Metzger, Sabine. Nabokov’s Sonic Geographies. 2021

Bibliographic title
Nabokov’s Sonic Geographies
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal
Periodical issue
v. 15
Publication year

Sabine Metzger’s (University of Stuttgart) paper examines Nabokov’s construction of sonic geographies – urban and rural sonic environments and that of the wilderness – as soundscapes in Emily Thompson’s sense of the term, i.e. as “simultaneously a physical environment and a way of perceiving that environment” (Thompson 1988, 2). As this paper argues, Nabokov’s soundscapes are idiosyncratic and highly dependent on his characters’ individual ways of perceiving them – on their individual aesthetic susceptibilities, their specific moods, and the specific circumstances under which they perceive sonic environments that escape any dichotomization. Nabokov’s sonic environments – whether it is the city, the countryside, or the wilderness, as in The Gift – are hybrid soundscapes, mingling anthrophony, biophony, geophony and technophony, and blurring the boundary between nature and culture. In Bend Sinister and in “Tyrants Destroyed,” the voice of political propaganda, technologically reproduced and amplified, becomes the soundmark of both the city and the country within the sonic geographies of fictive authoritarian states where the “village radio” (Nabokov 1990, 97), transmitting the dictator’s voice, has assumed the status of the “village bells” (Corbin 1998, passim.) that dominated the 19th century rural soundscape.