his recognition of his lack of control over his reality. Mirrors and Replication The role of mirrors, mirroring, and replication are not just hauntings in Hermann's world, but, also a significant part in Hermann's definition of true art. Upon their first mention, mirrors prove to be a disturbing and threatening object in Hermann's eyes, Reminding me of the face my wife makesevery time she catches sight of herself in the mirror. Now that is a word I loathe, the ghastly thing!...the mere mention of i t has just given me a nasty shock, broken the flow of my story (please imagine what should follow here the history of mirrors: then, too, there are crooked ones, monsters among mirrorsa crooked mirror strips its man or starts to squash him, and lo! There is produced a man bull, a man toad, under the pressure of countless glass atmospheres; or else, one is pulled out like dough and then torn in two. Enough let us go on. (20 21) Not only does the word mirror interrupt Hermann's discourse, leading him on a t angent on his distaste for them, but the object is give n agency over the subject, that is, over


! 20 Hermann. The fun house mirror which Hermann describes is able to "strip," "squash," produce and separate the man whom it molds in its reflection. Even though H ermann desires to split himself into two beings, as mentioned earlier, he cannot accept anyone or anything other than himself to be the agent of that dissociation. Not only is the mirror able to recreate a man, but its creation is that of a god as emphasiz ed by the biblical expression "lo!" Hermann sees the ability for a mirror to reshape and recreate a man as a monstrous act because he cannot accept another agent authoring him. The intensity of the threat that the mirror presents to Hermann emanates in hi s reaction to the word. The word mirror, constantly interrupts the flow of his narration and causes him to respond in fury, Enough, it is not all so simple as you seem to think, you swine, you! Oh, yes, I am going to curse at you, none can forbid me to c urse. And not to have a looking glass in my room that is also my right! True, even if in the event of being confronted by one (bosh, what have I to fear?) it would reflect a bearded strangerI am disguised so perfectly, as to be invisible to my own selfTh ere is nothing to fear. Silly superstition! See here, I am going to write that word again. Mirror. Mirror. Well has anything happened? Mirror, mirror, mirror. As many times as you like I fear nothing. (21) This section is the second interruption of Hermann 's narrative caused by the term mirror, which occurs immediately after Hermann attempts to recover from the first interruption. The mirror's god like abilities threaten Hermann's sense of control. In response to this threat, Hermann desperately attempts to regain power through three methods: 1) by making his reader inferior, 2) by becoming invulnerable to the mirror's power by hiding


! 21 his image, 3) by making the term mirror powerless. The first method pertains to how Hermann refers to his reader: he directly and condesce ndingly addresses his reader as "you swine." By using a demeaning term, and, in this case, a term related to an animal, Hermann elevates himself by insulting and dehumanizing the reader. Hermann tries to solidify this power over the reader by claiming to have the ability to curse the reader. By claiming to have the ability to curse, Hermann tries to make himself into a powerful agent in the controlling of the reader's fate. Hermann's second method to avoid the power of the mirror is by disguisi ng his appearance by growing out his beard. This method provides Hermann with a false sense of security through being unrecognizable and gives him back a sense of control: he, again, becomes the direct source of his change, thus reclaiming authority over t he mirror which, in a sense, just remains an indirect cause of the change (meaning the mirror and specifically Hermann's fearful reaction to the mirror, causes Hermann to change his appearance). The third method Hermann uses to gain back control is an atte mpt to remove power from the word mirror This attempt again provides Hermann with a false sense of security; that of which one receives by performing a superstitious ritual to prevent a fear from materializing. In trying to make the word mirror seem ins ignificant through repetition, Hermann fails to remove the ability that the term has in the disruption of his narrative, let alone the power of the mirror to portray and reconstruct man. The idea of being replicated through another agent continues to be problematic to Hermann. Ardalion's painting, which Hermann refers to with haunting disgust, once again shows the threat of another creative agent making Hermann into a character. Hermann cannot see Ardalion as an artist, because he refuses to recognize the replication


! 22 of himself through another artist god. Ardalion also shows t hat Hermann does not contain the creative vision of an artist: After hearing Hermann talk about people's resemblances, Ardalion comments, "You forget, my good man, that what the artis t perceives is, primarily, the difference between things. It is the vulgar who note their resemblance" (41). In her essay "Despair and the Lust for Immortality Claire Rosenfield remarks that Hermann is "only concerned with surfaces" (Rosenfield 70), and sees Ardalion as an inferior artist because Ardalion believes that "every face is unique" ( Despair 40 ). However, what Hermann fails to recognize is his own nearsightedness when it comes to looking beyond surfaces. Rosenfield explains that "Hermann's obtuseness is measured by his own failure to plumb the depths of other men's lives, by his concentration on surface reality" (Rosenfield 78). In other words, Hermann cannot see others as autonomous beings that have depth to them. He has a solipsistic perception of the world and is, thus, unable to look beyond the surface of another and into their soul. Ardalion, though not a great artist, is able to capture differences between individuals in his paintings. Yet, to Hermann, Ardalion 's recreation of him cannot compare to the "flawlessly pure image of [his] corpse" ( Despair 15) which he subsumes in Felix. However, as Julian W. Connolly points out in his essay "The Major Russian Novel s," this similarity that Hermann descries in Felix to o becomes problematic if we examine Hermann's history for drawing resemblances that turn out to be only in his mind and not in the world around him, At one point he enters a tobacconist's shop and sees one of Ardalion's still life pictures: a tobacco pipe a green cloth, and two roses.' When the clerk tells him that it was painted by her niece, he exclaim s to himself: Well, I'm damned!...or had I not seen something very similar, if not identical among Ardalion's


! 23 pictures?' When he finally has the chance t o check this resemblance, though, he discovers that the picture Ardalion had painted was not quite two roses and not quite a pipe, but a couple of large peaches and an ashtray.' In other words, there was not very much similarity after all. (Connolly. "The Major Russian Novels" 137) This scene reveals the flaws in Hermann's perception which add to his failure as an artist. As Connolly nicely states, "Ardalion's assertion that a genuine artist perceives the difference' between things points to a central fla w in Hermann's claim to artistic genius. Unlike an accomplished artist, Hermann is inattentive to details to all those minute characteristics that lend individuality and uniqueness to people and things" (Connolly 137). In other words, Hermann's inability to see differences can be attributed to his solipsistic mindset, and this quality prevents him from being an artistic genius. Threatened by Ardalion's assertion, Hermann reacts similarly, as he did when threatened by the mirror: he tries to gain control by calling Ardalion a fool and other variations of the term, thus belittling Ardalion and seemingly regaining his agency Mirroring becomes a more complicated issue in Hermann's narration: Hermann desires to create a self replica and thus insists on his r esemblance to Felix. But, what Hermann fails to realize is that replication does not equate to artistic originality. As he is walking in the park with Lydia, Hermann becomes enchanted with the reflection of the autumn scene, Below, on the still surface of the water, we admired the exact replica (ignoring the model, of course) of the park's autumn tapestry of many hued foliage, the glassy


! 24 blue of the sky, the dark outlines of the parapet and of our inclined faces. When a slow leaf fell, there would flutter up to meet it, out of the water's shadowy depths, its unavoidable double. Their meeting was soundless. The leaf came twirling down, and twirling up there would rise towards it, eagerly, its exact, beautiful, lethal reflection. I could not tear my gaze away from those inevitable meetings. ( Despair 62) Hermann's enchantment with the inevitable meeting between replica and original, and his emphasis on the beauty of the replica, echo back to Hermann's en chantment when he first stumbled upon Felix, "Let me repea t incredible! I was gazing at a marvel, and its perfection, its lack of cause and object filled me with a strange awe" (9). This moment at the park metaphorically acts as a reflection of how Hermann imposes his fantasy of having a double onto Felix. It als o reflects the future of their relationship in which Hermann will destroy his replica. Though it is not blatantly mentioned in this description, by attributing the word lethal to the reflection, Hermann implies the phenomenon of when the leaf meets its ref lection in the water: the physical touch of the leaf to the water will leave a ripple o n the water 's surface, causing a momentary destruction of the replicated scene. In the unavoidable meeting of doubles, the original that created the replica, will inevit ably destroy the replicated self. However, the water, which acts as the agent of replication, does not bother Hermann in the same sense in which the mirror did. To Hermann, destruction of the replica is nearly as powerful, if not just as powerful, as the a ct of creation. Water and a mirror differ in their physical properties. Water, being a liquid reflector, can be disrupted by the touch of a physical object, this physical object being the original object. This touch, an agent of the original, can destro y the replicated


! 25 image, whereas a mirror, being a solid reflector, does not allow for the destruction of the reflection. One could break the mirror into pieces, but that would only cause for smaller and often distorted replications of the original in great er quantity. Thus, Hermann is able to admire the reflection of the scene, because he can witness the replication, the meeting of the replica and the original, and the destruction of the replica Hermann's admiration and fascination with the replicated sce ne, and in particular, his awe at the meeting of the two worlds, ignites his artistic drive to create and destroy his own replication. Hermann begins by quoting, in lackadaisical fashion, Pushkin's poem Tis time, my dear, tis time which Nabokov includes in the forward to the novel. Hermann manages to both butcher the poem by tapping bits and pieces of lines between parts of idle conversation, and to misquote the final line of the poem, "Barely did we find ourselves alone than with blunt obstinacy I turned the conversation towards the abode of pure delight' as that Pushkin poem has it" (63). The final line of the poem, "To a remote abode of work and pure delight" (xiv), includes the terms remote and work which Hermann leaves out. In Pushkin's poe m, the final line expresses his desire to escape to a world of creative freedom within himself. By leaving out the two terms and twisting the replication, Hermann's version destroys the meaning expressed by Pushkin in the original poem. Hermann doesn't tru ly desire to escape to the world of creative freedom, but rather desires to reap only the benefits of being the creator. This desire contributes to Hermann's failure in transitioning from character to artist in that Hermann's initial desires are that of gr eed and ambition rather than of artistic fruition.


! 26 Hermann made Character through Subjection Subjection, in Despair can be traced in the word "fool" and the many replications of this term in the form of synonyms. As mentioned earlier when Hermann feels threatened, he aims to cement his control by referring to the threatening object as a fool, thus subjecting them to his definition. This subjection expands beyond the fear of threat, and becomes one of the main strategies for Hermann t o try to transgress his character status. When Hermann first finds Felix he does not describe him in the terms of a human, but he refers to him as an object, "Let me repeat incredible! I was gazing at a marvel, and its perfection, its lack of cause and obj ect filled me with a strange awe. But perhaps already then, while I gazed, my reason had begun to probe the perfection, to search for the cause, to guess the object" (9). By objectifying Felix, just as he objectifies Lydia as he makes love to her, Hermann asserts his own superiority, agency, and centrality. To Hermann, in this objectified dead sleeping state, Felix has no agency, and Hermann can project onto him his creative designs. However, this superiority becomes compromised when Felix awakens, and Herm ann realizes that Felix's expressions mar their resemblance, And what is death, if not a face at peace its artistic perfection? Life only marred my double; thus a breeze dims the bliss of Narcissus; thus, in the painter's absence, there comes his pupil an d by the superfluous flush of unbidden tints disfigures the portrait painted by the master. (15) The ex pression of life not only weakens the resemblance between Hermann and Felix, but also undermines Hermann's insistence on the resemblance between Felix a nd himself.


