NABOKV-L post 0002415, Sat, 4 Oct 1997 07:57:25 -0700

VN as autobiography?(was: VN mentions in Edmund White's THE
From: Tim Henderson <>

As the rankest of amateurs (but I love this stuff dearly!) I have to rise
to this.

Sure, there's a sense of autobiography everywhere in Nabokov, but in
almost every case (the guy never lets you get away with sweeping
statements) there's a tragic and purely fictitious flaw.
He thinks he's perfect just as he is, or perhaps, he loathes public
introspection. So he invents problems he doesn't have, nightmare
mutations of himself as pedophile, homosexual, fundamentalist, libertine,
dimwit, Philistine, madman, criminal, American. He slings himself with
misfortunes like poverty, alcoholism, the deaths of his wife and child,
inescapable terror.

Thus he stays on the solid ground -- his heroes all share the vast
majority of his inner life, and there's no need for any journalistic
immersion in other lifestyles and cultures -- at the same time he has
this tremendous patch of quicksand where he can let his imagination run

The exception I'm thinking of -- I don't see how John Shade has any true
character flaws -- is he the author with an imagined American childhood?

Donald Barton Johnson wrote:
> From: Earl Sampson <>
> 8) In 1988 the PARIS REVIEW published an interview with White that includes
> several mentions of Nabokov:...
Is the good Nabokov reader (and I think White
> shows himself in the Parody essay to be one) ever tantalized by the
> question "Is this autobiography or is it fiction"? Of course we've all
> laughed at the readers (and reviewers!) of LOLITA who have assumed a dark
> pedophilic background or tendency in the author, and sorting out fiction
> from autobiography in LATH is always a fun game, but is the phrase
> "register of possible autobiography" generally applicable to Nabokov's
> novels? The question is not entirely rhetorical; I would be interested in
> any responses it might elicit.
> More to come.
> Earl Sampson
> Boulder, CO

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