Happy Holidays from TheNabokovian.org

Submitted by dana_dragunoiu on Thu, 12/24/2020 - 19:24

Dear Readers of TheNabokovian.org!

On this Christmas Eve, during these grim times, we might all draw some comfort from Nabokov's short story "Christmas," published on December 22, 1975 in The New Yorker:


It gives me special pleasure to be sending you this message, knowing that we are scattered all across the globe--Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, England, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, the United States, Zembla--yet we are all united by our collective love of Nabokov. 

And since the New Year is upon us, let us drink together to an end to our global plague so that we may come together again at Wellesley or Montreux, breathe the same air and talk about Nabokov.

Warmly to all,


General Editor




In April 2018, Adriana Langer wrote an editorial about Nabokov's "Christmas," for the Chercheurs enchantés, which was translated into English (and Russian). Here is the English translation by Michael Federspiel. The citation from Clément Rosset, a recently deceased French philosopher, is a tribute to his life's work. Here it is, for our enjoyment and comfort, with permission from Adriana Langer and Michael Federspiel.

Originally published as an editorial of SFVN's newsletter, Nouvelles nabokoviennes/Nabokovian News/Набоковские Новости. Reprinted with permission from the author, translators and editors of SFVN. To read news from Société française Vladimir Nabokov : https://www.vladimir-nabokov.org/lactualite-des-chercheurs-enchantes/

In Nabokov’s short-story “Christmas”, Slepstov’s grief is the main character ; it spreads out equally well in the quiet darkness of the night as in the bright whiteness of the early morning snow.  Sleptsov’s grief is absolute and immutable. Every sentence contains it, every move Sleptsov makes sustains it, and not a word is uttered.

It is not until the fourth page that his ten year-old son’s death is announced. Sleptsov moves about his manor, after the funeral, in the winterly cold, carrying the biscuit tin where his son had pinned an exotic cocoon before dying. “Sleptsov pressed his eyes shut, and had a fleeting sensation that earthly life lay before him, totally bared and comprehensible – and ghastly in its sadness, humiliatingly pointless, sterile, devoid of miracles… "

It is from the midst of such awareness that the magic of art is born: in the heat that suddenly floods the room, the chrysalid – that was thought dead by both Sleptsov and his son– bursts out from its cocoon, and the black wings of what suddenly turns under our eyes into a large moth Attacus breathe "under the impulse of tender, ravishing, almost human happiness."

It is barely shifting topics to pay tribute to Clément Rosset, who passed away on March 27, 2018. The designer of a philosophy of joy which helped with the acceptance of reality even at its most tragic, he wrote in his seminal work La Force majeure : "What is strange though is that joy persists, notwithstanding it has been deprived of its seat or its suspending frame. "

What will outlive him is his words which, just like Nabokov’s, are a daily source of ever-renewed bliss.