! 27 Hermann also is confronted with Felix's autonomy: He is not merely an object onto which Hermann can impose his fantasies Upon recognizing Felix's autonomy, Hermann scurries to find a new way to control Felix. Hermann turns to defining Felix as the fool which he continues to do as long as Felix lives in the narrative. The term fool has several meanings: first, the term refers to a person described as stupid or ridiculous; second, it refers to a court jester who is kept by a king for amusement purposes; third, it refers to one who is being deceived into acting in a silly manner; fourth, the term refers to one who happily indulges in enthusiasm; and fifth, the term refers to a person who is weak minded ( ). Hermann often assumes an intellectually higher standing than Felix, and considers Felix to be an imbecile. Hermann deceives Felix in order to transform him into his artistic masterpiece. He perceives the black mail letters as a sign of Felix's enthusiasm to take part in Hermann's deceptive plan. Hermann gains a sense of artistic authority: Through defining Felix as a fool, Hermann believes Felix to be weak minded, and thus, an object to be molded according to his whim. Lastly, Hermann uses the term fool to define others, including Felix, both as subjects of lower status and as objects of his entertainment. In a sense, Hermann wants to be the king while the others act as his court jesters. Herman also expands his reign of subjugation beyond the other beings of the story, entering the linguistic realm. Hermann, as the narrator and writer of the manuscript, enjoys making diction appear foolish, I liked, as I like still, to make words look self conscious and foolish, to bind them by the mock marriage of pun, to turn t hem inside out, to come upon them


! 28 unawares. What is this jest in majesty? This ass in passion? How do God and Devil combine to form a live dog? (Nabokov 46) This use of puns acts as another method, by which Hermann asserts his authority. In this passage, H ermann acts as an author and asserts his authority over language. Hermann here takes the following regal words of the higher stylistic register : majesty passion God and Devil and from these w ords, he extracts words of the lower register : jest, ass and live dog. In this way, Hermann displays an authorial control over language. However, Hermann, in his playing with diction, exposes a greater phenomenon: he reveals a direct connection between higher and lower terms; the lower terms often being imbedded wi thin the higher terms. One can expand this logic to suggest that if Hermann is king, then Felix is the jester. But, if one is to view Hermann and Felix as interchangeable beings, "a world of Helixes and Fermanns" (158), Hermann is both king and jester; Her mann is the ass in his failure and the passionate artist; Herman attempts to be both the God in art and the Devil in crime, and that live white dog he fears is Felix. Hermann, however, seems blinded by his own foolish behavior, My life is all mangled and messed, but here I am clowning away, juggling with bright little descriptions, playing on the cozy pronoun we,' winking at the tourist, the cottage owner, the lover of Nature, the picturesque hash of greens and blues. But be patient with me, my reader. Th e walk we shall presently take will be your rich reward. These conversations with readers are quite silly too. Stage asides. The eloquent hiss: Soft now! Someone is coming (54)


! 29 In this description, Hermann attributes foolish traits to himself as he desc ribes his authorial control used as a means to jest, over language and the reader. Still, Hermann does not recognize this as a form of subjection, but rather sees this as a means to turn his prose art into theatrical art. Yet, the second definition of th e term fool describes the court jester who is kept by the royal master and made to entertain him or her. So, in this sense, Hermann is acting as a jester, "clowning away," "jugglingdescriptions," "playing [with] we,'" and "winking" at the audience. He ad mits to entertaining us, just as he admits to being an actor. He is putting on a performance for the audience, who in the sense of jester and majesty, are placed at the higher status. Hermann does this once more in an interaction with Felix, Producing a thousand mark note from my wallet, and still shaking with merriment, I held it up before the fool's face. That's for me?' he asked, and dropped the lighted cigarette You'll burn a hole in the sheet' I said, (laughing, laughing)." (94) Despite Hermann ca lling Felix a fool the former is acting out the fourth definition of the term: one who cannot resist the chance to indulge in enthusiasm. Yet, Hermann cannot recognize himself as the fool for he perceives himself still as this higher being. Then again, o ne may ask if Hermann's actions, which reveal him to be more or less the fool, actually cause him to be stuck in the status of character? Indeed his actions do cause Hermann to remain on the subjugated status of character to the author. Hermann's failure, which I will soon address in greater depth, is, in part, his inability to remove himself from the role of character.


! 30 Another aspect that makes Hermann into a fool is false display of authorial status. Despite wanting and claiming to be an artistic genius, Hermann is not the genuine artist and thus cannot exhibit true authorial control over the text. The genuine artist behind the novel is in fact Nabokov, and h e displays this within the text. One of the ways Nabokov asserts his authorial strength is through the embedment of his name into the text via watermarks. In his essay "The Major Russian Novels" Connolly explains these watermarks as they appear in the Russ ian version of Despair "In chapter 2, for example, one finds a description of one of Ardalion's paintings: malinovoi siren'iu v nabokoi vaze'. In this passage, which literally translates as raspberry colored lilacs in a leaning vase,' one can discern th e shadow both of Nabokov's Russian pen name Sirin, and his real surname" (138). The English version of the text also showcases Nabokov's authorial patterning, all of which Hermann remains oblivious to. Another moment of Nabokov's authorial assertion that C onnolly points out is in chapter 5 when Hermann contemplates his lack of control over the written narrative, "At one point [Hermann] wonders: has perchance my pen mixed the steps and wantonly danced away?' In reality, it is not that his pen has danced aw ay' of its own accord, but rather that it has been seized by the hand of his creator, Vladimir Nabokov" (Connolly, "The Major Russian Works" 138 139). By seizing control of the text and implanting his name, Nabokov uses Hermann's narrative, unbeknownst to him, as a means for exposing Hermann's artistic and authorial shortcomings. The False Artist and the God Hermann's goal through the marriage of art and crime is to trans cend from his position as a subject and enter the position of the author god. To Herm ann, the all


! 31 powerful, all knowing God is a nonexistent entity. Hermann attempts to assume a god like role by reversing the idea of God as the immortal, all powerful being, "The idea of God was invented in the small hours of history by a scamp who had gen ius; it somehow reels too much of humanitythat scamp of mine was skilled in celestial lore" (101). In her essay Despair and the Lust for Immortality," Rosenfield, referring to Otto Rank's Art and Artist, discusses the idea of religious immortality, "Rank shows that the artist genius embodies the same process and achievement, on earth and individually, which in religious form we saw beginning with the image of God. The idea of genius is, in its mythical origin, a representation of the immortal soul'" (Ros enfield 81). In other words, God is the embodiment of both artistic genius and the immortal soul. Earlier in the novel, Hermann declares his an artistic genius and in doing so, makes known his quests for immortality. However, this "artistic genius," as I h ave previously examined, lacks substantiating evidence and Hermann's mortality is made even more apparent. In the passage above, Herman denounces his belief in God because, as a man who seeks to become a god himself, Hermann cannot accept the idea of a fig ure (let alone a powerful, God like figure) that he did not author into existence. For Hermann, as Rosenfield explains, "the necessity to share his immortality with another is as repugnant to him as the need to share in the communal life of others" (81). Hermann's words attempt to change God into nothing more than a fictive subject created in the human imagination. In doing this, Hermann tries to reduce the power of the God, while simultaneously transforming God into an invented character; thus, making God vulnerable to his subjection. Hermann continues to exert his denial of the all powerful God, replacing God's g rasp over his fate with his own: If I am not master of my life, not sultan of my


! 32 own being, then no man's logic and no man's ecstatic fits may force me to find less silly my impossibly silly position: that of God's slave; no, not his slave even, but just a match which is aimlessly struck and then blown out by some inquisitiv e child, the terror of his toys" ( Despair 102) Once again, Hermann is th reatened by a figure who wields the power to create and destroy on a whim. In this passage, Hermann attempts to reduce God to the status of a child. As I will discuss in greater detail in my third chapter, the child in literature is almost always subjected to the authoritarian power of the adult By equating God to a child, Hermann instantly removes God's agency, dethroning the almighty being of celestial lore. Of course, in battling God for authority, Hermann also makes evident his fear of the author god. He fears becoming God's powerless subject ("God's slave") as well as becoming the mere object of an inquisitive child. He knows that the ultimate power of the author god is his ability to create and snuff out his characters on a fancy. By denouncing his belief in the higher figure, Hermann is trying to avoid his fate as character by dethroning the author and, in return, trying to claim the empty throne. However, Hermann cannot claim this throne because he is not a genuine artist. I Despair and the Lust for Immortality," Rosenfield, using Otto Rank for support, defines the artist, Ranks defines the artist as the productive individual who is able to resolve the conflict between his two personalities: the one which wishes to eternalize itself in artisti c creation, the other which wants to spend itself in ordinary life in a word, the mortal man and the immortal soul of man.' The artist creates to satisfy his need for individual immortality; yet he must surrender his child,' his artistic creature


! 33 to socie ty who wants to absorb this extension of his personality in that of the community in order to assure the collective immortality of the group. (Rosenfield 82) In other words, the artist is one who can reconcile between life and art; one who balances his int ernal world with the external society through art. Hermann having a solipsistic world view cannot respect the autonomy of others. He lacks this balance because he imposes his egocentric fantasies upon others. Rosenfield describes the extent Hermann's twist ed solipsistic perspective and its influence over his actions, "he attempts to turn the life of natural creatures into art by denying human existence apart from his conception of it, by creating a Double whom he then robs of an independent reality. He sees little difference between the deceptions of life, lies used to achieve one's ends, and those of art" (82). By ignoring the autonomy of others and subsuming their lives into his deluded fantasies, Hermann is unable to balance his internal world with his ex ternal world; a balance necessary for genuine artistic genius. When the world fails to recognize his first "a rtistic masterpiece," the murder of Felix, Hermann turns to writing a manuscript as a second effort for artistic recognition. This new masterpiece (the manuscript) is revealed to be a mere replication of his previous effort. The manuscript is a second more detached and diluted form of the original work. Hermann's first attempt to become author god is with Felix. Hermann finds Felix to be a replica of himself, and throughout the text, molds him, like a sculptor, through the medium of language to be the perfect masterpiece, "Shou ld I leave him headless or go on building him?" (74). Here, Hermann is simply gazing upon Felix from head to toe, but even in gazing, Hermann is constructing Felix, via impressionistic, visual language, for


! 34 himself and for the reader. Right before the murd er, Hermann physically sculpts Felix into his image: Hermann directs, shaves, and dresses Felix in his own clothes. After the murder, when reflecting upon the process of creating his replica Herman becomes confounded by Felix's subjugation, "Is a man's wil l really so powerful as to be able to convert another into a dummy? Did I actually shave him? Astounding! Yes, what tormented me above all, when recalling things, was Felix's submissiveness, the ridiculous brainless, automatous quality of his submissivenes s" (177). Here dummy is both a synonym for fool, but also an objectification of Felix. Just as in the Bible where God sculpts Adam from bone and clay in his exact image ( Biblica Genesis 2.4 25), Felix, Hermann's dummy is sculpted into his image and made as his creation. Hermann is once again exercising the ability to be the author god, by constructing through art and then suddenly destroying through murder of his replica. In Despair and the Lust for Immortality Rosenfield asserts that Hermann, in his longing for artistic expression, is conveying his desire for immortality, "Hermann's impulse for immortality, an impulse possessed by all men, is intensified by the artistic longings within him. So, all artists, according to Rank, have stronger yearnings after eternal life than ordinary men" (Rosenfield 73). However, unlike an immortal God, Hermann is imperfect, and thus mortal. Hermann, as mentioned in the section on Ardalion, has superficial vision which limits his perception; he is only able to see the similarities, and is often times, incorrect in his perceptions. Hermann also seems to be aware of his own mortality. Though they come in sudden and short lived moments, Hermann recognizes his moments of fragility which cement his place as a character. One of these moments occurs when Hermann is sharing a room with Felix, "a quaint little


! 35 though tickled me: during the night Felix might kill me and rob me" (Nabokov 96). Through language, Hermann treats this perceived threat as a miniscule possibility, but he still takes the measure to control the threat by taking the switch. This precautionary thought and action show awareness on Hermann's part of his mortal status. He reveals the fear of being unable to control the autonomous actions of the other who he wish es to author. This mortal awareness appears again when Hermann discusses his disappearance once he releases his written work to the world, And the further I write, the clearer it becomes that I will not leave matters so but hang on till my main object is attained, when I will most certainly take the risk of having my work published not much of a risk, either, for as soon as my manuscript is sent out I shall fade away, the world being large enough to afford a place of concealment to a quiet man with a beard (157) Once again the image of the beard disguising and protecting Hermann from here the judgmental world and the sentient mirror reappears. Here, Hermann recognizes that he is vulnerable to dying once his masterpiece is released into the world. Yet, the reappearance of the beard brings up the subject of agency once more: Hermann, though trying to gain agency throughout the narrative, in several sections removes himself from all agency; first "But my conscience is clear. Not I wrote to Felix, but he wrote to me; not I sent him the answer, but an unknown child" (125), and second, "Thus, a reflected image, asserting itself laid its claims. Not I sought a refuge in a foreign land, not I grew a beard, but Felix, my slayer" (176). This removal of agency, though counterproductive to Hermann's goal for role transgression, plants him further in the role of character rather than that of a God, and conceals him from another fear of his, that of the art critic,


! 36 The genius of a perfect crime is not admitted by people an d does not make them dream or wonder; instead, they do their best to pick out something that can be pecked at and pulled to bits, something to prod the author with, so as to hurt him as much as possible. And when they think they have discovered the lapse t hey are after, hear their guffaws and jeers! But it is they who have erred, not the author; they lack his keen sightedness and see nothing out of the common there, where the author perceived a marvel. (123) Hermann realizes that, unlike a God figure, he is still prone to receiving criticism for his work. He knows that through his work, he shall be defined by those critics, once again subjecting him, this time, to the definition imposed by the critic. This fear of subjection by the external other does transp ire and lends to Hermann's overall failure as an artist. Failure As mentioned earlier, Hermann's goal is both to reap the financial benefits of his crime and, more importantly to this argument, to transgress his role as character through the means of artistic expression. Hermann perceives his creations and destruction of said creations as ways to escape the circular imprisonment of his subjection, thus allowing him to enter the all powerful god like position of the artist. However, one reason as to why Hermann fails to transcend his subject role lies in the fact that Hermann's creations, are simply replications; spinoffs of himself rather than original creations which could provide him the path to artistic transcendence. Felix, Hermann's f irst "masterpi ece," is sculpted, in Hermann's perspective, to be an exact replica of Hermann. Hermann and his Felix art are one piece that has been split in two. Hermann's destruction of Felix, is not


