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Chronophilia: Nabokov and the Time of Desire

Hagglund, Martin.

New Literary History, Volume 37, Number 2, Spring 2006, pp. 447-467 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/nlh.2006.0036

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Chronophilia: Nabokov and the Time of Desire
Martin Hägglund


o inscribe something is first of all an act of memory. Regardless of what, to whom, or why I write, my words become traces of the past at the very moment when they are imprinted. Accordingly, writing has a capacity to store historical data, to document and record what has taken place. By inscribing what happens on a particular occasion, I provide myself with a supplement that can retain details even if I forget them. I thus increase my chances of recalling past events—of holding on to my own life—but by the same token I mark a precarious temporality. Without the thought of a reader to come (whether myself or someone else), there would be no reason for me to write. The addressed future, however, is essentially perilous. When someone reads my text I may already be dead, or the significance of my words may no longer be the same. Moreover, the inscriptions themselves always risk being erased. Thus, if writing can counter oblivion, it simultaneously reveals a latent threat. Writing would be superfluous for an immortal being, who could never experience the fear of forgetting. Conversely, the need to write (if only a memo or a mental note) stems from the temporal finitude of everything that happens. My act of inscribing something already indicates that I may forget it. Writing thus testifies to my dependence on that which is “exterior” to me.1 Even my own thoughts disappear from me at the moment they occur and must be imprinted as traces in their very event. The texts of Vladimir Nabokov strongly reinforce the desire to keep what can be taken away, to remember what can be forgotten. Many of Nabokov’s novels are fictive memoirs where the protagonists narrate their own lives. I will track how such writing is haunted by temporal finitude. A good place to begin is Nabokov’s own autobiography Speak, Memory. Here, Nabokov ascribes a tremendous power to his proper consciousness and emphasizes his wakeful ability to recreate the past. This posture may appear to confirm Nabokov’s notorious hubris, but such a reproach disregards the innate risks of Nabokov’s self-assurance. The celebrated consciousness in Speak, Memory is not an idealized entity, but one hyNew Literary History, 2006, 37: 447–467

But a more interesting task is to consider how this theme figures in his text. there would be no chronophilic desire to hold onto it. sleep is for Nabokov not to be coveted. On the contrary. chronophobia does not stem from a metaphysical desire to escape “the prison of time” (SM 18). As we shall see. the wrench of parting with consciousness is unspeakably repulsive to me. she would pinpoint some cherished detail and in “conspiratorial tones” say Vot zapomni: a phrase Nabokov translates to the imperative now remember. In a discreet but important episode. No consciousness would be able to sustain itself without interruptions for sleep. I will argue that chronophobia and chronophilia are two aspects of the same condition. Chronophobia is thus intrinsic to chronophilia. Nabokov’s battle is impossible to win. Such a contradiction is irresolvable.3 We can thus discern how the same precarious temporality conditions the relation to the present. which Nabokov reinforces through a simile of Somnus as “a black-masked headsman binding me to the block” (SM 85).” to adopt a suggestive term from Speak. The mortal beloved is necessarily marked by its possible disappearance. the prospect of dozing off is a humiliating “mental torture” and “no matter how great my weariness. Analogously. Chronophobia cannot be cured. Nabokov recounts how his mother sought to apprehend “the various time marks distributed throughout our country place” (SM 33). even the most vigilant mind is susceptible to forgetting. and Nabokov admits that “the strain and drain of composition” (SM 85) sometimes forces him to take sleeping pills in order to gather strength. On the contrary. . Unlike most people who suffer from insomnia. Thus. this scene is reenacted throughout Nabokov’s writings and indicates a fundamental trait of his “chronophobia. was the legacy his mother left to him. The main symptom of chronophobia is a sentience of the imminent risk of loss and a concomitant desire to imprint the memory of what happens. but that is the point. Memory. The section on the author’s insomnia is an instructive example. In spite of what Nabokov sometimes claims. It is precisely because one desires temporal phenomena (chronophilia) that one fears losing them (chronophobia). since what one wants to hold on to—what one wants to guard and keep—is constituted by the fact that it will be lost.448 new literary history persensitive to the temporality of its own existence.”2 There is of course no reason to doubt that Nabokov really had difficulty sleeping. When they went walking together. Nabokov explains. Nabokov mobilizes his power of remembrance against the threat of oblivion. This heedfulness. Nabokov’s refusal to abandon himself to the night answers to his firm determination not to let events fall into oblivion. but everything he wants to remember was transient from the beginning. which for Nabokov is unacceptable and yet essential. Sleep is a classic synecdoche for death. Without the chronophobic apprehension that the moment is passing away.

who in a number of books has argued that Nabokov aspires towards “the full freedom of timelessness.6 Only by thus denying the ontological reality of time can Boyd project an ideal realm in which events remain intact and ready to be inspected by a timeless consciousness that would “bring to light endless patterns in an always available past” (NA 65). the past is inaccessible because of our cognitive limitations.”4 According to Boyd. “the full freedom of timelessness” could never allow us “to enjoy endlessly the riches of time” (NA 65). Boyd is aware that Nabokov and his protagonists are resolute chronophiles who treasure their memories and temporal lives. a timeless consciousness could never reinvestigate or discover anything. It is in principle impossible to enjoy the riches of time forever. Boyd tries to solve the equation by understanding immortal consciousness as an unlimited access to the personal past of mortal consciousness. what Boyd describes as Nabokov’s devotion to “the precision of perception. not because the events themselves were temporal and irrevocably passed away. Furthermore. 65). Boyd does not explain how a timeless consciousness could have a concept of the past or how it would be able to distinguish memories in the first place. since these activities require temporality. the glory of consciousness in its apprehension of the things in the world” must be compatible with the desire for a “supreme negation of time and the restrictions it places on consciousness” (NA 62. he nevertheless describes it as “a consciousness to which the past is directly accessible and which can endlessly reinvestigate it to discover new harmonies and designs” (NA 64–65). Thus. the possibility of such a life beyond death is the pivotal concern in Nabokov’s oeuvre. it must be possible to extract the essence of an experience from the singular body that gave rise to it and from the condition of temporality that necessarily marks . While Boyd reinforces that time would not exist for such an ideal consciousness.5 Boyd’s reconstruction of Nabokov’s metaphysics hinges on the assumption that these two positions are compatible. But this does not prevent Boyd from arguing that Nabokov regards finite and time-bound consciousness as a “prison” that he hopes to transcend in death. by definition. Moreover. Boyd’s argument presupposes that time is ultimately inessential for the constitution of an event. Nabokov scholarship is dominated by the thesis that his writing is driven by a desire to transcend the condition of time. the desire to retain temporal experience must be compatible with the desire for immortality. since this requires discrimination between different times. For Boyd’s system to work. consciousness without the degradation of loss. These contradictory claims dissimulate that the riches of time could not be treasured or even comprehended by a timeless consciousness. Thus. cannot last. For this argument to work.nabokov and the time of desire 449 However. According to Boyd. The most influential proponent for this view is Brian Boyd. since temporal experience.

The same poem reverberates in Nabokov’s later novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. Shade frankly declares that he will “turn down eternity unless / The melancholy and the tenderness / Of Mortal life. This gives rise to the incurable chronophobia at the heart of chronophilia.8 Van’s logic elucidates why chronophilia makes chronophobia both inevitable and incurable. where the lovers Van and Ada Veen translate Shade into Russian. since even if there were an immortal life it would annul the essence of what one loves. Memory and John Shade in Pale Fire. it would eliminate the particularity of experience that Nabokov wants to keep. Shade’s narrative poem in Pale Fire stages the internal contradiction of mortal love. Thus. Whatever is desirable cannot be dissociated from the undesirable fact that it will be lost. namely. chronophilia makes it clear that what is desired is temporal in its very essence. The transposition of all our remembered relationships into an Elysian life inevitably turns it into a second-rate continuation of our marvellous mortality. Finitude is not a degraded state of being that can be opposed to a full life beyond death. Consider Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire. of course: the generalized paradise promised by Oriental prophets and poets. or an individual combination. Shade consults an Institute of Preparation for the Hereafter. they are haunted by the . As is clear from Shade’s reasoning. Like Nabokov in Speak. In an attempt to cure his fear of death. There is no way out of this double bind because the threat of loss is not extrinsic to what is desired. to keep the traits of his finite life. the passion and the pain . immortal life cannot answer to what he desires. Rather. however. I will argue that the logic of chronophilia in Nabokov’s writing undercuts the metaphysics that Boyd ascribes to him. The chronophilic desire to remember the finite is not compatible with the metaphysical desire to transcend finitude as such.”7 Shade’s demand is incompatible with itself. Consequently. . But for the same reason. In a conversation about Shade’s poem towards the end of Ada. Are found in Heaven by the newlydead / Stored in its stronghold through the years. but the work of fancy is handicapped—to a quite hopeless extent—by a logical ban: you cannot bring your friends along—or your enemies for that matter—to the party. But even if such an operation were possible.450 new literary history it. if one loves the mortal as mortal there cannot be any transcendental consolation for its loss. but intrinsic to its being as such. Van and Ada are thoroughly devoted to their finite lives and fragile memories. where a long autobiographical poem by the character John Shade broaches the question of death and immortality. Van makes precisely this point: Van pointed out that here was the rub—one is free to imagine any type of hereafter. since immortality would not be immortality if it preserved the mortal as mortal. .

It is intended as a declaration of love for his girlfriend. This insight drives Nabokov’s autobiographic protagonists. Berlin’s Russian émigré culture provides the backdrop for a chronicle of the young author Fyodor’s life between 1926 and 1929. to resist and defer it for as long as possible. when in the last chapter Fyodor decides to write the book we are about to finish. during Nabokov’s exile in Germany and France. who finally has come to illuminate Fyodor’s life after a number of complications have prevented them from meeting. Nabokov’s first great work. The Gift. This is why there can be no chronophilia without chronophobia. he also underlines the chronophobic sentience of finitude: “we die every day. This novel was originally written in Russian in the 1930s. These lines epitomize how death and forgetting are innate to life. Zina. and thus answers to Shade’s declaration that he will “turn down eternity” unless it retains the characteristics of his mortal life.10 This desire to keep what can be lost is the impetus for Fyodor’s decision to write an autobiography and is inscribed in the title of the book. provides an instructive example. This means that there is not even theoretically any possibility of ever escaping the problem of finitude.” which is intrinsically linked to the desire for “accumulating again and again the riches of consciousness that will be snatched away” (A 457). he is seized by a “panicky desire” to prevent these past events from fading indefinitely. The chronicle turns out to have been a search for lost time. The inception of The Gift testifies to Fyodor’s chronophilia and chronophobia. Hence. The desire to hold onto ephemeral details and temporal events is incompatible with the desire for an eternity beyond the pain and passion of “our marvellous mortality. On the contrary. But since the mortal is essentially linked to death. The gift designates Fyodor’s life (and especially his relationship with Zina) but also Fyodor’s literary talent. This other “gift” will result in the book we are reading and includes some of Fyodor’s preliminary efforts—among them a biography of his father and commemorative love poems to Zina after their nightly meet- .9 Affirming the mortal does not entail accepting death. Van figures this horror as “the wrench of relinquishing forever one’s memories. it is internally bound to what it opposes. They seek to record time because they are hypersensitive to the threat of oblivion. In the stanza where Shade makes the chronophilic declaration that he will turn down eternity. Pursuing memories of recent years. to affirm the mortal is to oppose death.” Such valuation of mortal life undermines the very idea that immortality is desirable. the chronophobic fear of death is caused by the chronophilic love of what will perish. Fyodor conceives the idea of writing the book when he spends a couple of early summer days sunbathing in the Grünewald.nabokov and the time of desire 451 horror of dying. oblivion thrives / Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives” (A 44).

