The narrator of Nabokov’s ‘Look at the Harlequins’ says: I now confess that I was bothered that night by a dream feeling that my life was the non-identical twin, a parody, an inferior variant of another man’s life, somewhere on this or another earth . . . that other writer who was and would always be incomparably greater, healthier, and crueler than your obedient servant.
I, too, had suspected, feared, and was fascinated by it: that another Larry Lefkowitz existed. Another – or me – in a parallel universe or from a parallel universe. And when I discovered him, I knew at once he was me. But a me – a Larry Lefkowitz – twenty years younger, and also different from me.
First of all, he was better looking. I was pleased by it. He hadn’t undergone a youth looking into the mirror, profile view, to see if his large nose really predominated so much. The fact that my alter ego was divorced twice indicated he had been more attractive to women – up to a point. I have been married to the same woman for thirty-five years. He was clearly more adventuresome than me in his parallel universe – or was he already here, perfecting his charm, his technique, all the things that I lacked. I was pleased with him – my other self. Who had ultimately surpassed who in the love area? A philosophical question worthy of both universes (and more, if multiple universes exist).
He had had triple bypass surgery. (So much for Nabokov’s healthier double.) I worried about him. I had been blessed with good health. Maybe the romp with two wives (undaunted, he was still on the prowl) had taken their toll. I felt sorry for him, wanted to help him. I began to watch my diet (particularly less sweets) I had been warned.
He winces over bad memories. So do I. I am grateful we dovetail sometimes. It helps me to feel closer to him.
He sports a beard. I never sported a beard. He is cool, I never was. He is robust of build. I’m glad I don’t have to wrestle with him (literally) – given his being younger, I wouldn’t have a chance.
He is a writer. I really appreciated that since I am a writer. It seems I have had successes – more publications – than he has. Then again I am twenty years older. He may surpass me by the time he reaches my age. Get his novel published, I haven’t yet succeeded in publishing mine. I am rooting for him. He is, after all, me, from/in a parallel universe. One word of advice — leave off too much skirt chasing and devote more time to writing; I want the novel to be published. I want to sign copies. Ok, we can both sign copies. One in each universe?
What a denouement! To my amazement, he is suing me – for invasion of privacy and character assassination! Maybe in his universe they don’t appreciate irony. Apparently humor is taboo! And I praised him, empathized with him, almost loved him. Perhaps in the courts of justice in his universe you can sue yourself. And I thought we would embrace. Somehow. Someday. Physically! Instead this. My lawyer can try to demand trial venue in our universe (I don’t want to face a possible kangaroo court in his). Possible light in all this: I see there is a Larry Lefkowitz who is a lawyer. Maybe he can help me out. I always thought I would like to be a lawyer if I was not a writer. Appear in court, verbally adroit (the opposite of myself – maybe that’s why I became a writer). Yes, a third me, helping me to overcome a first me (or a second?) Maybe the judge will be a Larry Lefkowitz.
From Nabokov to Kafka.