Elena Rakhimova-Sommers (Editor). Nabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2017.

9781498503303

« Nabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads is the first book-length study to focus on Nabokov’s relationship with his heroines. Essays by distinguished Nabokov scholars explore the multilayered and nomadic nature of Nabokov’s women: their voice and voicelessness, their absentness, the paradigm of power and sacrifice within which they are situated, the paradox of their unattainability, their complex relationship with textual borders, the travel narrative, with the author himself.
By design, Nabokov’s woman is often assigned a short-term tourist visa with a firm expiration date. Her departure is facilitated by death or involuntary absence, which watermarks her into the male protagonist’s narrative, granting him an artistic release or a gift of self-understanding. When she leaves the stage, her portrait remains ambiguous. She can be powerfully enigmatic, but not self-actualized enough to be dynamic or, for even where the terms of her existence are deeply considered or her image beheld reverently, her recognition seems to be limited to the “Works Cited” register of the male narrator’s personal life. As a result, Nabokov’s texts often feature a nomadic woman who seems to live without a narratorial homeland, papers of her own, or storytelling privileges.
This volume explores the “residency status” of Nabokov’s silent nomads—his fleeting lovers, witches, muses, mermaids, and nymphets. As Nabokov scholars analyze the power dynamic of the writer’s narrative of male desire, they ponder—are these female characters directionless wanderers or covert operatives in the terrain of Nabokov’s text? Whereas each essay addresses a different aspect of Nabokov’s artistic relationship with the feminine, together they explore the politics of representation, authorization, and voicelessness. This collection offers new ways of reading and teaching Nabokov and is poised to appeal to a wide range of student and scholarly audiences. »

With contributions of Sofia Ahlberg, Marie Bouchet, Julian W. Connolly,
David Larmour, David Rampton, Matthew Roth, Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, Lara Delage-Toriel, Olga Voronina,
Alisa Zhulina.

Brian Boyd and Marijeta Bozovic (eds), Nabokov Upside Down, Northwestern University Press, 2017.

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http://www.nupress.northwestern.edu/content/nabokov-upside-down-1

« Nabokov Upside Down brings together essays that explicitly diverge from conventional topics and points of reference when interpreting a writer whose influence on contemporary literature is unrivaled. Scholars from around the world here read Nabokov in terms of bodies rather than minds, belly-laughs rather than erudite wit, servants rather than master-artists, or Asian rather than Western perspectives. The first part of the volume is dedicated to surveys of Nabokov’s oeuvre that transform some long-held assumptions concerning the nature of and significance of his work.

Often thought of as among the most cerebral of artists, Nabokov comes across in these essays as profoundly aware of the physical world, as evidenced by his masterly representation of physical movement, his bawdy humor, and his attention to gustatory pleasure, among other aspects of his writing. The volume’s second half focuses on individual works or phases in Nabokov’s career, noting connections among them as well as to other fields of inquiry beyond literature. Engaged in conversation with each other and, in his editorial comments, with Brian Boyd, the essays in this volume show Nabokov scholarship continuing to renew itself. »

Contributors: Shun’ichiro Akikusa, Robert Alter, Stephen Blackwell, Brian Boyd, Marijeta Bozovic, Yannicke
Chupin, Julian Connolly, Galya Diment, Dana Dragunoiu, Lara Delage-Toriel, Paul Grant, Monica Manolescu,
Naomi Olson, David Rampton, Stanislav Shvabrin, Susan Elizabeth Sweeney.

Julie Loison-Charles, Vladimir Nabokov ou l’écriture du multilinguisme : mots étrangers et jeux de mots, Paris, Presses Universitaires de Paris-Ouest, 2016.

http://www.lcdpu.fr/livre/?GCOI=27000100784340

« La mondialisation, les mouvements de population et l’accélération des échanges internationaux signifient que nous sommes tous potentiellement étrangers, avec toutes les connotations que ce terme peut porter en lui. Cela implique aussi que le bilinguisme et le recours aux mots étrangers touchent un nombre incommensurable de personnes, qu’il s’agisse des couples de nationalités différentes dont les enfants bilingues vivent entre deux langues, des immigrés vivant en situation de diglossie entre leur foyer et leur pays d’adoption, ou encore des personnes qui, dans le cadre de leur travail, côtoient des collègues de tous horizons et parlent un anglais « globish » entre deux meetings. En littérature contemporaine, de nombreux auteurs ayant immigré ou choisi l’anglais pour s’ouvrir un plus grand public incorporent leur double culture et leur double langage dans leur écriture. Un des premiers écrivains du vingtième siècle à avoir accepté et revendiqué haut et fort son héritage polyglotte est Vladimir Nabokov.

