Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0019195, Fri, 22 Jan 2010 10:20:48 EST

Re: Request for source of quotation

Thanks again to Ludger Tolksdorf and Nikolai Melnikov for their so prompt
responses to my request for the source of Nabokov's assertion that
Robbe-Grillet's La Jalousie was "the finest novel about love since Proust".

There does arise, then, the serious question I said would arise, if this
quotation should be confirmed, as it now has been confirmed by the scholarly
Messrs Tolksdorf and Melnikov. Since Nabokov published Lolita in 1955 and
Robbe-Grillet published La Jalousie in 1958, Nabokov is, in 1959, saying
unequivocally that La Jalousie is a finer novel about love than Lolita.
Unless, of course, Nabokov does not regard Lolita as a novel about love.

But, in that film extract available online, Nabokov says, to Trilling,
that he agrees with Trilling that Lolita is a book about love. However,
elsewhere he calls Humbert a "cruel and vain wretch" who contrives to appear
"touching". Brian Boyd has ably demonstrated the sentimental, sententious sham
of Humbert's show of repentance.

Nabokov's remark to Trilling was one that he did not read from a prepared
index-card as he did elsewhere throughout the programme. Was this an
instance of his "talking like a child", as he said he did, which was why he
preferred to read from cards? Was his agreement a "childish" response to
Trilling's flattery?

For what it is worth, neither Lolita nor La Jalousie seems to me to have
much to do with love, though both have much to do with jealousy. Perhaps
Nabokov's comment to Anne Guérin about La Jalousie was as unguarded, as
uncarded, and arguably as misguided as his comment to Trilling. But I agree with
Nabokov that both are fine novels. Is there room for doubt as to which he
considered the finer?

Anthony Stadlen

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