Magazine article World Literature Today

The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov

Article excerpt

Andrea Pitzer. The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov. New York. Pegasus. 2013. isbn 9781605984117

The thesis of Andrea Pitzer's book on Vladimir Nabokov is an ambitious one, and its ambition is reflected in her title: The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov. Given the popularity of Nabokov among academics, one could assume that Pitzer is setting herself up for a battle, and as some battles among literary territories and authors can constitute career suicide, Pitzer would have to be quite sure of herself to give her book-her first book-I might add, such an ambitious title.

Yet, The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov is a beautifully written, thor- oughly researched book that is sure to significantly enrich the stream of Nabokovian studies. Pitzer's thesis argues that the idea of the concentra- tion camp haunts and informs much of Nabokov's mature work. However, Nabokov, being the clever trickster that he was, conceals this from his readers, as if daring them to locate the clues that are sprinkled through- out his works like four-leaf clovers in a field. Pitzer has done her research and has plucked these clues for us. Unlike his earlier work, which so demonstrably examined the life of the exile, his more mature work was decidedly more political than early readings might suggest.

The book's sequence follows Nabokov's life from his birth in St. Petersburg to his death in Montreux. Bookending the sequence are chap- ters on a meeting that was supposed to take place between Nabokov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but did not. …

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