Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002315, Mon, 1 Sep 1997 11:53:19 -0700

Hofstadter/Alter Altercation re VN in the NYTBR (fwd)
In the same issue where VN is branded a lunatic, there is a long response
by Hofstadter to Robert Alter's review of his book where Nabokov is also
described as a lunatic but in many more words than in the review of the
book on Exley:

Like a number of critics of my book, Alter is upset that I criticize
Vladimir Nabokov's viciousness toward verse translators of "Eugene
Onegin" (he calls it a "tantrum"). The interesting thing, though, about my
"tantrum" is that I let Nabokov hang himself. The author of "Lolita"
doesn't need my help, because his own attacks on his rivals are so ugly
that they make my case for me. If there is a tantrum here, it is
Nabokov's. And so Alter shifts the focus by taking umbrage at my jocular,
alliterative three-word phrase characterizing "Lolita" ('a popular
pedophilic pornography") and my one-word phrase characterizing "Speak,
Memory" ("quasi-photographic). Now, to call someone's autobiographical
work "quasi-photographic" is hardly damning, but that's beside the point.
The point is that Chapter 9 is about "Eugene Onegin," and Alter simply
skips right over "Eugene Onegin." I suspect that the truth is too
uncomfortable for Alter and other Nabokov acolytes to face: that their
hero was at times irrationally nasty, particularly towards his rivals in
Far more important, Alter makes no mention of my Chapter 8, in
which I display and praise four brilliant verse renditions of "Eugene
Onegin" in English -- four tours de force of a sort that Nabokov pompously
declared to be "mathematically impossible." Once again, the truth is hard
to face: Nabokov's absolutist pontifications about verse translation have
been repeatedly shown to be dead wrong, a fact his admirers let pass in

[End of the Nabokov part -- the letter itself is much longer and
occupies almost two entire columns.]

Galya Diment