NABOKV-L post 0020147, Sun, 30 May 2010 14:22:45 -0700

Re: Soviet provincialism?
Sorry, Mr Klop. I come by my Wiener Blut as a legitimately as I come
by my Judaism. There's nothing wrong in speculating on Nabokov's
motivations - - especially when they have nothing to do with his
private life. I only speculated on his publicly held attitudes. If you
find that the only thing worth discussing is the "marvelous curve of a
little-read sentence," please go right ahead - - disucuss it. No one
is stopping you.


On May 29, 2010, at 1:40 PM, NABOKV-L wrote:

Dear Carolyn,

Nabokov attacks Tolstoy's ridiculous moralistic sermons quite strongly
in his Lectures on Russian Literature. Yet he considers him the
greatest prose writer Russian has ever known. I don't have the book at
hands right now, so let me quote from David Rampton's amusing article
"Nabokov and Chesterton" instead:

Chesterton and Nabokov in their criticism were
happy to stress the importance of style and structure at the expense
of the
explicit moral recommendations included in the text. It might amuse
to try to guess which of the two said of Tolstoy: “an artist teaches
far more by
his mere background and properties, his landscapes, his costume, his
and technique—all the part of the work, in short, of which he is
entirely unconscious, than by the elaborate and pompous moral dicta he
fondly imagines to be his opinions”

(The quote belongs to Chesterton)

Something similar can be seen in Bely's Gogol's Artistry, where he
(Bely) is careful to distinguish Gogol the artistic genius from Gogol
the worthless moralist. So this view is not some queer Nabokovian
quirk; it's shared by many artists and lovers of true art alike.

As for purported feelings of "guilt", I propose we leave the Viennese
delegation where they belong: outside, among the vulgar smell of
rotten trash cans. I fail to see what good can come from speculating
as to what inner feelings may or may not have influenced some of
Nabokov's opinions; especially when we have the option to focus on
some marvelous curve of a little-read sentence in stead. This whole
business of poking in an artist's private life is really quite
disgusting, it reeks of gossip of the sorriest kind.

Philip Klop

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Vladimir Nabokov Forum namens Carolyn Kunin
Verzonden: do 5/27/2010 9:18
Onderwerp: Re: [NABOKV-L] Soviet provincialism?

On May 26, 2010, at 7:46 PM, Stan Kelly-Bootle wrote: Carolyn now
completely reframes her original question: What I am saying is, did
Nabokov have the right to criticize those who stayed behind? I am
thinking for example of Pasternak. Did Nabokov forgive the murdered?
-- CK

My answer is YES, VN has the right to criticize anything/anyone about
which/whom he is critical. We, in turn, have the right to review
specific criticisms and judge their merits. (To avoid any confusion,
it should be noted that Pasternak died of lung cancer, to the best of
our knowledge! He's far from typical of 'those who stayed behind.')

Dear Stan,

Before I tackle your response, allow me to pose a question that
occurred to me today. Was Pasternak really that much more a novelist
of ideas (which was what VN purported to despise about him, and
others) than was Tolstoy? I don't know for sure, but I suspect not.
Did Nabokov ever attack the truly ridiculous ideas of Tolstoy? or the
ideas that are expressed quite openly in his great novels? I'm not
aware that he ever did. If so, why should that be?

It seems to me possible that there is some kind of suppression of
guilt feelings going on in some of VN's more outrageous attitudes to
Soviet writers. I think it similarly possible that this same
motivation informs his overweening* attitude toward such things as

Pasternak may not have been murdered as others were - - his
relationship with Stalin I'm finding from my reading in Volkov's book
was more complex than I had realized, but he certainly was hounded in
life. If lung cancer allowed him to escape the fate of others it seems
to me to make little difference.


* to overween: to regard one's own thinking or conclusions too highly;
overweening (adj): unduly confident, arrogant, presumptuous. On a
personal note - - I had an extremely overweening person in my
immediate family, and it took me many years to understand that it
covered up a deep sense of self-doubt.
Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options
All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by
both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: