Dear Carolyn,
It was a serious response (though not intended for his birthday -- that was an editorial idea). I agree that these are apparently rather pitiful pieces of evidence for his lovingkindness, and an extermination-camp commandant could doubtless provide apparently equivalent or better evidence. But I am somehow convinced of VN's basic true kindness, as opposed to the sentimental "kindness" of the commandant. I was dismayed that I could think of no better evidence than these two feeble examples. Perhaps I am too easily swayed by VN's explicitly stated love of kindness and dislike of cruelty, but they always struck me as genuine.
What I find most questionable, or at least puzzling, is his insistence that "Lolita" is "pure" and "abstract", so utterly removed from his own concerns, whereas his most casual references in interviews, and other parts of his oeuvre, so frequently return quite (to me) unexpectedly and arbitrarily to the paedophilic theme, like a sore thumb. I am dismayed not so much by the apparent obsession as by the suspicion that he is simply not honest here, when one feels that in an interview, especially one prepared to be read from index cards, his readers are entitled to expect honesty -- the truth, even if not necessarily the whole truth. It is true that he said art itself is a form of deception, but surely we are entitled to expect that his writings and interviews about himself and his art should not be.
I am surprised that there appears to have been no discussion of this. What do others think?
Anthony Stadlen
Anthony Stadlen
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In a message dated 26/04/2010 22:12:49 GMT Daylight Time, chaiselongue@EARTHLINK.NET writes:
Dear Anthony,

Is this a serious response to my question? Or, as seems more likely, a joke? I mean I can think of several horrifying dictators who can come up with better examples of kindness (especially to animals) than these! You know who was a vegetarian, after all.

So far I have to say the Nabokovian soul isn't doing too well.
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