NABOKV-L post 0001288, Tue, 10 Sep 1996 19:39:15 -0700

Appel on Ada (fwd)
From: Bo Brock <>

The dispute over an annotated edition of Ada occurred about a month ago on
this list, and I thought I would address an unresolved point about Alred
Appel's opinion of Ada.

Professor Boyd wrote: "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."

Appel and I talked about Ada in the context of that NYTBR article, and he
told me that he had soured on Ada over time and that the review no longer
reflected his opinion of the book -- he still thought it was a solid
Nabokovian effort but that VN overextended himself. AA *did* consider
writing an annotated edition of Ada, but he did not complete the task (if
he ever started it) precisely because -- this is my conclusion -- the book
had fallen in his estimation.

Also, in answer to Professor Boyd's criticism of Appel's comment that Ada
is to Nabokov what Finnegan's Wake is to Joyce...this was a rough
qualitative comparison, not a quantitative one. Indeed, it's difficult to
imagine Nabokov going that far afield in terms of his control over the

I don't know *why* AA became disenchanted with Ada -- and I don't wish to
speculate -- but it is fascinating for this amateur student of Nabokov to
see true literary scholars like Professors Boyd and Appel differ so
markedly over their subject's most ambitious work. Great stuff -- this is
what makes the Internet such a valuable resource...thanks to Professor
Johnson and the members of this list.

-Bo Brock