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“Unquencha ble Russia ”, or Forb idden Them es in Nabo kov’s Pros e ...

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“Unquenchable Russia”, or Forbidden Themes in Nabokov’s Prose
November 2nd, 2010 |

“…What I feel to be the real modern world is the world the artist creates, his own mirage, which becomes a new mir (“world” in Russian) by the very act of his shedding, as it were, the age he lives in” . Such an answer Nabokov once gave to an interviewer who was interested in his opinion regarding the modern world and contemporary politics. The book which contains this interview as well as many others, is entitled Strong Opinions, and, indeed, Nabokov is well-known not only for his brilliant fiction but for his original, independent and uncompromising views on creativity, art and the place of artist in the world. Whenever interviewed, he avoided discussion of “general ideas” such as social, political and moral issues and asserted that such global concerns lay outside the realm of art: “A work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me. I don’t give a damn for the group, the community, the masses, and so forth… There can be no question that what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art . A work of art, for Nabokov, is a world in itself, brought to life by one’s creative imagination. It leads its own independent existence, unrelated to its historical surroundings and realities. In the introduction to his Lectures on Literature Nabokov explains once again: “…The real writer, the fellow who sends planets spinning and models a man asleep and eagerly tampers with the sleeper’s rib, that kind of author has no given values at his disposal: he must create them himself. The art of writing is a futile business if it does not imply first of all the art of seeing the world as the potentiality of fiction” . In this statement, visions of cosmic grandeur and an obvious reference to the story of Adam and Eve reflect a parallel between creator-artist and creator-God. In one of his interviews Nabokov explicitly brings out this comparison: “A creative writer must study carefully the works of his rivals, including the Almighty. He must possess the inborn capacity not only of recombining but of re-creating the given world” .

Nabokov’s position is, to a degree, a reaction to the situation in Soviet Russia, where demands of the state dominated the needs of a human being, where the individual was suppressed by the collective and details by generalities. He asserts once again the power and independence of personal creativity, the ability of one’s imagination to build worlds of its own, and makes a sharp distinction between a work of fiction and everything outside of it, including the personality of its creator. “Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both truth and art” .

Nabokov insisted on a specific approach to literature from the readers as well. He renounced the usual tendencies of identifying oneself with a book’s characters, searching for clues to the social and political realities of the time the work was written, or trying to form “general ideas” about a book without absorbing all its specific details. Emotional involvement, he pointed out, could also prevent the reader from objective appreciation of the work “…A wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading” .

Nabokov avoided formulating his ideas under the famous slogan “art for art’s sake” just as he avoided labels of all kinds, but this well-known phrase can undoubtedly be used to describe his views and attitudes towards literature. In this hierarchy of values, aesthetic concerns dominate all others, and the influence of a great work of art on its reader is limited to a “tingle in the spine”. However, it remains to be seen, to what extent Nabokov’s ideas penetrate his own fiction; whether his novels are entirely a product of his creative imagination or a result of the deep personal experience that saturates them with great intensity.

Nabokov changed countries and languages during his creative life, and it is interesting to analyze whether these changes affected his books. Comparing two of Nabokov’s novels, The Gift, written in Russian mostly in Berlin of the 1930s, and Pale Fire, written in English at a much later date, can provide an insight into these questions.

As Nabokov mentioned in the foreword to The Gift, “the main heroine” of the novel is Russian literature, and the main character is a writer, an emigre author Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, who shares many autobiographical details with Nabokov. Like Nabokov during his post-Cambridge years, Fyodor lives in Berlin of the 1920s, writes poetry and makes a living by giving lessons in English and French. He leads, for the most part, a solitary existence, devoting his time first and foremost to literature. Happy childhood in St. Petersburg, love of butterflies and chess problems, synesthesia, – all this Fyodor has in common with Nabokov. Description of certain episodes mirrors incidents from Nabokov’s own life, depicted much later in his autobiographical book Speak, Memory, – for example, the story of a childhood illness: high fever, obsession with numbers and a huge Faber pencil, given as a gift by the mother.

