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Reviews 239 colors (2.1.4) does not mention specific color motifs (a topic that would provide material for another book). Keys, doors, windows and chinks are crucial images in The Gift that could have been readily accommodated under Prisons (4.7) or Life and Death (8.4). The dissertation provides material towards a book that could trace one related constellation of images through a body of Nabokov's work, preferably from beginning to end, or alternatively , that would provide tiiorough interpretation of some portion of the existing material. If the dissertation were available on disk it would be a very valuable tool: Berdjis's careful work provides material for years of Nabokov scholarship. Boris Nosik. Mir I Dar Nabokova. Pervaia Russkaia Biografiia Pisatelia [Boris Nosik. Nabokov's World and Gift. The First Russian Biography of the Writer]. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo "Penaty," 1995. 560 pp. Review by Simon Karlinsky. Around 1965, Boris Nosik, while spending the night at a friend's apartment in Moscow, accidentally picked off a shelf the Russian version of The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov, of whom he had heard only as the author of Lolita. He had no idea that Nabokov had written anything in Russian. "I stayed up all night, reading in this nanow, cool room," he writes. "I was confused, staggered, enchanted, exhausted. What is this? Where did it come from? Why? Why was it that I didn't know about die existence of this book?" This outcry won my sympathy. I, too, had lived through such an experience, when at the age of fifteen I happened to pick up at the Los Angeles public library a copy of Sovremennye Zapiski with a chapter from The Gift in it. Of course I knew 240 Nabokov Studies that V. Sirin was a well-known Russian writer and had even read parts of Camera obscura a few years earlier, when my aunt got it from a Harbin library and left it on the table in the living room. But it was The Gift that staggered and enchanted me, giving me an idea of Nabokov's full magnitude. After his discovery, Nosik read everything he could find by and about Nabokov. In Western Europe for the first time in his life in May 1977, Nosik hitchhiked from Marseilles to Montreux and rushed into the Montreux Palace Hotel to tell Nabokov how much he and many others in Russia loved him. But the writer was already in the clinic from which he was not to return home. Is this much love and devotion sufficient to qualify one to be Nabokov's biographer? The answer begins to appear on the third page of Nosik's text, when he brings up two earlier monographs on the writer: "Two young, bearded authors, botii for some reason originating in Oceania, selflessly dug up archives, communicated with the author and his family, rummaged in heaps of papers, gathered information a crumb at a time" (28). This idea that Andrew Field is a native Australian (his first appearance in Montreux is described as "AU that year a bearded young Australian kept visiting the Nabokovs" [521], though at tiiat time Field was neither bearded nor Australian) and that Brian Boyd was born in New Zealand then becomes a recurring leitmotif in Nosik's book. The two biographers are copiously cited throughout the book, Field with greater frequency than Boyd, without the author being aware of the enormous difference in quality between their work. And this indicates that love for and devotion to a writer and his work are not sufficient for writing a critical biography: a certain minimum of information , a reliable memory, a sense of proportion, and elementary literary taste are also prerequisites. Nosik is not aware that his is not the first Russian book on the subject—there exists Nikolai Anastas'ev's Fenomen Nabokova , 1992, reviewed in Nabokov Studies 1 (1994) by D. Barton Reviews 241 Johnson. While Brian Boyd can write authoritatively about prerevolutionary Russia and the Soviet Union, Nosik often has trouble grasping the realities of the world outside Russia's borders where most of Nabokov's life was lived. Thus, outlining the history of Lolita's publication, Nosik ridicules...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 239-242
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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