In her essay “Nabokov’s Duels with Literature”, Violeta Stojmenovic traces the duel motif in two of Nabokov’s early stories (“Podlets” and “Lebeda”), The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and Ada, or Ardor, analyzing its transformation from a literary into a meta-literary and meta-narrative motif. While in Nabokov’s stories from the 1930s the motif gave the narrator occasion to concentrate on the internal world of his characters and on issues of (in)authenticity, in the novels, the duels are presented as symbolic encounters between remote moments in time and, eventually, as a model for the relationship of human consciousness with time. The different duels in Nabokov’s oeuvre, in step with the changes in his work and relations toward literary and cultural traditions, draw this motif out of a culturally recognizable context. It loses its referential function and serves as a nostalgic and metatextual commentary, as well as a means of shifting from representation of specific cultural phenomena to representations of representations.
Nabokov’s Duels with Literature
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal