the problem with nabokov

“Next day, in their little drawing room, with its black divan, yellow cushions, and draftproof bay whose new window seemed to magnify the slow steady straight-falling snowflakes (coincidentally stylized on the cover of the current issue of The Beau & the Butterfly which lay on the window ledge), Ada discussed her ‘dramatic career.’ The whole matter secretly nauseated Van (so that, by contrast, her Natural History passion acquired a nostalgic splendor). For him the written word existed only in its abstract purity, in its unrepeatable appeal to an equally ideal mind. It belonged solely to its creator and could not be spoken or enacted by a mime (as Ada insisted) without letting the deadly stab of another’s mind destroy the artist in the very lair of his art. A written play was intrinsically superior to the best performance of it, even if directed by the author himself. Otherwise, Van agreed with Ada that the talking screen was certainly preferable to the live theater for the simple reason that with the former a directory could attain, and maintain, his own standards of perfection throughout an unlimited number of performances.”

(Vladimir Nabokov, Ada, p. 323)

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