From page 66 to page 97 the French Le Magazin Littéraire (May, 2015) developed a host of themes related to Perversion. The general heading presents an initial question: “Les Pervers – Les écrivains sount-ils tous des prédateurs?’ (are all writers predators?). The cases focus on Dostoievski, Nabokov, Bataille, Genet, Stephen King, Bolaño... There is also a section on Psychoanalysis that dwells on the legend of a “narcissistic pervert”.


S. Legrand, who is in charge of writing about Nabokov, is a writer and philosopher. Some of his publications are: “Les Normes chez Foucault” (2007), Styx Express (2012) and “Trente Écrivains que n’ont jamais donné suite” (2014).
In his bibliographical notes he mentions “The Excitement of Verbal Adventure” (1977) by Jüergen Bodenstein; Nabokov, Perversely by Eric Naiman (2010) and VN’s novels and interviews, particularly the 1964 Playboy interview. A highlighted quote from Lolita, about
 “sex is but the ancilla of art,” was in French and I reached it online here *:  “Humbert's objection to the Freudian view is voiced forthrightly when he states: "It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of art." (ibid.) The specific interest of the Freudian parody in Lolita is therefore that it relates directly to Humbert's experience of beauty and the aesthetic in general…”).


The initial caption: “ Perverse characters (“les personnages de pervers”) prosper in the entire work of Vladimir Nabokov. A writer’s secrete drives? Pleasure of defiance in its psychological analysis? Misleading clues: this is how Nabokov puts into play that which, according to him, constitutes the proper enjoyment of literature – a troubling pact between the author and the reader.”


In his article Legrand compares Margo’s and Rex’s deceit and cruelty towards Albinus with how  V.Nabokov relates to his readers by presenting  a reassuring voice who purportedly conveys clear and precise information, but who plays playing with the reader offering him false clues, traps and various trompe l’oeil devices, like an invisible puppeteer who manipulates, misleads, teases and disturbs the spectator, mocking him for his faulty attention.


For Legrand the pervert character’s insistent presence in VN’s novels isn’t derived from any denied or unconscious fascination with perversion (sadism, paedophilia, voyeurism), nor is it a means to understand or explain these aberrations by psychological resources. Legrand brings up an example from Humbert’s and Lolita’s relationship, when HH licks away a grain of sand from Lolita’s hurting eye (actually, from both eyes) because he considers it a meta-poetic moment (mingling the erotic with transgression and manipulation) in which Nabokov represents something that he is also exercising on his reader: a “tongue” that licks, page after page, erotically, scrupulously and even physically his reader’s vision whom he tortures and abuses.  


Legrand’s hypothesis is that in Nabokov’s novels the sexual pervert essentially functions as a metonymic inscription in the heart of the perversity of scripture itself. He compares Socrates, who was accused of corrupting youth, to Nabokov and his attempts to pervert the reader.

(Unfortunately I’m no good as a translator and the article’s rich argumentation may get lost in translation. I recommend that the original is consulted and expertly translated if need be… Jansy)


*Sublime Evil: The Immoral Writers' Celebration of Life By Neli Koleva


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