Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fragment 1230

Pushkin is here quoting from Kuchelbecker’s article ‘Of the trend of our poetry’, published in …1824.

Tatiana Wolf Pushkin on Literature

Kuchelbecker writes of the trends of contemporary Russian poetry in 1824, quoting and referencing poems and poets therein; Pushkin quotes this article in his forward to the first edition of Eugene Onegin; Tatiana Wolff explains the reference in a footnote to her edition of Pushkin’s critical writings; I use this reference in a piece….

Signs of signs of signs …. A chain of reference taken on trust at each link in the chain.

Professor Chishevski says (p270) “… the theme of the dying youth was used by K. Delavigne (Messenie).” There is no such poet as “K. Delavigne”, and if this is meant for Casimir Delavigne, (as the index belatedly suggests), then neither he nor anybody else wrote anything called “Messenie; and if this is meant for Delavigne’s collection of patriotic elegies “Les Messeniennes”, then there is no grave of any youth sung therein.

Nabakov’s commentary on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin.

Nabakov comments on a previous commentator’s reference to a theme used by a poet who may or may not have been called Delavigne in a mysterious work which may or may not have been called Les Messeniennes; I quote this in a piece…

Signs of signs of signs …. A chain of reference in which the trust in each link is broken by the inaccuracy –the spuriousness?- of the previous link.

I can always and only speak of something that speaks to me of something else and so on. But the final something, the true one, - does that never exist?

Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

The further back, or the further on we go, the more remote and impossible to reach becomes the initial ‘something’, lost somewhere in the chain of citations, the proliferation of signs referencing other signs. What is the purpose of all this? To establish authenticity? To display learning? To fulfil an outmoded and unchanged convention created in the days when we were nearer the freshness of things, when it was possible to check references, (as) if we wanted to? Is it an insider’s code?

This welter of signs which has all the appearance of substantiality, whose reality I completely take for granted, obscures the original thing, casting doubt on its presence, its authenticity. The welter in turn becomes a new thing: a sign for ‘truth’, ‘academic reliability’, ‘knowledge’, and we are supposed to take this thing on trust. However, the sheer insubstantialness of this new sign casts doubt on the whole enterprise. The real feels spurious; the spurious looks real. I can no longer, uncritically, take this sign at its word.


Kubla Khan said...


I was searching for something on The village of stepanchikovo when i found your post on this novel. i share your appreciation of Dostoevsky. i found this novel, which i had ignored till now, extremely readable and a psychologically penetrating inquest about freedom and choice. your blog is really fine and i will visit it again. i will add it to my list if you don't mind!

happy new year.

Murr said...

Thanks for your comment Kubla, and for taking the time to read my review.

Happy New Year to you also!