Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008603, Thu, 18 Sep 2003 21:13:04 -0700

EDNOTE. I have just been reading Leonid Livak's new book _HOW IT WAS DONE IN PARIS: RUSSIAN EMIGRE LITERATURE AND FRENCH MODERNISM_. Madison, Wisc: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003. The book's earlier chapters focus upon the younger emigres who only began to write in exile, but the long concluding chapter V, "The Art of Writing a Novel" is devoted to Nabokov and his relationship to his Parisian confreres and their view of literature, and especially to VN's _The Gift_ . Livak argues that VN _Gift_ is a tacit dialogue about the proper nature of literature with Andre Gide and his _Les Faux-Monnayeurs_ ("The Counterfeiters") . John Burt Foster has examined VN's relationship to Proust in his _Nabokov's Art of Memory and European Modernism_ (1993), but says little about Gide.
Livak explores virgin territory in his close examination and comparison of _The Gift_ and "The Counterfeiters." It has been many years since I read the Gide volume so I cannot muster the authority to evaluate Livak's "take" on it vis-a-vis "The Gift," but he has obviously dug deep into French (and other) scholarship. My impression is most favorable (within the limits of my ignorance).
Livak is not claiming "influence," but digging out the similarities and differences in the two authors' view of literature itself. The critic's comparison of their novels' structural and thematic techniques is fascinating and instructive.
Chapter V is a must for serious students of Nabokov, and the volume as a whole is a valuable addition to the burgeoning study of the younger generation of Russian emigre writers in Paris during the Thirties----Poplavskii, Gazdanov, Fel'zen, and Yanovskii.