August 25, 2013

Nabokov on authentic literary creation

Berlin trolley at Unter den Linden (1920s)

In 1976, The New Yorker published "A Guide to Berlin", written fifty years before by V. Nabokov in Russian.

As he is reflecting upon horse-drawn trams and motorized trolleys (whose extinction he falsely predicted), Nabokov writes about the authentic sense of literary creation: "to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in the far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right".

Think of Homer, of Caesar, of Dante, think of Shakespeare and Cervantes and Hugo... It fits perfectly. Now think of all those authors of our time writing bullshit –mostly in affected, cheesy Spanish– and wasting our time and trees and paper and ink and butt.

Read the whole passage, it is truly brilliant:

Long live the tram! Long live Nabokov! Long live REAL literature, threatened by fame and "the market"!

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