! 37 just a means to act as God, but also a means of indirect suicide. By killing his equal who he projected a subject status upon, Hermann is attempting to kill off his subject self without resorting to the means of ending his own existence, allowing him to continue as an author self. In other words, when Hermann tries to kil l Felix, he tries to eliminate the fool position in order to be elevated to the position of king. However, when one realizes that Felix was never actually Hermann's artwork (their physical resemblance was never truly there, but was instead simply sublimate d in that they both are fools/subjects), the concept of destroying oneself via a foolish double to elevate one's status becomes obsolete. Instead, of becoming king, Hermann simply is a fool overthrowing another fool, that fool being an extension of himself To further solidify this, consider that Hermann welcomes Felix to define him: when Felix defines Hermann as an actor, Hermann at first laughs away and jumps into the position. However, Hermann then becomes defined by this idea of himself as an actor. Her mann allows his subject to define him into a subjective role. Hermann becomes the fool defined by his double, his fool. The question does come to mind: Why doesn't Hermann just take full control from the author god by killing himself? Suicide, as Hermann describes, "is the worst form of self indulgence," (141) meaning that Hermann sees suicide as a lowly form that leaves one remote, to indulge in himself. Yet, if Hermann is Narcissus, wouldn't suicide be appropriate? To kill oneself is a purist act which is solely transcending the role of subject, but Hermann is trying to kill himself in such a way as to still become the author god, maintain control of narrative, and reap the financial benefits of his death. Hermann, throughout the novel, ignored his self as a subjected character. Hermann, now confronting his subjection, attempts to separate himself into both character and author


! 38 (actor and director, etc.) through the means of art. However, what Hermann now fails to realize is both the effect of degeneracy and that crime is not art. Degeneracy plays a large role in Hermann's failure. The term degeneracy like fool takes on several different connotations; the two most relevant meanings being: 1) a state of a character or object in which they fall below a n ormal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities; deteriorate" ( ) ; and 2) in physics, the number of distinct quantum states of a system that have a given energy ( ). In the situation explained above, degeneracy takes place if you consider each artistic creation (Felix, the murder, the manuscript, the diary, the film) of Hermann's to be nothing more than a supposed equal split of himself; a perfect replication. However, since none of creations are perfect replicat ions oh himself, each time he does split himself, he becomes more distant from himself, and thus loses power, and thus loses control. In other words, as Hermann does attempt to separate in this manner, he is only further diluting his being. Rather than es caping into the author god through art, Hermann is deteriorating due to his dilution of self. This deterioration becomes reflected in the narrative. In the text itself, once Hermann discovers the fatal flaw in his original masterpiece, his second masterpiece (the manuscript another replica of the original masterpiece) begins to degenerate into a diary, March 31 st Night. Alas, my tale degenerates into a diary. There is nothing to be done, though; for I


! 39 have grown so used to writing, t hat I am unable to desist. A dia ry, I admit, is the lowest form of literature. (Nabokov 208) In this piece, Hermann finally recognizes the degeneration of his second masterpiece, after having fully comprehended the failure of his first masterpiece, the pe rfect crime. Since, the manuscript is nothing more than a replica of his first masterpiece, when the first masterpiece is discovered to be extremely flawed, and not found flawed by the words of the art critics, but by the mistake of the artist, the second masterpiece also deteriorates into lower forms of art: the manuscript becomes a diary, the diary's escape becomes a stunt in a film. To further make my point, since both masterpieces find their origin in the artist, and since both replications are flawed, the original, being the artist, must be flawed as well. This flaw is of course, Hermann's status as subjecte d character, whom which the true author god will not allow to transcend. Hermann is the author god's match waiting to be snuffed out. However, inste ad of the author god blowing out the flame, Hermann's flame spreads to some other matches, but not having the power, or the eternal flame to continue the spread, it is only a matter of time before Hermann's match slowly becomes extinguished. Hermann's fi nal narrative entry exposes the overwhelming power of the author god, April 1 st The danger of my tale deteriorating into a lame diary is fortunately dispelled. Just now my farcical gendarme has been here: businesslike, wearing his saber; without looking into my eyes he politely asked to see my papers. I


! 40 answered that it was all right, I would be dropping in one of these days, for police formalities, but that, at the moment, I did not care to get out of my bed. He insisted, was most civil, excused himselfhad to insist. I got out of bed and gave him my passport. As he was leaving, he turned in the doorway and (always in the same polite voice) asked me to remain indoors. You don't say so! I have crept up to the window and cautiously drawn the curtai n aside. The street is full of people who stand there and gape; a hundred heads, I should say, gaping at my window. A dusty car with a policeman in it is camouflaged by the shade of the plane tree under which it discreetly waits. Through the crowd my genda rme edges his way. Better not look. Maybe it is all mock existence, an evil dream; and presently I shall wake up somewhere; on a patch of grass near Prague. A good think, at least, that they brought me to bay so speedily. I have peeped again. Standing and staring. There are hundreds of them men in blue, women in black, butcher boys, flower girls, a priest, two nuns, soldiers, carpenters, glaziers, postmen, clerks, shopkeepersBut absolute quiet; only the swish of their breathing. How about opening the windo w and making a little speech (211) One of the first eye catching parts of this page is the large spaces between paragraphs, which are not found anywhere else in the narrative. These larger spaces are used to visually contradict Hermann's first line, "The danger of my tale deteriorating into a lame diary is fortunately dispelled" (211). Though Hermann, about to once again try to create


! 41 another form of artistry coupled with criminality as a means to escape his fate as subject, tries to ignore his degeneratin g end, his narrative both structurally and now visually continues to deteriorate beyond his control. The control is at the hands of the true author god function. Several of Nabokov's signature moves arise in this page and the following final paragraph. The first move is that of the date: April 1 st being April Fool's day (a day that often pops out within many of Nabokov's texts). The concept of the April fool is mentioned briefly by Hermann early on in the novel, "Tum tee tum. And once more TUM! No, I have n ot gone mad. I am merely producing gleeful little sounds. The kind of glee one experiences upon making and April fool of someone. And a damned good fool I have made someone. Who is he? Gentle reader, look at yourself in the mirror, as you seem to like mirr ors so much" (24). Hermann in this early part of the narration exercises his control over the reader, turning him into one of his subjects. However, now, Nabokov is exercising his author god control by turning his subject, Hermann, into the April fool. Thi s solidifies Hermann's status as a subject and removes him from any hopes of becoming the author god. Another of Nabokov's signatures can be found in the very last paragraph of the novel, Frenchmen! This is a rehearsal. Hold those policemen. A famous acto r will presently come running out of this house. He is an arch criminal but he must escape. You are asked to prevent them from grabbing him. This is part of the plot. French crowd! I want you to make a free passage for him from door to car. Remove its driv er! Start the motor! Hold those policemen, knock them down, sit on them we pay them for it. This is a German company, so excuse my French.


! 42 Les preneurs de vues, my technicians are armed advisers are already among you. Attention! I want a clean getaway. Tha t's all. Thank you. I'm coming now. (212) This passage shows Hermann's final attempt to escape his punishment via the deceptive world of film. Hermann reverts back to the director/actor role (author god/character role), for here he is attempting to exert control by directing the French spectators, transforming them into his subjects, while simultaneously about to play the criminal actor. However, one can predict that this attempt will once again be a failure. The real author god has officially defined Herm ann as the subjected protagonist of the narrative. Despite attempts to twist his reality into his own separate fictive world, Hermann will not be able to escape his role as subjected character. Him being caught or not does not matter very much in this situ ation. Instead, what matters is that the narrative ends on this definite point. Hermann's status as subjected character, despite his many attempts to escape to a higher position via controlling other subjects and the spectator, will forever remain. The f inal reason for Hermann's shortcomings is that he is not Nabokov's genuine artist. Instead, Hermann is a self proclaimed artist who has a very superficial and self absorbed world view. Hermann's solipsism causes him to not recognize and respect the autonom y of others. Instead, Hermann, motivated by his selfish artistic ambitions, imposes his artistic will onto the external other. Being so wrapped up in his own solipsistic delusions, Hermann is unable to find the balance between his artistic endeavors and th e external world that exists autonomously from him. As a result, his world resists his authorial assertions. His narcissistic delusions are overturned by the independent nature of the reality that exists beyond him. Hermann's expressions of creativity degr ade as his external world fails to recognize him as an artist.


! 43 Overall, Hermann fails in his transgression to artist because of his solipsistic mindset and his inability to escape his subjection through art without taking a purist route. Hermann's inabilit y to see the autonomy of others prevents him from becoming an artist. Instead his art is nothing more than the heinous act of a murder. Since the subject of Hermann's destructive art is a separate living being, Hermann further imbeds himself into a subject ed role, that of a criminal, and fails to become a true artist. Furthermore, Hermann's desire to reap the benefits and to usurp the author god causes him to dilute himself, rather than free himself. When in the finale, the true author god makes his appeara nce known, Hermann must submit to the author's definition of him as the subjected character whether he chooses to accept that reality or not. Hermann will forever be stuck in what he describes early on as, "our eternal subjection to the circle in which we are all imprisoned," (63) meaning he, like all other men, are subjected to the author god's imprisonment in the world of the novel.


! 44 Chapter Two: The Artist's Entrapment in the Authoritarian Universe in Invitation to a Beheading Whereas Vladimir Nabokov focuses on the moral depravity of a man who believes himself to be the ultimate artist in his heinous crime in Despair in Invitation to a Beheading he depicts a genuine artist who is unable to fully realize his talent and escape the bureaucratic, authoritarian world that confines him. The novel's hero Cincinnatus C., is a man convicted and sentenced to death for the capital crime of "gnostical turpitude." Though "gnostical turpitude" is cryptically described, the gist of this cri me is that Cincinnatus is different from the citizens of the artificial totalitarian world, which he inhabits. Cincinnatus is defined as opaque while the philistine citizens of this world are translucent. The majority of the novel takes place within the p rison where Cincinnatus nervously anticipates his inevitable beheading. The main figures of this prison: Rodion, the jailer; Roman, the attorney; Rodrig, the prison director; and Emmie, Rodrig's young daughter who curiously roams the prison and at times vi sits Cincinnatus, all withhold the time at which Cincinnatus will be executed. Meanwhile, Cincinnatus sits in his cell writing and ruminating on the hopelessness of his demise. Later in the story, Pierre, Cincinnatus's soon to be executioner, is introduced as a fellow prisoner. He attempts to befriend his future victim to accord to the bizarre customs of the fictitious land. Cincinnatus's family eventually visits him during his imprisonment, but they too are unimaginative characters belonging to the world. Cincinnatus attempts two escapes, both of which turn out to be fruitless hoaxes staged by his jailors. In the end, Cincinnatus is finally brought to the place of his beheading and duly executed. Before I begin discussing Cincinnatus's suppressed creativity I need to address the world in which he is


! 45 imprisoned. Vladimir Nabokov describes this artificial totalitarian world which I define as "theatrically fantastic" (a term I shall soon define) in a surreal tone. The prison and the society are both intangible stages that disintegrate in the finale. The characters that inhabit the world wear costumes, make up, and wigs and often morph into one another's roles. The novel takes place over the course of twenty days, each day seems to take place over the span of a chapter with the exception of the last two chapters. Invitation to a Beheading explores the plight of an artist whose artistic abilities are inhibited by both the totalitarian world within the novel, and the metaphysical boundaries of the novel itself. To gain the control of an author and allow his artistic prowess to come to fruition, Cincinnatus must transcend the authoritative societal and narrative boundaries placed on him by both the artificial world and the overriding narrator. The Artificial World: The Fantastic, the Theatrical, and the Bureaucratic Invitation to a Beheading takes place in a world that differs from the world which the reader inhabits. Cincinnatus, whether he belongs to the reader's reality or a separate reality, comes to recognize t hat the universe to which he is confined is one made up of artifice and parody; a universe in which he does not belong; "I am here through an error not in this prison, specifically but in this whole terrible, striped world; a world which seems not a bad ex ample of amateur craftsmanship, but is in reality calamity, horror, madness, error and look, the curio slays the tourist, the gigantic carved bear brings its wooden mallet down upon me," the character confesses ( Invitation to a Beheading 91). Cincinnatus a cknowledges the makeshift, yet horrifically real properties of the world in which he is trapped. Through his perspective, Cincinnatus relays to the reader the bizarre, bureaucratic, and grotesque qualities that define and empower the


! 46 artificial world. The world's bureaucratic diction protrudes through Cincinnatus's language demonstrating the strength which the totalitarian world has over the captive Cincinnatus. As he describes the horror of his situation, Cincinnatus uses the term error to register the blu nder of his existence within the artificial world. This type of cold and objective diction characterizes the bureaucratic nature of the artificial world. The formality and bluntness that distinguishes bureaucratic language also peeks through Cincinnatus's writing when he addresses the other characters. In response to Roman's question, "How are you feeling," Cincinnatus replies, I want to share with you som e conclusions I have reached. I am surrounded by some sort of wretched specters, not by people. They torment me as can torment senseless visions, bad dreams, dregs of delirium, the drivel of nightmares and everything that passes down here for real life. In theory one would wish to wake up. But wake up I cannot without outside help, and I yet I fear this help terribly, and my very soul has grown lazy and accustomed to its snug swaddling clothes. Of all the specters that surround me, you, Roman Vissarionovich are probably the most wretched, but on the other hand in view of your logical position in our invented habitus you are in a manner of spe a king, an adviser, a defender (36) In this passage, Cincinnatus expresses his suspicions of the characters in this w orld. Yet, in order to convey this to one of the most bureaucratic characters in the novel, the lawyer Roman, Cincinnatus relies on a very forward and theoretically structured reply. Cincinnatus's language becomes very cold and scientific, "I want to share with you some conclusions" and "In theory" as well as conforming to the style of a court/debate retort "in view of your logical position in our invented habitus." Cincinnatus also adopts


! 47 an ironic irony when defining and insulting Roman for his lack of representation of Cincinnatus as his defense lawyer, "Of all the specters that surround me, you, Roman Vissarionovich, are probably the most wretched, but on the other handyou are in a manner of spe a king, an adviser, a defender." (This is made even more r idiculous and ironic when Roman cuts Cincinnatus's insult off with, "At your service," happily accepting the title of defender, while missing Cincinnatus's biting tone.) In these examples, Cincinnatus communicates to the world by allowing bureaucratic jar gon, formality, and straightforwardness to invade his words. Cincinnatus must conform to the world's manner of speech in order to communicate, thus exhibiting how the authoritarian world of the novel maintains a level of control over Cincinnatus via langua ge. The Bureaucratic Authoritarian World Totalitarian elements parade throughout the text and come to characterize the world of Invitation to a Beheading These elements manifest in the bureaucratic system that operates this strict yet absurd world. The b ureaucratic qualities of the artificial world come forth in the language of its inhabitants and in the ritualistic practices and rules that govern the world. Bureaucratic language proliferates in the syntax through repetition and grammatical restructuring used by the inhabitants of the world. An excellent example of this proliferation is the narrator's description of Cincinnatus's lawyer Roman searching for his cufflink, "It was plain that he was upset by the loss of that precious object. It was plain. The loss of the object upset him. The object was precious. He was upset by the loss of the object (36)." The bureaucratic language surfaces in the passivity and depersonalization of the situation. The lost cufflink is stripped down into an "object." Roman, no w represented by the pronoun "he", becomes the passive subject in all of the


! 48 sentences. Almost every sentence is set in the passive. The only active sentence, "The loss of the object upset him," shows Roman to be the receiving subject, while the object, s pecifically the loss of the object, becomes the active force. This moment suggests the transparency of the unimaginative characters: not only is Roman made into the passive direct object syntactically, but he also becomes the subject of the narrator's psy chological profile. By breaking down this moment, the narrator appears to be investigating the emotional state of Roman from every angle. However, this breakdown of Roman's emotional state remains superficial despite attempts to dig further through repetit ion of his reaction. Also, in this scene, the original sentence, "It was plain that he was upset by the loss of that precious object," undergoes reconstruction where the narrator simplifies the original sentence into several smaller sentences that repeat the meaning of the first. The narrator is stepping into a position of power, in which he is exhibiting control by pausing the moment to examine and warp the text. Since this also seems to be a moment in which sentences undergo reconstruction, the narrator appears to be stepping into the position of a language teacher teaching a grammatical lesson to the student reader. This position as well as the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct the sentence structure reaffirms the authorial control of the narrator. The narrator, as I will discuss in depth in my next chapter, steps into an adult role, giving him power over the child in the dynamic, which here is the reader. Repetition also becomes essential in the conservation of the novel's bureaucratic system. Time and time again, characters unnecessarily repeat phrases and actions, a quality that often defines the superfluously complex workings of the bureaucratic system. In the beginning of chapter six, Cincinnatus reads a note which says,


! 49 A million apologies! An inexcusable blunder! Upon consulting the text of the law it was discovered that an interview is granted only upon expiration of one week following the trial. Hence we shall postpone it until tomorrow. Best of health, old boy, regards. Everything the same h ere, one worry after another, the paint sent for the sentry boxes again turned out to be worthless, about which I had already written, but without results. (69) Only to have the same letter begin to repeat a couple paragraphs down when Rodrig enters Cincin natus's cell, "A million apologies,' he cried, an inexcusable blunder! Upon consulting the text of the law' Having repeated his message verbatim" (69). The repetition here, as well as the formulaic language, emphasizes not only the bureaucratic nature of speech in this world, but also reveals the scripted nature of the characters that inhabit this world. The characters become staged puppets of the system, a robotic image that is often associated with bureaucrats. Also, the letter falsely tries to estab lish some conversational familiarity between Cincinnatus and Rodrig. However, this attempt is once again undermined: the formality seems to be yet another prescribed rule and the one sidedness of the conversation reiterates the falsehood of the gesture. Th e familiarity is thus revealed to be insincere by its systematic nature. The world, yet again, appears radically scripted to the point where reality appears strange and fantastic. The Theatrical Fantastic World Elements of both the fantastic and the theatr ical shape the identity of the novel's world. These fantastic elements disconnect the reader and the protagonist from the world of the novel while simultaneously creating a connection between the reader and


! 50 Cincinnatus: the two are unable to understand the mannerisms of the world and are thus, trapped by their estrangement, and to adhere to the rules of the world. Before diving into this analysis, I would like to begin by examining Tzvetan Todorov's definition of the fantastic. In his book, The Fantastic: a Structural Approach to a Literary Genre Todorov states, In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination and the laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken pla ce, it is an integral part of reality but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us. Either the devil is an illusion, and imaginary being; or else he really exists, precisely like other living beings with this reservation, that we encounter him infrequently. The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty. Once we choose one answer or the other, we leave the fantastic for a neighboring genre, the uncanny or the marvelous. The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event. (Todorov 25) In other words, the fantastic begins when a person who only knows of the natural world confronts a supernatural event. The hesitation he experiences before either rat ionalizing or accepting the supernatural is what keeps him in the fantastic. In his essay on Todorov,


! 51 Richard Astle summarizes Todorov's definition of the fantastic in relation to the literary hero and the reader, "The fantastic,' according to Todorov, i s characterized by the hesitation of a being (the hero of the story and the reader who identifies' with this hero) who knows only natural laws when faced with an event in appearance supernatural. This hesitation finds the hero suspended between abandoning her or his dependence on rational explanation on the one hand, and, on the other, constructing a complicated and unlikely but rationally possible explanation for the apparently supernatural events" (Astle 1975). The fantastic comes into play when the her o and the reader who identifies with said hero face a supernatural event that occurs in his or her natural world. This hero is then left on the border between abandoning logical rationalization for the inexplicable and attempting to rationalize the superna tural event. The fantastic is the blurring between the natural world and the supernatural realm. The fantastic world of Invitation to a Beheading is one that does not abide to the logical rules of the world known to the reader. Both Cincinnatus and the rea der, confront the strange, and often grotesque, customs that define the world of the novel. Being unable to cope with these oddities, both Cincinnatus and the reader, are forced into a suspension in which they must struggle at pinning down the rationale be hind this fantastic realm. In the theatrical world, actors, dancers, and singers often perform fantastic productions. Invitation to a Beheading incorporates theatricality along with fantastic elements into the narrative structure. The inhabitants become a ctors in the midst of a


! 52 performance, wearing wigs, costumes, and makeup. They identify with the fantastic in their interchangeability. Rodion, Rodrig, and Roman sloppily slip into one another's roles, leaving behind props and pieces of costume as Miseur Pi erre slips between his roles of prisoner, performer, director, conductor, and executioner. These characters are also chimeric in nature, adding to the idea that there is a meeting between the reality and a dream world. Early in the novel, the jailors are o ften described as shadow like creatures, "At the bend of the corridor stood another guard, nameless, with a rifle and wearing a doglike mask with a gauze mouthpiece" (13), and "Here and there, in the semi darkness of the passageways, the shadowy figures of the prison employees gathered, stooped, and shaded their eyes with their hands as if to make out something in the distance" (58). Towards the very end two of the three R' characters (Roman, Rodion and Rodrig) become identical, morphing beings, Behind him came two others, whom it was almost impossible to recognize as the director and the lawyer: haggard, pallid, both dressed in coarse gray shirts, shabbily shod without any makeup, without padding and without wigs, with rheumy eyes, with scrawny bodies that one could glimpse through candid rips they turned out to resemble each other, and their identical heads moved identically on their thin necks, pale bald bumpy heads, with a bluish stipple on the sides and protruding ears. (207). Chimeras are h ybrid beasts often composed in myth a lion, a snake, and a goat. The term chimeric depicts the unreal and the fantastic. The jailors in all three of these examples exhibit these inhuman, chimera like qualities: they share a lack of autonomy, dog like


! 53 featu res of a muzzle and "protruding ears" and a shifting, shadow like presence. The narrator physically describes Rodrig in a similar inhuman manner, He was dressed as always in a frock coat and held himself exquisitely straight, chest out, one hand in his bosom, the other behind his back. A perfect toupee, black as pitch, and with a waxy parting, smoothly covered his head. His face, selected without love, with its thick sallow cheeks and somewhat obsolete system of wrinkles, was enlivened in a sense by two, and only by two, bulging eyes. ( Invitation to a Beheading 14 15) By pairing the bureaucratic, cold diction such as "selected without love" and "obsolete system of wrinkles" with a description that focuses strictly on physical features, the narrator presents Rodrig more as an automaton than a human. As such, he resembles automatons and dolls that act as subjects in such theatrical productions as CoppŽllia The Nutcracker and Petrushka 2 When infused with life without rational explanation, they cause both the hero and the audience to question their reality and to stumble into the realm of fantasy. The narrator's description explains that Rodrig's robotic complexion "was enlivened in a sense by two, and only by two, bulging eyes." The eyes, which in !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! # 2 CoppŽlia (first premiered in 1870) is a light hearted, comic ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffman's Der Sandmann (The Sandman), and Die Puppe (The Doll). The play involves an inventor who creates a beautiful automaton named CoppŽlia. Franz, a villiage boy, becomes so infatuated with the automaton that he ignores his true love Swanhilde. Swanhilde exposes his error by disguising herself as the doll and coming to life, saving him from the inventor. The Nutcracker (1892) is a two act ballet adopted from E. T.A. Hoffman's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King that involves a young girl and her nutcracker which comes to life and after defeating the mouse king transforms into a prince. Petrushka (1911) is a ballet that involves a traditional Russian puppet wh o is brought to life by a magician and experiences human emotions. Though Nabokov denies having read E.T.A. Hoffman's works, it is very likely that he at least knew of the romantic tradition from which these stories belong. According to Andrew Field, "One of Nabokov's early students in Berlin was a young academic specialist in Hoffman" (Field 85). If Nabokov did not read Hoffman's works, he at least had an indirect knowledge of Hoffman's works because of the literary tradition he emerged from. For example Nikolai Gogol, who Nabokov not only read but also wrote a novel on, was influenced by Hoffman's works.


! 54 human likeness are two, bring life to the creature of the world, a quality that appears to have a contradictory yet pertinent connection to E.T.A. Hoffman's The Sandman 3 in which the hero Nathaniel realizes that Olimpia is an automaton and is driven to madness after seeing Olpimia's doll eyes on the ground, away from her lifeless body. Rodrig, like Olimpia, can be mistaken for a human because he is "enlivened" by his "selected" eyes, yet he, like the other inhabitants of Invitation to a Beheading's bizzare world, is merely an automaton performing a predetermined role in an ambitio us stage production. The characters are not the only connection to the theater or the fantastic in the novel. Both the structure of the novel and the world inside the novel's frame also relate to the theatrical fantastic. The novel's structure often times slips into one that resembles a script. Stage directions, such as, (Sighing) "Gone, gone" (To the spider) "Enough, you've had enough" (Showing his palm) "I don't have anything for you." (To Cincinnatus again) "It'll be dull, so dull without our little d aughter how she flitted about what music she made, our spoiled darling, our golden flower." (Pause. Then, in a different tone) "What's the matter, good sir, why don't you ask those catchy questions anymore? Well? So, so," Rodion convincingly replied to himself and withdrew with dignity. (171) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 In his story Der Sandmann ( The Sandman 1816), E.T.A. Hoffman illustrates a man's desire for a doll who he believes to be a living being and the ma dness that ensues when he realizes that his object of desire is nothing more than an automaton. Nathaniel, the stories protagonists, becomes traumatized by the story of the Sandman who supposedly steals the eyes of children. In one scene, Nathaniel is driv en to madness when he sees the eyes of Olimpia, the automaton, lying on the floor in front of him.


! 55 are inserted into the structure and the narration. These moments mark ends of scenes within the midst of a chapter, or act as interjections of silence within dialogues in which the characters withhold information from Cincinnatus. The theatricality of the world is habitually interacted into structure of the novel: theatrical methods often infiltrate the structure in which the novel operates. Theatricality, here, becomes a tool that helps the narrator display his a uthoritarian control over the narrative. Cincinnatus comes to recognize these theatrical "holds" as the novel progresses. When Cincinnatus's mother Cecilia C. visits him, the moment begins with the following stage direction to indicate Rodrig's departure, Exit, backing out like a courtier" (PAGE #). The meeting is constructed as a scene in a play rather than as a moment in a novel. Cincinnatus confirms this theatrical intrusion as he begins to openly identify the staged qualities presented to him when co nfronting his mother, how can I have faith in it, if even you are a fraud? And you speak of candy!' Why not goodies'? And why is your raincoat wet when your shoes are dry see, that's careless. Tell the prop man for me" (132). Cincinnatus openly express es his recognition of the following theatrical elements: the ready made character, the script, and the prop. He sees his mother as yet another sloppily costumed actor. To Cincinnatus, his mother's words are nothing more than scripted lines. Yet, more sign ificantly, at this moment Cincinnatus breaks a fourth wall, a theatrical technique belonging to metafiction, in which the character penetrates the boundaries between the fictive world and the real world by exposing that the fictive world exists in a stage. Cincinnatus demonstrates his ability to expose the existence of the false world and the real world by conforming, as a character, to the theatrical technique of breaking the invisible fourth wall. By recognizing the staged elements and by using radical t heatrical


! 56 technique of breaking the fourth wall to expose the falsehood of the world, Cincinnatus expresses his realization of the insubstantiality and the artificiality of the world; a necessary awareness for his transition from the world of the novel int o his own reality. Cincinnatus completes this transition when he is able to realize that he can leave his role as victim character in the midst of his execution performance. The Permeability of the World Throughout the novel, both the artificial world and Cincinnatus exhibit permeability. Characters and surroundings ripple and suddenly transform, exposing their intangibility. This transformation and exposure is often made evident when the setting changes from Cincinnatus's jail cell to that of a boat at s ea in which Cincinnatus is stranded, Here the walls of the cell started to bulge and dimple, like reflections in disturbed water; the director began to ripple, the cot became a boat. Cincinnatus grabbed the side in order to keep his balance, but the oarlo ck came off in his hand, and, neck deep, among a thousand speckled flowers, he began to swim, got tangled, began sinking. Sleeves rolled up, they started poking at him with punting poles and grappling hooks, in order to snare him and pull him to the shore. They fished him out. (57) Here the scene undergoes an alteration in which the setting completely morphs from a concrete cell in which the announcement of a new prisoner is made to a drifting boat upon moving rough waters in which Cincinnatus has fallen ov erboard and almost drowns. This transformation of the world may very well be seen as a reflection of Cincinnatus's


! 57 physical and mental state. Earlier in the novel the narrator proclaims, "O horrible! Rodion gazed through the blue porthole at the horizon, n ow rising, now falling. Who was becoming seasick? Cincinnatus (13)." This portrayal, along with the multitude of sickly physical descriptions of Cincinnatus, aid in this idea that Cincinnatus, a mistreated prisoner of a false and totalitarian system, has fallen ill in his mistreatment. This sickness also becomes a way in which Cincinnatus attempts to escape the world via his sickly hallucinations. Yet, this sickness does not allow for Cincinnatus to escape his dream world: the utter weakness and lack of ac tion exhibited by Cincinnatus during this shift from jail cell to sea along with his dehumanized state, he is snared and fished out by the inhabitants who have transformed into fishermen trying to entrap him to their realm, makes this escape fruitless. Cin cinnatus's artistically suppressed mind and his physical and mental weakness lend to his inability to overpower the confining hold of the authoritarian world. By allowing his artistic prowess to develop, Cincinnatus is able to begin to break through the wo rld's concreteness. When Cincinnatus does write, the world begins to crumble away, Revealing in all the temptations of the circle, life whirled to a state of such giddiness that the ground fell away and, stumbling, falling, weakened by nausea and languor ought I to say it? finding itself in a new dimension, as it wereYes, matter has grown old and weary, and little has survived of those legendary days a couple of machines, two or three fountains and no one regrets the past, and even the very concept of "pa st" has changed. (50 51) In this moment, Cincinnatus exposes a way in which the world temporarily crumbles: in the midst of his writing. Yet, here too, the world's impermeability is paired with


! 58 Cincinnatus's physical illness. Symptoms of physical illness s uch as nausea and hallucinations are often associated with fever dreams. Fever dreams may explain how Cincinnatus experiences this intangibility of this dream world. Fever dreams are also associated with high fevers which are closely linked to being on one 's death bed. Death of his character self, a death from the world in which Cincinnatus does not belong, is the primary way in which Cincinnatus can free himself from the authoritarian hold of the world, the narrator, and the novel. This association continu es to the end of the novel in which Cincinnatus is being brought to the execution. In this moment the world of the novel physically begins to crumble away as both Cincinnatus's life and the novel near a conclusion. Cincinnatus's lack of belonging to the world allows for him to experience a physical fluidity as well. However, unlike the variability of the other world which is the result of its permeability, Cincinnatus's changeability is not a sign of transparency. Early on in the novel, Cincinnatus first dismembers his physical body and is then immediately reconstructed by the narrative, "What a misunderstanding" said Cincinnatus and suddenly burst out laughing. He stood up and took off the dressing gown, the skullcap, the slippers. He took off the linen trousers and shirt. He took off his head like a toupee, took off his collarbones like shoulder straps, took off his hips and his legs, he took off his arms like gauntlets and threw them in a corner. What was left of him gradually dissolved, hardly coloring the air. At first Cincinnatus simply reveled in the coolness; then, fully immersed in his secret medium, he began freely and happily


! 59 to / The iron thunderclap of the bolt resounded, and Cincinnatus instantly grew all that he had cast off, the skullcap in cluded. (32 33) While there is a power play between Cincinnatus's artistic will and the novel's narrative hold, this moment shows qualities of the absurd and the grotesque as well as the metaphysical release from one's physical barriers. As mentioned earl ier, there exists a prominent connection between death and freedom. The first connection involves freedom of the soul from the confines of the physical world and/or physical body through death. Cincinnatus's physical state allows him to travel on the borde r between the world of fever dream and of the world which he may belong. Through grotesque dismemberment, Cincinnatus is also able to recognize his permeability and experiences an exit from his confinement, yet he is still held back by a narrative reassemb ly of his physical self. Yet, as seen, death and changeability will not allow Cincinnatus to transcend this artificial world of the novel. Otherwise, Monsieur Pierre would act as complete authoritarian ruler and his execution of Cincinnatus at the end of the novel, which is yet another performance that follows the antics of the world, would allow Cincinnatus to reach transcendence to a different realm. Though, this may be a way in which the novel's ending can be interpreted, the abstract manner in which th e ending is portrayed leaves a more satisfactory and metaphysical means by which Cincinnatus escapes. This leads me to the second connection between death and autonomy, which I will deal with in great detail in the following chapter: freedom from the novel via death of character role which is obtained by transgressing to the position of artist.


! 60 Opacity and Transparency As mentioned in the previous section, the world of Invitation to a Beheading is marked by its permeability and the transparency of its inhabitants. As I will show in the next chapter, the inhabitants of the world are unimaginative and transparent. They have no depth to their personalities and conform to their arranged roles. Cinc innatus, on the other hand, exhibits and is incriminated for the quality of opaqueness, meaning that the "rays of others" cannot penetrate his soul, From his earliest years Cincinnatus, by some strange and happy chance comprehending his danger, carefully managed to conceal a certain peculiarity. He was impervious to the rays of others, and therefore produced when off his guard a bizarre impression, as of a lone dark obstacle in the world of souls transparent to one another; he learned however to feign tran slucence, employing a complex system of optical illusions, as it were but he hand only to forget himself, to allow a momentary lapse in self control, in the manipulation of cunningly illuminated facets and angles at which he turned his soul, and immediate ly there was alarm. In the midst of the excitement of a game his coevals would suddenly forsake him as if they had sensed his lucid gaze and the azure of his temples were but a crafty deception and the actually Cincinnatus was opaque. (24) Cincinnatus is m arked as being the only opaque one in a world full of transparent beings. However, this opaqueness allows him to be the only truly private character in his world. Privacy is what allows Cincinnatus to possess his artistic potential. He is highlighted as


! 61 th e only true individual in a conformist world. In his dissertation, Gregory Khasin comments on privacy in Nabokov, Privacy is the central notion in Nabokov's world, a juncture between metaphysics and ontology. It makes possible his narrative and his agents Taken metaphysically, it is nothing else but windowlessness, both from within and from without. It ensures the mutual impenetrability of monads and allows the creation of the clockwork plot developments based on blindness. Taken ontologically, privacy is individuation. It delineates the borders around the self the borders which separate the inner from the outer. It marks the self as different from other selves, and at the same time protects it from all violations from without. In that, privacy is a secu rity of being. (Khasin 101 102) Applying this concept of privacy to Invitation Cincinnatus, in the metaphysical sense, is windowless both to the others who try and fail to penetrate him with their gaze and the reader, who, prevented by the third person na rrative, cannot completely see the inter workings of Cincinnatus's thought process. We can only see his writings and thoughts filtered through the narrative frame. In an ontological sense, Cincinnatus is, as stated earlier, the only individual in his worl d. Thus he is made the other in a nightmarish reality. Tough this otherness does make him victim to the world's confinement; it also distinguishes him as the imaginative persona. By being opaque, Cincinnatus has been defined as the only individual, and wh en the transparent world disintegrates, he is the only one left. The artist, in Nabokov, is a somewhat private and opaque being. He cannot be penetrated by others and must also respect the autonomy of the other. The characters


! 62 in Invitation are not artists as they constantly attempt to penetrate Cincinnatus and impose their ways upon his soul. In Invitation to a Beheading the hero Cincinnatus is trapped by a totalitarian, artificial world that one can define as both theatrical and fantastic: this world does not follow the guidelines of the natural world, places are fragile enough to disintegrate, inhabitants are transpare nt and interchangeable, narratives are scripted, and events are bizarre to say the least. The world and its inhabitants are permeable and prone to sudden changes in physical state. Cincinnatus though he exhibits fluidity, yet, unlike the world and the ot hers; his intangibility involves the dissolving boundary between freedom and death. Cincinnatus is defined as the only individual in a transparent world by his opaqueness. Cincinnatus must escape both the narrative authority as well as the confines of the artificial world in order to transgress to a different state of being.


! 63 Chapter Three: The Struggle to Transcend : Artistic Suppression and Fruition of the Artist As discussed in the previous chapter, the totalitarian rule and theatricality of the artificial world pervade the text on the narrative level. The novel thus becomes a battleground where Cincinnatus struggles for authority against the other inhabitants of his world, all of whom try to prevent his artistic prowess from coming to fruition. The narrator, too, undermines Cincinnatus's struggle for artist (and ontological) sovereignty to a certain degree. However, his complicity in doing so is put into question as his relationship to Cincinnatus seems more like a parental than tyrannical. Unlike in Despair, where Nabokov makes clear both his disapproval of Hermann as an artist and his artistic dominance over the narrative, in Invitation to a Beheading Nabokov as author does not act as an antagonistic force for Cincinnatus. Instead, Nabokov appears to support Cincinnatus in his struggle for artistic freedom. After all, Cincinnatus, unlike Hermann, has the creative spirit of a genuine artist. Even with the author o n his side, Cincinnatus must still overcome the antagonistic forces that bind his artistry in order to transcend from his role as character to that of an artist. Suppression of the Artist: Withholding of Information The narrator and the novel's invariably ominous characters employ several methods in order to prevent Cincinnatus from developing into an artist. The first method, the withholding of information is used to intimidate and torment Cincinnatus and thus prevent him from engaging in writing. The inh abitants of the world consistently fail to


! 64 answer Cincinnatus's questions, responding by either silence or by changing the subject. Cincinnatus comes to recognize the falsehood of the artificial world in which he is confined through this constant limitati on on information, "Is there in this world, can there be, any kind of security at all, any pledge of anything, or is the very idea of guarantee unknown here?" (70), Cincinnatus asks. This is one of the final questions Cincinnatus offers his executioners be fore denouncing the world for its artificiality. The only guarantee in Cincinnatus's world is that of the unknown, which leads him into anguish as he writes. Most of the earlier questions posed by Cincinnatus concern future events including the time and da te of his execution. Time becomes the ultimate classified piece of information, which Cincinnatus is denied. The prison officials go as far as to use time as a means to exhibit their supremacy and make Cincinnatus feel powerless. When M'sieur Pierre first comes to the prison, for example, he is provided with both a calendar and a clock which Cincinnatus is explicitly denied. The clock becomes a symbol of power that gives the executioner M'sieur Pierre a badge of authority among his colleagues. Whether thi s authority is real or false, the withholding of time from Cincinnatus does indeed suspend his attempts at writing, "But how can I begin writing when I do not know whether I shall have time enough, and the torture comes when you say to yourself, Yesterday there would have been enough time'(52)." This ignorance of the remaining time initiates Cincinnatus's self suppression as a writer and slows down his progression toward artistic freedom. Treating Cincinnatus as a Child The second method by which both th e other characters and the narrator suppress Cincinnatus as an artist is by treating him like a child. The child in literature is often


! 65 portrayed as a powerless figure especially in relation to the adult, who has the authority in that dynamic. In literatur e, language is a means by which adults assert their control over the child. In her article "Which is to be master?": Language as Power in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass ", Beatrice Turner argues that the language of Lewis Carroll's two Alice novels registers the authority of the adult speaker while simultaneously drawing attention to the problematic definition of the child in literature. Though the subject of Turner's ana lysis is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and not Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading I find her analysis of Alice's status as child and the powers exerted by the adults highly relevant to how Cincinnatus is m ade into a child by the prison authorities and the narrator. In addition, Invitation to a Beheading has many similarities to Carroll's Alice in Wonderland series that suggests a strong influence, if not an inspiration on Nabokov's part by Carroll's novels 4 Some of these similarities include: the protagonist finding his or herself in a strange and unknown world; worlds governed by nonsensical rules; characters and events that resemble parodies; language games and chess; etc. In her essay, Turner argues th at, in Alice in Wonderland, Carroll demonstrates how the use of obscure and non transparent language becomes a source of power and authority. Through examples, she shows that the power to define and control nonsensical (yet !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 Nabokov was very fond of the works of Lewis Carroll and the two shared biographical similarities such as being involved in the natural sciences (Carroll being a mathematician and Nabok ov being a lepidopterist), enjoying the making and usage of puns in lit erature, and being lovers of chess. Invitation to a Beheading echoes Alice in Wonderland in similar characters, fantastic worlds, strange situations, and the use of parody. In 1923, Nabokov made an adapted translation of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland cal led E%8 6/*"%$ F4,$= In his translation, Nabokov russified (made Russian) the character Alice by giving her the name Anya. He also created new puns to make up for the ones that did not translate well from the English version into Russian. These puns ope rated in the same manner that Carroll's puns did. ("Ania V Strane Chudes." The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov .)