Perhaps, the most significant trait that Fyodor shares with Nabokov is passionate love of literary language, faith in the power of the written word: “Since there were things he (Fyodor) wanted to express just as naturally as unrestrainedly as the lungs want to expand, hence words suitable for breathing ought to exist” . Fyodor reflects on his youthful interest in rhyme and meter, analyzing the very mechanisms by which words interact and fit together like pieces of a puzzle to form the harmonious whole of a poem. Fyodor shares Nabokov’s dislike of generalities such as social issues or psychiatry. When he briefly considers the possibility of fulfilling his acquaintance, Mme. Chernyshevski’s yet unvoiced request to write about her son, he explains his aversion to the idea as follows: “I would have become enmired involuntarily in a “deep” social-interest novel with a disgusting Freudian reek” .

Most clearly, Fyodor’s (and Nabokov’s) views on literature are expressed in Fyodor’s (imaginary) conversations with Koncheyev – a fellow emigre poet, the only one whose work he admires and whose opinions he considers valuable. When Fyodor and Koncheyev leave a literary gathering and walk together down the street, a unique, brilliant dialogue, filled with allusions to various works of Russian literature, takes place between them. “…There are only two kinds of books: bedside and wastebasket. Either I love a writer fervently, or throw him away entirely” , – declares Fyodor, and the two proceed to discuss what, in their opinion, is the best and the worst in the works by famous Russian writers. Both are utterly uninterested in “general ideas” or the moral significance of the writings they talk about (aspects which always attracted Russian critics and gained new importance in the Soviet period), and all they do is lovingly point out purely artistic findings of this or that writer. They praise Leskov’s Jesus – “the ghostly Galilean, cool and gentle, in a robe the color of ripening plum” or “the gray sheen of Mme. Odintsev’s black silks” in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. Speaking of dismissed Dostoyevski, Fyodor notes: “In the Karamazovs, there is somewhere a circular mark left by a wet wine glass on an outdoor table”, – and that, for him, is the only thing “worth saving” . As for several writers known for their beautiful depictions of nature, Fyodor ruthlessly criticizes them for mistakes in their descriptions of natural phenomena: “My father used to find all kinds of howlers in Turgenev’s and Tolstoy’s hunting scenes and descriptions of nature, and as for the wretched Aksakov, let’s not even discuss his disgraceful blunders in this field” . All these statements obviously echo Nabokov’s own approach to literature, with his love of detail, his insistence on accurate knowledge of the natural world and dismissal of any other criteria in judging works of literature.

Nabokov’s belief in the power of deception and invention in creating fiction frequently finds expression in his attempts to mislead the reader, to establish this or that false move in the development of the plot, which, after a few pages, turns out to be an illusion, a figment of the character’s imagination. The whole exchange between Fyodor and Koncheyev proves to be such an illusion: “Whose business is it that actually we parted at the very first corner, and that I have been reciting a fictitious dialogue with myself as supplied by a self-teaching handbook of literary inspiration?” However, the significance of this non-existent conversation in the novel is not limited to expression of opinions on art and display of Nabokov’s mystification devices. It shows the extent of Fyodor’s loneliness, the absence of interlocutors with whom he could share his extensive knowledge of literature and love of language: the degree of detachment from the surrounding world. In his book Speak, Memory Nabokov describes the way native Europeans were perceived by Russian immigrants in Germany or France: “These aborigines were to the mind’s eye as flat and transparent as figures cut out of cellophane, and although we used their gadgets, applauded their clowns, picked their roadside plums and apples, no real communication, of the rich human sort so widespread in our own midst, existed between us and them” . The Gift recreates that atmosphere of cultural and human isolation in which Fyodor has to dwell. Deprived of his own cultural environment, Fyodor feels nothing but resentment towards the German-speaking world he is trapped in. “The Russian conviction that the German is in small numbers vulgar and in large numbers – unbearably vulgar was, he knew, a conviction unworthy of an artist” , – and still he cannot help it, as he directs all his irrational hatred at a German who pushes him in a bus (and who, ironically, turns out to be a Russian).

Like Nabokov, Fyodor is trilingual, but his French and English in his current situation serve a purely utilitarian purpose, whereas Russian remains the language of his soul and his art. Riding a bus to one of his tedious teaching jobs, Fyodor thinks of himself: “…there he is, a special, rare and as yet undescribed and unnamed variant of man, and he is occupied with God knows what, rushing from lesson to lesson, wasting his youth on a boring and empty task, on the mediocre teaching of foreign languages – when he has his own language, out of which he can make anything he likes – a midge, a mammoth, a thousand different clouds” . This is why there are hardly any examples of word play and language switch in The Gift.

On the way to yet another hateful lesson Fyodor becomes completely immersed in the memories of Russia and his past life there, – memories ”swift and senseless, visiting him like an attack of a fatal illness at any hour, in any place” . The warm, sunny vision of the Russian countryside after a short summer rain stands out in such a sharp contrast with the surrounding colorless reality and the upcoming encounter with a hopeless pupil, that Fyodor ends up skipping the lesson and going home to his writings. This is another theme expressed in The Gift with great emotional power – the theme of nostalgia, longing for the lost homeland. Whenever faced with the question about Russia during his interviews, Nabokov gave replies such as “all the Russia I need is always with me” or “exile means to an artist only one thing – the banning of his books” . Sometimes, however, he speaks of Russia quite differently: “In the first decade of our dwindling century, during trips with my family to Western Europe, I imagined, in bedtime reveries, what it would be like to become an exile who longed for a remote, sad and (right epithet coming) unquenchable Russia, under the eucalypti of exotic resorts. Lenin and his police nicely arranged the realization of that fantasy” .

References to Russia in Nabokov’s novels, particularly The Gift, bear a trace of an overwhelming and bitter sense of loss, coming, undoubtedly, from personal experience. Like Nabokov, Fyodor transforms his inner world into art, and his poetry, born out of childhood memories, justifies, as he says, the years spent in exile. But even creative fulfillment in literature cannot fully relieve Fyodor of his nostalgia, which sometimes becomes almost a physical sensation: “For a long time he had wanted to express somehow that it was in his feet that he had the feeling of Russia, that he could touch and recognize all of her with his soles, as a blind man feels with his palms” . Again and again, he imagines an impossible return to his familiar and changed country: “And when will we return to Russia? What idiotic sentimentality, what a rapacious groan must our innocent hope convey to people in Russia. But our nostalgia is not historical – only human- how can one explain this to them?” Immediately following these lines is one of Nabokov’s central thoughts expressed through the words of his character and given a somewhat ironic ending: “It is easier for me, of course, than for another to live outside Russia, because I know for certain that I shall return – first because I took away the keys to her, and secondly because, no matter when, in a hundred, two hundred years, I shall live there in my books – or at least in some researcher’s footnote. There; now you have a historical hope, a literary-historical one…”

In this passage, there are two distinct perspectives on Russia, two different ways of perception – that of an artist and that of a simple human being, and it is the more independent, proud and detached position of an artist that Nabokov prefers to present to the world. He always vigorously protested against being identified with his characters, and, perhaps, it was his way of concealing that part of himself, which contained his own human feelings and dreams, often painful, often helplessly irresolvable. Nevertheless, just like in one of Fyodor’s childhood memories colors leak into his vision of letters and irrevocably affect his perception of language, this private and forbidden world of Nabokov inevitably enters his fiction in various guises and through different characters. Besides the theme of nostalgia, there is another highly personal development of the plot in The Gift, and it is Fyodor’s relationship with his father. Konstantin Godunov-Cherdyntsev is an explorer who is also very absorbed in his occupation and uninterested in the major upheavals that occur in Russia. In 1917, despite the troubled situation in Russia, he departs on one of his expeditions and never returns. It is another loss that haunts Fyodor: even though there is hardly any hope of seeing his father again, he keeps dreaming of his return, imagining that one day he would meet his father on the street, or hear a phone call… In one of the most poignant episodes in the novel, the phone rings, after all, in the middle of the night, and Fyodor rushes to the house of his former landlady along the streets of Berlin which suddenly become transformed into a beautiful, mysterious world somewhat reminiscent of St. Petersburg in a white night. Fyodor enters the room and sees his father. “With a moan and a sob Fyodor stepped toward him, and in the collective sensation of woolen jacket, big hands and the tender prickle of trimmed mustaches there swelled an ecstatically happy, living, enormous, paradisal warmth in which his icy heart melted and dissolved” . And again, almost unbearably this time, the whole scene turns out to be one of Nabokov’s false twists, and Fyodor wakes up from yet another dream to a cold and empty morning.

Nabokov denied a work of art any kind of “truth” aside from artistic one, but the episode with Fyodor’s father radiates with human truth: warmth, longing, vulnerability, the void of shattered hopes… One just has to remember the tragic death of Nabokov’s own father, to understand where all this is coming from.

In The Gift, covers are often transparent, and its hero is presented from multiple angles. He is not just a writer who “treats life as a possibility of fiction”, he is a human being who sees the world through the prism of his own experience, his own joys and sorrows.
The Gift was the last novel Nabokov wrote in Russian. In 1940, he immigrated to the United States and, since then, wrote his major works only in English. The change, as he said, was not easy: “My complete switch from Russian prose to English prose was exceedingly painful – like learning anew to handle things after losing seven or eight fingers in an explosion” . Pale Fire, one of Nabokov’s English novels, was written partially at the end of his stay in America, partially in Switzerland, where Nabokov spent his later years. The novel has important structural and thematic similarities to The Gift. Like The Gift, where a whole separate chapter is devoted to Fyodor’s biography of Chernyshevsky, a book on its own, Pale Fire contains a work of literature within it – a long poem written by an American poet John Shade. The rest of the novel is a commentary, which for the most part has nothing to do with the poem itself. It is an elaborate story of remote Zembla, whose king has been swept off the throne by the revolution and fled the country. Gradually, it becomes clear that Charles Kinbote, Shade’s neighbor and the author of the commentary, is himself the fugitive king. Therefore, as in The Gift, there is a theme of exile and a theme of creativity, though in Pale Fire they take quite a different development.

As Kinbote explains, “the name Zembla is a corruption not of the Russian zemlya, but of Semblerland, a land of reflections, of “resemblers” . Zemblan language resembles several European languages at the same time. There are obvious traces of Russian in it, and some words are borrowed almost unchanged: for example, there is a picture of bogtyr (bogatyr’ in Russian) in a Zemblan history book, and there are “stone-faced, square-shouldered komizars” (Russian: commissar) maintaining order on Zemblan streets after the revolution. Besides, French and German can be vaguely discerned in other phrases. “Minnamin, Gut mag alkan, Pern dirstan (my darling, God makes hungry, the Devil thirsty)” , – a Zemblan nurse says to Kinbote, and one hears, besides the Russian “alkat’” and, possibly, the English “pernicious”, “mon amie”, “Gott”, and the first person of the German “mochten”.

Nabokov in his interviews stressed that Zembla is not Russia, and, indeed, there is another Russia in the novel, a totalitarian state that contributes to the Zemblan revolution. Kinbote talks about “the tainted gold and the robot troops that a powerful police state from its vantage ground a few sea miles away was pouring into the Zemblan Revolution” . Kinbote’s constantly talks about Zembla, but his memories of it lack that depth of human feeling, which marks Fyodor’s nostalgia. Even though Kinbote repeats again and again “my Zembla”, “dazzling Zembla” , tenderness that shines through the best pages of The Gift, is missing from his story. It is essentially a story of himself and his escape from the country. For a king, Kinbote shows a remarkable lack of interest in the revolution that struck his country and the possible causes which led to it. He is more preoccupied with aesthetic and literary pleasures and calls the whole business of politics “a tiresome subject” . As for the revolution, all he can say about it is that it was “tedious and unnecessary” . In Kinbote’s attitude, there is some of Nabokov’s own indifference towards social and political issues. On the whole, the theme of exile is treated in the novel with certain coldness and detachment, but there are passages, which by their warmth and profound lyricism can be compared to The Gift. For example, Kinbote comments on his roommate who gets up early in morning and plants flowers with a very curious name: Heliotropium turgenevi. “This is the flower whose odor evokes with timeless intensity the dusk, and the garden bench, and a house of painted wood in a distant northern land” . Even aside from the reference to Turgenev, it is clear that this land, for Nabokov, is no other than Russia, – not the monstrous police state in the vicinity of Zembla, but the real, immortal, beloved Russia of Nabokov’s memory. And this short passage retains more emotional freshness and power than colorful descriptions of Zemblan mountains that have no counterpart in the author’s childhood recollections.

