Since the release of Kubrick’s Lolita in 1962 and the publication of Alfred Appel’s Nabokov’s Dark Cinema in 1974, “Nabokov and Cinema” and, more narrowly, “Lolita and Cinema,” have been common topics in both Nabokov scholarship and in teaching Nabokov courses. My interest, however, is in Nabokov and a different kind of cinema, about which very little has yet been said or written in relation to Nabokov to date. It is the pre-revolutionary Russian cinema, and, in particular, Evgenii Bauer (1865-1917), the most popular and prolific director of Nabokov’s youth, who made more than eighty films (many of which did not survive) in less than five years, from 1913 until his sudden death between the two revolutions of 1917. These days, given students, as well as my own, increasing interest in film, I teach early Russian and Soviet cinema pretty much every year. I never fail to mention to those who are familiar with Nabokov how often Nabokov’s oeuvre, including Lolita, appears to echo Bauer’s films. Teaching Nabokov’s Lolita and Bauer’s films side by side furthers the exploration of Nabokov’s very deep Russian roots, and demonstrates how crucial his formative experiences with Russian art and culture were not just for his Russian but also his American works. It also brings a new angle into the discussion of cinematographic elements in Nabokov’s prose and thus serves as a helpful sequel to “Nabokov’s Dark Cinema”, as mapped out by Appel.
From Bauer’s Li to Nabokov’s Lo: Lolita and Early Russian Film
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v. 24, no. 1