NABOKV-L post 0010405, Mon, 4 Oct 2004 16:25:24 -0700

Fwd: Alfred Hitchcock and Vladimir Nabokov ...
EDNOTE. A very nice comparison of two masters.

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Date: Mon, 04 Oct 2004 10:19:49 -0400
From: "Sandy P. Klein" <>
Subject: Alfred Hitchcock and Vladimir Nabokov ...

_by James A. Davidson_

_It is a tendency of criticism to try to shed light on the work of
one artist by comparing and contrasting that artist's work to that of
another. Alfred Hitchcock, for instance, is usually mentioned in the
same breath with Cornell Woolrich, the literary 'master of suspense,'
at least partly due to the fact that Hitchcock did such a memorable
job bringing Woolrich's novella to the screen as Rear Window_ (1954).
1[2] I have found Hitchcock's work to, in fact, share a much greater
affinity with that of the Russian émigré writer Vladimir Nabokov,
with whom he is not typically associated since there is no apparent
connection (as there is, for example, between Nabokov and Stanley
Kubrick, who made a film version of _Lolita_ in 1962 based on
Nabokov's screenplay).

Alfred Appel, Jr. has described the world of Nabokov's novels as
"Nabokov's Puppet Show," emphasizing the author's masterful control
of artifice and imagination2[3]; so too has recent Hitchcock
criticism focused the director's uncanny ability to assert a strong
authorial voice throughout virtually all of his films.3[4] Thus, it
is not surprising that Hitchcock envisioned himself playing the
emotions of his audience in a movie theater on a giant organ just as
Nabokov, the puppet master, pulled the strings in his novels so
brilliantly. I believe Nabokov's complex word play, parodic
self-references and manipulation of language is the literary
equivalent to Hitchcock's well-known mastery of "the language of
cinematic images," which he discussed frequently in interviews. 4[5]

While there were vast differences between the lives of Hitchcock and
Nabokov, there were also some profound similarities that I feel shed
some light on their careers and work. To begin with, Hitchcock and
Nabokov came from substantially different backgrounds. Hitchcock's
father was a London wholesale grocer and young Alfred grew up in a
stable but distinctly middle class home. Nabokov's father was an
intellectual, a member of Russia's ruling class and part of the
provisional government first established after the revolution.
Vladimir Nabokov grew up in a privileged environment that stressed
academics (a colleague of Nabokov's father wrote of the baby
Vladimir: "I had the impression that this would be an extremely
abnormal upbringing in fatally over-abundant circumstances")5[6] and
Nabokov was a life long acade mic and teacher, in addition to being a
writer. Hitchcock, by the mid-1950's was a world wide celebrity and a
member of the Hollywood film community, living in an environment far
removed from Nabokov's academia. But both men appear to have been
kindred spirits in their youth; Hitchcock in particular was shy and
bookworm-ish and read extensively. Even as adults, despite their
outward differences, they lived remarkably similar lifestyles.

Both men were born in the same year, 1899, began their 'artistic
lives' at the same time (the mid 1920's) and died within three years
of each other. Both men had long marriages and depended on their
wives for both professional, as well as personal, support. Both had
but one child, Nabokov a son and Hitchcock a daughter, and the
children of each was involved in their father's work (Dimitri Nabokov
translated some of his father's novels and Pat Hitchcock acted in
three of her father's films).

_Alfred Hitchcock with his daughter._
_Vladimir Nabokov with his son._

In addition to these similarities, Hitchcock and Nabokov both
emigrated to the United States within about a year of each other,
where each accomplished his most popular and celebrated works. Both
men can be considered to have two careers, the first in their
original homelands (Hitchcock's British films and Nabokov's writings
in Russian while living abroad in Europe) and the second in the
United States (Hitchcock's Hollywood films made beginning with
_Rebecca_ in 1940 and Nabokov's writings in English, beginning with
_The Real Life of Sebastian Knight_ published also in 1940). Most
importantly for our purposes, Hitchcock and Nabokov were both
certainly influenced by many of the same artistic sources: 19th
century writers such as Poe and Stevenson, whom they read while
growing up. In addition, they nearly collaborated at one point;
according to Donald Spoto, Hitchcock asked Nabokov to work on the s
creenplay to the film that was eventually made as _Frenzy_
(1972).6[7] Nabokov had to decline due to his own work schedule, but
one can only imagine what kind of a film these two men would have
made together. No wonder, then, that Nabokov, having recalled seeing
_The Trouble with Harry_ (1955), said of Hitchcock "his humor noir is
akin to my humor noir, if that's what it should be called."