It seems that, to Kinbote, being in exile means not so much the loss of the homeland as the loss of his name and title (which he now has to hide), and thus partially the loss of his identity, and in this way his isolation and detachment is more complete than that of Fyodor in The Gift. One of the critics of Pale Fire interprets his behavior as follows: “…he is trying to get the poet John Shade to confirm his identity, to validate the Zemblan reality which is his hope of salvation by turning it into a poem” . With maniacal persistence Kinbote keeps talking with Shade about Zembla: “I mesmerized him with it, I saturated him with my vision, I pressed upon him, with a drunkard’s wild generosity, all that I was helpless myself to put into verse” . Kinbote calls his relationship with the poet “friendship”, but, in fact, he cannot care less about Shade as a human being with his own hopes and sorrows. While commenting on the poem, he utterly neglects the parts about Shade’s wife and daughter. Sybil Shade, who protects her husband from his neighbor’s intrusions, for Kinbote, is just as annoying obstacle in the way, and to him, the tender lines that Shade devotes to his wife are nothing but “embarrassing intimacies” . Kinbote haughtily deals with the theme of Shade’s daughter, Hazel’s, suicide, obviously a very painful and personal subject for the poet, as if it was merely a stylistic device: “The whole thing strikes me as too labored and long, especially since the synchronization device has been already worked to death by Flaubert and Joyce” . When Kinbote feels lonely and afraid in his empty house, he wishes that Shade had a heart attack, – just to have an excuse to come over and escape loneliness and fear. At the end of the novel, when Shade has been mistakenly shot by the assassin, his “friend” is in no hurry to call for help: instead, he rushes to hide the poem, which, he thinks, contains the story of his own life.

In comparison to Kinbote, John Shade appears to be a much more appealing character, and he possesses some traits that bring more human warmth into his image: he can be lazy, he likes hearty meals, brandy and wine; he loves his wife and daughter and is generally more tolerant towards people who are not as bright and talented as he is. Nabokov gives his character some of his most cherished thoughts. For example, Shade, who is also a teacher of literature, expresses his views on teaching: “First of all, dismiss ideas, and social background, and get the freshman to shiver, to get drunk on the poetry of Hamlet or Lear, to read with his spine and not with his skull” . However, since Shade’s personality is seen in the novel only through Kinbote’s uncaring eyes, his inner world is more or less concealed from the reader. It is only through Shade’s poem that one can glimpse into the questions, which preoccupy the poet. The poem, on the whole, is a painful, difficult search for meaning, an attempt to make sense of the whole puzzle of human life and death, to find a way of transcending one’s mortality. No human thought or emotion can relieve one from being trapped in one’s own finite world. Everything fails except art: art for its own sake, art that contains a unique, perfectly harmonized inner reality, which can be perceived as a reflection of a greater pattern:

I feel I understand

Existence, or at least a minute part,

Of my existence, only through my art,

In terms of combinational delight…

“Combinational delight”, indeed, is important not only in Shade’s poem but in the whole novel. As in The Gift, artistic detail is a focus of concentration in Pale Fire, but here attention is focused on an even subtler level where language itself is analyzed. Pale Fire is an example of extremely dense prose where individual words are more than just carriers of meaning: they become, in a way, themselves a subject of the novel. One of Shade’s warmest images of his family together is a memory of the evenings when both he and Sybil helped their daughter to understand really obscure words from her English textbook. A difference of one letter in the words “mountain” and “fountain” becomes crucial in the story of Shade’s attempt to penetrate the mystery of the hereafter. The book is filled with examples of word play, often involving several languages, and references to numerous works of literature (some of which are likely to be Nabokov’s own inventions). In Shade’s poem, there are such peculiar combinations as: “Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept all is allowed” , which is a mixture of Alyosha Karamazov, Raskol’nikov, and, perhaps, Italian painter Fra Angelico with his intensely spiritual religious art. But nobody in the novel is more involved in digging into words than Kinbote. He is constantly preoccupied with deciphering literary allusions, musing over interplay of words, meanings, rhymes and sounds. Nabokov mentioned in his lectures that a dictionary should be a necessary attribute of a good reader, and, ironically, Kinbote, who can hardly be called a good reader, dutifully follows the lines of Shade’s masterpiece with his dictionary. For the most part, he is obsessively searching references to Zembla and his own life story in the poem, but sometimes he simply takes aesthetic pleasure in certain lines of it:

“Lines 131-132: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by feigned remoteness in the windowpane.

The exquisite melody of the two lines opening the poem is picked up here. The repetition of that long-drawn note is saved from monotony by the subtle variation in line 132 where the assonance between its second word and the rhyme gives the ear a kind of languorous pleasure as would the echo of some half-remembered sorrowful song…” Shade’s commentator genuinely enjoys the magic of words, and so does Nabokov, whose multilingualism, artistic sense and incomparable mastery of language found full expression in the creation of the truly marvelous poem, as well as other parts of the novel.

Perhaps, the refined world of literature allows Kinbote a way of escape from his troubled personal reality, and so it does for Shade, and, to a degree, for Fyodor in The Gift, and, ultimately, for Nabokov. In his commentary, Kinbote recounts an episode when someone in the presence of Shade tells a story of a mad railroad worker, who “thought he was God and began redirecting the trains”. “That (“mad”) is the wrong word”, – he (Shade) said. – “One should not apply it to a person who deliberately peels off a drab and unhappy past and replaces it with a brilliant invention” . Still, comparison of Nabokov’s novels shows that the most “brilliant invention” becomes truly alive only if the light of one’s own human experience, however “drab and unhappy”, illuminates it from within. In Pale Fire the walls sheltering Nabokov’s private world of memory and feeling are thicker than in The Gift, and the novel follows more closely Nabokov’s ideas of art as elegant deception, an entirely invented world which should be approached on aesthetic rather than emotional grounds. This is the major difference between Pale Fire and The Gift.

Time is likely to be one of the factors behind this change: Pale Fire was written almost twenty years later than The Gift, as greater and greater distance separated Nabokov from his Russian past with which he had stronger emotional bond than with the years spent abroad. Another important factor is, probably, language. Nabokov was very proud of his English works and repeatedly called himself an American writer, but sometimes he provided his readers with unexpected revelations such as: “My private tragedy, which cannot, indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural language, my natural idiom, my rich, infinitely rich and docile Russian tongue, for a second-rate brand of English” . In another interview, when asked which language he considered the most beautiful, Nabokov replied: “My head says English, my heart, Russian, my ear, French” . It is possible to say that for him Russian conveyed emotional power, while English had more of an intellectual appeal, and this is one of the reasons why Pale Fire, written in English, appeals to the brain more than it does to feelings.

One of the most striking confessions that bridges Nabokov’s inner world with his public self exists in a poem. An Evening of Russian Poetry, written in English in 1945, is a rhymed presentation of a public lecture which Nabokov gives to an audience of American students, predominantly female. Russian poetry is the theme of the lecture, but Nabokov approaches it in the way typical for him: he does not talk about schools, trends and periods. Again, he speaks of letters, shapes, individual intricate details, and hidden tenderness shines through his words, staying invisible for his listeners. They ask him questions about his favorite trees and stones, echoing that insensitive critic from The Gift, whose “discussion of Koncheyev’s book boiled down to his answering for the author a kind of implied questionnaire (Your favorite flower? Favorite hero? Which virtue do you prize most?)” In Nabokov’s discussion of Pushkin and Nekrasov everything merges and melts together: the sky and the grass, the beauty of verse and human feeling, – and inevitable theme of exile. Nabokov speaks of memories, saying openly: “I must remind you in conclusion that I am followed everywhere and that space is collapsible” . His private tragedy is lost on his young listeners, whose innocent inquiry prompts what becomes the most remarkable ending of a poem:

How would you say “delightful talk” in Russian?

How would you say “good night”?

Oh, that would be:

Bessonnitza, tvoy vzor oonyl i strashen;

lubov moya, otstoopnika prostee.

(Insomnia, your stare is dull and ashen,

my love, forgive me this apostasy.)

All of Nabokov’s carefully hidden private world that, he insists, “cannot, indeed should not, be anybody’s concern”, is suddenly revealed in these poignant lines: long nights, loneliness, the feeling of guilt over abandoning one’s language and nostalgia for inaccessible, unforgettable, “unquenchable Russia”.


1). Kernan, Alvin B. “Reading Zemblan: The Audience Disappears in Nabokov’s Pale Fire”. Vladimir Nabokov (Modern Critical Views). Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 101-125.

2). Набоков, Владимир. Дар. Москва: Правда, 1990.

3). Nabokov, Vladimir. The Gift. New York: Capricorn Books, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1970.

4). —. Lectures on Literature. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1982.

5). —. Pale Fire. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993.

6). —. Poems and Problems. McGraw-Hill International, Inc. 1970.

7). —. Speak, Memory. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993.

8). —. Strong Opinions. McGraw-Hill International, Inc. 1973.

I was born and grew up in Russia. At the age of 20 I had to unexpectedly move to the USA where I spent 6 years. That was when I wrote this and other English-language articles. Now I’m living again in Russia. I teach English and also do web design. Here is my site: There you can see some of my works, photographs and other articles.