Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002407, Tue, 30 Sep 1997 10:23:40 -0700

VN Bibliography: Galya Diment's PNINIAD
The University of Washington Press has just published Galya Diment's
Available at university book stores and the occasional Barnes & Nobles
(where it may be found, most likely, in the novel section next to Dickens
since that's how their computer chose to classify it). It may be ordered
directly from the press: e-mail to uwpord@u.washington.edu or call
1-800-441-4115 (Fax 1-800-669-7993). Foreign orders can be made by calling
206-543-8870 or faxing the order to 206-685-3460. An author's signing will
be held on October 30 in the evening at the University Bookstore in
Seattle. During AAASS, which is taking place in Seattle this year, there
will be an exhibit at the University Library (Archives) of Szeftel's
diaries, and Nabokov's and Jakobson's letters.


"Whether because I have known Nabokov at close hand or because of my
interest in his creative process, he seems to fascinate me as a person and
a writer, although his writing leaves me cold, in spite of all its
virtuosity and even beauty." Thus Russian historian Marc Szeftel,
Nabokov's collegue at Cornell, wrote of his famous acquaintance.

"In this wry , judiciously balanced, and throroughly engaging book, Galya
Diment explores the complicated and fascinating relationship between
Vladimir Nabokov and his Cornell colleague Marc Szeftel who, in the
estimate of many, served as the prototpe for the gentle protagonist of the
novel *PNIN*. She offers astute comments on Nabokov's fictional process in
creating Timofey Pnin and addresses hotly debated questions and
long-standing questions riddles in PNIN and its history.

Between the two of them, Nabokv and Szeftel embodied much of the
complexity and variety of the Russian postrevolutionary emigre experience
in Europe and the United States. Drawing on previously unpublished letters
and diaries as well as interviews with family, friends, and colleagues,
Diment illuminates a fascinating cultural terrain.

PNINIAD--the epic of Pnin--begins with Szeftel's early life in
Russia and ends with his years in Seatle at the University of Washington,
turning pivotally upon the time when Szeftel's and Nabokov's lives
intersected at Cornell. Nabokov was both amused by and admiring the
innocence of his historian friend. Szeftel's feelings toward Nabokov were
also mixed, ranging from intense disappointment over rebuffed attempts to
collaborate on a scholarly study (of a medieval Russian epic) or to write
about his work (LOLITA), to a persistent envy of Nabokov's success and an
increasing wistfulness over his own sense ofcfailure. A generous selection
of relevant archival materials includes Szeftel's autobiographical
writins, his talks and published essays relating to Nabokov, and his
correspondence with Nabokov and Roman Jakobson."

The back cover offers comments by Robert Alter (UCB) and Brian Boyd (U. of

Alter: PNINIAD is an utterly absorbing, sad , and touching book, Diment
has made scrupulous use of hitherto unexplored archival materials,
buttress by many interviews with people who knew Nabokv and Szeftel. A
persuasive case is maf=de for the degree to whcih Nabokov consciously had
Szeftel in mind when he created the character Pnin ... a man whose fate in
the end was sadder than Pnin's, who eventually became obsessedwith Nabokov
as his successful alter ego:

Boyd: "A fine piece of work, meticulous, judicious, sensitive, and