Vladimir Nabokov

Toker, Leona. Nabokov’s Worldview. 2005

Bibliographic title
Nabokov’s Worldview
Publisher, city
Collection editor
Periodical or collection
The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov
Publication year
Vladimir Nabokov repeatedly went on record rejecting sociopolitical engagement as a writer's duty. His non-engagé stance earned him the suspicion of the readers who expect novelists to critique the social order, negotiate its change, or teach the audience how to live. It also earned him the hostility of those who believe that emphasis on aesthetics rather than an emphatic promotion of values conducive to “bringing up a better generation in a safer world” (Lo, 8) may be a sufficient reason for, as it were, turning pedophilia into a thing of beauty. Yet even if Nabokov’s concern with aesthetics dominates his ideology (“what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art” [SO, 33]), it is not exclusive. Its link with his ethical concepts and metaphysical preferences emerges from, for instance, the connotations of definition of “aesthetic bliss,” in the Afterword to Lolita, as “a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, enderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm” (Lo, 314–15): the expression “other states of being” refers not only to states of heightened aesthetic perception but also to states of quickened ethical awareness and to states of metaphysically refined consciousness. Here I shall discuss Nabokov’s worldview in terms of this interconnectedness of his poetics, ethics, and metaphysical outreach, also taking into consideration some of the political aspects of his stance.