Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003320, Fri, 21 Aug 1998 16:21:27 -0700

Re: Sentimentality in VN (fwd)

I suspect VN would draw a sharp distinction between "sentimentality,"
which he associated with poshlost--poshlust and "tenderness," which he
valued. The way he uses the words, sentimentality is always false, very
bourgeois, and often co-exists with the outright evilness. Hitler, to
him, could be "sentimental" but obviously never "tender." Some of it has
to do with the quality of the word in Russian -- it is rarely used
in a positive sense, is usually associated with women and old people (i.e.
definitely not a "manly" quality to have), and is a sign of the lack of
sophistication and taste. When VN talks about his love for Dmitri in
SPEAK, MEMORY, for example, some people may find it "sentimental" but to
him it's tenderness, not sentimentality. What's the difference? I remember
being asked this question at a conference once and suggested that in
VN's mind, when he is "gushy," it's a manifestation of a genuine
emotion, when anyone else is, it's sentimentality -- and I was only half
joking. He does make exceptions for a few others but overall he is very
harsh when writers appear to him to be wearing their emotions on their

Galya Diment