Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004919, Tue, 21 Mar 2000 15:24:11 -0800

VN Bibliography: VN & the Devil
Leona Toker, author of _Nabokov & the Mystery of Literary Structures_ and
many other VN studies, reviews _By Authors Possessed: The Demonic Novel in
Russia_ by Adam Weiner, (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1998) in _Slavic
Review_, 59, #1 (Spring 2000), pp.241-2.

Although not treating any VN novel in depth, Weiner cites VN as a
representative of one of the two trends. Toker writes:

"[Weiner] ... argue[s] that the evils represented in these
narratives [Dead Souls, The Possessed, & Petersburg] partly contaminates
the narative agencies themselves.

"Accordingly, the aspects of evil on which the book mainly focuses
are not cruelty, brutality, or treason but souless existence, and, in
particular, blasphemous authorship. The book referes to two conflicting
views of artistic creativity. One theory, associated with Nikolai Berdiaev
(and largely characteristic of the world view of Vladimir Nabobov, whose
'exorcism' of the novel is discussed in chapter 5), presents individual
artistic acts as extensions of God's creation of the world. The other
view, bound up with orthodox religious suspicions of imaginative
literature in general, regards unruly creation as a competing alternative
to God's work and therefore as, possibly, demonic."

" One of several ways in which, according to Weiner, Nabokov (endorsing,
as it were, Berdiaev's view of creativity), exorcises the demons of
authorship, is by laying bare the devices of his own artifice while
impersonating a benevolent anthropomorphic deity. One may disagree with
the details of Weiner's approach to Nabokov and yet appluad his
thought-provoking attempt to position Nabokov's oeuvre amid the
contrasting strands of Russian literary history. This aim would have been
better served by some reference, for the sake of comparison, to the
non-demonic classical Russian novels, especially those that could be
reasonably placed among Nabokov's precursor texts." ...