Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024941, Sat, 28 Dec 2013 19:36:11 -0800

Re: certicle storms in Ada
Many thanks, Jansy - you have restored my respect for VN - at least a little more than somewhat. But I still cannot for the life of me think of what he found objectionable in Zhivago. As you may know, I am more enamored of VN's poetry than most of his prose. It is really not reasonable to expect prose to carry the weight of poetry. Those who, among my acquaintance, succeeded to any degree at all are Pushkin, Pasternak, VN, Mandel'shtam and Colette. Isak Dinesen, who I do not think wrote poetry, wrote highly poetic stories. This reminds me that I did find kind words re Colette somewhere in VN - can't recall where.

I am particularly glad to see that VN did sympathize with Pasternak's "predicament in a police state." He should have been insufferable otherwise.


From: Jansy Mello <jansy.nabokv-L@AETERN.US>
Sent: Saturday, December 28, 2013 6:46 AM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] certicle storms in Ada

Carolyn Kunin:"... I don't know that Nabokov
differentiated between Pasternak as a prose or poetry writer. I would be
surprized, since I don't think his disparagements had anything to do with
Pasternak's artistic abilities - unless he was envious, which I doubt he would
have admitted to himself. If Mary Efremov is correct (and I have no idea where
she got her ideas from) then it was a politically based hatred. Well, wait and
see what the List can come up with."
Jansy Mello: In the century of free search-machines it is
sometimes easier to count with what's online than with patient Nablers who want
to comply with your bibliographical instigations. I remembered that VN
spoke positively about Pasternak's poetry in Strong Opinions but,
instead of opening my copy, I googled it and got a few surprises. For
example, a loose quote: "I go by books, not by authors"...
If I'm not mistaken, there must be still another interview mentioning
Pasternak in SO but this is the one I found ready to
quote:   http://lib.ru/NABOKOW/Inter22.txt(1972)
Yet  you  have a high
opinion of Pasternak as a lyrical poet? 
Yes, I
applauded  his  getting  the  Nobel  Prize 
on  the strength  of  his  verse.  In  Dr.
Zhivago, however, the prose does not live up to his poetry.  Here 
and  there,  in  a landscape or simile, one can distinguish,
perhaps, faint echoes of  his  poetical  voice, but those
occasional fioriture are insufficient to save his novel from the
provincial banality so typical of Soviet  literature  for 
the  past  fifty  years. Precisely  that link with Soviet
tradition endeared the book to our progressive readers. I deeply sympathized
with  Pasternak's predicament  in  a police state; yet neither
the vulgarities of the Zhivago style nor a philosophy that sought refuge
in a sickly sweet brand of Christianism could ever transform  that sympathy
into a fellow writer's enthusiasm.

To provide a few other short cuts for those who are interested in this
theme, here are a few other references:
Writers Nabokov (Dis)Likes
A badly-referenced collation
of Nabokov’s literary likes and dislikes:
Listed by author: –“I go by books, not by authors” –
Samuel Beckett – (but not his plays) “Beckett is
the author of lovely novellas and wretched plays in the Maeterlinck tradition.
The trilogy is my favourite, especially Molloy.”
Andrei Bely – “Petersburg is
a splendid fantasy”
Alexander Blok
Robert Browning
Anton Chekhov
Norman Douglas
Franz Kafka
Nikolai Gogol (non-Ukrainian stories)- “at his best,
he is incomparable and inimitable”
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Franz Hellens –
“Speaking of precursors of the New Novel, there is F H, a Belgian, who is very
important … I tried to get someone in the States to publish him … but nothing
came of it.”
Ilf and Petrov
James Joyce (Ulysses, at least –
not Finnegans Wake)
John Keats
Jorge Luis Borges – “Borges is … a man of
infinite talent”
Hermann Melville
Osip Mendalstam
John Milton
Edgar Allen Poe (but only as a youth)
Queneau – “Q’s Exercises in Style is a thrilling masterpiece and, in fact, one
of the greatest stories in French Literature. I am also very fond of
Alain Robbe-Grillet – “His fiction is magnificently
poetical and original”
J D Salinger
William Shakespeare
Laurence Sterne
– “I love Sterne”
Leo Tolstoy (some) – “I consider Anna Karenin the supreme
masterpiece of c19th literature. It is closely followed by The Death of Ivan
Ilyich … “
Ivan Turgenev
John Updike
H G Wells – “his
romances and fantasias are superb”, “a writer for whom I have the deepest
admiration is HGW … I could talk endlessly about Wells”
Bertolt Brecht
Butor – “I do not care for Butor.”
Albert Camus – “It is a shame he [Franz
Hellens] is read less than that awful Monsieur Camus.”
Cervantes (“a cruel
and crude book”)
Joseph Conrad – “I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir-shop
style” – “I differ from Joseph Conradically.”
Theodore Dreiser
Dostoevsky (his best work is The Double, “a shameful imitation of Gogol’s The
Nose“) – “I dislike intensely The Karamazov Brothers and the ghastly Crime and
Ilya Ehrenberg
T S Eliot – “the not quite
William Faulkner – “Faulkner’s corncobby chronicles”
Nikolai Gogol (Ukrainian stories only) – “at his worst … he is a
worthless writer”
Maxim Gorky
Ernest Hemingway (except for “The Killers”
and “the wonderful fish story”)
Henry James – “I really dislike him
intensely”, apart from the odd turn of phrase
James Joyce (Finnegans Wake, A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but not Ulysses) – “I detest Punningans
Wake” – “the unfortunate Finnegans Wake isnothing but a formless and dull mass
of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next
room, most aggravating to the insomniac” – “Actually, I never liked A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man. I find it a feeble and garrulous book.”
D H Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Thomas Mann (the “asinine” Death in Venice
Boris Pasternak – “Pasternak’s melodramatic and vilely
written Zhivago”
Luigi Pirandello – “I never cared for
Ezra Pound – “the pretentious nonsense of Mr.Pound, that total
Romain Rolland
Jean-Paul Sartre – “and even more awful [than Camus]
Monsieur Sartre.”
Rabindranath Tagore
Leo Tolstoy (others) – “I detest
Resurrection, I detest The Kreutzer Sonata … War and Peace, though a little too
long, is a rollicking historical novel”, though basically written for
Thomas Wolfe
Yevgeny Yevtushenko -”I’ve seen his work. Quite
second-rate. He’s a good Communist.”
Yevgeny Zamyatin
Writers for
G K Chesterton
Arthur Conan Doyle
Joseph Conrad
Tolstoy (War and Peace only)
Oscar Wilde
Not familiar
John Barth
17 June 1962 NYHT Books
Paris Review interview
BBC Audio Interview – 4th Oct
Wisconsin Studies, 1968
Playboy, 1964
TV-13 NY,
Conversations with Nabokov, Novel: A Forum on Fiction (Spring,
http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/02/lifetimes/nab-v-obit.html "He
was introduced to the American literary scene by Edmund Wilson, the late critic,
in whose home at Westport, Conn., he wrote his first poem in the United States.
The two were intimate friends until the late 1950's, when, according to Mr.
Nabokov, "a black cat came between us—Boris Pasternak's novel 'Doctor
Mr. Nabokov called the book third-rate and clumsy while Mr. Wilson
praised it. "He started the quarrel," Mr. Nabokov said, and it was exacerbated
in 1963 when Mr. Nabokov published his annotated English version of "Eugene
Onegin," Alexander Pushkin's romantic novel in verse form.
Mr. Wilson
attacked the translation, hinting that Mr. Nabokov's Russian was faulty. Their
donnish dispute raged in The New York Review of Books until their friendship was
ruptured." Alden Whitman (1977).
Segal, Lee: "Under Cover". The Louisville Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY),
25-Jan-59, Section 4, p.7 Juliar H11
Editorial with a few verbatim quotes
from an interview with Nabokov by Arthur Turley of Associated Press on Lolita
and Pasternak. "Vladimir Nabokov: The Interviews" by Dieter E. Zimmer (1994 –
master's sarcasm, his contempt for those inadequately endowed to penetrate, let
alone judge, his work, was legend. As were his magisterially dismissive verdicts
on such vulgar frauds as Dostoevsky, Freud, Faulkner or Balzac.
It may take
generations to unravel what there is in these celebrated damnations of
deliberate provocation and what there is of autonomous insight. The allowed
pantheon is small: Flaubert, Gogol, Pushkin, Proust and Joyce. Where a potential
rival looms, the mechanisms of defensive denigration are almost instantaneous.
Nabokov on Pasternak does not make for pleasant reading." (Georg Steiner)
learned a few things from these videos: According to Mr. Nabokov, I am a
philistine.  I confess that I am, on occasion, "a user of cozies" - tea
cozies, anyway.  Who knew it was so easy? On those who think his book is
about sex? "But maybe they think in clichés. For them sex is so well-defined
there's a gap between it and love. They don't know what love is, and perhaps
they don't know what sex is, either." What does it all mean? "I leave the field
of ideas to Dr. [Albert] Schweitzer and Dr. Zhivago." He doesn't miss a chance
to get in a dig at Boris Pasternak.Responses to "Nabokov on Lolita: "I leave the
field of ideas to Dr. Schweitzer and Dr. Zhivago." "  Elena Danielson Says
(February 28th, 2012)  "Thanks so much Cynthia for finding this video,
where VN is gleefully putting us on, and visibly
enjoying LT's
cluelessness..VN left a lot of clues for future readers.[  ] Watching VN
drinking out of a tea cup, I think VN would approve of your tea cozies.but not
of Pasternak, note the snarky reference to Dr. Zhivago.which was competing with
his beloved Lolita on the Time Magazine best seller list.VN had to leave for
French speaking Switzerland just as Thomas Mann had to flee the US for German
speaking Switzerland.Death in Venice is a more serious treatment of the Lolita
theme.VN has a lot in common with Mann, whom he intensely disliked, both were
competing divas who needed an American audience, but were horrified by the


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