Nabokov and the Real World: Between Appre­ci­a­tion and Defense

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2020

Admir­ers and detrac­tors of Vladimir Nabokov have viewed him as an inge­nious con­triv­er of lit­er­ary games, teas­ing and even out­smart­ing his read­ers through his self-reflex­ive arti­fice and the many codes and puz­zles he devis­es in his fic­tion. Nabokov him­self spoke a num­ber of times about real­i­ty as a term that always has to be put in scare quotes. Con­se­quent­ly, many crit­ics and read­ers have thought of him as a writer unin­ter­est­ed in the world out­side lit­er­a­ture. Robert Alter shows how Nabokov was pas­sion­ate­ly con­cerned with the real world and its com­plex­i­ties, from love and loss to exile, free­dom, and the impact of con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics on our lives. In these illu­mi­nat­ing and exquis­ite­ly writ­ten essays, Alter spans the breadth of Nabokov’s writ­ings, from his mem­oir, lec­tures, and short sto­ries to major nov­els such as Loli­ta. He demon­strates how the self-reflex­iv­i­ty of Nabokov’s fic­tion becomes a vehi­cle for express­ing very real con­cerns. What emerges is a por­trait of a bril­liant styl­ist who is at once seri­ous and play­ful, who cared deeply about human rela­tion­ships and the bur­den of loss, and who was acute­ly sen­si­tive to the ways polit­i­cal ide­olo­gies can dis­tort human val­ues. Offer­ing time­less insights into lit­er­a­ture’s most fab­u­lous arti­fi­cer, Nabokov and the Real World makes an ele­gant and com­pelling case for Nabokov’s rel­e­vance today.

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