Vladimir Solovyov's Syzygy in Vladimir Nabokov's Art

Gennady Denisenko, University of Virginia

Syzygy – Lat. syzygia < Gk. suzugia, conjunction < suzugos, paired: sun-, together + zugon, yoke.

The most fascinating element of Vladimir Nabokov’s art is his multi-world spatial images, which have not been left unattended by scholars. Skonechnaia calls it the “multivalent reality.” Aleksandrov is trying to find its proper equivalent in his metaliterary and metaphysical models. To Davydov, Nabokov’s words are “texts –Matryoshki” after Nabokov’s own illustration of Lermontov’s “Dream” as a “triple” dream, or a spiral of dreams. To Jonson, Nabokov’s “worlds in regression” always represent a dichotomy of worlds, and he calls Nabokov’s spatial imagery “two world model.” Connolly points out Nabokov’s “extra dimension,” and he identifies it as “the human authorial consciousness.”

All above observations’ plus Nabokov’s own comments on his art suggest some common elements which may constitute a certain philosophical frame. The goal of this paper is to provide arguments that Nabokov’s multi-level reality can be looked upon through Vl. Solovyov’s vision of Uni-totality, “self-contemplating” matter in its connection with humankind.

The investigation promises many discoveries. It is significant that many scholars note Nabokov’s ties with the Silver Age. There is a particular need for a comparative research of the literary and philosophical views Nabokov shares with Solovyov.

Solovyov uses the term SYZYGY in his The Purpose of Love (1894). His syzygy differs from its astronomical and versification meanings. The Russian word for syzygy (eclipse) is zatmenie which also means “black out,” or “mental derangement.” This meaning brings Solovyov to a term “love” as affirmation of oneself by the negation of self. His Syzygy is an attribute of the Uni-totality reflecting itself in Its own Other. The Uni-totality initiates plurality by negating its own “I” and fragments itself into other, “smaller” “I’s.” In syzygy the ever-going process of self-creating prima materia confirms Uni-totality’s love to Its own elements. Man and Nature also consist of these elements of the Perfect Reality. However, men are not aware of their syzygical relationship to each other and to the Uni-totality. Only when man becomes a theurgic artist of his own destiny, he fulfils his divine goal.

In the paper we examine some Nabokov’s texts, such as “The Gift,” “The Eye,” “The Catastrophe,” and some of his poems which demonstrate that the “other world” (Uni-totality) is indeed the “other consciousness” that is unseen, yet represented by something, someone and somehow in a text’s lower derivative artistic plane. In the latter there is a hero with a “spark” who is given a chance to peep through the curtain of the materiality of his world (a text) “beyond the horizon of immediate vision or knowledge.”