Thursday, March 09, 2006

Detour from Despair

I got halfway through Despair, but had been reading it in a kind of haze, so I decided to start it over. In the meantime, came across this interesting essay, which in part discusses the idea that Despair is a parody of Dostoevsky. So, I thought I'd first read Notes From the Underground, which I've had sitting around.

With the opening pages, superficial similarities are obvious, from the "confession" addressed to some unnamed accuser ("gentlemen" in Notes, "reader" in Despair), to the narrator's exaggeratedly high opinion of himself and repeated backtrackings and claims that he is lying.

I may have some more to say about the essay and what it says about Nabokov's attitude toward Dostoevsky once I return to and finish re-reading Despair.

Another thing, at the beginning of chapter two, in the first section, is this passage:
I should like to tell you, now, gentlemen, whether you want to listen to me or not, why I've never been able to become even an insect. I declare to you solemnly that I've wished to become an insect many times.
I've often heard it said that Dostoevsky was a key influence on Kafka. Having not read much Dostoevsky nor any of the secondary literature about Kafka, I don't know how much this is true. But, I wonder, is it possible this passage inspired Kafka to write "The Metamorphosis"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm surprised to be the 1st to comment lo these six years later. I just started reading Notes from the Underground, had the same idea pop into my head, assumed I couldn't possibly be the 1st to think it and found your post. It must be true then, eh?
If you enjoy Dostoevsky, you might also appreciate his possible spiritual successor,