Sa prose en anglais porte les traces d’un métissage linguistique qui lance au lecteur une invitation au voyage. Elle se caractérise également par une grande créativité qui incite le lecteur à jouer avec le texte et ses nombreux calembours. C’est cette invitation au voyage et au jeu que cet ouvrage se propose de suivre et d’éclairer. »

Alex Beam, The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship, Pantheon, 2016.

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A Portrait of “Literary Malice” », The Atlantic, December 2016.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/12/cover-to-cover/505847/

« The dazzling correspondence between Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson, two giants of 20th-century letters who met in 1940 and kept in close touch through the 1950s, is legendary. Less well known is their falling-out, triggered by, of all things, a Pushkin translation: In 1965, in The New York Review of Books, Wilson called Nabokov’s version of Eugene Onegin “disastrous.” When Alex Beam, a columnist for The Boston Globe, recently learned about the feud, he “burst out laughing.” How could such men be so silly?

His probing has produced a concise portrait of “literary malice,” which he notes was a specialty taught by a favorite secondary-school teacher of Nabokov’s. It is also contagious, as Beam demonstrates. His acerbic account of even the “beautiful friendship” phase isn’t flattering. The multilingual one-upmanship, the barbed assessments of each other’s work: Why, you’ll wonder, did the two enjoy spending time together?

Beam’s caustic treatment of the “seven-plus years of malicious rhetoric” that ensued after Wilson’s review is mercifully brief. If all the hifalutin nastiness is enough to leave a bitter taste, it also inspires an intense urge: to return to the books that show both writers at their best. »

Stephen Blackwell & Kurt Johnson (eds.), Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art, Yale University Press, 2016.

491517950c7628b6b834b9f714e6f92b« The book contains 148 of Nabokov’s scientific drawings with detailed explanatory captions by (mostly) Kurt, and six reproductions of VN’s inscription drawings to Véra, along with essays by several scientists and Nabokov specialists who have written about or built upon Nabokov’s lepidoptery. The drawings are nearly all reproduced at their full size (4×6 inches), and all are at very high resolution. 62 of the plates are in color. Table of Contents attached. Teaser: Robert Dirig determines the real imaginary location of New Wye in Pale Fire. »

Michael Rodgers, Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (Eds.), Nabokov and the Question of Morality. Aesthetics, Metaphysics, and the Ethics of Fiction, Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016.

« A volume that Susan Elizabeth Sweeney co-edited with Michael Rodgers, Nabokov and the Question of Morality: Aesthetics, Metaphysics, and the Ethics of Fiction, has just come out from Palgrave Macmillan. It addresses the vexing issue of Nabokov’s moral stances, arguing that he designed his works as open-ended ethical problems–concerning good or bad reading, God’s existence, the nature of evil, agency and altruism, and the ethics of representing sex, punishment, and suffering, among other topics–for readers to confront. The volume includes essays by Gennady Barabtarlo, Julian Connolly, Leland de la Durantaye, Jacqueline Hamrit, Elspeth Jajdelska, Laurence Piercy, David Rampton, Michael Rodgers, Samuel Schuman, Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, Tom Whalen, and Michael Wood.
Dana Draguniou calls the book « A tremendous achievement . . . Fyodor, the protagonist of Nabokov’s Russian magnum opus The Gift, notes that reading Pushkin is like having the capacity of one’s lungs expanded; reading these essays offers a similarly bracing experience. » Thomas Karshan praises it for treating « Nabokov’s eerie and insistent moral simplicity as a question and a puzzle, extending his ethical intricacy well into » many new topics for critical exploration. »

http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137596666

Alexia Gassin, L’œuvre de Vladimir Nabokov au regard de la culture et de l’art allemands. Survivances de l’ expressionnisme, Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, Peter Lang, collection « Comparatisme et Société / Comparatism and Society », vol. 32, 2016.

