Manual Nabokov: The Mystery of Literary Structures

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His longest novel, which met with a mixed response, is Ada He devoted more time to the composition of this novel than any of his others. Nabokov's fiction is characterized by linguistic playfulness. For example, his short story " The Vane Sisters " is famous in part for its acrostic final paragraph, in which the first letters of each word spell out a message from beyond the grave. In another of his short stories, " Signs and Symbols " , Nabokov creates a character suffering from an imaginary illness called "Referential Mania," in which the afflicted is faced with a world of environmental objects exchanging coded messages.

Nabokov's stature as a literary critic is founded largely on his four-volume translation and commentary for Alexander Pushkin 's novel in verse, Eugene Onegin , published in That commentary ended with an appendix titled Notes on Prosody , which has developed a reputation of its own. It stemmed from his observation that while Pushkin's iambic tetrameters had been a part of Russian literature for a fairly short two centuries, they were clearly understood by the Russian prosodists.

On the other hand, he viewed the much older English iambic tetrameters as muddled and poorly documented. In his own words:. I have been forced to invent a simple little terminology of my own, explain its application to English verse forms, and indulge in certain rather copious details of classification before even tackling the limited object of these notes to my translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin , an object that boils down to very little—in comparison to the forced preliminaries—namely, to a few things that the non-Russian student of Russian literature must know in regard to Russian prosody in general and to Eugene Onegin in particular.

Nabokov's lectures at Cornell University, as collected in Lectures on Literature , reveal his controversial ideas concerning art. He detested what he saw as 'general ideas' in novels, and so when teaching Ulysses , for example, he would insist students keep an eye on where the characters were in Dublin with the aid of a map rather than teaching the complex Irish history that many critics see as being essential to an understanding of the novel. As Edward Jay Epstein described his experience in Nabokov's classes that he made it clear from the very first lectures that he had little interest in fraternizing with students, who would be known not by their name but by their seat number.

Nabokov was a self-described synesthete , who at a young age equated the number five with the colour red. His wife also exhibited synesthesia; like her husband, her mind's eye associated colours with particular letters. They discovered that Dmitri shared the trait, and moreover that the colours he associated with some letters were in some cases blends of his parents' hues—"which is as if genes were painting in aquarelle ".

For some synesthetes, letters are not simply associated with certain colors, they are themselves colored. Nabokov frequently endowed his protagonists with a similar gift. In Bend Sinister Krug comments on his perception of the word "loyalty" as being like a golden fork lying out in the sun.

In The Defense , Nabokov mentioned briefly how the main character's father, a writer, found he was unable to complete a novel that he planned to write, becoming lost in the fabricated storyline by "starting with colors". Many other subtle references are made in Nabokov's writing that can be traced back to his synesthesia. Many of his characters have a distinct "sensory appetite" reminiscent of synesthesia. Nabokov's interest in entomology had been inspired by books of Maria Sibylla Merian he had found in the attic of his family's country home in Vyra. During the s, as a research fellow in zoology , he was responsible for organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.


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His writings in this area were highly technical. This, combined with his specialty in the relatively unspectacular tribe Polyommatini of the family Lycaenidae , has left this facet of his life little explored by most admirers of his literary works. He described the Karner blue. The genus Nabokovia was named after him in honor of this work, as were a number of butterfly and moth species e.

It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all. Gould notes that Nabokov was occasionally a scientific "stick-in-the-mud". For example, Nabokov never accepted that genetics or the counting of chromosomes could be a valid way to distinguish species of insects, and relied on the traditional for lepidopterists microscopic comparison of their genitalia.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History , which now contains the Museum of Comparative Zoology, still possesses Nabokov's "genitalia cabinet", where the author stored his collection of male blue butterfly genitalia.

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Though his work was not taken seriously by professional lepidopterists during his life, new genetic research supports Nabokov's hypothesis that a group of butterfly species, called the Polyommatus blues, came to the New World over the Bering Strait in five waves, eventually reaching Chile. Many of Nabokov's fans have tried to ascribe literary value to his scientific papers, Gould notes. Conversely, others have claimed that his scientific work enriched his literary output. Gould advocates a third view, holding that the other two positions are examples of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Rather than assuming that either side of Nabokov's work caused or stimulated the other, Gould proposes that both stemmed from Nabokov's love of detail, contemplation, and symmetry.

