Akikusa, Shun'ichiro. Nabokofu yakusu nowa watashi: Jikohonyaku ga hiraku tekusto. 2018

Bibliographic title
Amerika no nabokofu: Nurikaerareta jigazo
Publication year

Translation: Nabokov in America: The Repainted Self-portrait.


This monograph focuses on the shift of Nabokovs self-image; how he was received during his years in America and after his passing. It consists of six chapters with introduction and postscript.

In the introduction, the reception of his early English poem An Evening of Russian Poetry” is examined. With the rise of Nabokovs literary fame, the poem has been read not as an emigre writers self-portrait but as a distinguished English writers subtle masterpiece.

In the first chapter we discuss how Nabokov buried his early persona as a Russian writer during his American years. In order to do so, he severed many of his Russian connections and rewrote his Russian works in the manner of a native English writer.

The second chapter revisits the relationship between Nabokov and his publisher New Directions. James Laughlin, founder of New Directions, published Nabokovs first English novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight in 1941 in order to promote modernism in the United States. As an important figure in the New Directions publication enterprise, Nabokov created his image as a modernist American writer.

The third chapter argues about Nabokov’s vast commentaries on Eugene Onegin. In composing these, he invented a duel between Pushkin and Ryleev, a minor Russian poet, later injecting it into his autobiography as fact. Through annotating the Russian classic, Nabokov presented himself not simply as an emigre writer but as a prominent man of letters who could not only produce scholarly work but also inherit Russian literary tradition.

In the fourth chapter, we examine many portraits after the Lolita sensation as collaborative works with photographers. In these pictures, Nabokov often posed with his wife Vera while holding a butterfly net. Such photos contributed to creation of his well-known public image as a reclusive artist who loved his wife in contrast to the scandalous atmosphere of Lolita.

The fifth chapter features the reception of Nabokov in Japan. Japanese writers such Maruya Saiichi, Kenzaburo Oe and Toh EnJoe read Nabokov in their own ways and presented him in their own self-images as a modernist, a writer who embraced erotic motifs, and a postmodernist.

The sixth chapter takes up the rise of Nabokov’s cultural capital after his death. Taking a cue from his father’s path, Nabokov’s son Dmitri not only sold Nabokov’s manuscripts to archives thorough booksellers and auctions but also released his father's unpublished works for publication resulting in a boom of Nabokov scholarship and academic publications. Through such family efforts, Nabokov enjoyed his posthumous fame as a canonical writer.