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Vladimir Nabokov: La poétique du masque (review)

From: Nabokov Studies
Volume 6, 2000/2001
pp. 203-207 | 10.1353/nab.2011.0001

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Reviews 203 tion. As it is, sometimes the sheer quantity of information overwhelms the reader without providing a consistent structure from which to evaluate all of the presented materials. The final chapter, "Nabokov's Flowers of Evil," develops upon previously known allusions in the novel to Baudelaire's "L'Invitation au voyage," providing a more detailed excursus of that intertextual link than has appeared previously, while also expanding the Baudelaire context to include the poems "Un voyage à Cythère" and "Le voyage," the three poems constituting what Shapiro calls a "dialogical frame" for Nabokov's novel (191). True to his sensitivity to the visual arts, Shapiro notes also the visual allusions to two paintings by Eugène Delacroix entitled Tasso in the House of the Insane, the inspiration for Baudelaire's "Sur Le Tasse en Prison d' Eugène Delacroix," another previously known allusion in Nabokov's Invitation. The remainder of the last chapter is devoted to demonstrating that Nabokov "clearly goes beyond echoing the French poet. [...] Nabokov concretely realizes certain images that in the original are metaphors. [...] He permeates the novel with flowers" (196), the significance of which is traced in connection with European folklore traditions and in the context of other Nabokov works. In particular, flowers of ill portent are found to be widely deployed as accessories in the vapid world of Cincinnatus's executioners—while the white rose is shown to have a dual significance that traduces the intent of its bestower in the novel. This book offers a mass of information and erudition; the footnotes contain almost as much as the main text. Shapiro is to be thanked for unearthing so many fascinating links and collecting them in one place. One wishes that he had granted himself the leisure to stretch the work out somewhat, to ease its pace, to dwell and linger more upon the significance of particular references. Instead, one senses an unrelenting pressure to accommodate every last item, to follow every lead, to omit nothing. Indeed, it seems to have been Shapiro's aim to tend toward the encyclopedic and shy away from extensive interpretation . The book will be of great use to those who wish to get beneath the deceptive surface of Nabokov's novel, and of great interest to those who study the variegated texture of the creative imagination. Christine Raguet-Bouvart. Vladimir Nabokov: La poétique du masque. Paris: Belin, 2000. 127 pp. ISBN 2701125812. Review by Jeff Edmunds, Pennsylvania State University. You are a veteran Nabokov scholar, author of a monograph on Lolita and dozens of articles on Nabokov's English-language work, editor of a special issue of Europe devoted to Nabokov, contributor to the Pléiade edition of Nabokov's complete works, and the translator into French oÃ- Laughter in the Dark, The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, and Selected Letters, 1940-1977. You are 204 Nabokov Studies asked to write a book on Nabokov, intended primarily for students but that will be of interest also to any Francophone fan of Nabokov's oeuvre, which will cover not only the circumstances of his life but the evolution of his work over sixty years, from his earliest poems in 1914 to his last published novel in 1974, including critical commentary on the most important works and analysis of how Nabokov's life shaped his art. You have 127 pages. Such was the task Raguet-Bouvart faced in accepting the assignment to write Vladimir Nabokov: La poétique du masque for Belin's Voix américaines series, each of whose titles is 125-127 pages long and as pithily as possible examines the life and work of a twentieth-century American author. French monographs on Nabokov, of which there are comparatively few— about a dozen and a half—tend to be either scholarly and thus of interest to specialists alone, or what might be lamely called "popular" and thus deceptively general —an unfortunate trait for a work about an author who prized the specific above nearly all else. Raguet-Bouvart's book is a model of both concision and precision. All the novels are mentioned, although, like many scholars, the author devotes more attention to the themes and books with which...