Nabokov interview with Bernard Pivot (1975)

Submitted by Brian_Boyd on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 16:19

This interview with Bernard Pivot, on his extremely popular television booktalk show, Apostrophes, will appear in Nabokov's Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews, and Letters to the Editor, forthcoming in the next two weeks from Knopf (New York) and Penguin (London), and co-edited by Anastasia Tolstoy and myself. The TLS allowed less than 24 hours to correct proofs and because of the time difference did not get my revisions until too late. I would have changed the introduction (edited by them from mine to the book version) to read:


When his novel Ada was about to appear in French translation, Vladimir Nabokov was interviewed in Paris by Bernard Pivot. Although Pivot’s book-talk show Apostrophes was one of the best loved programmes of its time on French television, Nabokov had to be cajoled into participating. All other Apostrophes interviews were live and impromptu, with a group of critics involved in freewheeling discussion. The Nabokov episode was also broadcast live (on May 30, 1975) and before a small audience, and there were other critics present, but Nabokov was allowed to have the questions -  from Pivot alone - sent in advance, and to prepare his answers in writing. During the programme he read them from cards roughly concealed behind a stack of his books.


I also wanted to change the absurd inserted explanation in the quotation from Pivot: "He received me in a large salon [at the Montreux Palace, Nabokov's residence]" to "[in the Montreux Palace Hotel, in which the Nabokovs lived]" (a Russian writeup once called Montreux "Nabokov's estate"; having his residence as a Palace is not much better].

And in their note to "Fischer" I wanted the change to: "American Bobby Fischer (1943-2008), often considered the greatest chess player ever, became World Chess Champion through winning “the chess match of the century,” in 1972, but refused to defend his title in 1975."

Here's the interview. Enjoy! And look out for the book! There will also be advance serializations in the New Yorker and Harper's

Brian Boyd