as he and Zina leave a restaurant and wander out into the summer night. in the following I want to focus on Ada. The sense of approaching loss—of how their tangible circumstances at any time can be taken away—leads them to “practice nostalgia” and approach the present as if in retrospect. This arrogance has been a source of disapproval even among inveterate Nabokophiles. Both the gift and its affirmation are threatened from within by their finitude. a work begun in 1957 and ended sometime during 1967. and it is true that “vain Van Veen” (one of his many alliterations) at times becomes quite an intolerable narrator. Constituting what Ada calls a “super-imperial couple” (A 60). The Gift shall commemorate the history of their love. and the text we read is a posthumously published manuscript. with its invocations of bygone landscapes and bittersweet memories. “One day we shall recall all this. the anticipation of a memory to come. Fyodor promises. However. which is reinforced when at the end of the novel Fyodor tells Zina about his idea to write an autobiography. Nonetheless. The text itself vibrates with life as Van and Ada indulge in a striking égotisme à deux. The novel’s happy ending stages this “panicky desire” when Fyodor promises to narrate his life. they do not hesitate to emphasize their incomparable love. The common feature concerns the act of writing as an endeavor to remember. Examples of this motif (now remember) are numerous in Nabokov’s oeuvre and would each merit a lengthy treatment. The mood of the music. The book has been interrupted. Although the manuscript does not relate exactly when Van and Ada died or who died before the other. This narration must inscribe the past and the present with regard to the future.”12 Here the narrator recalls his first love. In making this pledge. sentimental music. he must figure the presence of the promise as a memory for the future. keeping its happening as a beloved memory. one distant summer when the gramophones played Russian tsyganskie romansy: a kind of pseudo-gypsy.452 new literary history ings. Such future retrospection marks the precarious temporality of affirming the “gift” of life. Here we find the most profound treatment of the necessary entanglement between chronophobia and chronophilia.” Fyodor reflects on the last page of the book. The frame of the novel is that Van and Ada are writing the story of their life-long love. would seem suitable for the one who is writing in retrospect. when Ada is ninety-five and Van ninety-seven. which constitutes both the possibility of remembering and the risk of forgetting. . This final scene is a version of what Fyodor calls “future retrospection” (G 354). But the young couple already apprehend their current happiness in the same spirit.11 A parallel example is Nabokov’s short story “The Admiralty Spire. which Nabokov regarded as his crowning achievement. rather than finished. an editorial note asserts that neither one of them is still alive at the time of publication.

and barely a week in 1905. Love is depicted as a prodigious possibility. is a cunning demonstration of the happy family. the affirmation of memory underscores the threat of forgetting. In between only a few fleeting meetings take place. but lives on for more than eighty years. The first of these spans from 1884 to 1922. As Michael Wood has argued. The first lines of the novel reconfigure the first lines in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Wood suggests that this is due to an interdependence of love and loss. That their forbidden love does not lead to a predestined tragedy. they are cousins. intelligible only as its own threat. At that time. With this term.14 Finitude leaves its mark on both levels of Ada. On the contrary. They spend a winter together in 1892. By writing an autobiography. If these tragic contretemps traditionally have been understood as something exterior and secondary that supervenes upon an ideal love.nabokov and the time of desire 453 it would be a mistake to dismiss Van’s and Ada’s vainglorious attitude as a mere eccentricity. there are dissonances in Van’s and Ada’s wellorchestrated pretensions. but in fact they are brother and sister. Rather. the young siblings soon become lovers in every sense of the word. due to a confidential love affair they unravel during their first summer together. In Nabokov. In a trenchant reading. but at the same time there is trepidation in the very realization of happiness.”13 This observation is similar to a figure elaborated by Jacques Derrida in his reading of Romeo and Juliet. Derrida designates the ever-recurrent possibility of accidents. Such interdependence unsettles any definite assurance “because happiness is intelligible only under threat. while happy families are happy each in their own special way. these partings point to a persistent source of worry in Ada. Almost half the memoir is devoted to their first two summers together (1884 and 1888). As in so many nineteenth-century novels. Nevertheless. This inversion of Tolstoy’s premise permeates the book. and after the second summer another four years pass before they meet again. but neither their age nor the incest taboo can soften their passion. Derrida argues that the force of contretemps is intrinsic to every relation. Not until 1922 are they reunited to live together for the rest of their lives. Memory. as the novel divides into two narratives. Van and Ada commit themselves to remembering their love. But as we shall see. A given promise may be broken and the anticipated future an occasion of mourning. the egotistic desire of their relationship is an emphatic version of the perilous self-assurance in Speak. typically figured as an unfortunate timing or aleatory event that shatters the prospect of lasting love. it is unhappy families that are all alike. Ada is twelve years old and Van fourteen. Love is threatened from within by a constitutive finitude. recounting . which explores the force of tragedy as the force of what he calls contretemps. Officially. the romance of Van and Ada is set against a dark family secret.

Such temporal displacement is always latent in the text. but Ada takes over from time to time. partly to the depicted young lovers being so distant in time. we get to witness Van and Ada recollecting their past. Van and Ada have managed to survive almost all the classical contretemps of a great romance. By way of interpolated parentheses. that he writes badly and can die at any moment. Both of them interrupt the progressing narrative by inserting additional notes or comments. the perils of their experience are intensified. Van is the main signatory of the text. only delayed. in a note that ends with an instruction to the editor of the book: “Insert” (A 174). We find them worrying about who will die first and leave the other in solitary mourning. Even in the most brazenly blissful moments. but also to Van and Ada as writers being marked by impending death. Nabokov’s story does not end there. however. These emotional shifts are partly due to their love story being perforated with partings. The narrators’ moods vary considerably. In Nabokov’s syntax. Despite a number of contretemps. and we are not allowed to forget the irrefutable process of aging. After having deferred death for more than ninety years. Thus. it breaches the act of narration.454 new literary history the intricate love story of Ada and Van. Hence. The closing pages of the novel display defiant strategies that try—and fail—to cope with the inevitable contretemps of finitude. they are still attempting to prolong their life and fortify their power of remembrance. any happy ending is shown to be essentially compromised by finitude. One of Nabokov’s most ingenious moves is to stage the ten-year period of writing (1957–1967) parallel with the story running from 1884 to 1922. the story may seem to refute a tragic sense of love by letting Van and Ada emerge from their partings to reunite and live happily ever after. every affirmation of love is haunted by its opposite. not only because the protagonists are shadowed by their writing selves. but death cannot be avoided. since Van and Ada also appear as the aged writers of the book we are reading. Telling takes time. On the contrary. an enchanted episode in the first half of the novel is disrupted by an inserted marginal comment that might be Van’s last words and that stages a transition from 1888 to 1967. For example. our super-imperial lovers are trying to complete their autobiography without knowing how to end or when to stop revising the manuscript. but also because of an irreducible risk at the heart of love. ranging from exorbitant self-confidence to elegiac intonations and nervous arrogance. We are here displaced from a sex-drenched summer scenario where Van and Ada are teenagers to a comment from Van when he is reading the proofs and pointing out that he is sick. Within the space of single sentences contrary categories clash: . The desire to keep as much as possible thus turns out to be a drama in itself. there is an apprehension of possible mourning. In the last part of Ada.

At the same time. The critical implication is marked by a remark of Ada’s: “But this. Van’s being is “unresolvable” because his resistance to its approaching death yields a conflict that cannot be resolved. it is “unresolvable” in the sense that it cannot be dissolved. Ada’s deictic gesture answers to the chronophilic and chronophobic injunction now remember. this moss. It would be easy to read the stealthy it will be taken away. . such as “Ada’s note” or “late interpolation. We can discern the common denotation. it was). As Van describes it.” exclaimed Ada. as a belated insight signed by the aged couple. happiness/helplessness. This is why Van and Ada promise each other to hold on to what happens. Almost four hundred pages later. Ada’s question is shadowed by the possibility of loss. no matter how the paths twisted. even the seemingly perpetual bond of love can always be broken and is thus characterized by an “unresolvable” contradiction that permeates Van’s adoration with symptomatic agonies. it marks temporal displacement in the very act of trying to mitigate it. they inevitably met here!” (A 123–24) Van’s and Ada’s interpolated parentheses are usually identified through an appended description. Ada enacts this unresolvable problem. Every cherished event is threatened by an imminent risk of forgetting. intrinsic to its very essence. they try to figure out where and when they might have seen each other for the first time. We should here consider an important scene in the summer of 1884. can it? (it will. With amorous attention. And in a beautiful. Repeated seven times.nabokov and the time of desire 455 passion/pain. their love gives rise to “a complex system of those subtle bridges that the senses traverse . . They compare their travel itineraries from childhood in a playful exchange of memories. But such a reading disregards the pivotal part that these four words—it will. That what is loved will disappear is unacceptable but nonetheless inevitable. entangled phrase Van describes how the sight of Ada’s twelve-year-old hands gave rise to “agonies of unresolvable adoration” (A 85). This has all come together here. and got fouled up. Memory where Nabokov’s mother taught him to remember time marks at their country place. your hand. . the same word reappears concerning Van’s aging: “physical despair pervaded his unresolvable being” (A 448). this is reality. beau/beast. “is certain. it was—play on both levels of the memoir. it was taken away. Van and Ada undertake an excursion in the resplendent landscape that surrounds the family estate. Having recently fallen in love. which recalls the scene in Speak. Even her emphatic This reinforces the flight of time. tenderness/torture. the ladybird on my leg. this is pure fact—this forest. Already at the moment of its enunciation. Van’s adoration here signifies an irrevocable emotion. and fooled each other. this cannot be taken away. Ardis Hall.” It is significant that the above inserted comment is exempted from this practice.

was confronted with questions that would haunt him for the rest of his life: [A]s Van casually directed the searchlight of backthought into that maze of the past where the mirror-lined narrow paths not only took different turns. Throughout the novel. Van recounts how he on the same summer day. it was taken away. including their future selves. the science that was to obsess his mature years—problems of space and time. Van and Ada turn backwards in time by recounting past events. Dates are congenial markers because they measure the passage of time and offer points of comparison. even at the moment of its perception” (A 174.(A 123) . delimiting special periods of life and helping each other to remember their mutual history. time as space—and space breaking away from time in the final tragic triumph of human cogitation: I am because I die. Both their experience and their writing are thus haunted by the refrain it will be taken away. while seemingly pinpointing a pure presence. weeks. these dates are described as “chronographies” (A 88). On the one hand. they keep track of the interrelation between certain days. At one place. Ada emphasizes a double temporality. but also because they provide the possibility to label the current day for future retrospection. Van’s and Ada’s chronophilic passion for relating calendar dates is significant here. in still vague and idle fashion. Van and Ada hold on to their memories. space versus time. As each date implies its own recurrence the following year. they turn forwards in time by addressing readers to come. She turns towards both what is no longer and what is not yet. Ada’s emphatic This. is an act of memorization through which she tries to imprint details before they disappear. and which always was and is a form of memory. The perilous implications of this refrain are reinforced by Van’s and Ada’s decision to publish the book posthumously. Such double temporality is doubled once again when the scene is inscribed in the autobiography. my emphasis). On the other hand. there is a chain of memories where each link both guards itself and remains open towards what is to come. time-twisted space. Right before Ada’s remark cited above (“this cannot be taken away. but used different levels (as a mule-drawn cart passes under the arch of a viaduct along which a motor skims by). The autobiographical project is thus prefigured in Van’s and Ada’s passionate archiving of dates. he found himself tackling. By retaining the event as this particular event. while carefully matching his memories with Ada’s. The passage quoted above is a clear example of why perception is always already a form of memory. and years. can it?”). but their desire to keep them is concomitant with the awareness that every detail will be lost for them. space as time. Such spatialization of time is highly significant throughout the book. since the retention of the event preserves it as a memory for the future. months.456 new literary history between membrane and brain.

We thus come to a crossroads in our reading. but in between. A sympathetic reader may try to explain away this circumstance by arguing that what Van calls pure time is something immediately given. The ample rhythm causes Time to dissolve. not the recurrent beats of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats. but in fact the idea of immediacy is undermined by his writing. Nonetheless. This treatise occupies the fourth part of Ada and is intertwined with a narrative of Van’s journey (by car) from the Dolomites to Switzerland. Give me.nabokov and the time of desire 457 Van’s obsession with space and time—along with his striking revision of Descartes’s dictum—is crucial for the entire novel. when Van is on his way to a hotel where he will meet Ada for the first time in seventeen years. During his journey. It is a measure of its pivotal status that Nabokov had first planned to use its title—The Texture of Time—for the novel itself. say. One beat per minute is already far beyond my sense of succession and five oscillations per second make a hopeless blur. All of Van’s metaphors—including the title of his treatise—describe time in spatial terms and thus contradict his notion of Pure Time. while I grope for the meaning of Time. The following passage is an instructive example: What nudged. then I can do both: perceive the rhythm and probe the interval. What I endeavor to grasp is precisely the Time that Space helps me . the rapid one crowds it out. From such a perspective. a few minutes ago at the stop of a thought? Yes. The regular throb itself merely brings back the miserable idea of measurement. an unmediated experience that is incompatible with the spatialization intrinsic to language. in approaching The Texture of Time we need to be armed with critical vigilance.” the passage above should primarily be read against his philosophical treatise The Texture of Time. pure time is an interior quality that is dispersed when translated to external. A hollow. Van composes the treatise we are reading. returning by the back door with the pendulum he peddles. quantitative categories. however. these assertions do not answer to the logic of Van’s writing. To measure time would be to distort its proper essence. three seconds. there is a necessary coimplication of time and space. the gray gap between black beats: the Tender Interval. Maybe the only thing that hints at a sense of Time is rhythm. But given Van’s allusion to “the science that was to obsess his mature years. the comedy villain. which is accentuated by Van’s stylistic ingenuity and subverts his philosophical claims. the treatise denies that time and space are interdependent. Van repeatedly maintains his search for a Pure Time that would be completely separate from space. what comforted me. to discriminate separate phases in what is originally an indivisible unity. We are situated in the middle of July 1922. did I say? A dim pit? But that is only Space. On one level. How can I extract it from its soft hollow? The rhythm should be neither too slow nor too fast. As in the rest of the memoir. On closer inspection. something like true Time lurks. A number of Van’s formulations seem to invite such a reading.

