Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001483, Mon, 25 Nov 1996 09:19:07 -0800

Re: VN & Self-doubt--reply to Frick (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Charles Nicol <EJNICOL@root.indstate.edu> is among the
founding fathers of American Nabokov studies (and the International VN
Society). Author of many articles on VN, he is recently the co-editor
(with Gennady Barabtarlo) of _A Small Alpine Form: Studies in Nabokov's
Short Fiction_.

I agree with Frick that VN often set himself up as a flawless model, a
perfectionist on a pedestal whose opinions and acts were always
definite and certain, even when they weren't. Here are two
modest examples of the certainty as a sort of performance.

1) When it became known that he wrote out his answers to
interviews, this seemed a bit extreme, but we understood this as
showing that perfect certainty took lots of work--which we knew
already. So this one didn't reveal much.

2) More significant to me was the editing of the *Lectures on
Literature*. We had been told over and over in interviews that he
wrote these things out and never deviated from a clear text from one
year to another. But it turned out that at places his notes were so
overwritten as to be virtually unreadable--in other words, not much
better than, say, my own notes for a class. So VN was in reality
much less perfect, much more human, than he had told us.

So, if you're old enough to have been around Nabokov's interviews
since the beginning of his fame, you have had to first go through the
presentation phase of learning his personality, and then through the
adjustment phase of learning where there are a few cracks to patch
up. This second phase has continued right through Boyd's biography.

--Charles Nicol, English, Indiana State U.