Suellen Stringer-Hye wrote:


While I'm not prepared to enter into a serious discussion of whether VN was an American writer or not, it must be pointed out  that VN himself often commented on his "Americanness" in Strong  Opinions. Here's just one example of many:


pg. 26 Mc-Graw Hill 1973. Alvin Toffler: Though born in Russia, you have lived and worked for  many years in America as well as in Europe. Do you feel any strong  sense of national identity?


VN: I am an American writer, born in Russian and educated in  England....


This is an interesting quote. VN’s response  seems precise, truthful and diplomatic; but if that’s all he said, then it evades Toffler’s question, and fails to answer it. Perhaps there is some other quote where VN specifically replies to the question about his strong sense of national identity. I assume VN carried an American passport in 1973 (if that’s when the interview took place). Presumably Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun also carried American passports, but I find it extremely difficult to think of either of them as Americans, or as in any way products of American cultural values and educational systems.


There are numerous American writers who express the essence of America and its literature: Updike, Salinger, Mailer, Hemingway, Cheever, Carver; the list could be extended indefinitely, but VN doesn’t belong on it.  VN doesn’t, to my mind, write in any kind of a recognizably American idiom. Unsurprisingly, since he didn’t come to America until he was 41 years old. Three of VN’s novels with an American setting come to mind: Lolita, Pnin and Pale Fire. All three feature misfit Europeans, quite out of place in their environment.  All three could be seen as grossly distorted caricatures of VN himself. In fact, that’s the way I see them. I firmly continue to believe that VN in America was never more than a European/Russian, living a cultural frontier life. That was his self-definition.


Carolyn wrote (regarding VN’s bedrock beliefs on translation --- literal or non-literal):


We don't have to guess - - VN wrote some remarkable lines


What is translation? On a platter
A poet's pale and glaring head,

these marvelous lines ….  may well be the best thing VN ever wrote in English


I trust Carolyn's words have been fairly edited and extracted. VN’s “parrot” lines are quite well-known in literary translating circles, where they are regarded as an entertaining jeu d’esprit. Is Carolyn being serious? Is her critical acumen sparking on all six cylinders? If these lines are marvellous, and “the best thing VN ever wrote in English”, then, taken along with English poetry has few things better to offer than ‘Pale Fire’”, and “VN's adjectival precision and aptness have no rival”, we might as well throw the rest of English literature into the trash-can.


Still; one man’s poison is another man’s poisson; what’s goose for the gander is gravy for the gourmet; disgustibus non disputanderum.


Jansy wrote:


Nabokov, in Bend Sinister  prefered to describe "dream producers"  as..." usually several, mostly illiterate and middle-class and pressed by time" , but thankfully his animistic trait which I've been coming across over and over in the first chapters of this novel drops down and off in in VN's other novels to become brilliant metaphors. 


He sounds as at his most "foreign" in BS…..


The last sentence seems to me 100% true. In speaking of “dream producers” did VN have Hollywood in mind?  Or was he talking about novelists in general?



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