Vladimir Nabokov

PALE FIRE's "Psychanalist"

By MARYROSS, 5 July, 2024



On page 73 of PALE FIRE Nabokov apparently purposefully writes the word “psychanalists” instead of the usual “psychoanalysts.”

Line 57: The phantom of my little daughter's swing

After this Shade crossed out lightly the following lines in the draft:

The light is good; the reading lamps, long-necked;
All doors have keys. Your modern architect
Is in collusion with psychanalysts:
When planting parents' bedrooms, he insists
On lockless doors so that, when looking back,
The future patient of the future quack
May find, all set for him, the Primal Scene.

A typo? A necessary iambic license? I have wondered...

I just read a paper on the invention of the word “Psychotherapy” by Jungian Sonu Shamdasani. He traces this word through early psychologists, Freud, Jung, and beyond. This interesting paragraph perhaps explains Nabokov’s use of the word (my emphases:)

However, in calling his discipline ‘psychoanalyse’ Freud had contravened German grammatical rules for forming compounds from Greek terms. The correct form would have been ‘psychanalyse’. This grammatical howler was not lost on Freud’s audience, and a number of figures such as Dumeng Bezzola, Eugen Bleuler, August Forel, Ludwig Frank, C. G. Jung, Oskar Pfister and Herbert Silberer referred to ‘psychanalyse’. Others, such as Emil Kraepelin and Wilhelm Wundt, used ‘psychoanalyse’ in quotation marks. As Horst Gündlach notes, ‘Freud’s contemporaries, friends and foes alike, perceived the extra “o” in “psychoanalysis” as a trademark of ignor-ance’.

(Psychotherapy: the invention of a word by SONU SHAMDASANI



Nabokov claimed to not speak German. Is it possible that he may have read Freud and Jung in French translation?