I have identified five major categories that I feel are useful in
comparing and contrasting the work of Hitchcock and Nabokov. They are
as follows:

Game Theory
_The films of Alfred Hitchcock and novels of Vladimir Nabokov have
both been successfully critiqued using the theory of game playing. In
the introduction to his book Find the Director and Other Hitchcock
Games_, Thomas Leitch lists a number of incidents in which games or
the playing of games have an important function in Hitchcock's films,
but this is not to argue that "games have a unique importance in
Hitchcock's work." To the contrary, he points out that "the
importance of games for Hitchcock is not their significance within
the diegesis but their role as a figure for the relation between the
storyteller and his audience..."7[8] By approaching the fi lmmaking
process as a game between the maker of the film and his audience,
Hitchcock, in effect, bursts the illusionary bubble of the diegetic
world he has created and reminds the audience, at least momentarily,
that this is "just a movie" (as he reportedly said to Ingrid Bergman
once). Leitch goes on to discuss the ways in which the game-playing
technique of Hitchcock's films established a pleasurable contract
with the audience and how, over the course of his career, he
continued to redefine the rules of the game.

_Professor Alfred Appel, Jr. has also endeavored to explain
Nabokov's appeal in terms of the way the author used game-playing
techniques with his audience. In his introduction to The Annotated
Lolita_, Appel writes "the process of reading and rereading his
(Nabokov's) novels is a game of perception" in which "the author and
the reader are the 'players.'" Appel notes the elements of parody,
coincidence and techniques like the work-within-the-work that recur
consistently throughout Nabokov's novels.8[9] The effect for the
reader of Nabokov is the creation of an involuted imaginary world in
which the experience of reading the novel is tantamount to playing a
game of intellectual cat and mouse with the author.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed. She did. In point of fact,
there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a
certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About
as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You
can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the
seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look
at this tangle of thorns.

from _Lolita_, page 11

An excellent example of the "games Nabokov plays" is his 1962
masterpiece _Pale Fire_. The book is made up of a foreward by Charles
Kinbote, then John Shade's poem "Pale Fire," containing four cantos
and 999 lines, and finally a lengthy commentary on the poem by
Kinbote, complete with index. Within the commentary, Kinbote weaves
the story of an exiled Zemblan King, which we take to be Kinbote's
own story of himself, and the counterwoven story of the clownish
villian Jacob Gradus, as he travels on an apparent date to
assassinate the exiled King. The novel, therefore, contains several
layers of reality: the reality of Shade's largely autobiographical
poem (which contains little reference to Kinbote's story), the
reality of Kinbote's tale of the homosexual King and his exile from
the "distant northern land,"9[10] the counterwoven story of Gradus,
and finally, the hard to disc ern level of "real" reality. Andrew
Field notes of Nabokov that "many of his games are games of structure
(these are the ones you must solve to understand the work
properly)"10[11] and Nabokov gives us a key to understanding the
"real" reality of Shade's murder in _Pale Fire_: Kinbote rents his
house from a Judge Goldsworth, who has sent away a "homicidal
maniac"11[12] to prison. Gradus, the assassin, is this homicidal
maniac who returns, bent on revenge against the Judge, and who kills
Shade purely by accident, thinking he is Judge Goldsworth. By hiding
what is "real" beneath levels of artificial reality (keeping in mind
that, in works of art, all reality is artificial), Nabokov turns the
process of reading the novel into a convoluted game between reader
and author: can we f ind the key to unlock the secrets contained
within _Pale Fire_?

Gradus is now much nearer to us in space and time than he was in the
preceding cantos. He has short upright black hair. We can fill in the
bleak oblong of his face with most of its elements such as thick
eyebrows and a wart on the chin. He has a ruddy but unhealthy

We see, fairly in focus, the structure of his somewhat mesmeric
organs of vision. We see his melancholy nose with its crooked ridge
and grooved tip. We see the mineral blue of his jaw and the gravelly
pointille of his supressed mustache.

from _Pale Fire_, page 186

Hitchcock plays a similar game with his audience in _Psycho_ (1960).
At first we, along with Marian, Arbogast, Sam and Lila, think that
Mrs. Bates is alive and living in the Bates home. Hitchcock toys with
us by suggesting a reality to Mrs. Bates through the use of a voice
over and a vertiginious camera angle as Norman carries his mother
down to the fruit cellar.

Next, we are given the Sheriff and his wife's version of reality:
Norman's mother died ten years earlier as the result of a
homicide/suicide with her lover. Finally, after Lila's investigation
of the Bates home, we "discover" the "real" reality: Norman killed
his mother and her lover but kept his mother's corpse around the
house to preserve her memory.

The final shots of the film, showing Norman completely transformed
into "mother," suggest another, deeper still reality to the film.
These shifting levels of reality suggest to us why Hitchcock thought
of _Psycho_ as a "fun" picture—this film that is largely concerned
with the theme of voyeurism is an elaborate game of discovering what
is real and what is illusion.

_The last shot, as Norman (mother) grins into the camera, suggest we
have had a delightful black joke played upon us; but it is a joke that
audiences apparently loved, given that Psycho_ was Hitchcock's most
commercially successful film.

The Cameo Appearances
The most exemplary of Hitchcock's games is "find the director," in
which the audience looks for Hitchcock's customary unbilled cameo
appearances. Furthermore, the cameos are "not isolated moments of
self-consciousness; instead, they are quintessential examples of
Hitchcock's ludic approach to storytelling" that, along with "highly
artificial set-pieces and stylistic exercises"12[13] defined
Hitchcock's films to several generations.

_Perhaps the most self-reflexive and playful of Hitchcock's cameo
appearances occurs in Strangers on a Train_ (1951), a film in which
game playing assumes a particularly high degree of importance.
Hitchcock is seen getting on a train carrying a large bass cello; the
audience's pleasure at noting the cameo is increased not only by the
comedy of the situation (Hitchcock appears to struggle with the
large, awkward instrument) but by the fact that the bass appears to
double Hitchcock's own rotund form (an irony further increased by the
film's insistence on the importance of the doppelganger). I find this
a particularly Nabokovian moment in Hitchcock's films; I don't mean
to suggest that Nabokov directly influenced this particular scene,
just that this particular cameo functions visually as the type of pun
or involuted joke that Na bokov often utilized in his writing.

Hitchcock also used the cameo as a foreshadowing device; in the
opening of _North by Northwest_ (1959) the doors of a bus shut in the
director's face and this anticipates the crop dusting scene later in
the film when Cary Grant has a bus door shut in his face.

_Hitchcock's cameo in _North by Northwest.
_Cary Grant watches the bus pull away in_ North By Northwest.

Nabokov too made what we might call cameo appearances in his novels,
although the use of the first person narrative somewhat complicates
what are and aren't "cameos" in his case. At the end of _Bend
Sinister_ (1947), the first book Nabokov wrote in America, the writer
clearly makes a cameo. The bulk of the novel is written in third
person, but at the story's conclusion Krug, the protagonist, is shot
and the narrative is magically transformed into the first person as
we find Nabokov, the writer, finishing his manuscript and getting up
to look out his window. At this point he notes "I knew that the
immortality I had conferred upon the poor fellow (Krug) was a
slippery sophism, a play upon words."13[14]

He saw the Toad crouching at the foot of the wall, shaking,
dissolving, speeding up his shrill incantations, protecting his
dimming face with his transparent arm, and Krug ran towards him, and
just a fraction of an instant before another and better bullet hit
him, he shouted again: You, you—

and the wall vanished, like a rapidly withdrawn slide, and I
stretched myself and got up from among the chaos of written and
rewritten pages, to investigate the sudden twang that something had
made in striking the wire netting of my window.

from Bend Sinister, page 216

Another cameo occurs at the end of _Pnin_ (1957) when Nabokov roars
into the narrative in his car as the professor hired to replace Pnin.
Arguments could also be made that the forward to _Lolita_ (1955, U.S.
1958) authored by John Ray, Jr., Ph.D. functions as a form of cameo
appearance, but Nabokov's authorial voice is so strong through both
this novel and _Pale Fire_ that there is hardly any necessity for a
cameo appearance as such in these two works.

The Technique of Self Reference
By "technique of self reference" I mean that Hitchcock's films and
Nabokov's novels contain a number of self references (above and
beyond the cameos) that—if perceived by the viewer or reader—lend a
uniquely heightened sense of artificiality and self consciousness to
the experience. _Pale Fire_ is perhaps the best example of this
self-referential technique in Nabokov's fiction. Both John Shade and
Charles Kinbote of the novel have a considerable amount in common
with their creator, Nabokov; Shade is the brilliant writer (and
professor at the aptly named Wordsmith College) living a cloistered
life in the environment of academia, while Kinbote is the exiled king
from the country of Zembla. Nabokov, the lifelong academic who
considered himself an exile from his homeland of Russia, must
certainly have strongly identified with his two characters. But there
is a furthe r, more specific biographical aspect to _Pale Fire_: the
assassination of Shade by Jacob Gradus is a working out of Nabokov's
complicated feelings about the assassination of his own father, who
was shot to death (probably accidentally) by a Czar loyalist in 1922
while living life as an exile.

