Whereas literary criticism has mainly oscillated between “the death of the author” (Barthes) and “the return of the author” (Couturier), this work suggests another perspective on authorship through an analysis of Nabokov’s prefaces. It is here argued that the author, being neither dead nor tyrannical, alternates between authoritative apparitions and receding disappearances in the double gesture of mastery without mastery which Derrida calls ‘exappropriation’, that is, a simultaneous attempt to appropriate one’s work, control it, have it under one’s power and expropriate it, losing control by loosening one’s grip. The intention of this is to approach, through one’s experience of reading and interpreting, the experience of self-effacement and impersonality pertaining to writing (cf. Blanchot). Prefaces are considered to be suitable places for the deconstruction of the classical image of Nabokov’s arrogance through the unearthing of his reserve and vulnerability. This work provides an account of the mere intuition (which, therefore, does not pretend to be a conclusive and definitive interpretation) of another image of Nabokov whose undeniable talent for deception seems in accordance with a need for discretion and secrecy.
Authorship in Nabokov’s Prefaces