seconds and oscillations within seconds. but also the self-awareness of the subject itself. Van’s argument is thus haunted by minutes. its smoothly and relentlessly rising level. as one does when one is driving past a long row of poplars and wishes to isolate and stop one of them. Not for the first time will Space intrude if I say that what we are aware of as “Present” is the constant building up of the Past. since knowledge-gaining itself “takes time. The interval cannot be a pure presence.” Van’s philosophical ambition is to elucidate experience at its most immediate.” but he soon realizes that the interval only comes into being through a distended temporality. it is necessary to define that awareness. every moment—like every detail in the fleeting landscape—can only appear as past. Van concedes that spatiality is intrinsic to the experience of time. and without such discrimination nothing could ever be distinguished. On the contrary. Van’s focus on the present demonstrates that there cannot be an immediate presence. its every leaf”(A 31). Van’s desire to retain evanescent moments is thus not compatible with the desire for an immutable presence. The interval separates the present from itself in its very event. which can remain from one moment to another and thus detain the relentless disappearance of time. Van’s inquiry is guided by one of his metaphysical ideas: that the essence of time is an indivisible presence. Van describes it as follows: “To give myself time to time Time I must move my mind in the direction opposite to that in which I am moving. it is concerned with spatializing time in order to counter its inexorable disappearance. and no wonder I fail to grasp Time. the idea turns against itself. yes. Deliberate presence consists in directing the energy of thought towards what is happening right now. Consequently. But when examined. The purported “presence” is always already becoming past and could never be experienced without spatial inscriptions. Temporality divides not only what appears for the subject. Van aims at a pure interval that would harbour “true time. Even if Van brought the car to a halt. How meager! How magic! (A 432) Here. The . The incessant division of time becomes particularly evident when Van applies a method he calls Deliberate Presence. thus making the green blur reveal and offer. A page further on Van continues in the same vein: Since the Present is but an imaginary point without an awareness of the immediate past. but what he discovers is that there can be no presence in itself.458 new literary history to measure. despite his attempt to debase measurement as a “miserable idea. it divides every moment in its very becoming. Temporal division is here marked by an inherent delay in the reflexive act of giving oneself time to time Time. offer. he would still be driven towards the future. Rather.” (A 421) Here.

Van has no qualms about appropriating a concept of the past. What was supposed to be negated is instead emphatically affirmed: The unknown. Although the temporality of the future anterior operates throughout the novel. Van’s line of reasoning encounters severe problems. since the two concepts are interdependent. all the glorious “x” intersections. He himself says that the purpose of his philosophical speculations is to keep him from brooding over their anticipated reunion. His proclaimed stance is that expectations or fears of the future are inessential phenomena for a proper understanding of time. That something is past means that it has been overtaken by a future. In any case. Van describes the treatise as a “Work-in-Progress” (A 439) and openly addresses “the dawning desk of the still-absent reader” (A 420). he is on his way to meet Ada and he is palpably nervous about meeting her after seventeen years. This argument does not refute the future as a temporal category. In a stylized setting. The determinate scheme by stripping the sunrise of its surprise would erase all sunrays—. The occasion turns out to be memorable indeed: . Perhaps this can be ascribed to a psychological cause. when Van qualifies his argument he pursues a completely different thesis: that the future is not predetermined. while he attempts to denounce what he calls the false third panel in the triptych of time. they pose for the family photographer. The scene in question is triggered by a photograph that portrays Van and Ada as young relatives in the summer of 1884. Whatever happens will have been in a future anterior that marks the becoming of every event. As Van is writing the treatise. the not yet experienced and the unexpected. Inversely. it is impossible to accept a concept of the past and deny a concept of the future. However. A similar complication can be tracked in Van’s discussion of the future in The Texture of Time. Despite Van’s overt claims. Nonetheless. but rather inheres in its definition. this insight is at work in his argument from the beginning.nabokov and the time of desire 459 narrative of the treatise archives temporal events in spatial signs. Accordingly. anticipations of the future are anticipations of a past to come. are the inherent parts of human life. However. (A 441) The relation to the future is here asserted as a necessary condition. one scene in particular captures it with striking precision. The logic of the exposition—driven by Van’s desire to keep as much as possible—undermines the purported thesis of the text. he makes several attempts to deny that the future is a valid temporal category. His simple point is that coming events do not yet exist. we get to witness yet another U-turn in the treatise.

remembered it half a dozen years later—and now. but they are dependent on supplementary devices to retain the flight of time—everything from clocks and calendars to photographs and telegrams. indeed. In the foreword to Speak. there could be no connection between past and future and consequently no experience of time. in the beginning of the nineteenth century. Van claims with a striking phrase in his treatise. the setting of Ada gives a hint as to the importance of technology. Memory. unseeing. Van is both witness and witnessed when he thinks to himself that he must memorize the present. (A 316) Van seeks to capture himself in the photographic moment precisely because even his most immediate experience is constituted by temporal difference. His very act of perceiving is divided between “the recent past” and “the imminent future. The event is inscribed as a trace in his consciousness. of transmitting visual and sonorous phenomena to the future. Van and Ada have a tremendous ability to recall the past. cars. since a chronophile has good reasons to be fascinated by mnemotechnical devices. at the opened book. when the sequence of memories is archived in the autobiography. To a large extent. The same condition is reinforced by the photograph. the flash. Nabokov’s revision of the history of technology is not just playful. For example. but Nabokov rearranges the historical course of events. which pinpoints a certain moment by duplicating it as a trace on the film. is what material supports are available for archiving. increases dramatically with inventions such as the tape recorder and the film-camera. In Van’s series of recollections one should not neglect the connection to technological memory. which is deeply significant in the novel. the world of the novel corresponds to our own. Nabokov writes that all our memories ought to be microfilmed. telephones. then. “Time is but memory in the making” (A 440). at the moment of the hooded click. Time must . and cinemas are part of everyday life. the flesh of the present (as he. while the interpolated parenthesis demonstrates how the tracing enables repetitions of the memory. in the second half of the next century). His remark is suggestive. he bunched the recent past with the imminent future and thought to himself that this would remain an objective perception of the real present and that he must remember the flavor. In full. Similarly.” There is no self-presence that can ground the passage between past and future. Within the space of a single sentence we move from the summer of 1884 to the winter of 1892—when Van encounters the photograph in an apartment in Manhattan—all the way up to the 1960s.460 new literary history Van stood inclining his head above her and looked. deliberate consciousness. Furthermore. which is why the moment must be recorded as a memory in its very event. The possibility of saving sense data. A decisive question. but is intertwined with the time-theme of the novel. Without the support of such a trace.

nabokov and the time of desire 461 be registered in spatial terms. On several occasions. Nevertheless. there is always the prospect of the face or voice being reproduced in a different context. Hence. it is incessantly divided between the already past and an imminent future. Even the most intimate self-awareness can never repose in itself. As I have already indicated. Parallel to the explicit act of photography there is an implicit act of chronography that marks the mnemotechnics of the psyche. Just as photographs can easily fade or be destroyed. there is an inevitable spacing between origin and transmission. We can thus approach another significant theme in Nabokov’s novel: that writing is a technology. By transferring sense data to an exterior receptacle. such a tracing of temporality depends on spatial inscriptions that can remain from one time to another. the photograph’s potential mnemonic power is dependent on Van’s ability to reawaken the past atmosphere. however. The same condition applies to written words. But by the same token he calls attention to the possible dispersion of meaning. Van strengthens his ability to resist the force of oblivion. is that such temporal spacing is not an unnatural process but is always already at work in the “interior” of the subject. in a necessary mediation of experience that contradicts the very idea of immediate presence. which are still readable and susceptible to manipulation in the absence of the author. When one is photographed or recorded on tape. The photograph is an “objective perception” capable of preserving details even if Van’s memory would lose its acuity. In both cases. the perceptual apparatus must be a memorymachine: retaining what is no longer by opening itself towards what is not yet. beyond the control of its presumed origin. However. Van will suffer from forgetfulness and death. Ada and Van imagine that episodes from their past are displayed as a motion picture and they are repeatedly attracted to the idea of a particular event being accessible through magnetic tape or cinematographic recordings. Such interdependence reveals the treacherous structure of memory. At the same time. One example of . arguing that its artificial modes of production distort the immediacy of living life. humanistic ideologies have traditionally demoted technology.15 We notice the necessity of mediation in Van’s thoughts before the camera in 1884. it is a matter of inscribing traces under the risk of erasure. A first clue is a number of connections between the project of the memoir and technical devices. What becomes clear in Ada. When phenomena are reproduced mechanically. there is a difference of degree to be noted here. and an advanced technology provides a greater capacity for storing and transferring what happens. To surrender one’s face to a camera or to deposit one’s voice in a tape-recorder is to be duplicated by an exterior medium that is subject to reiteration and dislocation.

However. but they nevertheless enable one to approach vanished circumstances. especially. but also a documentation of the ten-year period of writing as a drama in itself that gradually evolves in the margins of the book. Such specifications are recurrent and typographically distinguished from the editor’s notes. It is thus Ada herself who provides the additional . That the alternating process of writing is staged in the text is no coincidence. the episode when Van and Ada make love for the first time is repeatedly interrupted by repartee between the two at the time of writing. Already to inscribe an event is a form of programming. crossed out lightly in her latest wavering one” (A 19). inserts a large number of notes that supplement. when they recall the event more than seventy years later. who regret not having taped the conversation in order to listen to their voices eighty years later. For example. The ambition to narrate the one who is narrating is brought to a head in a number of supplementary markers that are mainly appended to Ada’s notes. and demand that certain passages be eliminated or rephrased. admit lapses in memory. These notes concern not only revisions of the text. the novel bifurcates into two parallel narratives.462 new literary history chronophilic imagination is a dialogue between Van and Ada in 1884. The exquisite style of Ada is perhaps the most elegant example of such literary mnemotechnics. They comment on details. which are given in square brackets according to the model: [Ed. to integrate the process of writing the autobiography into the autobiography itself. As previously mentioned. Throughout the novel. Their dialogue is supplemented by a commentary from the aged couple. Van attempts to protect himself from the emotionally charged subject by having recourse to summarious or lecherous phrases. since it relies on the ability of future users to translate the marks on the page into “living” impressions. as Van and Ada interrupt their autobiography while writing it. It is easy to understand the attraction of this prospect: the ability to reactivate visual and sonorous details heightens the sense of the past. but Ada protests and gives us a more delicate description of what happened. correct. Words printed on paper do not exhibit such a link to sensual memory. as they take turns writing the episode. and quarrel with Van’s version of their life. Ada.]. since it reinforces the quality of memories by dwelling on subtle nuances of experience. it is consistent with the chronophilic and chronophobic sense of autobiography that pervades the memoir. we can observe the desire to narrate the one who is narrating. The strategies of writing in Ada distend the scope of such programming. An inserted comment may be followed by characterizations such as “Marginal note in red ink” (A 104) or “Marginal jotting in Ada’s 1965 hand. At times. Ada and Van also pursue a more advanced technology of writing.

“And do you remember. The text is programmed to retain its character when transmitted from one material support to another and enables us to track different dates of inscription on one and the same page. For the same reason. and giving the couch a parting pat. and how Larivière stopped snoring but a moment later went on shaking the house.” “Idiot. the firefly signals were circumscribing the reservoir. crying out in three languages—the three greatest in all the world—pet words upon which a dictionary of secret diminutives was to be based and go through many revisions till the definitive edition of 1967. When the manuscript is printed as a book. and now her four limbs were frankly around him. This doubling is operative even when impending death has deprived Ada of physical strength: her wavering hand lightly crossing out text describes itself as a wavering hand lightly crossing out text. alas)—and our two naked children.” said Ada from the wall side. It is therefore necessary to describe these characteristics in order to prevent them from vanishing without a trace. The following passage exemplifies how the temporally extended process of writing is staged in the text. “how reckless we were. When Ada writes a note in 1965 she thus adds that it is a note written by herself in 1965. he murmured and moaned.” said gray-moustached Van as he took a Cannabina cigarette from the bedside table and rattled a yellow-blue matchbox. a crotchety gray old wordman on the edge of a hotel bed) did not survive the first few blind thrusts. the blessing. pattered back with their candlesticks to their innocent bedrooms. she shushed. wheels rasped on the gravel. kissing her face with voluble tenderness. When he grew too loud. but the very project of the memoir resonates in her desire to keep as much as possible. the dots of the carriage lamps became stars. in accordance with a chronophilic and chronophobic logic.nabokov and the time of desire 463 descriptions of her marginal notes. and how cold the iron steps were. the marginal notes will cease to be marginal and will be transferred to the center of the page (as indeed they are in the edition we read). . as if she had been love-making for years in all our dreams—but impatient young passion (brimming like Van’s overflowing bath while he is reworking this. the genius of lyrical speech descended upon the rough lad. without turning her head. the cook’s niece Blanche jumped out of a pumpkin-hued police van in her stockinged feet (long. the color of Ada’s ink will have been erased when her handwriting is replaced by printed letters. Ada’s inscriptions may seem to be an extreme form of chronophilia and chronophobia. and a bluebird offered a warning warble. all the dogs returned well pleased with the night treat. and how disconcerted I was—by your—how shall I put it?—lack of restraint. grabbing lap robe and nightdress. long after midnight. it burst at the lip of the orchid. The point of departure is a summer night in 1884 when Van and Ada make love: For the first time in their love story. and the lights were now stealing back under a rugged dawn. shushingly breathing into his mouth.

If we wonder exactly when this scene takes place we soon realize that the same question occupies Van (“Summer 1960? Crowded hotel somewhere between Ex and Ardez?”) when he at yet another occasion reads the text and notes that he ought to begin dating every page of the manuscript. underscore the threat of technological corruptibility. but there are several furtive mementos to be noted. There are reasons to return to this section anew (pages 173–74).464 new literary history Summer 1960? Crowded hotel somewhere between Ex and Ardez? Ought to begin dating every page of the manuscript: Should be kinder to my unknown dreamers. It seems reasonable to attribute the last comment to 1967. due to the finitude of both the machine and its designers. incomplete sentences remain in the text. As mentioned earlier. but the depiction of the “crotchety gray old wordman” is continued in the following paragraph. which necessarily was written at a later date—in its first version probably sometime in the late 1950s. The narration of the summer night is resumed. It is thus significant that the book we are reading is an unfinished manuscript. as they record themselves in the act of making further additions or commenting on their comments. In any case. what might be Van’s last word is a technical instruction (“Insert”). Van and Ada apply themselves to an ingeniously programmed textual archive. Van and Ada enable us to track how they return to the same passage several times. yet another time-level. This is easy to forget since the prose of the novel is so elegant and arrogant. since a reference to this year has been inserted into the description of the episode from 1884—if the reference to 1967 does not testify to yet another date of inscription. their obsessive investment in the autobiography only serves to accentuate their eventual disappearance. we are treated to an episode from 1884. and are subsequently repeated and completed. (A 98f–99) At least four different time-levels can be discerned here. The possibility of malfunction is built into the system from the beginning. which appear about twenty times throughout the novel. The editor’s remarks. which displaces us to a hotel room where Van and Ada are working on the manuscript. These momentary disruptions of the progressing narrative create the same effect as when the needle of a gramophone is caught in a track: we become aware of how the act of reading or listening is dependent on a fragile mechanism. In a number of places. When the first parenthesis interrupts the narrative we become aware of yet another time-level. . However. The note that interrupts an amorous scenario in 1888 is in turn interrupted in the middle of a sentence and followed by the editor’s square brackets. Initially. since Van here is reworking the section we read. but even the most advanced technology runs the risk of being distorted.

including the evil of the corrosive passage of time” can be “finally transcended by the twinned power of art and love. the writing of Van and Ada reinforces that the chance of inscription is inseparable from the risk of erasure. one can observe that the editor is insolent in some of his comments. Ronald Oranger) the sentences we anticipate are quite simply replaced by an omission mark.”16 My reading of Ada has argued for an opposite view. then. in Alter’s view “the ultimate sense” that Ada seeks to convey is that “all threats of evil. he begins to speculate on whether Van has obtained the lines from other sources. A telling example is Robert Alter. Nabokov scholars have sought to locate a transcendent meaning that would redeem the displacements of time that Ada records. In this case. As the book proceeds. who. In the middle of a dialogue. Indeed. has at least one special interest in the book. Even in Van’s and Ada’s intimate love letters he takes note of solecisms with a pedantic sic! The man behind these remarks is a certain Ronald Oranger. Nabokov’s stealthy irony reminds us that the written can never protect itself against being grafted onto a different context. when readers and editors can do as they please with the dead letters. Apparently. in fact is a petty editor who disfigures the text and reminds us that corruption is always possible. Van and Ada inscribe layer upon layer of memories in their texture of time. as it turns out. These notes have been inserted in the printed book following Van’s concluding instruction. Nevertheless. Relying on no textual support except the possibility that Ronald Oranger is an anagram (“angel nor ardor”). The autobiography of our super-imperial couple has thus been bowdlerized by a jealous husband. When in the final chapter Van is about to describe his beautiful secretary (who was to become Mrs. Alter claims that Oranger is an angelic figure whose final responsibility for the text of Ada confirms the idea that art can create a “perfected state” of paradise. the margins of Van’s proofs have not allowed sufficient space for his notes. but their hypermemoir also holds the threat of a lifeless repetition upon its posthumous publication. It is thus an appropriate irony that the figure Alter assumes to be the angelic guardian of the book’s metaphysical ambition. since threats of destruction are intrinsic even to the most amazing happiness and the most meticulous work of art. Far from redeeming corruptibility. who in an otherwise valuable essay misreads the part played by Ronald Oranger. but he has continued writing on a separate sheet. Whether their mnemotechnics are “interior” or “exterior” it is a matter of chronographing: of saving time in . The very idea of a perfect paradise is shown to be untenable in Ada. the editor appears to be faithful to the manuscript. At the same time. his interventions mark a series of interruptions that become more and more critical.nabokov and the time of desire 465 where we learn that the rest of the sentence is illegible.

