Cincinnatus C was charged with “gnostical turpitude”. A crime that we seem to hardly understand. Let’s look at the allusive term “gnostical”. Gnosticism was a line of spirituality popular during the turn of the first millennium. it centered on the idea that knowledge, or gnosis, as the route to salvation. Scholars cant agree if Gnosticism was a vain of early Christian thought or a theological system that coincided and merged in and out of Christianity, with many beliefs within gnostic writings center on dualism and other traditionally ancient Iranian and Mesopotamian beliefs. Numerous Christian gnostic writings circulated the ancient world, such as many non-canonical gospels and letters like the Gospel of Thomas, which read the narrative of Jesus less as a historical event and more so as a collection of symbols and patterns of which the wise and decipher. In addition to Christianity, Manichaeism was too filled with gnostic practitioners. Manichaeism was an Iranian faith popular in the Middle East and Central Asia around the same time that Christianity was on its rise. Unlike Christianity, which purged its gnostic tradition, Manichaeism embraced Gnosticism and preached a dualistic, complex cosmology which centered the problem of evil.
It will be fun to possibly read Invitation to a Beheading as a gnostic text. Nabokov wants us to find a meaning deeper that the simple close-reads that plague literary interpretation.
a cool pic from a gnostic manuscript
The dichotomy between life and description of Russia and life as an émigré is a striking comparison that I feel has not been discussed yet in class. I move our attention to pages 104, 105 in chapter six: Nabokov writes about Luzhina parent’s apartment being a “daubed, artificial Russia” in attempt to replicating ” strict Russian style” (104) in contrast to their “quiet St. Petersburg house, where the furniture and other things had their own soul,”(105). This contrast is not only present here but earlier in the chapter where Luzhina’s winter holiday’s in Finland being ” something more Russia than Russia”(89). It is very interesting that even though Nabokov strives for us to tread his text not as a commentary on real life but as an artificial world ready for consumption, he still gives such pointed commentary of émigré life. It’s possible that such is a blatant show of nationalism and a jab at German poshlust’, or that he used Russia and authentic Russian-ness as a metafictional device, especially when most of the narrative and the conflict happening outside of Russia.
Reading Vane Sisters made me acutely aware of Nabokov’s use of color in his prose. Vane Sisters is splattered with a red-blue motif. This appears in various spots in the text: the “blue silhouettes” (619) of the icicles, the “tawny red light” of a sign that the narrator spotted– hoping to see, “the same in neon blue”(620), and finally the narrator’s description of Sybil in his class having, ” cherry-red chapped lips and …. diluted blue ink of her eyes,”(622). This of course not being an exhaustive of blue-red references in the text. It seems reasonable to attribute the red-blue motif as a continuation of the theme of duality in Vane Sisters– the dualities of the normal and paranormal, real and imaginary, and of life and death. I infer that like in many aspects of pop culture, red and blue align up with the dualities of life and death specifically; red being widely attributed to blood– life– and blue of course having an association to death. Such co-existence (especially for Sybil and her influence on the material life of D) shows the ability for the worlds to interact and coexists.