Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Nabokov on literature

Lectures on Literature is a book of Nabokov’s lecture notes on novels and their authors from Mansfield Park and Jane Austen to Ulysses and James Joyce.  It concludes with an appreciation of the creation of art as opposed to sharing cheap character emotions:
[My desire is to] make of you good readers who read books not for the infantile purpose of identifying oneself with the characters, and not for the adolescent purpose of learning to live, and not for the academic purpose of indulging in generalizations. I have tried to teach you to read books for the sake of their form, their visions, their art. I have tried to teach you to feel a shiver of artistic satisfaction, to share not the emotions of the people in the book but the emotions of its author—the joys and difficulties of creation.
We did not talk around books, about books; we went to the center of this or that masterpiece, to the live heart of the matter and if a person thinks he cannot evolve the capacity of pleasure in reading the great artists, then he should not read them at all. After all, there are other thrills in other domains: the thrill of pure science is just as pleasurable as the pleasure of pure art. The main thing is to experience that tingle in any department of thought or emotion. We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.

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