in particular 109. 1973). Barbara Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1990). Both Alter and Wood pursue important discussions of how Nabokov attempts to preserve the particular through the powers of his prose. no. 1991). Rather. and Nabokov’s Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery (Princeton. Cornell University Notes 1 Compare Jacques Derrida’s essay “Plato’s Pharmacy. 9 Boyd dissimulates the logic of chronophilia when he comments on Van’s reading of Shade’s poem.” in Dissemination. and that apparent loss is an illusion. 83–102 (London: Chatto & Windus. 4 Brian Boyd. 1994). MI: Ardis Publishing.. 1969). 1980).” namely. since the promise of memory only pledges to what will be forgotten. 1999). which prefigures Boyd’s and Alexandrov’s understanding of Nabokov’s metaphysics.” 64. “that nothing is ever lost.” 72). See also Alex de Jonge’s early essay “Nabokov’s Uses of Pattern.” 72) without therefore discrediting the notion of an afterlife as such. Speak. To examine the seams in the texture of time is thus to see the fragility of every cherished connection. 7 Nabokov. 2 Nabokov. De Jonge holds that for Nabokov “time must be denied or overcome in order to establish the truth. trans. 283. 60–75. New York: Penguin. But in the same process of preservation Van and Ada are forced to underline their finitude and their dependence on marks that exceed their control. Van argues that any type of hereafter is contradicted . NJ: Princeton University Press. These chronographies anticipate future readers by making it possible to remember the inscribed events. 458 (hereafter cited in text as A). Nabokov’s “Ada”: The Place of Consciousness (Ann Arbor. and Michael Wood’s chapter on Speak. Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (New York: Penguin. Boyd’s reading is untenable for a number of reasons. Another major study that maintains Nabokov’s visions of a life beyond death is Vladimir Alexandrov’s Nabokov’s Otherworld (Princeton. Memory in The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction. for example. which nonetheless is marked by the irrevocable passage of time. and Nabokov’s “Ada.) 3 See Robert Alter’s essay “Nabokov and Memory. 4 (1991): 620–29. Nabokov’s “Ada. the creation of a partial and blinkered consciousness” (72).” 73.” in Vladimir Nabokov: A Tribute. 5 See. Boyd. 6 See Boyd. Van’s argument would teach us to leave behind our “anthropomorphic confines” when we imagine the afterlife (Nabokov’s “Ada. The double bind cannot be eliminated. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1991). NJ: Princeton University Press. NJ: Princeton University Press. Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969. Pale Fire (1962. The idea that Nabokov seeks to transcend time and finitude is the guiding thread in all of Boyd’s studies. 1985). New York: Penguin. 63–171.466 new literary history spatial marks. which in addition to the book on Ada include Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Princeton. The awareness of this condition is the chronophobia that haunts chronophilia from beginning to end. 8 Nabokov. and passim. Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton. 1971). Vladimir Nabokov: the Russian Years. 85 (hereafter cited in text as SM. 1981). Van’s argument shows “the absurdity of merely eternalizing human life” (Nabokov’s “Ada. ed. Peter Quenell (New York: Morrow & Co.” Partisan Review 58. According to Boyd. 65 (hereafter cited in text as NA).

in particular 522–24. ed. since what is past had to be finite in order to become past in the first place. Derrida explicitly relates the spacing of time to an originary technicity.. “Che cos´ è la poesia?” in Points .” in Writing and Difference. 2002). Furthermore. 1995). 11 Thus. But we have already seen that such an alternative is excluded for Nabokov and his characters. an aporetic constraint) to guard from oblivion this thing which in the same stroke exposes itself to death and protects itself. . 207–18. which reinforces the character trait that can be discerned from his notes.nabokov and the time of desire 467 by a “logical ban. 1995). Peggy Kamuf and others (Stanford. for example. Nabokov satisfies his desire for freedom by imagining the various limitations of the mind transcended in death. 196–231. Elisabeth Weber. The Gift. in particular 199. for example. you follow me. trans. . Derrida’s account of how “the mortal’s desire awakens in you the movement (which is contradictory. The classic strategy to avoid this “logical absurdity” is to say that immortal life is completely different from mortal life. which I develop in my essay “The Necessity of Discrimination: Disjoining Derrida and Levinas.” in Vladimir Nabokov: A Tribute. ed. Alan Bass (London: Routledge. “Freud and the Scene of Writing. trans. Michael Scammell (New York: Putnam.” in Psyché: Inventions de l’autre (Paris: Galilée. Knopf. For example. trans. 1980). Essäer om tid och ändlighet (Stockholm/ Stehag: Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion. When Boyd himself denounces the idea of such transposition as “absurd. Boyd’s idea of an always accessible and thus immortal past is a clear example of eternalizing the finite. freedom of access to the whole of the past” (73).” This logical ban reinforces that memories of mortal life cannot be transposed to an immortal life. 13 Wood. “Ada. 16 See Robert Alter. 220. and Ulysse Gramophone: Deux mots pour Joyce (Paris: Galilée. 10 Nabokov. ed. 1 (2004): 40–71. in the last paragraph of The Gift Fyodor marks the mortality of every writer and reader (“Good-bye. 349 (hereafter cited in text as G). no. Death could offer us a completely new relation to time: freedom of our being pegged to the present. my book! Like mortal eyes. CA: Stanford University Press. The double bind of finitude (as the condition of both the desirable and the undesirable) is a constant theme in Derrida’s work.” he denounces the very idea that organizes his own reading of Nabokov. imagined ones must close some day. 1963). 1987).”) while he at the same time expresses his desire to retain and prolong the experience of his mortal life (“And yet the ear cannot right now part with the music and allow the tale to fade. 293. 226–28. a double restraint. 118. Boyd writes: “Scrupulously avoiding the logical absurdity of eternalizing the necessarily finite condition of human consciousness. 15 These remarks are indebted to Derrida’s insights concerning an originary “spacing” of time. 14 See Derrida’s essay “L’aphorisme à contretemps. 1978). or the Perils of Paradise. 519–33. Peter Quenell (New York: Morrow & Co. Dmitri Nabokov (New York: A. 1987). See.”) 12 See The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov.” Derrida. since a chronophile turns down eternity if it does not retain the traits of mortal life. I have elsewhere developed how Derrida’s logic of desire answers to the logic of what I call chronophilia/chronophobia. Boyd’s self-contradiction is evident even within single paragraphs of his text. See the last chapter of my book Kronofobi. Note that Ronald Oranger can be pronounced as Ronald Or Anger.” Diacritics 34. Interviews: 1974–1994. 344–53. See. The Magician’s Doubts. .

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