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332 CONSTANTIN V. PONOMAREFF starts, in trivialities, from behind the stove, as it were, incognito, without faith either in its right to vengeance or in its possible success, and knowing in advance that all of its attempts will make it suffer a hundred times more than the object of its vengeance, who may, for all you know, pay less attention to it than to a fleabite. Why, on its very deathbed the mouse will remember everything again, with all the interest acccrued throughout the years, and ... (Translated by Mirra Ginsburg) Joseph Frank's interpretation of the Notes- and of Dostoevsky's major work to come -leads in a more ideological direction. As he puts it: 'Dostoevsky has also at last found the great theme of his later novels, which will all be inspired by the same ambition to counter the moral-spiritual authority of the ideology of the radical Russian intelligentsia.' Thus, by the end of the volume, the political lines are clearly drawn between Dostoevsky's Christian humanism and the lifedestroying nihilism of a revolutionary ideology. Nabokov Revisited DAVID RAMPTON Andrew Field. VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov Crown Publishers 1986. 399ยท us $19.95 As befits a book about an author like Nabokov, Andrew Field's VN has an ostensible subject and a subtext. It gives a detailed account of the man himself: his birth in an illustrious St Petersburg family 335 years to the day after Shakespeare was born; the pampered and precocious child; the heir to vast estates at sixteen; the refugee fleeing the Bolsheviks at eighteen; the dandy at Cambridge; the poet and novelist who, between 1922 and 1940 in Berlin and Paris, became the most promising writer of an invisible nation; then an exile again, this time to the United States, where he taught at Wellesley and Cornell, worked as a lepidopterist, became 'as American as April in Arizona,' and wrote Lolita. A millionaire once more, Pushkin scholar and translator, brilliant polemicist, impassioned defender of the autonomy ofart, and the father of the post-modernist novel- the Mandarin of Montreux presided over this last phase of what is, by any standards, an extraordinary series of incarnations. But the subtext of Field's book, his fourth on Nabokov, is the quarrels and legal manoeuvrings that almost prevented the publication of His Life in Part, Field's 1977 biography of Nabokov, and the consequences of his falling out with Nabokov and his family in such a dramatic way. Readers who remember that book, and its intimate portraits and innovative format that made reviewers compare Field to Edel and EHmann, may well be NABOKOV REVISITED 333 expecting something authoritative and seminal here. VN has much of interest for them, but they are going to be disappointed as well. The best sources for Nabokov's Russian years are his elegant Speak, Memory and Field's His Life in Part. In VN, Field argues (not always convincingly) with the former and quotes great chunks from the latter. Some of the anecdotes are new: for example, Nabokov's father is quoted as saying '"What? You filled that girl?!"' when he hears of one of his son's amatory exploits, and a Romanov dismisses the Nabokovs as '"de bonne famille. But minor!"' And Field now contends that parental idolatry and privileged circumstances gave Nabokov a Narcissus complex that shaped his life and career. As a general claim about a writer who wrote seventeen novels in which a variety of male protagonists seek to affirm the superiority of their created worlds to mundane realities, Field's point is well taken, but the clinical inferences he draws to sketch his psychological portrait seem dubious. Nabokov's European years occupy ten of VN's twenty-two chapters. Here Field vividly recreates the ambience and personalities of Russian emigre culture. But the big news is Nabokov's passionate extra-marital affair with Irina Guadinini , a divorcee whom he met in Paris, and a number of other infidelities. Field goes on to cite numerous plausible parallels between events in Nabokov's life and in the novels, but musings about whether he liked women or the suggestion that 'Lolita' was his nickname for his mother...


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pp. 332-334
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