L-oeuvre-de-Vladimir-Nabokov-au-regard-de-la-culture-et-de-l-art-allemands« Jusqu’à présent, les études nabokoviennes ont tendance à ignorer l’influence de la culture allemande sur l’œuvre de Vladimir Nabokov. Ce faisant, elles se conforment aux propos de l’écrivain qui a fréquemment déclaré que, malgré ses quinze années passées en Allemagne (1922–1937), il a toujours évité tout contact avec la langue et l’univers allemands. Pourtant, bien que l’émigration russe à Berlin vive en vase clos, les frontières entre les mondes russe et allemand ne sont pas si étanches, ce qui apparaît nettement dans les fréquentes allusions littéraires de l’écrivain à des œuvres de littérature, de cinéma et de peinture allemandes.Le présent ouvrage a donc pour objectif de lire l’œuvre de Nabokov dans le contexte de l’art allemand de la fin du XIXe et du début du XXe siècle, notamment de l’esthétique expressionniste et de trois de ses grands thèmes majeurs, à savoir l’altération du psychisme humain, l’ambivalence de la figure féminine et la représentation de la grande ville. Il vise ainsi à proposer une nouvelle interprétation des œuvres russes de Nabokov, à reconstruire le contexte culturel berlinois (cinéma et peinture) dans lequel ces dernières furent créées et à montrer que l’écrivain n’était pas si hermétique à la culture allemande qu’il voulait bien le laisser entendre. »

Robert Roper, Nabokov in America. On the Road to Lolita, Walker and Company, 2015.

« The author of the immortal Lolita and Pale Fire, born to an eminent Russian family, conjures the apotheosis of the high modernist artist: cultured, refined-as European as they come. But Vladimir Nabokov, who came to America fleeing the Nazis, came to think of his time here as the richest of his life. Indeed, Nabokov was not only happiest here, but his best work flowed from his response to this exotic land.

Robert Roper fills out this period in the writer’s life with charm and insight–covering Nabokov’s critical friendship with Edmund Wilson, his time at Cornell, his role at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. But Nabokov in America finds its narrative heart in his serial sojourns into the wilds of the West, undertaken with his wife, Vera, and their son over more than a decade. Nabokov covered more than 200,000 miles as he indulged his other passion: butterfly collecting. Roper has mined fresh sources to bring detail to these journeys, and traces their significant influence in Nabokov’s work: on two-lane highways and in late-’40s motels and cafés, we feel Lolita draw near, and understand Nabokov’s seductive familiarity with the American mundane. Nabokov in America is also a love letter to U.S. literature, in Nabokov’s broad embrace of it from Melville to the Beats. Reading Roper, we feel anew the mountain breezes and the miles logged, the rich learning and the Romantic mind behind some of Nabokov’s most beloved books. »

Juliette Kahanne, Une fille, Editions de L’Olivier, 2015.

« Enfant, elle118817_couverture_Hres_0 grandit entre sa grand-mère et sa mère, entre désordre et mélancolie, dans un véritable capharnaüm. De temps en temps, un homme séduisant qui l’impressionne et la rend muette l’emmène dîner dans une boîte de nuit. Cet homme est son père, Maurice Girodias, don Juan et dandy, éditeur de Lolita, Miller et Burroughs, héros de la lutte contre la censure pour certains, aventurier sans scrupules pour d’autres. L’enfant devient adolescente, et comprend qu’elle doit compter sur elle-même. Au milieu des années 60, elle a dix-sept ans et entreprend une traversée de la Californie, qui à cette époque libertaire prend vite l’allure d’un voyage initiatique. De retour en France, l’adolescente devenue femme se révolte. Nous sommes en mai 68.

Mais est-il possible de mener le récit d’une enfance et d’une adolescence sans faire face au silence, à la honte et au mensonge ? Juliette Kahane affronte l’histoire de son père, ouvre les caisses d’archives qu’elle a héritées de lui, et se résout enfin à lire son autobiographie, Une journée sur la terre. »

On Lolita – Ed Dodson

I first read Nabokov in the summer of 2009, mid-way between my first and second year of studying English at the University of Leeds. Lolita had been on my horizon, but never in my hands, during those opening semesters of undergraduate life; it had not fit into the theoretical mould by which prose fiction had been presented to us. Nonetheless, I was well prepared for the novel’s postmodern tomfoolery, its deceptive and unreliable narrator, and its transgression of art’s ethical boundaries – but not for its tenderness. After a failed attempt, towards the end of the novel, to reclaim the love of his life, Humbert Humbert admits: ‘presently I was driving through the drizzle of the dying day, with the windshield wipers in full action but unable to cope with my tears’ (chapter 29, p.280). Just as the ‘drizzle’ mimicked (and mocked?) his tears, so did Humbert’s match my own.

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