I should like to steal up on Nabokov's late fiction with a quiet query about the term. It is in one sense synonymous with “last fictions,” as we now speak of Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, although he didn't call them that. Lateness of this kind is a matter of chronological time, and may imply an achieved maturity, a sense of autumn. The Oxford English Dictionary gives “flowering or ripening at an advanced season of the year” among its meanings. But with Nabokov no matter of time is only a matter of time, and lateness in the work of distinguished artists often has another, qualitative meaning, far from negative but indicating, nonetheless, a certain quirkiness, hinting not merely at maturity but also at something beyond maturity. Since all of Nabokov's work is quirky, we shall have to show, if we wish to pursue this thought, that the quirkiness itself changes its color or its tone or its intensity in the late novels, and that is what I shall try to do in this essay.
Nabokov's late fiction
Periodical or collection
The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov