Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026296, Wed, 15 Jul 2015 15:15:03 -0300

Lolita, Soeur du lecteur: S. Legrand, Le Magazin Littéraire,2015
From page 66 to page 97 the French Le Magazin Littéraire (May, 2015)
developed a host of themes related to Perversion. The general heading
presents an initial question: “Les Pervers – Les écrivains sount-ils tous
des prédateurs?’ (are all writers predators?). The cases focus on
Dostoievski, Nabokov, Bataille, Genet, Stephen King, Bolaño... There is also
a section on Psychoanalysis that dwells on the legend of a “narcissistic

S. Legrand, who is in charge of writing about Nabokov, is a writer and
philosopher. Some of his publications are: “Les Normes chez Foucault”
(2007), Styx Express (2012) and “Trente Écrivains que n’ont jamais donné
suite” (2014).
In his bibliographical notes he mentions “The Excitement of Verbal
Adventure” (1977) by Jüergen Bodenstein; Nabokov, Perversely by Eric Naiman
(2010) and VNÂ’s novels and interviews, particularly the 1964 Playboy
interview. A highlighted quote from Lolita, about “sex is but the ancilla
of art,” was in French and I reached it online here *: “Humbert's objection
to the Freudian view is voiced forthrightly when he states: "It is not the
artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and
shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of
art." (ibid.) The specific interest of the Freudian parody in Lolita is
therefore that it relates directly to Humbert's experience of beauty and the
aesthetic in general…”).

The initial caption: “ Perverse characters (“les personnages de pervers”)
prosper in the entire work of Vladimir Nabokov. A writerÂ’s secrete drives?
Pleasure of defiance in its psychological analysis? Misleading clues: this
is how Nabokov puts into play that which, according to him, constitutes the
proper enjoyment of literature – a troubling pact between the author and the

In his article Legrand compares MargoÂ’s and RexÂ’s deceit and cruelty towards
Albinus with how V.Nabokov relates to his readers by presenting a
reassuring voice who purportedly conveys clear and precise information, but
who plays playing with the reader offering him false clues, traps and
various trompe lÂ’oeil devices, like an invisible puppeteer who manipulates,
misleads, teases and disturbs the spectator, mocking him for his faulty

For Legrand the pervert characterÂ’s insistent presence in VNÂ’s novels isnÂ’t
derived from any denied or unconscious fascination with perversion (sadism,
paedophilia, voyeurism), nor is it a means to understand or explain these
aberrations by psychological resources. Legrand brings up an example from
HumbertÂ’s and LolitaÂ’s relationship, when HH licks away a grain of sand from
LolitaÂ’s hurting eye (actually, from both eyes) because he considers it a
meta-poetic moment (mingling the erotic with transgression and manipulation)
in which Nabokov represents something that he is also exercising on his
reader: a “tongue” that licks, page after page, erotically, scrupulously and
even physically his readerÂ’s vision whom he tortures and abuses.

LegrandÂ’s hypothesis is that in NabokovÂ’s novels the sexual pervert
essentially functions as a metonymic inscription in the heart of the
perversity of scripture itself. He compares Socrates, who was accused of
corrupting youth, to Nabokov and his attempts to pervert the reader.

(Unfortunately IÂ’m no good as a translator and the articleÂ’s rich
argumentation may get lost in translation. I recommend that the original is
consulted and expertly translated if need beÂ… Jansy)

*Sublime Evil: The Immoral Writers' Celebration of Life By Neli Koleva

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