Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001220, Fri, 16 Aug 1996 08:59:04 -0700

Re: Appel & Nabokov (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Below, Brian Boyd comments on Bo Brock's report that
Alfred Appel, one of Nabokov's best critics, was less than wholly
enthusiastic about ADA. If any NABOKV-L subscriber is in immediate
contact with Alfred Appel, it would be interesting to know his thoughts.
From: BRIAN BOYD <b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz>

Dear Nabokovians,
I find it curious that Alfred Appel should have suggested that _Ada_
is not worth annotating, after he had a) stated very publicly (the front
page of the _New York Times Book Review_) that it is "a supreme work of
the imagination, . . . further evidence that [Nabokov] is a peer of Kafka,
Proust and Joyce, those earlier masters of totally unique universes of
fiction. . . . a love story, an erotic masterpiece, a philosophical
investigation into the nature of time" and (off the front page now) "a
culminating work, . . . . a great work of art," and b) talked in
late 1969 with Nabokov's editor at McGraw-Hill about the possibility of his
preparing an _Annotated Ada_ himself.
If Alfred still stands by his later judgment that _Ada_ is not worth
annotating, I would very much like to know what caused such a
turnaround. AA's sense (as reported by Bo Brock) that _Ada_ is VN's
_Finnegans Wake_ seems clearly wrong. In _Ada_ VN did pack more
in than ever before, but he was far more aware than Joyce ever was
both of readers and (as magician, as lepidopterist) of the dynamics
of concealment and discovery. He makes it very possible to read
_Ada_ _without_ needing to master the arcana (rather like the chess
problem in_Speak Memory_ with its solution for the naive as well
as the ultrasophisticated), although he also makes readers more
conscious than ever before of the possible importance of what is
perhaps being missed.
_Ada_ celebrates the emotions and the intellect at the same
time as it provides a critique of emotional and intellectual indulgence.
Readers often mistake the indulgence for Nabokov's. No; it's just
that this control freak has given Van and Ada such
Since Alfred enjoys the spirit of celebration, I think he should have
another look at _Ada_ with the help of what has been written about it
since he became disenchanted. BB would like to see AA reenchanted.

From: Brian Boyd
English Department
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019 Auckland New Zealand
Fax (64 9) 373 7429 Tel (64 9) 373 7599 ext 7480
Home fax/tel: (64 9) 620 6597
e-mail: b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz