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Vladimir Nabokov and Marc Szeftel

Galya Diment

Publication Year: 2013

In this wry, judiciously balanced, and thoroughly engaging book, Galya Diment explores the complicated and fascinating relationship between Vladimir Nabokov and his Cornell colleague Marc Szeftel who, in the estimate of many, served as the prototype for the gentle protagonist of the novel Pnin. She offers astute comments on Nabokov’s fictional process in creating Timofey Pnin and addresses hotly debated questions and long-standing riddles in Pnin and its history.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-ix

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pp. x-2

I am grateful to the Graduate School Fund of the University of Washington for the 1992 Summer Research Grant which allowed me to start working on this book, and for the Fund's 1993 Addendum to the same grant, which paid for travel to Ithaca in the fall of 1993....

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pp. 3-10

This is a book about two very different people whose paths might never have crossed had not tumultuous revolutions and wars redirected and reshaped their lives. The name of Marc Szeftel, a Russian historian and Nabokov's longtime colleague at Cornell University, is familiar to many Nabokov specialists because he is often cited as the prototype for one of Nabokov's...

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Chapter 1. Marc Szeftel's Odyssey: An Alien and an Exile

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pp. 11-23

The circumstances surrounding Marc (Moïse) Szeftel's birth and early life could not have differed more from Nabokov's. Szeftel's immediate ancestors on both sides came from densely populated Jewish areas in southwestern parts of the Russian Empire, the territories of today' s Poland, Lithuania'...

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Chapter 2. Colleagues and Collaborators: Szeftel and Nabokov at Cornell

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pp. 24-41

Almost as soon as Szeftel arrived in the United States, he found a position teaching Russian and French history at the École Libre des Hautes Études à New York, the "university in exile" founded by refugee French and Belgian scholars in the United States. His colleague at the École was Roman Jakobson, a founder of the Prague Linguistic Circle and the preeminent...

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Chapter 3. Pnin

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pp. 42-59

The first chapter of Pnin was actually written in the Pacific Northwest, the same Pacific Northwest that would become Marc Szeftel's home upon leaving Cornell. Nabokov could have not foreseen this ironic twist of events, but, as a believer in fate's wise orchestration of "coincidences," he probably reflected on it in later years. The coincidence is slightly imperfect, ...

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Chapter 4. Szeftel in Search of Success: Lolita

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pp. 60-73

As the Pnin stories were appearing in The New Yorker, Nabokov sent the magazine's literary editor, Katharine White, the manuscript of Lolita, hoping that she might decide to publish some chapters of this novel as well. He wanted both the manuscript and the author's identity to be kept ...

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Chapter 5. Life After Nabokov

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pp. 74-88

Nabokov ended Pnin with a picture of the protagonist's little sedan "spurt[ing] up the shining road, which one could make out narrowing to a thread of gold in the soft mist where hill after hill made beauty of distance, and where there was simply no saying what miracle might happen" (Pnin, 191). Here the roads of Pnin and Szeftel definitely diverged, for when Szeftel ...

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pp. 89-90

If Nabokov and Szeftel had stayed in Russia, and if the Russia of their childhood had stayed the same, their paths would probably never have crossed. At best, Szeftel could have followed in the footsteps of some of his more successful relatives and become a provincial lawyer. Nabokov's sights would have obviously been much higher: his more successful relatives...

Appendixes: From Marc Szeftel's Archive and Writings

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pp. 91-91

Appendix 1: Szeftel's "Intellectual Autobiography"

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pp. 92-102

Appendix 2: Correspondence with Vladimir Nabokov and Roman Jakobson

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pp. 103-119

Appendix 3: Nabokov in Szeftel's Diaries

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pp. 120-135

Appendix 4: Szeftel's Papers on Lolita

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pp. 136-146


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pp. 147-192


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pp. 193-198


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pp. 199-202


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pp. 203-210

E-ISBN-13: 9780295801087
E-ISBN-10: 0295801085
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295992860
Print-ISBN-10: 0295976349

Page Count: 202
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 863157320
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pniniad

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