Vladimir Nabokov

Luke Parker's NABOKOV NOIR

By dana_dragunoiu, 1 December, 2022

Luke Parker’s Nabokov Noir: Cinematic Culture and the Art of Exile has make its debut. NYRB has run an excerpt and Cornell University Press is offering a 30% discount on its purchase (Code 09FLYER).

Nabokov Noir places Vladimir Nabokov's early literary career—from the 1920s to the 1940s—in the context of his fascination with silent and early sound cinema and the chiaroscuro darkness and artificial brightness of the Weimar era, with its movie palaces, cultural Americanism, and surface culture. Luke Parker argues that Nabokov's engagement with the cinema and the dynamics of mass culture more broadly is an art of exile, understood both as literary poetics and practical strategy.

Obsessive and competitive, fascinated and disturbed, Nabokov's Russian-language fiction and essays, written in Berlin, present a compelling rethinking of modernist-era literature's relationship to an unabashedly mass cultural phenomenon. Parker examines how Nabokov's involvement with the cinema as actor, screenwriter, moviegoer, and, above all, chronicler of the cinematized culture of interwar Europe enabled him to flourish as a transnational writer. Nabokov, Parker shows, worked tirelessly to court publishers and film producers for maximum exposure for his fiction across languages, media, and markets. In revealing the story of Nabokov's cinema praxis—his strategic instrumentalization of the movie industry—Nabokov Noir reconstructs the deft response of a modern master to the artificial isolation and shrinking audiences of exile.

"Nabokov Noir is an exceptional book: well written, cleverly designed, and impeccably researched. The Nabokov who emerges from these pages is a struggling Russian writer in exile, eager to inscribe his work into contemporary European literature and recognizing in the new medium of cinema a universal translator that could help him achieve his relentless pursuit of worldwide recognition."

Yuri Tsivian, University of Chicago, author of Lines of Resistance

"This important contribution to Nabokov scholarship excels as a study of the modern cultural conditions within which Nabokov's literary art evolved. Drawing on insightful readings of Nabokov's early works and impressive archival research, Luke Parker argues that cinematic culture influenced Nabokov's oeuvre and shaped his career to a far greater extent than previously understood. Nabokov is known for being self-consciously and allusively literary. Parker convincingly shows how deliberately Nabokov also processed experience through the prism of the cinema."

Thomas Seifrid, University of Southern California, author of The Word Made Self

"Luke Parker's book fundamentally alters our understanding of Nabokov's literary career and his aesthetics in the period before and just after his emigration to America. In addition, it casts important new light on Russian émigré culture and shows how deeply it was embedded in the cinema of the 1920s and 30s. What is perhaps most remarkable about Nabokov Noir is that it shows how Nabokov's cinema theory and 'cinema praxis' shaped the writing and the revising of his fiction."

Eric Naiman, University of California, Berkeley, author of Nabokov, Perversely