It is a short walk from the hallelujah to the hoot… Vladimir Nabokov


Authors must address their work to either the sacred or the profane and should they choose the latter their work will most like vacillate between the pedestrian and the pornographic. Nabokov, like so many emigres and exiles [and distinguishing between the two is often difficult], became a darling of the West for supposedly having chosen liberal democracy over Bolshevism. In reality the liberal democracies simply allowed a different type of freedom to exploit just like the Bolshevism presented a new opportunity for tyranny.

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Although we lament Russia’s decline back into tyranny under Putin we must note that it still apes some of the affectations of European liberal democracy that had their advent under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Nabokov might well be welcomed there although just as he finally wound up spending his exile first in Europe, then in the United States and finally in Switzerland – after the United States with its typical good sense recognized LOLITA for exactly what it is – he may ultimately be Swiss, a nation of counting houses that produces nothing but cheese full of holes and cuckoo clocks.

Imagining Nabokov : Russia between art and politics Nina L. Khrushcheva New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2007 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xvii, 233 p. ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 227-233). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Vladimir Nabokov’s exile to the West after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution allowed him to take a crucial literary journey, leaving the closed nineteenth-century Russian culture behind and arriving in the extreme openness of twentieth-century America. In Imagining Nabokov, Khrushcheva offers the novel hypothesis that because of this journey, the works of Russian-turned-American Vladimir Nabokov are highly relevant to the political transformation under way in Russia today.

Khrushcheva, a Russian living in America, finds in Nabokov’s novels a useful guide for Russia’s integration into the globalized world. Now one of Nabokov’s “Western” characters herself, she discusses the cultural and social realities of contemporary Russia that he foresaw a half-century earlier.

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In Pale Fire; Ada, or Ardor; Pnin; and other works, Nabokov reinterpreted the traditions of Russian fiction, shifting emphasis from personal misery and communal life to the notion of forging one’s own “happy” destiny. In the twenty-first century Russia faces a similar challenge, Khrushcheva contends, and Nabokov’s work reveals how skills may be acquired to cope with the advent of democracy, capitalism, and open borders.

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