Nabokov Explains Retro

I’ve been working thorugh The Stories of Vladmir Nabokov for a while “in my copious spare time”(which has become something of a catchprhase in my department), and it is expectedly excellent. One particular passage is prominent enough to perscribe posting: in A Guide to Berlin (One of the many “I am such an amazing author that you’re going to love and find meaning in this mundane vignette” style stories in the collection), Nabokov perfectly explains the retro aesthetic:

The horse-drawn tram has vanished, and so will the trolley, and some eccentric Berlin writer in the twenties of the twenty-first century, wishing to portray our time, will go to a museum of technological history and locate a hundred-year-old streetcar, yellow, uncouth, with old-fashioned curved seats, and in a museum of old costumes dig up a black, shiny-buttoned conductor’s uniform. Then he will go home and compile a description of Berlin streets in bygone days. Everything ,every trifle, will be valuable and meaningful: the conductor’s purse, the advertisement over the window, that peculiar jolting motion which our great-grandchildren will perhaps imagine — everything will be ennobled and justified by its age.
I think that here lies the sense of literary creation: to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in the far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right: the times when a man who might put on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dress up for an elegant masquerade.

While on the topic of retro aesthetic, check out Jake Von Slatt’s 2009 Steampunk Gift Guide. David Gingery books and Buffy DVDs, Power Tools and Prissy Bags (although personally I would go for a Torrente if I were to pay too much for a Marcopoloni bag; I just like vertical messengers), truly a man after my own heart.

This entry was posted in Entertainment, General, Literature, OldBlog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *