NABOKV-L post 0005196, Fri, 23 Jun 2000 08:39:07 -0700

Nabokov and Autism (fwd)
From: "Johnson, Kurt" <>

Re: Nabokov and Autism--
"The Little Professor Syndrome"

New York Times Magazine, June 18, 2000, p. 54
by Lawrence Osborne

This article is about "Asperger's syndrome" a recently diagnosed form of
autism, according to the article. I suppose the controversial matter is the
mention of Nabokov in this regard (I'll get to that). It appears that
Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism indicated by extreme precosity in
youth, combined with various physical symptoms (extreme sensitivity to noise
etc.), general lack of social skills, restricted and unusual patterns of
behavior and interests, often connected to striking precosity in languages,
which blossoms in adulthood to remarkable, if not sometimes strange,
talents, interests and interest/obsessions, manifestations of genius in
restricted areas etc.

Subtitle: Scholars have retroactively applied Asperger's label to oddball
intellectuals ranging from Glenn Gould to Vladimir Nabokov.

Quote: Other scholars have retro.... oddball intellectuals ranging from
Vladimir Nabokov to Bela Bartok to Ludwig Wittgenstein. Nabokov's
hypertrophied vocabulary and obsession with butterflies, some say, may
qualify him for the disorder (though an equally focused obsession with
nymphs seems somewhat less incrimating). Such claims may be dubious, and
probably infuriating to lepidopterists, but the argument is seductive to
many: could the very glaitiies that make Asperger's people so strange lie at
the root of the peculiar talents?"

blah blah blah

Of course some of this could be journalism but it would be interesting to
see who these "scholars" are. The article gives not sources BUT does list a
number of prominent Asperger's syndrome related experts and scholars and the
source of the connection to Nabokov may lie with one of them. The article
also provides no information about the article's author.

I have made xeroxes of this article; if anyone on N-on-line wants a copy
they can email be at I'll be away on vacation until
about July 10 but will try to make the piece available for people who don't
have NYTimes access.

Kurt Johnson