Hupé, Jean-Michel. An Introduction to Synesthesia via Vladimir Nabokov. 2020

Bibliographic title
An Introduction to Synesthesia via Vladimir Nabokov
Publisher, city
Periodical or collection
The Five Senses in Nabokov's Works
Publication year

Nabokov belongs to a small “family” of great artists also known as synesthetes, suggesting a link between synesthesia and creativity. Moreover, Nabokov’s report of precise synesthetic associations between letters and colors already in his early childhood suggests that synesthesia is a gift, possibly innate. Could we suppose that the brain of Nabokov was special because of synesthesia? Could synesthesia relate to his metaphoric creativity, his strong visual mental imagery and memory or even some aspects of his personality? Here we show that the synesthetic experiences described by Nabokov are similar to those of synesthetes studied by scientists for the last twenty years. We review what cognitive neuroscience has learnt so far about the possible mechanisms of synesthesia and whether synesthetes display any special characteristics beyond synesthesia. We show that little is known and that there is little support to naturalize Nabokov’s creative process on the basis of him having synesthesia.