! 66 grammatically correct) language gives a character (in this case the inhabitants of Wonderland) the role of powerful adults, while Alice, who is estranged by her lack of understanding of the linguistic rules of Wonderland, is cast in the role of the powerless child. Unlike in Alice's Adve ntures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in Invitation to a Beheading there is only a minimal usage of nonsensical terms such as gnostical turpitude and nonnons and these terms do become semi defined in the text through synonyms and antidotes. However, because vital information is withheld from him, Cincinnatus, like Alice, is left in a state of ignorance by the adults of the artificial world These adults ", including the narrator and the characters, dominate the novel's language by control ling the narrative. This process is evident in the scene where Cincinnatus stands on a chair to look out a small window: Cincinnatus was standing on tiptoe, holding the iron bars with his small hands, which were all white from the strain, and half of his f ace was covered with a sunny grating, and the gold of his left mustache shone, and there was a tiny golden cage in each of his mirror like pupils, while below from behind, his heels rose out of the too large slippers. "A little more and you'll have a fall, said Rodion, who had been standing nearby for a full half minute and now firmly clenched the leg of the trembling chair. "It's all right, it's all right. You can climb down now." Rodion had cornflower blue eyes and, as always, his splendid red beard. Thi s attractive Russian countenance was turned upwards toward Cincinnatus, who stepped on it with his naked sole that is, his double stepped on it, while Cincinnatus himself had already descended from the chair to the table. Rodion,


! 67 embracing him like a baby, carefully took him down after which he moved the table with a violin like sound to its previous place and sat on the edge, dangling the foot that was in the air, and bracing the other against the floor, having assumed the imitation jaunty pose of operatic rakes in the tavern scene, while Cincinnatus picked at the sash of his dressing gown, and did his best not to cry. (29) From the start, the narrator attributes child like physicality to Cincinnatus, referring to his hands as small and describing his attem pt to pull himself up as weak. This very diminutive, child like physique that the narrator consistently attributes to Cincinnatus throughout the text, makes him a powerless figure in comparison to the other characters, who are easily able step into an auth oritative position vis ˆ vis the infantile Cincinnatus. Rodion, in this example, takes on a patriarchal adult position. Rodion speaks to Cincinnatus in the reassuring way in which a father would speak to his scared child who had climbed too high. Rodion do es not take on the role of an authoritarian parent in that he allows Cincinnatus to choose to climb down to him. This allowance of choice is given so that Cincinnatus will fall (literally and figuratively) into the role of child that is provided to him. Ci ncinnatus splits into his double here: part of him (his double) continues to climb, or at least wants to climb away, while "the other" Cincinnatus does come down and assumes a child's place in Rodion's arms. Again, the narrator describes Cincinnatus as a b aby in Rodion's embrace, and the final line, "Cincinnatus picked at the sash of his dressing gown, and did his best not to cry" (24), allows one to easily imagine Cincinnatus as a child attempting to hold back his tears from his scare. Cincinnatus comes to admit his powerless state of being, "Oh well,' said Cincinnatus, as you wish,


! 68 as you wishI am powerless anyway.' (The other Cincinnatusa little smaller, was crying, all curled up in a ball)" (69). When Cincinnatus vocalizes his powerlessness, his othe r self becomes physically smaller. He curls up and cries as he did with Rodion earlier. Interactions that include M'sieur Pierre and Cincinnatus also enforce this powerless state not only by the silencing of Cincinnatus (which will be discussed next as ano ther method of suppression), but by M'sieur Pierre's condescending speech, "How melancholy we are, how tender," said M'sieur Pierre to Cincinnatus, thrusting out his lips as if her were trying to make a sulking child laugh. "We keep so still, and our litt le mustache is all quivering, and the vein on our neck is throbbing, and our little eyes are misty" (85). Again, tears and fear are evoked as the qualities that define Cincinnatus's child like state and again, a character representing prison authorities e asily steps into the adult figure position. Here M'sieur Pierre acts as a comforting adult figure. Although, the sincerity of the comfort gesture is made suspect by the fact that M'sieur Pierre is an executioner with a neck fetish. Here M'sieur Pierre's me ntion of Cincinnatus's neck may be seen as an ominous reference to his future beheading. Another way in which Cincinnatus becomes a powerless child is in his role as character in the novel by an adult author. In the essay on Alice in Wonderland Turner a sserts that Alice's status is that of a fictive and subordinate character because her existence ends once the author ceases the narrative, and thus she is further a subject of the adult author. The author has often been conceptualized in literary criticism as a parental figure to his or her work. In his essay "The Death of the Author" Roland Barthes declares that,


! 69 The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after. The Author is thought to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecedence to his work as a father to his child. (Barthes 1324) Though Barthes is arguing against the existence of the author and demands that the text be impersonal, he shows that the concept of the author father figure is deeply ingrained in the reader's consciousness. Cincinnatus, being a character of the novel, is ultimately made inferior to his creator, the author of the novel. Thus, to assert his independence both aesthetically and ontologically, Cincinnatus must defy this child/adult, character/author dynamic in order to escape his subordinate position and become an author himself. This defiance does not mean that he must kill his arch author, i.e. stage the Bartharian "death of the author", but rather that he must recognize the death of the author's role as the father figure who nourishes his work. While reading Quercus Cincinnatus (and the narrator adopting Cincinnatus's point of view), does mention the idea of the author dying, What matters to me all this, distant, deceitful and dead I who am preparing to die? Or else he would begin imagining how the author, s till a young man, living, so they said, on an island in the North Sea would be dying himself; and it was somehow funny that eventually the author must needs die and it was funny because the only real, genuinely questionable thing here was only death itself the inevitability of the author's physical death. (124) Later in the novel, the idea of Cincinnatus acting as a nurturer of the world and the world's characters appears, "and by evoking them not believing in them, perhaps, but


! 70 still evoking them Cincinna tus allowed them the right to exist, supported them, nourished them with himself" (156). Here, Cincinnatus is given the characteristics of an author: he, by recognizing the jailors and the world as real, is the one who allows and maintains the existence of the false world in which he is imprisoned and its characters. In the previous passage on Quercus Cincinnatus contemplates the author's death in correspondence with his own death, both of whose deaths are inevitable. Cincinnatus is being recognized as a s ort of author of the world. However, he has not yet become a full fledged author in that he has a character self who he has yet to author out. Thus, Nabokov, lacking an anchor, such as being a character, to the novel, is recognized as the true author of th e novel while Cincinnatus is recognized as possessing the capability of becoming an author. By providing Cincinnatus with this ability, Nabokov shows his support of Cincinnatus's his artistic sovereignty. However, the presence of an author, as the superior being in the hierarchy of the novel, prevents Cincinnatus, who at this point is a character, from achieving creative autonomy. Devocalization The final means by which the inhabitants of Invitation to a Beheading's fantastic world as well as the narrator maintain their control over Cincinnatus and suppress his progress towards artistic assent is through devocalization. Cincinnatus's vocalized speech is minimal throughout the text. When Cincinnatus does engage in dialogue, his words are often ignored or ma de insignificant. In two of the scenes in which Cincinnatus is made to interact with M'sieur Pierre, Cincinnatus's voice is either suppressed or completely removed. In the first scene where Cincinnatus is introduced to M'sieur Pierre, he is forced to "inte ract" with M'sieur Pierre by Rodrig who acts as Cincinnatus's voice,


! 71 "On the banks of the Strop," said M'sieur Pierre. "Have you been there?" he asked turning to Cincinnatus. "I don't think he has," replied Rodrig Ivanovich, "And where was this taken? Wha t an elegant little overcoat! You know something, you look older in this one. Just a second, I want to see that one again, with the watering can." "ThereThat is all I had with me," said M'sieur Pierre, and again addressed Cincinnatus: "If only I had known that you were so interested, I would have brought along more." ( Invitation to a Beheading 83 84) To those around him, Cincinnatus's lack of voice appears as reluctance on his part to partake in the activities of the world. Rodrig fills in as a surrogate v oice, presuming that Cincinnatus is being reluctant to engage in conversation. Whether this is an act of rebellion on Cincinnatus's part or not, Rodrig presumes control over Cincinnatus's voice and thus further denies Cincinnatus of vocal power. The second time Cincinnatus is completely denied his voice is when he is made to play a game of chess with M'sieur Pierre. In this scene, M'sieur Pierre dominates both the voice and physical action in his dialogue, I intend to submit gradually for your consideration the temptation of sexNo, wait a minute, I haven't decided yet if I want to move that piece there. Yes, I will. What do you mean, checkmate? Why checkmate? I can't go here; I can't go there; I can't go anywhere. Wait a minute, what was the position? No, before that. Ah, now that's a different story. A mere oversight. All right, I'll move here. (144)


! 72 Besides M'sieur Pierre's obvious disregard for the rules of chess (and of reality outside of his artificial domain), M'sieur Pierre's domination of the perspe ctive is made evident. M'sieur Pierre exerts complete control, suppressing any form of action, vocal or physical, on Cincinnatus's part. Cincinnatus's being is completely absent. He has become nothing more than an imaginary puppet, mouthing and enacting M' sieur Pierre's words. His actions are completely directed, narratively, by M'sieur Pierre's utterances. This being the case, M'sieur Pierre plays this as a power game with both Cincinnatus and the reading audience. The reader is forced into the role of au dience. They read the one sided exchange between M'sieur Pierre and the voiceless Cincinnatus, and are able to see the performance that M'sieur Pierre is conducting to exercise his power over Cincinnatus and the narrative. M'sieur Pierre plays a losing gam e against an absent opponent. This opponent, Cincinnatus, is a mere dummy without an active voice and with directed actions. Even so, M'sieur Pierre still fails to win the game with his "dummy' without cheating. The scene becomes a comedy act of sorts wher e the one in control of the entire situation plays against the one with complete lack of control. Just like the passage analyzed earlier, this scene demonstrates the power that the top "player" of the system, M'sieur Pierre, has over the artist. M'sieur Pi erre, as a top ranking official of the artificial world, has the ability to devoice Cincinnatus and thus, enforce an authorial power over him, making him perform a role of a passive character in his script. Prevented from speaking, Cincinnatus must turn t o writing as a means by which he can express himself and attempt to break free from his persecutors.


! 73 Cincinnatus the Writer Cincinnatus's writings and thoughts appear periodically throughout the text and sometimes envelope entire chapters. His writings allow for the reader to enter Cincinnatus's ruminations; providing refuge from the authorial perspective that dominates the text. Cincinnatus knows he has the artistic abilities to defy his role as a character and suppressed prisoner, "With just such a fee ling my world begins: the misty air gradually clears, and it is suffused with such radiant, tremulous kindness, and my soul expanses so freely in its native realm. But then what, then what? Yes, that is the line beyond which I lose control" (94). Writing is the only activity during which Cincinnatus feels in his "native realm." However, this feeling is not enough to allow Cincinnatus to escape. When Cincinnatus does write, his writings lack control: he often jumps from one idea to the next, his thoughts ar e incomplete, and he often contradicts his statements. Visually, his writings consist of multiple ellipses that express incompleteness in his already unclear musings, long paragraphs of lofty thoughts that slip from one to another, and parentheses which of ten express a form of self doubt or a descriptive interjection of a physical action. His lack of control over language makes evident the undeveloped nature of his artistic expression. This lack of authorial control on Cincinnatus's part may explain his i nability to stand up to those who control his life by scripting his behavior, and that includes his lawyers and jailors, M'Sieur Pierre, and perhaps the narrator of Invitation to a Beheading as well. To change his inferiority in relation to the characters and the narrator, Cincinnatus needs to allow his creative spirit to flourish and transcend to position of character the powerful position of artist. Only


! 74 through realizing his artistic talents, can Cincinnatus combat the narrative restraints placed on him and author himself to freedom. Cincinnatus has a very limited amount of time before his execution in which he can develop his artistic expression. From the start of the novel, writing and the process of writing become intimately linked with Cincinnatus' s remaining life, at least for the reader, equals the length of the novel, On the table glistened a clean sheet of paper and, distinctly outlined against this whiteness, lay a beautifully sharpened pencil, as long as the life of any man except Cincinnatus, and with an ebony gleam to each of its six facets. An enlightened descenda nt of the index finger. Cincinnatus wrote: "In spite of everything I am comparatively. After all I had premonitions, had premonitions of the finale." (12 13) The pencil becomes a tool with which one can measure Cincinnatus's life. Cincinnatus, as a protago nist who embodies genuine artistic potential, exists in the novel as a character meant to discover his creativity despite a multitude of suppressive limitations. As previously established, Cincinnatus's only means to express his voice, and thus, actively e xplore his artistic spirit is through writing. Cincinnatus's life is connected to his writing. He must author himself out of the novel in order to escape his confinement. If he is unable to write, because the pencil becomes a stub, his means of escape are null and void. Cincinnatus is already confined to both the artificial world through his imprisonment and to the novel through his being a character rather than reader or author. Throughout the novel, his means of mentally escaping these confining realms t hat restrict


! 75 his artistic intuition is by finding refuge in his thoughts, which are expressed in the novel with reliability through his writings. I mention reliability because the third person narrator, who belongs to the authorial world of the novel, expr esses Cincinnatus's thoughts and actions at times. These thoughts are noticeably filtered (stylistically different when compared to Cincinnatus's writings) and the reliability of the narrator comes into question. Thus, the desire to escape the artificial w orld through the activity of writing links Cincinnatus to the life of the pencil in addition to the time of his execution. Cincinnatus, through writing, must find a way to assert his authorial power confidently. Then he may break free from the others' (oth er authors') designs for his life, and thus, no longer be bound to death. Cincinnatus's first sentence, "In spite of everything I am comparatively," ends with an adverb and remains an incomplete thought. Though this passage opens with the third person nar rative frame and Cincinnatus's words are placed under the restriction of quotations (a punctuation mark I will discuss in greater detail shortly), Cincinnatus does manage to gain a form of narrative control through language. Cincinnatus utilizes a statemen t to attempt to define the preexisting conditions of the self. Yet, this statement is an incomplete thought and thus, Cincinnatus does not complete his self definition. This lacking a definition can be seen as Cincinnatus revealing his incomplete connectio n to the realms of the artificial world and the novel as well as his acknowledging of the current unrealized state of his artistic abilities. Thus, through his incomplete self definition, Cincinnatus begins to separate himself from these confines through h is writing. However, this definition is only lacking completeness rather than acting as a complete lack of definition. Later in the novel, the following statement appears, That which does not have


! 76 a name does not exist Unfortunately everything had a name ( Invitation to a Beheading 26)." There is a name (definition) which is imposed upon Cincinnatus from the outside. If Cincinnatus did have the courage to confidently define himself with a definition that would counteract the external, enslaving and object ifying definition, he could override the definition placed on him by Rodrig, Roman, M'Sieur Pierre, et al. However, Cincinnatus, lacking confidence in his artistic abilities, cannot gather the courage to create a self definition. He instead, must escape th e conformity as character through lack of definition. Cincinnatus, having a name and being unable to artistically rid himself completely of definition, cannot entirely sever his attachment to the world and the novel. consequently he remains confined to the status of inmate and character until he can discover a means in which he can expel himself through writing. Writing gives Cincinnatus a voice in a world where his voice is silenced by his jailors and the narrator. With this voice, Cincinnatus develops his artistic prowess while simultaneously attempting to escape his death. In many literary works, characters attempt to extend their lives by utilizing their voice to weave a story. In the frame of One Thousand and One Nights Scheherazade, the main storyt eller in the book, manages to extend her life by telling the King story after story. As long as she continues to tell the King tales, her life is spared for another day. In the end, when she finally admits to having no more stories to tell, the King had fa llen in love with her and takes Scheherazade to be his queen. Cincinnatus's fate is somewhat different; however, the idea of using one's voice, in this case writing, to avoid death remains. Scheherazade is an author. She exhibits the control and the abilit y to script her own fate. In the end, she is spared when she is recognized for her creative talent, as a conjurer of her own world.


! 77 Cincinnatus is not yet a full fledged author and must become one (like Scheherazade) in order to change his fate. On the me taphysical level, Cincinnatus as a character attached to the novel dies when the novel comes to an end. Cincinnatus must find a way to develop his writing abilities and gain power so that he can remove himself from the grasp of the novel authored by others and author his own fate. Self Suppression of the Artist Cincinnatus often acts as his own roadblock on the path to realizing his artistic talent. Due to the methods by which the outside world and its inhabitants attempt to suppress him (withholding of in formation, treating him like a child, and depriving him of a voice), Cincinnatus becomes doubtful of his artistic abilities and fears that he may not have enough time to complete his writing project before his execution, "but how can I begin writing when I do not know whether I shall have time enough," (52) Cincinnatus complains. Here, Cincinnatus's ignorance of the time he has left deters him from continuing his writing. He instead digresses, ruminating about the time he has left, and the regret he will e xperiences for having procrastinated on his writing, as he is doing currently. Cincinnatus simultaneously recognizes his artistic abilities and doubts the control he has over his writings, Not knowing how to write, but sensing with my criminal intuition h ow words are combined, what one must do for a commonplace word to come alive and to share its neighbor's sheen, heat, shadow, while reflecting itself in its neighbor and renewing the neighboring word in the process, so that the whole line is live iridescen ce; while I sense the nature of this kind of word propinquity, I am


! 78 nevertheless unable to achieve it, yet that is what is indispensable to me for my task, a task of not now and not here. (93) Cincinnatus senses his gift for writing, but is unsure whether he can bring his gifts to fruition. Again, he blames the outside factors, but is in fact, himself constantly sabotaging his writing process. The Suppression of Narrative Discourse Unlike Despair which is told from Hermann's retrospective viewpoint, Invi tation to a Beheading employs a third person narrator who dominates the majority of the narration. The only exceptions to this third person narrative are the passages alternating between Cincinnatus's and the narrator's perspectives, Cincinnatus's writings and M'sieur Pierre's narrative like dialogue during the chess game. Yet, even in these cases, the narrative is constructed in such a manner as to diminish the existence of outside narrative modes. Since the third person narrator is not a character in the novel, as the novel progresses (and so does Cincinnatus's artistic growth) the donor of the point of view is often difficult to identify: All day long [Cincinnatus] harked to the humming in his ears, kneading his hands, as though silently exchanging with his own self a welcoming grip; he walked around the table, where the letter lay, still unsent; or else he would imagine the glance of yesterday's guest, momentary, breathtaking, like a hiatus in this life; or he would listen in fancy to Emmie's rustling mo vements. Well, why not drink this mush of hope, this thick sweet slopmy hopes are still aliveand I thought that at least now at least here, where solitude is held in such high esteem, it might


! 79 divide into two parts only, for you and for me instead of mu ltiplying as it did noisy, manifold, absurd, so that I could not even come near you, and your terrible father nearly broke my legs with his canethis is why I am writing this is my last attempt to explain to you what is happening, Marthe. (140) This sectio n begins with the third person narrator describing Cincinnatus's actions. Then a sudden shift occurs around "Well, why not drink this mush of hope" in which Cincinnatus's perspective comes into play. Yet, even here, this line could still be an injection f rom the third person narrator who sometimes utters similar interjections such as, "So we are nearing the end (12)," and "O horrible!" (12 13). Only when Marthe and the events that had happened to Cincinnatus during her family visit are recalled and the nar ration switches to the first person perspective ("well I thought") is Cincinnatus established as the speaker. The "I" refers to Cincinnatus and the "you" is him addressing Marthe. Only as the novel progresses and Cincinnatus's artistic expression develops do these changes in perspective become more common. The narrative, like the world, flexes between perspectives such as these from time to time, which indicates both the fluid nature of the artificial world and the strengthening of Cincinnatus's artistic e xpression. Most of these moments of slippage into Cincinnatus's perspective are shortly if not immediately reclaimed by the third person narrator. However, the arch narrator is progressively slower to return, as Cincinnatus's expression gains power. Earl ier slippages of perspective such as "Rodion was singing in his bass baritone, rolling his eyes, brandishing the empty mug. Marthe used to sing that same dashing song once. Tears gushed from the eyes of Cincinnatus" (29), show the narrator reclaiming the p erspective immediately after Cincinnatus interjects his memory. However, the slippage that I


! 80 analyzed in the previous paragraph continues for a length of two pages until the narrator once again hijacks the perspective, "it is I, Cincinnatus, who am writing it is I, Cincinnatus, who am weeping; and who was in fact, walking around the table, and then, when Rodion brought his dinner said: This letter, This letter I shall ask you toHere is the address' (143)." The narrator reclaims the perspective abruptly mid sentence by recording Cincinnatus's action of "walking around the table This power play between Cincinnatus and the narrator for narrative perspective reveals the narrator's ambitions to complicate Cincinnatus's realization of his artistic prowess, thus limiting his attainment of authority over the text. The narrator attempts to counter Cincinnatus's voice by containing the means by which he is permitted to express himself. Cincinnatus, as mentioned earlier, is often silenced or manipulated in the novel's invariably staged dialogues. Thus, Cincinnatus's independent mode of expres sion comes forth in his writings. The narrator contains most of these sections by placing his writings within quotation marks. These quotations marks, traditionally used in writing to indicate dialogues and quotations, do present Cincinnatus with a voice. Yet, this voice is not conversational, in that it is not presented as a dialogue with another, and thus can be considered limited to the paper on which Cincinnatus writes. Often, the giving of a voice to a character, imbeds that character with the power of expression. However, in this case, the contained writings appear as less of a threat to the narrator than the slippages which indicate Cincinnatus's growing power. Unlike with the slippages where the narrator must reclaim the perspective, in Cincinnatus's writings, the narrator is still able have the final word by ending his thoughts with a quotation mark and then inserting his own perspective.


! 81 The third person narrator also tries to suppress Cincinnatus by transforming him into the subject of the narrat ive and then recreating his being. After describing the scene and lastly mentioning Cincinnatus's written letter to Marthe, the narrator begins to dissect Cincinnatus, The subject will now be the precious quality of Cincinnatus; his fleshy incompleteness; the fact that the greater part of him was in a quite different place while only an insignificant portion of it was wandering, perplexed, here a poor, vague Cincinnatus, a comparatively stupid Cincinnatus, trusting, feeble and foolish as people in their sle ep. But even during this sleep still, still his real life showed through too much. (120) The third person narrator brings forth Cincinnatus's incomplete nature in an attempt to define him and anchor him as a character. Recall Cincinnatus's first written wo rds, "In spite of everything I am comparatively, (12)" in which Cincinnatus left himself without a definition and thus, without a complete attachment to the world. Here, the narrator is attempting to rid Cincinnatus of his elusive nature by cementing him t o the text. The narrator repeats Cincinnatus's "comparatively" but follows the term with the adjectives stupid trusting feeble and foolish all of which are objectifying qualities that prevent a character from taking an authoritative position. The narra tor tries to complete Cincinnatus with the qualities of a fool, the same foolish character that Hermann may be defined as in Despair The narrator continues by trying to recreate Cincinnatus physically. However, he comes to admit that Cincinnatus still can not so easily be defined,


! 82 But even all of this analyzed and studied, still could not fully explain Cincinnatus: it was as if one side of his being slid into another dimensionIt seemed as though at any moment, in the course of his movements about the limi ted space of haphazardly invented cell, Cincinnatus would step in such a way as to slip naturally and effortlessly through some chink of the air into its unknown coulisses to disappear. (121) The narrator fails to define Cincinnatus, and his authority appe ars to be undermined by his role of third person narrator. As the third person narrator, he describes moments from an external perspective. He describes events and actions that take place at that time and place. His authority is not only to express the cha racter via language, but to allow that character to come into being as they have been created. Cincinnatus cannot suddenly just become the foolish artist under the conditions in which he is placed. Cincinnatus has been written to be, impervious to the ray s of others, and therefore produced when off his guard a bizarre impression, as of a lone dark obstacle in this world of s ouls transparent to one another (24). He has been made throughout the text to be a character that cannot be solidified to the narrati ve or the world and thus, he is granted, as an opaque artist against an authorial, transparent world to be an elusive figure. Execution and Transgression Through writing, Cincinnatus must find a way in which he can expel himself from the world and the nov el. In order to do this, Cincinnatus must take control of his writing, destroy his status as character, and overcome the factors which suppress him. In a moment of self doubt in which Cincinnatus expresses his fears of death and the unknown,


! 83 But how I fear awakening! How I fear that second, or rather split second, already cut short then, when, with a lumberjack's grunt But what is there to fear? Will it no be for me simply the shadow of the ax, and shall I not hear the downward vigorous grunt with the ear o f a different world? Still I am afraid! One cannot write it off so easily. (92) Cincinnatus contemplates what there is to fear in his death within a world he knows to be a false realm. Death to Cincinnatus is still a very real fear, but also a means in which he can escape the confines of the artificial world and of the novel. In his l ast utterance in the section above, "One cannot write it off so easily," Cincinnatus both reveals the way in which he can escape, and doubts how his writing will allow him to escape. Before being sent to his beheading, Cincinnatus does cross out his death and thus his existence at the end of the novel, "But now, when I am hardened, when I am almost fearless of" Here the page ended, and Cincinnatus realized that he was out of paper. However he managed to dig up one more sheet. "death," he wrote on it, con tinuing his sentence, but he immediately crossed out that word Cincinnatus, remembering it, walked away from the table, leaving on it the blank sheet with only the one solitary word on it, and that one crossed out. (205 206) After crossing out his death, the world around Cincinnatus begins to decompose and is exposed for its artificial setting and cast. When Cincinnatus is finally brought upon the stage for his execution and is about to be beheaded, Cincinnatus realizes the execution to be nothing more tha n a performance,


! 84 One Cincinnatus was counting, but the other Cincinnatus had already stopped heeding the sound of the unnecessary count which was fading away in the distance; and, with a clarity he had never experienced before at first almost painful, so s uddenly did it come, but then suffusing him with joy, he reflected: why am I here? Why am I lying like this? And, having asked himself these simple questions, he answered them by getting up and looking around. (222) Cincinnatus then proceeds to stand up a nd leaves the scene, slipping away from the world and the novel. The argument over whether Cincinnatus actually does escape his death and the novel or dies at the public execution remains a controversial issue among critics. On the one hand, Cincinnatus h imself expresses that one cannot simply cross out his death. The exit becomes too simple and somewhat of a cop out especially considering the gravity of the situation. However, on a metaphysical level, Cincinnatus does not become immortal, but rather spiri tually transgresses to the level of artist through this final artistic act. Cincinnatus is once again split into two. One Cincinnatus, the counter that prepares to be executed, represents Cincinnatus character self while the double that walks away represen ts his self as the fulfilled artist. While Cincinnatus as character of the novel is executed by both M'seiur Pierre and the conclusion of the novel, his artistic self, surpasses the fate of the novel's finale and is able to transgress beyond the artificial world. The final line of the novel, "Cincinnatus made his way in that direction where, to judge by the voices, stood being akin to him, (223)" reveals that Cincinnatus does join a world in which he finally belongs. Though this world may not be the reality of the reader, the world can be seen as the realm of the artist. In this sense, Cincinnatus's artistic being does not usurp any authorial control. Instead, the authorial world literally disintegrates


! 85 and dies off with the end of the novel and Cincinnatus is accepted into a world of creators. Unlike Hermann who fails to become an artist at the end of Despair Cincinnatus exits on the hopeful note that he is in the realm of the artists.


