Friday, 5 October 2007

Escape into madness ...

At the end of Bend Sinister Nabokov suggests that his trapped protagonist, with no other modes of escaping the tyrannous cruelty of the powerful dictator Paduk, can by losing his wits rob the villainous of his triumph. In other words, Nabokov is arguing that madness can be a happy release, an escape from the pain of the world. But whatever else madness involves, it never involves happiness; it always entails, to one degree or another, anxiety, distress, angst, fear and misery. What Nabokov needed to do was give Adam Krug a lobotomy instead ... but he wouldn't have done that; that would have been destroying Kurg's wits, not pushing them through a knight's-move on the chessboard of consciousness. Which is a flaw in the otherwise flawness novel, I think: an inability to renounce at the point where renunciation is required; a sentimental attachment to thought itself.

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