Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fragrant Tenderness

I found this bag of micellaneous buttons at the Flea Market at the Alanson Riverfest. I love thinking about where they have been and how they got to me. Some have little bits of thread and fabric on them and the grooves of the large button at the top look dirty. They are not part of my own past, but they speak another language. A big part of my memory thread is attached to objects that remind me of times gone past. I am reading (part of my Russian summer) a two volume biography of Nabokov by Brian Boyd. It is long and crammed with detail and very, very interesting. Here is a taste of VN.

“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 of 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 functional in its own right: the times when a man who might put on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dressed up for an elegant masquerade.”

Vladimir Nabokov, translation from A Guide to Berlin as quoted in Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: the Russian Years, pp 250-251.
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