« In Nabokov and Indeterminacy, Priscilla Meyer shows how Vladimir Nabokov’s early novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight illuminates his later work. Meyer first focuses on Sebastian Knight, exploring how Nabokov associates his characters with systems of subtextual references to Russian, British, and American literary and philosophical works. She then turns to Lolita and Pale Fire, applying these insights to show that these later novels clearly differentiate the characters through subtextual references, and that Sebastian Knight’s construction models that of Pale Fire.
Meyer argues that the dialogue Nabokov constructs among subtexts explores his central concern: the continued existence of the spirit beyond bodily death. She suggests that because Nabokov’s art was a quest for an unattainable knowledge of the otherworldly, knowledge which can never be conclusive, Nabokov’s novels are never closed in plot, theme, or resolution—they take as their hidden theme the unfinalizability that Bakhtin says characterizes all novels.
The conclusions of Nabokov’s novels demand a rereading, and each rereading yields a different novel. The reader can never get back to the same beginning, never attain a conclusion, and instead becomes an adept of Nabokov’s quest. Meyer emphasizes that, unlike much postmodern fiction, the contradictions created by Nabokov’s multiple paths do not imply that existence is constructed arbitrarily of pre-existing fragments, but rather that these fragments lead to an ever-deepening approach to the unknowable. »
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« No marriage of a major twentieth-century writer is quite as beguiling as that of Vladimir Nabokov’s to Véra Slonim. She shared his delight in life’s trifles and literature’s treasures, and he rated her as having the best and quickest sense of humor of any woman he had met. From their first encounter in 1923, Vladimir’s letters to Véra form a narrative arc that tells a half-century-long love story, one that is playful, romantic, pithy and memorable. At the same time, the letters tell us much about the man and the writer. We see the infectious fascination with which Vladimir observed everything—animals, people, speech, the landscapes and cityscapes he encountered—and learn of the poems, plays, stories, novels, memoirs, screenplays and translations on which he worked ceaselessly. This delicious volume contains twenty-one photographs, as well as facsimiles of the letters themselves and the puzzles and doodles Vladimir often sent to Véra. »
About the book :
« Data meets literature in this “enlightening” (The Wall Street Journal), “brilliant” (The Boston Globe), “Nate Silver-esque” (O, The Oprah Magazine) look at what the numbers have to say about our favorite authors and their masterpieces.
There’s a famous piece of writing advice—offered by Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and myriad writers in between—not to use -ly adverbs like “quickly” or “angrily.” It sounds like solid advice, but can we actually test it? If we were to count all the -ly adverbs these authors used in their careers, do they follow their own advice? What’s more, do great books in general—the classics and the bestsellers—share this trait?
In the age of big data we can answer questions like these in the blink of an eye. In Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, a “literary detective story: fast-paced, thought-provoking, and intriguing” (Brian Christian, coauthor of Algorithms to Live By), statistician and journalist Ben Blatt explores the wealth of fun findings that can be discovered by using text and data analysis. He assembles a database of thousands of books and hundreds of millions of words, and then he asks the questions that have intrigued book lovers for generations: What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write differently? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? What makes a great opening sentence? And which writerly advice is worth following or ignoring?
All of Blatt’s investigations and experiments are original, conducted himself, and no math knowledge is needed to enjoy the book. On every page, there are new and eye-opening findings. By the end, you will have a newfound appreciation of your favorite authors and also come away with a fresh perspective on your own writing. “Blatt’s new book reveals surprising literary secrets” (Entertainment Weekly) and casts an x-ray through literature, allowing us to see both the patterns that hold it together and the brilliant flourishes that allow it to spring to life. »
Description de l’éditeur : « Vladimir Nabokov et sa femme Véra se sont rencontrés en 1923, à Berlin, où leurs familles respectives avaient fui le pouvoir bolchevique. Tout au long du demi-siècle que dure leur mariage, ils ne sont séparés que rarement, mais alors il lui écrit chaque jour : ainsi quand Véra part se soigner dans un sanatorium de la Forêt Noire, quand Vladimir rend visite à sa famille réfugiée à Prague, où quand Véra tarde à le rejoindre à Paris. Plus tard, ses conférences dans le Sud des États-Unis suscitent de nouvelles lettres. Dans toute cette correspondance, pour nous à sens unique – Véra ayant détruit ses propres lettres –, on voit la passion de Nabokov pour sa femme, sa vie quotidienne dans le milieu de l’émigration russe à Berlin, les bouleversements auxquels tous deux sont confrontés dans leur vie matérielle et affective, le dénuement qui est le sien lors de ses débuts à Paris, l’intérêt croissant suscité par son œuvre auprès des éditeurs et d’un public éclairé, le soutien indéfectible que lui apporte Véra.
Ces lettres, outre ce qu’elles révèlent sur l’homme, nous font découvrir le laboratoire de l’écrivain – son énergie créatrice, la pléthore de sujets qui surgissent et disparaissent, l’intensité de son travail – et on y reconnaît l’originalité de son style : sa veine parodique, poétique, sa vivacité et ses jeux de mots. »
« 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,
A Portrait of “Literary Malice” », The Atlantic, December 2016.
« 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. »
« 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. »