! 86 Conclusion In both novels, Vladimir Nabokov focuses on characters th at exhibit some form of a creative personality. Hermann Karlovich of Despair suffers from his own delusions of grandeur. He sees himself as the only autonomous figure in his world and feels he can defy the authority of both god and author by imposing his f antasies upon another's life. Hermann self proclaims himself as an artistic genius and tries to transgress his role of character threw the murder of a man he believes to be his double; a murder that he sees as his ultimate work of art. Hermann is not the u ltimate artist of the novel. His murder fails, and his next attempt of a written narrative degenerates into lower art forms up to the end where Hermann displays his desperation to escape. In his next novel Invitation to a Beheading Nabokov goes on to depi ct the inverse of Hermann's false artist character with a character who demonstrates the ability to become a genuine artist Cincinnatus C. has the potential to become a true artist, but is blinded by the restraints imposed upon him by the artificial world that imprisons him. These authorial constraints prevent Cincinnatus from allowing his creative potential to come to fruition As the novel progresses, so does Cincinnatus's artistic prowess, and by the end of the novel, Cincinnatus appears to have authored his own transcendence into artistic freedom. Each novel demonstrates a complicated relationship with the artist character and an authority that exists in his external world. In the case of Despair Hermann experiences a complex relationship with both the external world and the author god. Hermann's fantasies delude him into believing he can control the people that exist in h is external world. He detests the idea of a God like being that can manipulate his life, exposing a deeper insecurity with his role as merely a character pawn. Thus, Hermann


! 87 aspires to transgress this role and enter the position of the author/god figure. T his delusional ambition drives Hermann to impose upon the life of another and ultimately commit murder. However, Nabokov demonstrates that Hermann, despite dominating the narrative perspective, is not the genuine artist of Despair Despite his self declara tion as artistic genius, his "artistic" attempts (the murder, the written narrative, the diary, and the film) all end, or can be foreseen to end, in failure. Instead, Nabokov, as the author, is not only the true artist of the novel, but also possesses the position of authority which Hermann desires to seize. As Julian W. Connolly points out in his essays "Dimming the Bliss of Narcissus" and The Major Russian Novels ", Nabokov makes his authorial presence clear via his watermarks embedded into the text of He rmann's narrative. Nabokov is essentially the God which Hermann refuses to accept the existence of because it would contradict all of Hermann's delusional beliefs. Though Nabokov's presence as authorial figure is replaced by a narrator, Invitation to a B eheading also displays a struggle between artist and authority. Cincinnatus faces extreme authorial constraints placed on him mainly by his external, artificial world and the unimaginative characters that inhabit it. Cincinnatus is imprisoned for possessin g the quality of opacity in an authoritarian world full of transparent figures. This opaqueness is what qualifies him to be a genuine artist in comparison to poshlos t 5 characters such as M'siuer Pierre. The world and its inhabitants make multiple attempts to suppress Cincinnatus's creativity and prevent him from realizing his artistic abilities. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 Poshlost ( D)#+)=/& ) according to Nabokov is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, t he falsely clever, the falsely attractive. A list of literary characters personifying poshlust will include... Polonius and the royal pair in Hamlet Rodolphe and Homais from Madame Bovary Laevsky in Chekhov 's 'The Duel', Joyce 's Marion [Molly] Bloom young Bloch in Search of Lost Time Maupassant 's Bel Ami ', Anna Karenina 's husband, and Berg in War and Peace (Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol 70).


! 88 The narrator, as well, exhibits an authoritative control over the narrative, and for a time, suppresses Cincinnatus's development into an artist. Yet, as Cincinnatu s becomes less sensitive to these suppressing factors, and begins to mature into an artist, he manages to discover a way to transcend the world of the novel in which he is imprisoned. In my research, there were a couple of factors that, due to time restr aints, I neglected to analyze in depth that may lend themselves to benefit further research into the subjects of authority, authorship, and the struggle for artistic autonomy in Nabokov's novels. I believe that my analysis would have benefitted if I had th e time to include Nabokov's The Gift into my argument. In The Gift, Nabokov portrays "an artist who managed to attain a fine balance between respect for the autonomy of others and the capacity to perceive, reshape, and arrange impressions derived from livi ng experience to create new, unique works of art" (Connolly, "The Major Russian Novels" 149). It seems that in his novel The Gift, Nabokov explores a more matured and complete creative persona that has the artistic prowess/"opaqueness" of Cincinnatus, and simultaneously manages to balance his relationship to the subjects of the external world that inspire him. Connolly describes The Gift as "the most sweeping portrait of the artistic personality," which "discloses in exquisite detail the transformative powe rs of a finely honed creative conscious" (135). If I had included The Gift I feel I would have a more complete portrait of how Nabokov treats the subject of the artist in his novels. An analysis of Hermann's madness may aid the understanding of his rela tionship with his external world. Many critics see Hermann as a mentally unstable character: Connolly describes Hermann as a solipsist who imposes "creative fantasies" (135 136); in his essay "Divided Selves: The Eye (1930, 1965) Despair (1936, 1966) and L olita


! 89 (1955)", G. M. Hyde believes Hermann has "neurotic fantasies" with which he confuses with art; and in her essay "Despair and the Lust for Immortality" Claire Rosenfield consistently refers to Hermann, his belief of having a double, and his efforts as insane or driven by insanity. When referring to Hermann's illusion that Felix is his double in appearance, Rosenfield remar k s, "He has, in fact, been torn in two and the bourgeois self, the socially functioning human being has been disposed of. Madness is the psychic mark of that split; isolation, its social manifestation" (Rosenfield 72). She also describes Hermann's second attempt to become an artist via a written narrative as a manifestation of madness, "The novel, Hermann's second attempt at eternalizi ng the self, is structured by the logic of insanity. In its temporal dislocation, its playing of roles and direct address to the reader, it manages to convey a distorted image in the glass of the mind" (76 77). Though I don't find Rosenfield's attempt to a ttribute all of Hermann's motivation to his madness, I feel the subject of madness itself may lend to Hermann's failure to be an artist if defined appropriately. If one defines madness along the lines of a detachment from society, then yes, it fits right i nto the idea that Hermann's solipsism contributes to his inability to transcend to an artist. He lacks the balance that Fyodor of The Gift has towards others in the external world. The subject of the invading gaze can also be further explored especially in relation to Invitation to a Beheading In his dissertation entitled The Theatre of Privacy: Vision, Self, and Narrative in Nabokov's Russian Language Novel Gregory Khasin addresses the subject of the invading gaze, Why are Nabokov's characters so sens itive to exposure? Detailed analysis of intersubjectivity in the novels shows that the main source of threat is not the


! 90 honest,' open gaze the subject is aware of, but the hidden gaze leading to the invasion of privacy The invasion of privacy takes place whenever the subject is observed without knowing it, or, more generally, whenever the other knows something about the subject, while the subject is unaware of that knowledge. (Khasin 8) Khasin continues to describe this invasion of privacy via voyeurism and lying as acts of aggression by the external world unto the protagonist's internal world. Invitation to a Beheading contains a myriad moments where Cincinnatus is being "secretly" observed by and lied to by both the inhabitants of the artificial world a nd the narrator. These instances of invasion can easily be seen as another suppressor of Cincinnatus's artistic prowess. The relationship between authority, authorship, and the artist, as well as the artist's relationship to their external world is a pre valent and significant subject in Vladimir Nabokov's novels. Nabokov, being a very authorial writer, complicates the relationship between his characters and his authority. Both Hermann and Cincinnatus, though their motivations and abilities differ, want to transcend their position as character and become artists. Hermann, being a false artist, aspires for artistic power and control over the lives of others, while Cincinnatus, being a true artist, aspires to escape the confining world of the novel and acquir e artistic freedom. Both characters, in a sense, "die" in the end of the novel: figuratively, once the book ends Hermann is dead, whether the story dictates his death or not. Unlike in Hermann's situation where the novel ends with him attempting to escape the cops, only for the reader to expect his capture and demise, Cincinnatus's situation gives hope that he does write himself out of the novel and


! 91 to artistic freedom. Cincinnatus does experience an execution within the story, but part of him walks away fr om the scene and the novel ends with him greeting voices akin to his. Nabokov, in this ending, suggests that Cincinnatus, who, between him and Hermann, had genuine creative potential, is able to transcend his role of character, shed the authorial world tha t imprisoned him, and become a true artist in a realm of artistic freedom.


! 92 Bibliography "Ania V Strane Chudes." The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov Ed. Vladimir A. Alexandrov. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1995. 18 24. Print. Barthes Roland. "The Death of the Author." The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism. 2 nd ed. Eds. Vincent B. Leitch, William E. Cain, Laurie Finke, Barbara Johnson, and John McGowan. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print. Blackwell, Stephen. "Reading and Rupture in Nabokov's Invitation t o a Beheading." Slavic And East European Journal 39.1 (1995): 38 53. MLA International Bibliography Web. 7 Jan. 2013. Boyd, Brian. "Nabokov as Storyteller." The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov. Ed. Julian W. Connolly. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 31 48. Print. Connolly, Julian W. "Dimming the Bliss of Narcissus." Nabokov's Early Fiction: Patterns of Self and Other. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. (130 160). Print. $$$ %! "Introduction: the Many Faces of Vladimir Nabokov." The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov. Ed. Julian W. Connolly. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 1 8. Print. $$$ %! "The Major Russian Novels." The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov. Ed. Julian W. Co nnolly. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 135 150. Print. IAC Company. 1995. Web. 14 September 2012. Dolinin, Alexander. The Caning of Modernist Profaners: Parody in Despair ." Zembla Pennsylvania State University, 1995. Web. 29 April 2013 Field, Andrew. Vladimir Nabokov: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov New York:


! 93 Crown Publishers, 1986. Print. Harper, Douglass. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001. Web. 23 April 2013. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Lolita? Dir. Emma Boswel l. Perf. Stephen Smith. BBC MMIX, 2009. Film. Hyde, G. M. Vladimir Nabokov: America's Russian Novelist. Ed. John Fletcher. London: Marion Boyars, 1977. Print. Johnson D. Barton. "Spatial Modeling a n d Deixis: Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading." Poetics Today 3.1 (1982): 81 98. MLA International Bibliography Web. 8 Jan. 2013. Khasin, Gregory. The Theatre of Privacy: Vision, Self, and Narrative in Nabokov's Russian Language Novel Diss. The University of Chicago, 1999. Print. Kuzmanovich, Zoran. "Strong Opinions and Nerve Points: Nabokov's Life and Art." The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov. Ed Julian W. Connolly. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 11 30. Print. Nabokov, Vladimir. Despair. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print. $$$ %! Interview by James Mossman. Montreux: 1969. MP3. $$$ %! Invitation to a Beheading. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print. --. Nikolai Gogol. New York: New Directions, 1959. Print $$$ % "The Metamo rphisis." Lectures on Literature. Ed. Fredson Bowers. New York: Harvest/HBJ. 1980. Print Rosenfield, Claire. "Despair and the Lust for Immortality." Nabokov: the Man and his Work Ed. L. S. Dembo. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1967. Print Rowe, William W. Nabokov's Spectral Dimention. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1981. Print. $$$ %! "The Honesty of Nabokovian Deception." A Book of Things about Vladimir Nabokov.

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! 94 Ed. Carl R. Proffer. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1974. 171 181. Print Turner, Beatrice. "'Which Is To Be Master?': Language As P ower In Alice In Wonderland And Through The Looking Glass." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 35.3 (2010): 243 254.Web. 16 Nov. 2012.