The biographical nature of Hitchcock's work has been considerably
commented upon since the director's death in 1980. In _Dark Side of
Genius_, Donald Spoto goes to considerable lengths to detail the
biographical references in _Shadow of a Doubt_ (1943), including the
fact that Hitchcock named the mother character, Emma, after his own
mother who was dying in England at the time the film was made.14[15]
In another personal work, _I Confess_ (1953), Hitchcock names the
wife of the film's villain, Otto Keller, after his own wife, Alma. He
also completes a pun a la Nabokov (or James Joyce) by having the
killer in the film named Keller. And Hitchcock was not above
referring to himself in his films; in his next movie, _Dial "M" for
Murder_ (1954), Tony Wendes and T.J. Swann discuss the porter at
their college whom Swann framed for a robbery. The porter's name, me
ntioned several times: "poor old Alfred." These intrusions of "real
life" on the artificial world of the film and novel only serve to
heighten the self-reflexive effect and remind the viewer/reader that
they are experiencing the creation of an imaginary world. Hitchcock,
in fact, created a neat visual metaphor for this effect in _Psycho_
by filling the Bates Motel and home with mirrors that reflected the
world back on the film's characters (and viewers).

Hitchcock also appears to have made reference to his own films on
several occasions. _North by Northwest_ is a film in the "picaresque"
tradition of several of Hitchcock's earlier works, most notably _The
Thirty Nine Steps_ (1935), his first major British film. Thornhill
and Eve in _North by Northwest_ spend the night on the train in room
3901, an allusion, no doubt, to _The 39 Steps_. Several of the
characters in _Rope_ (1948), Hitchcock's first independent
production, at one point are clearly referring to Hitchcock's own
_Notorious_ (1946) in a discussion about recent movies they have
seen. In the concluding scene of _Psycho_, the psychiatrist
"explains" Norman Bates condition while a calendar on the wall behind
him reads "17"; this is, perhaps, a reference to Hitchcock's early
film _Number Seventeen_ (1932) made at British International.15 [16]
Nabokov was also not above this type of playful self reference. In
the poem "Pale Fire," John Shade writes "Hurricane/Lolita spread from
Florida to Maine," a clear reference to the fact that _Lolita_ became
a bestseller after its eventual publication in the United States in

Vladimir Nabokov's fiction features a litany of examples of the
literary technique of "the-work-within-the-work." One of Nabokov's
most self-reflexive works is _The Real Life of Sebastian Knight_,
Nabokov's first novel written in English, a pseudo-biography of a
fictional writer that contains numerous references to Knight's
(non-existent) works. This technique is also repeated to varying
degrees in _Pnin_, _Lolita_, and _Pale Fire_. A similar effect in
Hitchcock's films occurs in references to acting, theatricality and
the numerous climaxes within the setting of a theater. The British
film _Murder_ (1930) also contains a "work-within-the-work," a play
called "The Inner Life of the Barring Case." Finally, _Sabotage_
(1936) is actually set in a home within a movie theater, making the
film's very setting a unique reference to the self-reflexive world of
Hitchcock's films.

The Doppelganger and "Unreliable Narrator"
Both Hitchcock and Nabokov (as well, it must be noted, as many other
authors and filmmakers) made substantial use of the narrative devices
of the doppelganger and the "unreliable narrator," established in the
19th century romantic literature that heavily influenced both men. In
terms of the former, we should note that each used the device to
slightly different ends; for Nabokov, the doppelganger is primarily
used for purposes of parody (especially in his later novels), while
for Hitchcock the effect is primarily ironic.

_In Shadow of a Doubt_, Hitchcock's first American masterpiece, he
uses the doppelganger theme straightforwardly to contrast the "evil"
Uncle Charlie with his "good" niece, young Charlie, who must reach
within her own heart of darkness to kill her uncle at the film's end.
Hitchcock seemed to be having more fun with the motif in _Strangers on
a Train_ (see above for a discussion of the film's cameo), utilizing a
memorable performance by Robert Walker's flamboyant Bruno to contrast
Farley Granger's "normal" Guy.

