Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov

Synopsis

A selection of criticism, arranged in chronological order of publication, devoted to the writings of Vladimir Nabokov.

One of the major original prose writers of the twentieth century, Vladimir Nabokov is a stylist with extraordinary narrative and descriptive skill who possesses a linguistic inventiveness in both Russian and English. Nabokov's great achievement as a stylist manifests itself in such works as Ada, Pale Fire, and most evidently, in Lolita, where he swerves parodically from the seriousness of typical romance. Though his art is not autobiographical, Nabokov invents sinister, insage or talentless versions of himself, as exemplified in Ferdinand, a diabolic, cold, and technical writer from Spring in Fialta.

Vladimir Nabokov is one of over 200 volumes in the "Modern Critical Views" series, edited and introduced by Harold Bloom and published by Chelsea House. Taken together, these volumes represent a comprehensive collection of the best current criticism of the most widely read poems, novels, stories, and dramas of the Western World.

Excerpt

If Nabokov enjoys a somewhat inflated reputation at this time, at his best he remains a considerable figure. Pale Fire can sustain a remarkable number of rereadings. Lolita, baroque and subtle, is a book written to be reread, though whether its continued force matches the intricacy of its design seems to me problematic. Little is gained for Nabokov by comparing him to Sterne or to Joyce. Borges, who was essentially a parodist, is an apter parallel to Nabokov. Perhaps parodists are fated to resent Sigmund Freud; certainly Borges and Nabokov are the modern writers who most consistently and ignorantly abuse Freud.

Where Nabokov can hardly be overpraised is in his achievement as a stylist. This is one of the endlessly dazzling paragraphs of Lolita:

So Humbert the Cubus schemed and dreamed—and the red sun
of desire and decision (the two things that create a live world)
rose higher and higher, while upon a succession of balconies a
succession of libertines, sparkling glass in hand, toasted the bliss
of past and future nights. Then, figuratively speaking, I shattered
the glass, and boldly imagined (for I was drunk on those visions
by then and underrated the gentleness of my nature) how even
tually I might blackmail—no, that is too strong a word—
mauvemail big Haze into letting me consort with little Haze by
gently threatening the poor doting Big Dove with desertion if she
tried to bar me from playing with my legal stepdaughter. In a
word, before such an Amazing Offer, before such a vastness and
variety of vistas, I was as helpless as Adam at the preview of
early oriental history, miraged in his apple orchard.

It is a grand prose-poem, and the entire book in little. Reading it aloud is a shocking pleasure, and analyzing it yet another pleasure, more inward . . .

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