Vladimir Nabokov’s The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, 1941
“As he a heavy A heavy sleeper, Roger Rogerson, old Rogerson bought old Rogers bought, so afraid Being a heavy sleeper, old Rogers was so afraid of missing to-morrows. He was a heavy sleeper. He was mortally afraid of missing to-morrow’s event glory early train glory so what he did was to buy and bring home in a to buy that evening and bring home not one but eight alarm clocks of different sizes and vigour of ticking nine eight eleven alarm clocks of different sizes ticking which alarm clocks nine alarm clocks as a cat has nine which he placed which made his bedroom look rather like a”
Nabokov, out of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
(1941). Being exemplary of Sebastian Knight’s “queer way . . . —in the process of writing—of not striking out” words replaced by others. And one thinks of Gertrude Stein’s “portraits” of Matisse and Picasso—originally printed in 1912, in Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work
—“doing,” Stein says in Lectures in America
(1935), “what the cinema was doing, . . . making a continuous succession of the statement of what that person was until I had not many things but one thing . . .” How the movie camera’s process is one, precisely, of “not striking out.” Stein (Lectures in America
Each time that I said somebody whose portrait I was writing was something that something was just that much different from what I had just said that somebody was and little by little in this way a whole portrait came into being, a portrait that was not description and that was made by each time, and I did a great many times, say it, that somebody was something, each time there was a difference just a difference enough so that it could go on and be a present something.
And, out of Stein’s portrait of Matisse:
One was quite certain that for a long part of his being one being living he had been trying to be certain that he was wrong in doing what he was doing and then when he could not come to be certain that he had been wrong in doing what he had been doing, when he had completely convinced himself that he would not come to be certain that he had been wrong in doing what he had been doing he was really certain then that he was a great one and he certainly was a great one. Certainly every one could be certain of this thing that this one is a great one . . .
Seemingly a paucity of Nabokov / Stein contingency, or contiguity. Is it pertinent to note that Nabokov’s brother Sergei, in Paris in the ’thirties (Nabokov left Berlin for Paris in 1937), “had entered the social circles of some of Paris’s most prominent artists, including Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev, novelist and rising filmmaker Jean Cocteau, Edith Sitwell, and Gertrude Stein”? That out of Andrea Pitzer’s The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
(2013). Too, there’s Pitzer’s note of Sergei’s stutter. The narrator V. of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
is the half-brother of the Russian-born, English novelist Knight, of whom he is writing a biography. Is Nabokov’s portrayal of Sebastian Knight’s Stein-like “continuous succession” method of composition merely a cruel joke about stuttering?