Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Melancholic nostalgia: The connection between ‘Spring in Fialta’ and ‘Suicides”

     ‘Spring in Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov comprises of painful recollections of the past. The theme of nostalgia gives in way to frustrations, jealousies, obsessions and a desire for more, all of which prove to be detrimental. The melancholic atmosphere of the story gives a sense of lost opportunities, of what could have been.
     The setting of the story and its reflective tone are depressing, apparent in their vivid description and bizarre imagery. It gives a surreal setting of a sleepy town, almost in a dream-like state.
     Nina is the source of the narrator’s painful memoirs.  In his mind, change is constantly taking place, representative in the changing weather. The very presence of her makes him feel sad, triggers his memoirs and makes him possessive and jealous.
     The theme of transience could represent an Orthodox Christian perspective that life if fatalistic and temporary; nothing lasts forever. There is a possibility for things to repeat later in life, for instance, Victor’s chance encounters with Nina. It makes us question our Fate. However, we have no control of our Fate and life is full of uncertainties.
     ‘Suicides’ by Cesare Pavese presents another scenario of melancholic nostalgia, and one-sided love’s contribution to fatal consequences. The story is a recollection of an author suffering from years of remorse and delusions. He recalls his intimate relationship with a dead woman and reveals the guilt he feels.
     As the events unfold, the author loses our sympathy due to his cruel treatment towards Carlotta, a vulnerable woman. The narrator caused her unhappiness, played false on her and did not take his commitment with her seriously. He is unreasonably harsh and cruel to her, treating her like a play thing.
     He struggles with loneliness, simultaneously enjoying it. When he desired company, he used Carlotta to fulfill his physical need, emotionally hurt her then instantly left her. He felt relieved after releasing his anger on her. The fact that Carlotta took him as his lover infuriated him. He could not bear to see her happy. He comforted himself at the expense of being verbally harsh to her.
     He caused her so much emotional pain, agony and suffering that “she lost her good looks.” The only time he is thoughtful about her is when he ensures shutting the café door carefully, knowing that the slam of the door “was battering on her brain.’’ In the end, Carlotta committed suicide by leaving the gas on in her apartment.
     Carlotta could be representative of the author’s great American love, actress Constance Dowling. He was chronically depressed, which is prevalent in the story. He was not willing for a serious attachment with any woman. There are profound emotions of tension, pain and despair involved in the story; he had no idea what he wanted.
     The authors harboured a narrow perspective of life. They questioned existence and were dissatisfied. According to source ‘Suicide in the Literary Work of Cesare Pavese’, he “narrowed his existential horizon to the point of being less and less capable of living in the world and projecting himself into the future. Hence, this acute feeling of incapacity caused him to have lasting experiences of failure that brought him to view suicide as the only way to free himself from the torment.” He eventually died from an overdose of barbuities.

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