Tom Heisler’s paper, “Epic Mirage, Epic Ferocity in Nabokov’s Pnin,” advances the improbable thesis that Vladimir Nabokov wrote Pnin precisely as an epic, although what one supposes is the epic, even after multiple readings and re-readings, must be considered a diversion. The Homeric and Gogolian rambling comparison of Chapter Seven is read literally: as the Rosetta Stone of the novel. Nabokov’s epic fits recursively, in the manner of Chinese boxes, inside a triad of boxes bearing on a fictionalized biography and inside still another box, N—’s mirage epic, which amounts to a devastating disguise and which steeps the reader in all manner of “mythic parallels” and mocked epic conventions. The authentic epic, Nabokov’s own, features Pnin’s journey into a twentieth century hell in which fifty-five million human beings “monstrously” perished; and it connects the reader to Gogol’s Dead Souls, Homer’s The Odyssey, Joyce’s Ulysses, and the legacy of an ancient form.
Epic Mirage, Epic Ferocity in Nabokov’s Pnin
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal