Nabokov That Enriched Their Lives! #1


Monday, August 24, 2009

Frank’s interview with Ben Katchor in the previous post has added another cartoonist to the roll of Nabokov-lovers:

Santoro: I know this might sound strange, but your strips remind me of Vladimir Nabokov.

Katchor: He’s one of my favorite writers … definitely a great influence.

Santoro: It’s the images that are evoked…

Katchor: …as much as it is the “city” of imagery, that kind of imagery … some of his stories do take place in cities like Berlin. His writing has a wonderfully rich texture, with images, sounds and words in perfect poetic tune.

Santoro: The word “lyrical” comes to mind.

Katchor: There’s a point in one of his novels, and I forget which one it is … where a man plans his own murder. What novel is that? But the narrator is describing someone who … he’s discovered someone sleeping on the grass and he realizes that this man is an exact double, a physical double of himself. And the narrator says that there are these moments in prose when you wish you could have a picture that would explain the situation better. I think, well, I know he drew mainly just for scientific illustration, but he could draw, and maybe if things had worked out differently he would have left some kind of picture things behind. But he didn’t.

For more on the Nabokov/comics connection, see here, where Chris Ware is quoted discussing the same passage (from Lolita) that Katchor was trying to recall:

Ware: There is a segment in Lolita where Humbert Humbert is trying to describe the accumulative effect of a number of events going on in his visual field as he comes upon an accident scene in his front yard. He has to go through three or four paragraphs to describe what’s happening, and he excuses himself and the limits of his medium for its inherent lack of simultaneity. This is, of course, something you could presumably do in a comic strip, though it wouldn’t be nearly as funny.

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4 Responses to “Nabokov That Enriched Their Lives! #1”
  1. T. Hodler says:

    Hmm. I could be wrong, but I think Katchor was actually thinking of Despair.

  2. Jeet Heer says:

    Tim: you're almost certainly right. I was fooled by the fact that the passage sounds similar to the one Ware described and I thought the "double" could be Quilty from Lolita.

  3. Jeet Heer says:

    As a follow-up, I'll note that the Katchor panel that Frank has on his posting shows storefront sign for Al-Sirin Candy Co. "Sirin" was the name Nabokov used when writing his Russian books of the 1920s and 1930s. Coincidence?

  4. Frank Santoro says:

    wowzers. I love when "secrets" like this are revealed.

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