Vladimir Nabokov

Kakar, Sudhir, and John Munder Ross. Tales of Love, Sex, and Danger. 2011

Bibliographic title
Tales of Love, Sex, and Danger
Publication year

Ch. on Nabokov titled: The Ontology of Love (description below).

The origins of erotic love can be traced back to the essential union of infant and mother. This chapter follows love’s evolution, meandering through sensuous detours to discover the beloved’s unfolding and often unexpected forms, the diversity betraying some basic unity or at least continuity in multiplicity. Psychoanalysts note the similarities in the infinite variety of vital pleasures with terms such as the ‘the primary object’, ‘libido’, and the ‘interdependence of representations of self and other’. Although these unifying drives, objects, and images have been with us all our lives, we continue to uncover or discover their power again and again, continually taking us by surprise. For the Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov, life is love that haunts our sensibilities from cradle to grave. Nabokov has given us a narrative and a body of words which make the ontogeny of love come to brilliant life. This chapter deals with the ontogeny of love, sexual passion, Oedipus complex, and incest, focusing on Nabokov's works Lolita, Speak Memory, and Ada.

First published in 1986, this ground-breaking work addresses two complex and very human emotions—love and erotic passion—as these appear in the great love stories of the world. Starting with the story of Romeo and Juliet and its roots in European Christianity, the authors uncover hidden depths of cultural and universal significance in famous romantic tales of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent—‘Layla and Majnun’, ‘Heer and Ranjha’, ‘Sohni and Mahinwal’, ‘Vis and Ramin’, and ‘Radha and Krishna’. Moving westward again, the authors look at the Greek myth of Oedipus, the Celtic saga of Tristan and Isolde, the tragic drama of Hamlet, the legend of Phaedra and Hippolytus, and a contemporary handling of the love theme in the writings of Vladimir Nabokov. With each love story including within its gambit all of love’s paradoxical associations and radii—from conquest and possession to surrender, sensuality and sensuousness, time held still in a poised nostalgia, and the loss of visual, distal perceptions in another mode of knowing—this book elaborates on the phenomenology and what it calls the ontogeny of love, sex, and danger. In this second edition, the authors revisit their earlier assertions about romantic and erotic love in the light of contemporary psychoanalysis and literary theory.