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Undulations and Vibrations, Tonalities and Harmonies: Nabokov, Acoustics and the Otherworld

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Abstract

Nabokov’s fiction articulates a keen interest in the akoumenal (Smith Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 73 (3): 328–343, 1968, passim.): he elaborates on sound as wave and vibration, on sound’s capacity to affect the listener bodily, and on what Simmel calls sound’s “supra-individuality.” Nabokov enquires into the impact of sound and into its physical aspects in particular, for it is precisely the latter from which the metaphysical dimension of the akoumenal derives. Poetic inspiration is described in terms of sympathetic vibrations, interpersonal relationships are conceived of in terms of intersubjective consonance, the “undulations” of sound become interchangeable with those of the soul, and Nabokov’s “cosmic synchronization” is accomplished by a getting attuned. If, as Stefan Helmreich contends, waves are omnipresent and “the basis of the cosmos” (Helmreich in Insight 3: 4, 2010) waves equally permeate what Nabokov calls “the Otherworld” that becomes thus accessible to the receptive and responsive ear.

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Metzger, S. (2020). Undulations and Vibrations, Tonalities and Harmonies: Nabokov, Acoustics and the Otherworld. In: Bouchet, M., Loison-Charles, J., Poulin, I. (eds) The Five Senses in Nabokov's Works. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45406-7_17

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