Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003463, Tue, 3 Nov 1998 10:59:01 -0800

Art & Suffering
I find it hard to resist the idea that parts, at least, of Nabokov's
best works are "born out of personal misery". For instance, I'm tempted to
see a connection between the unusual or shameful sexuality of many of
Nabokov's main characters and the secret that led to his brother's suicide
(which I suspect was homosexuality, though I don't remember _Speak, Memory_
as being explicit on that point). No doubt dozens of critics have felt the
same temptation.
On the other hand, maybe I should resist. Speculation is easy, but I
see no way to know for sure except by means of a long series of intimate,
honest conversations or writings. Is any such thing publicly available for
Nabokov? I have trouble imagining it.
Speaking of speculation, may I respectfully suggest that the
one-sentence blurb on Schneiderman's book is not enough to disagree with?
We can't doubt that Nabokov underwent "deep personal suffering", so
Schneiderman's "essential ingredient" was present. He may actually take
Nabokov's word about "fresh bread with country butter and Alpine honey" (if
I'm correctly remembering the line from somewhere in _Strong Opinions_).
Jerry Friedman

At 09:15 AM 11/3/98 -0800, you wrote:
>I would like to hear other comments on the idea that Nabokov was one the
>happiest writers who ever lived. I am currently working on a paper
>examining how Nabokov used a personified Memory in Speak, Memory (read as a
>command) to act as both a filter and a barrier to his own past. By
>idealizing the "legendary Russia of [his] youth," isn't he protecting
>himself from the painful uprooting from his native country? I'm having
>difficulty deciding whether Nabokov should be admired or pitied for his
>aloofness. Input on this topic would be greatly appreciated.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Rodney Welch <rwelch@SCEES.org>
>To: NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.ucsb.edu
>Date: Monday, November 02, 1998 10:15 AM
>Subject: Re: VN Bibliography (fwd)
>>Most curious. I always thought Nabokov represented the exactly opposite
>>idea. His best works do not seem to me borne out of personal misery; in
>>fact, he seems to be one of the happiest writers who ever lived.
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Donald Barton Johnson [mailto:chtodel@humanitas.ucsb.edu]
>y>Sent: Saturday, October 31, 1998 2:33 PM
>>To: NABOKV-L@UCSBVM.ucsb.edu
>>Subject: VN Bibliography
>>>From current Hamilton catalogue: Item 076538
>>Leo Schneiderman: _The Literary Mind: Portraits in Pain and Creativity_.
>>"Studies nine famous writers--Faulkner, Lillian Hellman, NABOKOV,
>>O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, Cheever, Borges and Beckett--to illustrate
>>the premise that deep personal suffering is an essential ingredient in
>>creating great literature."243pp. Human Sciences. Paper. Pub. at $18.95.
>>Sale price $2.95.
>>EDITOR's NOTE. My God!