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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 19 / 69





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Cohen 16

violent and spectacular collision of worlds, an interpenetration of the delusional

fictions of Kinbote, the paranoid revenge fantasy of Jack Grey (a world whose

composition we can only infer), and the deceptive "reality" of New Wye.

Behind and above these fictional worlds is the character Nabokov, the creator

and master of all of them: "I may turn up yet," Kinbote says before completing his

commentary and ostensibly committing suicide, "on another campus, as an old,

happy, healthy, heterosexual Russian, a writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans

audience, sans anything but his art" (300-1). The persona Kinbote imagines is of

course that of Nabokov himself (Lee


at least as he constructed it through his

autobiography and interviews.' For while the death of Shade is the point of origin of

Kinbote's Commentary, the novel itself arises from the interplay of two texts, a

structure which insistently points back and up to a more or less "aloof and mute"

author. The death of Shade is thus a nexus between both the worlds within the novel

and the worlds just outside, those of writer and reader. To use Freud's words,

"everything seemed to converge upon it, and . . . the most various and remarkable

results radiated out from it" (196).

Like the death of Shade in Pale Fire, the primal scene in The Wolf-Man

functions as both an origin and an end. For the patient, the primal scene is the root

cause of the neurosis, and in its uncovering and retelling, the cure; for Freud, the

primal scene is that which he expects to find in the analysis, and, after putting the

patient "under the inexorable pressure" (157) of an arbitrary six-month deadline, that

In Strong Opmions, Nabokov claims he gives interviews "to construct in the presence of my audience the semblance of what I hope is a plausible and not altogether displeasing personality" (158). When I

discuss the "Nabokov" within


Fire, Speak,


and Strong Opinions, I am referring to this

quasi-character, a constructed figure similar to, but not synonymous with, his creator.

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