Blackwell, Stephen H. Nabokov's Wiener-schnitzel Dreams: Despair and Anti-Freudian Poetics. 2002/03

Bibliographic title
Nabokov's Wiener-schnitzel Dreams: Despair and Anti-Freudian Poetics
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Studies
Periodical issue
v. 7
Publication year

By the time Nabokov composed Despair in mid-1932, he had been nurturing a growing antipathy to Freudian psychoanalysis since emigrating to the West thirteen years prior. After examining the history of Nabokov's probable exposure to Freudian ideas and epigones in Russia, in Cambridge, and in Berlin, the author turns to Despair as the culmination of Nabokov's early anti-Freudian creative activity. Countering Freud's famed "Oedipus complex," Nabokov fills his novel with mythological and sexual imagery, especially from the myth of Cybele and Attis. In so doing he creates a potential interpretive structure that leads, ultimately, nowhere—except to the demise of his main character, who is also the novel's leading Freudian practitioner. The novel's almost absurd proliferation of phalluses, referring to Freudianism, is undermined by the self-castration theme, which seems to be Nabokov's way of illustrating how a flawed ideology does violence to itself.