Nabokov spent considerable time during his exile on the composition of chess problems. He describes the process of composing and constructing in his memoir: "The strain on the mind is formidable; the element of time drops out of one's consciousness". To him, the "originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity" of creating a chess problem was similar to that in any other art. Nabokov was a classical liberal , in the tradition of his father, a liberal statesman who served in the Provisional Government following the February Revolution of as a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party.

In a poem he wrote as a teenager in , he described Lenin's Bolsheviks as "grey rag-tag people". Throughout his life, Nabokov would remain committed to the classical liberal political philosophy of his father, and equally opposed Tsarist autocracy, communism, and fascism. Nabokov's father Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov was the most outspoken defender of Jewish rights in the Russian Empire , continuing in a family tradition that had been led by his own father, Dmitry Nabokov, who as Justice Minister under Tsar Alexander II had successfully blocked anti-semitic measures from being passed by the Interior Minister.

When asked, in , whether he would like to revisit the land he had fled in , now the Soviet Union, he replied: "There's nothing to look at. New tenement houses and old churches do not interest me. The hotels there are terrible.

I detest the Soviet theater. Any palace in Italy is superior to the repainted abodes of the Tsars.

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The village huts in the forbidden hinterland are as dismally poor as ever, and the wretched peasant flogs his wretched cart horse with the same wretched zest. As to my special northern landscape and the haunts of my childhood — well, I would not wish to contaminate their images preserved in my mind. In he declared: "Democracy is humanity at its best In his religious views, Nabokov was an agnostic.

He wrote to Edmund Wilson, who had been making suggestions for his lectures: "I dislike Jane Austen , and am prejudiced, in fact against all women writers. They are in another class. The Russian literary critic Yuly Aykhenvald was an early admirer of Nabokov, citing in particular his ability to imbue objects with life: "he saturates trivial things with life, sense and psychology and gives a mind to objects; his refined senses notice colorations and nuances, smells and sounds, and everything acquires an unexpected meaning and truth under his gaze and through his words.

It has also been argued that Pynchon's prose style is influenced by Nabokov's preference for actualism over realism. The novelist John Hawkes took inspiration from Nabokov and considered himself his follower. Nabokov's story "Signs and Symbols" was on the reading list for Hawkes's writing students at Brown University.

Several authors who came to prominence in the s and s have also cited Nabokov's work as a literary influence.

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Aleksandar Hemon , whose high-wire wordplay and sense of the absurd are often compared to Nabokov's, has acknowledged the latter's impact on his writing. He's able to juggle ten balls where most people can juggle three or four. Coraghessan Boyle said that "Nabokov's playfulness and the ravishing beauty of his prose are ongoing influences" on his writing, [80] and Marisha Pessl has also been influenced by Nabokov.

Nabokov appears in W. Sebald 's novel The Emigrants.

Vladimir Nabokov | Scribd

The song cycle "Sing, Poetry" on the contemporary classical album Troika comprises settings of Russian and English versions of three of Nabokov's poems by such composers as Jay Greenberg , Michael Schelle and Lev Zhurbin. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Russian-American novelist, lepidopterist, professor. For his father, the politician, see Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov. For the asteroid, see Nabokov. For other persons with the name, see Nabokov surname.


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This name uses Eastern Slavic naming customs ; the patronymic is Vladimirovich and the family name is Nabokov. Main article: Vladimir Nabokov bibliography. At the time of Nabokov's birth, the offset between the calendars was 12 days. His date of birth in the Julian calendar was 10 April ; in the Gregorian, 22 April Nevertheless, it was so misapplied by some writers, and 23 April came to be erroneously shown in many places as his birthday.

In his memoirs Speak, Memory Nabokov indicates that 22 April was the correct date but that he nevertheless preferred to celebrate his birthday "with diminishing pomp" on 23 April p. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 9 September Collins English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

Modern Library. Retrieved 12 February Speak, Memory: A Memoir. Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years.

Nabokov the Mystery of Literary Structures by Toker Leona

Princeton University Press. Vladimir Nabokov. Reaktion Books. Retrieved 3 May Nobokov believed wholeheartedly in enchantment; he once proclaimed that all great novels must be, first, great fairy tales.