The film's numerous references to tennis doubles, double crossing,
criss-cross, and double drinks comes the closest of any film of
Hitchcock's to effecting a Nabokovian parody of the doppelganger.
Hitchcock used the "double" theme playfully again in _North by
Northwest_, in which Cary Grant's character is mistaken for a
non-existent secret agent, and more seriously in _Psycho_ and

Guy and Bruno in _Strangers On a Train_

Although elements of the doppelganger exist in virtually all of his
works, Nabokov gave the theme the most thorough treatment in his
early novels in _Despair_ (1933) in which the narrator, Hermann,
kills Felix, his exact mirror double. By the time of _Lolita_,
Nabokov, feeling the device was worn out by it's use in contemporary
fiction, was using the doppelganger purely for purposes of parodying
the typical mystery or suspense story. Nabokov's use of Claire Quilty
as a double to the novel's protagonist, Humbert Humbert (whose own
name is a neat parody of the doppelganger), is so cleverly convoluted
and hidden within the framework of the novel's narrative that the
effect is purely parodic. Quilty shadows Humbert and Lolita
throughout the novel in the same way that Bruno shadows Guy in
_Strangers on a Train _(Lolita plays tennis and, at one point,
Humbert comments "Lolita was playing a doubles game"). Appel points
out "Quilty is so ubiquitous because he formul ates Humbert's
entrapment, his criminal passion, his sense of shame and self hate.
Yet at once a projection of Humbert's guilt and a parody
of the psychological Double..."16[17]

As far as the "unreliable narrator" goes, the narrators in Nabokov's
novels frequently give us information that appears to be unreliable.
Kinbote in _Pale Fire_, for instance, is convinced that Gradus is
coming to kill him when, as noted above, a close reading of the text
reveals otherwise. John Ray, Jr.'s foreward to _Lolita_ is also
clearly intended to make us doubt the veracity of Humbert's
narrative. Nabokov, however, seems to always have the last word in
his novels and the existence of his strong authorial voice again
assaults the conventions of this well used literary device.

_The camera in Hitchcock's films is often co-opted by the subjective
vision of his characters, and he frequently gives us instances when
this vision is "unreliable." Vertigo_ (1958) offers several good
examples of this, particularly when Scottie thinks he sees the
supposedly dead Madeleine outside her apartment and at Ernie's
Restaurant. And Scotty's vision is totally unreliable after he
convinces Judy to change back into Madeleine; as she comes out of the
bathroom in her clothes and makeup, she appears to emerge from a haze
of green fog. Finally, as they embrace, the room around Scotty
becomes the mission stable where he last embraced his lost love. As
mentioned above, Hitchcock also used an unreliable narrative
technique playfully in _Psycho_, when his camerawork and use of voice
over convinces us that Mrs. Bates is actually alive.

_View an animated GIF of Judy\'s transformation into Madeleine in
Vertigo_.[18] (14 frames, 79KB)

Common Literary Influences
Hitchcock and Nabokov's insistent use of the doppelganger motif and
"unreliable narrator" technique reflects their common literary
influences, as both of these devices were used often in the 19th
century fiction they grew up reading. Nabokov frequently made
references to the authors and novels that influenced him in this
works, perhaps a function of his "other" life as a professor of
English Literature at Wellesley and Cornell in the '40s and '50s.
_Lolita_, particularly, is a grab bag of allusions and references;
these have been admirably catalogued in Professor Alfred Appel's _The
Annotated Lolita_. In the poem "Pale Fire," John Shade, attempting to
name his work, bemoans to the Bard of Avon, "But this transparent
thingum does require/some moondrop title./Help me, Will/Pale
Fire."17[19] Hitchcock, while not as allusive as Nabokov, did use
occasional literary references in his films to various end. _Shadow
of a Doubt_ contains a reference to Ivanhoe, apparently a Hitchcock
childhood favorite, as well as several other references to detective
fiction. In _The Trouble with Harry_ (1955), Dr. Greenbow stumbles
over Harry's body while he is quoting a Shakespeare sonnet. In
_Marnie_ (1964) Mark Rutland misquotes a few lines from one of
Emerson's "Voluntaries," and is quickly corrected by his sister-
in-law.18[20] And Hitchcock also alluded to classical music; in her
investigation of the Bates homes, Lila discovers Beethoven's "Eroica"
symphony on Norman's turntable (and Hitchcock has another joke when
Lila, wide-eyed, discovers some Victorian pornography on Norman's

Of the myriad of influences that these two men of the same age must
have had in common, one can mention briefly Robert Louis Stevenson
(_Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_), A. Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes
stories), Joseph Conrad (_Heart of Darkness_), and Franz Kafka ("The
Metamorphosis," _The Trial_); but the most noteworthy is
unquestionably Edgar Allen Poe (1809- 1849). Poe, although an
American, borrowed heavily from the Gothic European Romantic style of
literature in creating his best works; it is somewhat ironic,
therefore, that he influenced Nabokov and Hitchcock, foreigners who
made their most important contributions in America. Poe also made
frequent and imaginative use of the doppelganger and "unreliable
narrator" in his fiction.

