Vladimir Nabokov

International Vladimir Nabokov Society Prizes 2022

By dana_dragunoiu, 5 November, 2022

The International Vladimir Nabokov Society is delighted to announce this year's prizes, funded generously by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

Congratulations to the winners and gratitude to the judges who adjudicated the prizes and wrote the commendations below.


Dieter E. Zimmer Prize for Best Postgraduate Work on Nabokov

Awarded annually, to the best work on Nabokov done at master’s level, or as coursework towards a master’s or a PhD, or to a chapter of a PhD dissertation. Value $1500.

Named in honor of German Nabokov scholar, translator, and editor Dieter E. Zimmer.

Charlotte Lamontagne, “Listening to Lolita” (MA dissertation, submitted 2021)

Ms. Lamontagne’s master’s thesis links sound studies and literary studies in a well-structured and finely argued study of audiobook versions of Nabokov’s Lolita. She thus opens up new territory in Nabokov studies. Beyond detailed analyses of the voice acting and sonic landscapes in James Mason’s and Jeremy Irons’s audio-book renderings of the novel, which she contextualizes within the two actors’ careers and their embodiment of Humbert Humbert in Kubrick’s and Lyne’s film adaptations, the author also discusses the characteristics of Nabokov’s public readings and extant recordings. Regarding Nabokov’s readings, nuanced comments on the role of audience responses encourage further inquiry into the performative aspects of sounding out Nabokov’s fiction. As suggested in the conclusion of the thesis, more work should be done in which sound studies and literary studies are jointly employed to better understand how voice and other sonic features of audio books, of other kinds of recordings, and of public readings impact the interpretation of Nabokov’s literary oeuvre.


Gennady Barabtarlo Best Essay Prize

Awarded annually for the best academic article or book chapter on Nabokov. Value $500.

Named in honor of Russian-American Nabokov scholar and editor, Gennady Barabtarlo

  • Winner

Jose Vergara, "Vladimir Nabokov: Translating the Ghosts of the Past," from his book All Future Plunges to the Past (Cornell UP, 2021)

The judges were tremendously impressed by the historical scope and compelling close, comparative reading of Joyce and Nabokov undertaken here, re-framing and vivifying the thorny question of “influence” in Nabokov studies. If Nabokov adapts certain key themes of Ulysses, Vergara nonetheless makes clear that he does so on his own terms and towards his own quite distinct ends. The tracing of invention/creation/discovery of literary paternity is extremely well done. The author does a magnificent job of presenting the multiplicity of socio-historical, literary-historical, and biographical contexts in which Nabokov’s engagement with Joyce took place, without ever reducing the business of close reading to mere context. 

  • Honourable Mention

Lara Delage-Toriel, "A Tactile Sensation is a Blind Spot: Nabokov’s Aesthetics of Touch," in M. Bouchet et al. (eds), The Five Senses in Nabokov’s Work (2020)

Delage-Toriel  A brief but powerful invitation to readers to reconsider Nabokov’s works freshly with heightened attentiveness to the tactile or haptic elements embedded/embodied in his writing. (If ekphrasis suggests the capacity of language to bring to life, as it were, a visual sensation or image, then haptic descriptions might similarly reproduce the tactile.) Nabokov had complained that Joyce’s words have too much body to them; Delage-Toriel shows that in old age Nabokov's words had perhaps too much memory of the body in them. Her own language is a kind of reader-response strip-tease playing at occasionally matching the imagined/remembered  rhythm of Van and Ada’s overheated initial contacts. Yet, oddly enough, her scholarship is in place and doing its work too. Despite its brevity, the essay was highly suggestive of a new direction in Nabokov studies.


Jane Grayson Best First Book Prize

Awarded annually for a first book that makes a significant contribution to Nabokov studies. Value $1500. 

Named in honor of British Nabokov scholar, Jane Grayson.

Robert Alter, Nabokov and the Real World (Princeton, 2021).

The referees of the 2022 Jane Grayson Prize find Robert Alter’s Nabokov and the World: Between Appreciation and Defense (Princeton University Press, 2021) inspiring in a meaningful and invigorating way. Apart from being an unconventional tribute to the writer, it is also a contemplation of Nabokov’s art which points the reader towards in-depth, investigative reading and re-reading. Alter has his eyes fixed on the text and the extra-textual reality behind that text; he honors the multilayered structure of Nabokovian narrative; he appreciates the tragic underpinnings of Nabokov’s wit, thus making those who may yet have to discover Nabokov’s depth look in the right direction. This prize recognizes Robert Alter’s contribution to the field of Nabokov studies, a contribution the magnitude of which becomes apparent to the reader of this book.


Brian Boyd Prize for Best Second Book on Nabokov 

Awarded every three years for a second book by someone who has already published a book predominantly on Nabokov. Value $1000. The Brian Boyd Prize was awarded in 2019 for work published 2016 – 2018 and is now, in 2022, being awarded for work published 2019 – 2021.

Named in honor of New Zealand Nabokov scholar, Brian Boyd.

Dana Dragunoiu, Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Moral Acts (Northwestern University Press, 2021).

From a field of very strong nominations, the winner is Dana Dragunoiu’s Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Moral Acts. The judges found this to be a brave, creative treatment of ground well-prepared by earlier scholars interested in the ethical side of Nabokov, beginning with Ellen Pifer’s classic Nabokov and the Novel. The ethical–aesthetic and reality–artifice dichotomies are just about the main contentions posed by Nabokov, and in the chivalry/courtesy model Dragunoiu has lighted upon a cap which fits most of the oeuvre, which gets to the heart of the matter, and which doesn’t duck problematic and sensitive topics; it gives the feeling of serving as much more than mere intellectual entertainment. Here is a book with consequential stakes (as the stakes of courtesy are so often consequential in the works she elucidates). The judges appreciate the tact with which Dragunoiu draws attention to Nabokov’s potentially negative anti-social traits, and to his awareness of them, without feeling it incumbent on her to defend or accuse. The way she uses the chivalry/courtesy model to put Nabokov’s works into unexpected conversations with the Gawain poet, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Kant, Tolstoy, and Proust brings readers to a significantly enriched understanding of Nabokov’s moral and ethical concerns, and the traditions he draws from in engaging them.