ED SES: “D. Barton Johnson, the founder of NABOKV-L, sends this link to a 2012 Harvard dissertation on Nabokov.  The entire dissertation is available online at Harvard here.
Also available on line is Adam Oberfrank's 1985 master's thesis at McMaster University on allusions to fairy tales in Nabokov, available


Jansy Mello: Thanks for the treats.  The first link  led me to a fascinating thesis by Dr.Pelagia J. Horgan that concludes with: “Making sense of Nabokov’s irrational standards, I argue, helps us to make sense of a number of other critical puzzles as well, from what, exactly, Nabokov means by the word “reality” to what a cruel noticer like Humbert  Humbert implies about the moral meaning of passionate attention.”


The thesis about “fairy tales” (equally related to several distinct considerations about VN’s “reality”) by Adam Oberfrank [ New Worlds of Words: Vladimir Nabokov's Fairy Tales], demanded special attention on my part since I also have an (as yet) unpublished text about “Nabokovian yarns and magic wands: true fictions,” initially read at the MLA in Dec. 2007, Chicago.  


Adam Oberfrank argues that “characters like Humbert Humbert, Van, and Kinbote are themselves artist-figures, who turn reality into fantasy through the process of writing” and that Vladimir Nabokov “often suggested that fiction can provide only untruths and versions of reality: “Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult on both art and truth…Nature always deceives…” For him, this means that, for V.Nabokov “since all novels are fictional, the worlds they portray are worlds of the imagination…” Concerning the early “A Nursery Tale,” he make a very perspicacious appraisal when he notes that this story “bears a number of similarities with the long fiction which Nabokov composed between 1926 and 1969. As with his novels, the story involves a male figure whose habits, opinions and idiosyncrasies are central to the text. Most importantly, in this story and in the novels, that central male figure is living simultaneously in two different worlds. One world is the very real earthly world… The second world exists within the mind of the protagonist, and is that character’s individual conception of the real world….more often than not, his novels are dominated by the worlds which his protagonists create for themselves.”  For him, it is evident “from the Russian fiction that Nabokov alludes to fairy tales as a way of portraying the various ways in which the human mind reworks reality [  ] For Mademoiselle and other Nabokovian characters, the past as a fairy tale is only one way of consciously or sub-consciously mythologizing and transforming events which have occurred previously” and that “Pnin mythologizes certain parts of the past in order to cope with the present.” In brief, he holds that “in all of Nabokov’s English fiction, there are moments when the reader is reminded of the existence of the dreamer behind the dream” [  ] referring us next to a “novelist’s ability to turn fairy tales, lies, and un-truths into perceived reality --  to create new worlds and people out of words on a page.”   I was surprised to conclude that  the author’s central preoccupation relies on the imaginary dimension of words and how it  led him to indirectly assure readers that verbal “illusion” (novels as “worlds of the imagination”) is the only “reality” we can reach through Nabokov’s writings. He admits, however, “that Nabokov alludes to fairy tales as a way of portraying the various ways in which the human mind reworks reality” and for me this introduction of the “human mind” in the arguments makes all the difference, especially if set side by side the author’s initial observation, about characters “who turn reality into fantasy through the process of writing.
After all, every Vladimir Nabokov character expresses a truth about Vladimir Nabokov: how this author’s mind reworks ‘reality’ in the process of writing (not necessarily by turning away from it into a fantasy world of words).

Who’s afraid of enchanters?

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