Although it is an incredibly allusive work, the author most
frequently alluded to in _Lolita_ is Poe. Humbert's early love, whom
Lolita is an attempt to recapture, is named Annabel (after Poe's
"Annabel Lee"). Humbert, moreover, appears to go through many of the
same agonies as Poe did in his life; loving a girl too young for him
and indulging in self-obsessive behavior, alcoholism, etc. Poe is
repeatedly alluded to throughout the book. In the poem "Pale Fire,"
John Shade writes "I tore apart the fantasies of Poe"19[21]; and
Nabokov is on record as having stated a fascination with Poe as a
child that dissipated somewhat as he matured. Unlike Nabokov,
Hitchcock did not discover Poe until he was about sixteen, but then
he became fascinated by reading _Tales of the Grotesque and
Arabesque_. In a 1960 article Hitchcock noted "'s because I
liked Edgar Allan Poe's st ories so much that I began to make
suspense films. Without wanting to seem immodest, I can't help but
compare what I try to put in my films with what Poe put in his
stories; a perfectly unbelievable story recounted to readers with
such a hallucinatory logic that one has the impression that this same
story can happen to you tomorrow." 20[22]

Like Nabokov, Hitchcock fascination with Poe is reflected in his
work. While Poe was a general influence on Hitchcock, the maker of
"scary" movies, there appears to be several very specific and direct
allusions to Poe in _Marnie_. As opposed to Winston Graham's novel,
Marnie's last name in the film is changed to "Edgar." The film takes
place in New York (Strutt's office), Virginia (Garrod's Stables) and
Philadelphia (Rutland Publishing and Wickwind). These are the three
places that Poe lived throughout the better part of his life.
Finally, and most conclusively, the film's climactic scene takes
place at Marnie's mother's home in Baltimore, the city where Poe died
under mysterious circumstances in 1849. Hitchcock's allusions to Poe
in _Marnie_ are not surprising since the film is probably Hitchcock's
most ambitious effort to detail the subjective inner states of his
problematic central character through the use of cinematic technique
(like the red flashes), just a s Poe devoted himself to writing
stories in which his characters are subject to psychological terror.

The intent of this article is not to suggest that there was any
direct connection or even any overt influence between Alfred
Hitchcock and Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov is on record as having seen
at least one Hitchcock film and probably saw several others (I'd be
surprised if he did not see _Strangers on a Train_) and Hitchcock, in
asking Nabokov to collaborate with him, must have had a least a
passing familiarity with Nabokov's work (again, I'd be surprised if
he had not read _Lolita_). My intent here, however, is merely to
suggest that there was a strong affinity between the work of these
two men, an affinity based on their artistic personalities that has
not, by and large, been acknowledged. While I have tried to point out
some areas of confluence in their works, I feel the primary affinity
is in the similar relationship that Hitchcock and Nabokov established
with their audience /readers; a relationship of playfulness,
obtuseness, self-allusiveness and parody. Both men were masters of
their respective mediums; Nabokov, a brilliant user of words, and
Hitchcock a manipulator of cinematic imagery. As a result, both men
attempted (usually successfully) to control the aesthetic game that
they played with their respective audiences.

In 1972 Hitchcock released _Frenzy_, his second to last film and
Nabokov published _Transparent Things_, his last novel. Alfred
Hitchcock and Vladimir Nabokov did not ever collaborate. One can only
imagine the kind of involuted, complex, and playful work these two men
would have produced; unfortunately, we can only speculate about what
might have been. Still, we can acknowledge that the works of Vladimir
Nabokov and Alfred Hitchcock share much in common, just as these two
men's lives shared many common circumstances. What is left, in the
end, is the work they produced, which can be well summarized by a
line the fictional John Shade wrote in "Pale Fire": "Life is a
message scribbled in the dark."21[23]

Go to notes[24].
James A. Davidson is a film enthusiast and videographer who lives in
the San Francisco Bay Area. ([25])[26]


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