Erotic love in a few of Vladimir Nabokov’s Russian-language works. Nabokov and Vladimir Solovyov
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, as well as his Ada, are considered classics of erotic fiction. Nevertheless, he does not glorify carnal love and sexual freedom. His attitude towards love seems to be similar to that of the Russian religious philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, who considers erotic love as the highest kind of love. However, Solovyov sees its meaning not simply in the act of sexual intercourse, but rather in the justification and salvation of an individual through the sacrifice of their egoism. In Mary (Mashenka), his first novel, Nabokov describes first love as remembered by his main character, now a Russian émigré in Berlin. Love reconstructed through memories is, in a way, a platonic one. The process of remembering makes the hero happy. Before this process began, we had seen him in a state of depression and inertia into which he was plunged by a sexually fulfilling love affair with another woman. At the end of the novel the hero realizes that it is senseless to meet the real girl from his memories when she comes to Berlin. The whole beauty of his love is its memory. Love for a dead person is devoid of the carnal element. We can see such love in Nabokov’s short story The Return of Chorb (Vozvrashchenie Chorba). A young Russian émigré marries a girl who dies during the honeymoon. To make her image immortal and replace her forever, the hero decides to pass in reverse order through all the places they had visited during their journey back to the hotel where they had spent their wedding night. It resembles the ancient legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Chorb might be seen as an Orpheus who has succeeded. Vladimir Solovyov’s poem Tri podviga (Three Fulfillments) shows an Orpheus to whom Eurydice has been given back. It is possible that the poem is a subtext of Nabokov’s story. The novel Invitation to a Beheading is full of gnostic motives (gnostic ideas, it should be reminded, also influenced Solovyov). Love for his unfaithful wife and vague hopes connected with his jailer’s erotically charged daughter bind the hero to the jail of his awful totalitarian world as well as to the jail of the flesh (gnostic topoi). The last of Nabokov’s Russian works, the poem Vliublionnost' (Being in Love), which appears in his English-language novel, Look at the Harlequins!, suggests that a state of being in love slightly opens the door to the hereafter. According to Nabokov’s statements, art also connects us to the transcendental realm. Not only Nabokov, but Solovyov as well, think that both art and the state of being in love bring us closer to a better reality.