The essay discusses the genre of KQK as a mixture of the fantastic and realistic in the Hoffmannian tradition of Romantic ambiguity. Specifically, it demonstrates Nabokov’s engagement with E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tale “The Sandman” (“Der Sandmann,” 1816), the tale Freud uses as illustration of his theories about “The Uncanny.” Like Nathanael of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story, the “Knave” of Nabokov’s novel King, Queen, Knave (1968, Korol’, Dama, Valet, 1928), Franz Bubenkopf, is linked with deceptive optics. The article explores how the Hoffmannian motifs add complexity to the “cardboard characters” of the title. Since Freud’s famous essay “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche,” 1919) discusses Hoffmann’s “The Sandman” in some detail, stating that the motif of losing one’s eyes is “a substitute for the fear of castration” and Nabokov, in his “Foreword” to KQK, warns “resolute” Freudians not to apply their theories to his novel, the article also raises the question whether Freud’s essay is parodied in it.
Bloodied Eyes, Dancing Dolls, and Other Hoffmannian Motifs in Nabokov’s King, Queen, Knave
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal