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Nabokov Studies 5 (1998/1999) REVIEW ESSAY NASSIM BALESTRINI (Mainz) Nabokov Criticism in German-Speaking Countries: A Survey German critics were quick to praise "Sirin" as the major talent in the young generation of émigré writers. Reviews of the late 1920s express the hope that his works be made available in German translations—as indeed they soon were. Since then, reviewers have routinely noted new German publications of Nabokov's works. Starting in 1989, each new volume of Dieter Zimmer's Rowohlt edition of Nabokov's collected works has produced a new wave of reviews. German literary scholars have been publishing essays on Nabokov— especially since the 1970s, and such studies have grown during the 1980s and 1990s. While earlier essays focused mainly on Nabokov's English works, an increasing number are being devoted to the Russian writings. The first German-language dissertation on Nabokov appeared in 1975, and since then several others (in German and English) have appeared. The following survey first examines German-language Nabokov criticism in newspapers and literary magazines. The second part discusses scholarly essays, dissertations, and recent developments in German-language reception of Nabokov. Full citations will be found in the bibliography section that concludes the survey. The bibliography includes many items not discussed in the survey itself, but does not include criticism published in languages other than German. Book Reviews and Other Newspaper Articles Since 1959 German-language newspapers in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany have frequently published reviews and other articles about Nabokov. In addition to writing about the works themselves, journalists ruminated about the Lolita "phenomenon," honored Nabokov on the occasion of his 75th birthday, and paid tribute to his genius at the time of his passing in 1977. More recently, discussion has turned to Nabokov's reception in the former Soviet Union and its successor states, and to film and stage productions. Mary, among Nabokov's originally Russian novels, received the largest 186 Nabokov Studies number of reviews when it appeared in 1976. Gabriele Leech-Anspach (1976), Andreas Roßmann (1977), Jochen Schmidt (1977), and Werner Waldmann (1977) agree that Mary already shows Nabokov's talent and introduces some of his main themes, such as time, memory, and dealing with one's past. HansJ ürgen Fröhlich (1976) thinks that Mary should be read in the context of Nabokov's later works and sees Balzac's Père Goriot as a model. Mary proves Nabokov's conventionality as a novelist—a conventionality that the writer manages to conceal more efficiently in later works. In contrast, Werner Waldmann finds that Mary shows Nabokov's mastery in "effecting strong feelings with economic linguistic means and of impressively describing psychological situations" (1977). In 1986, Angelika Kaps reports on director John Goldschmidt's movie version of Mary (with a screenplay by the British writer John Mortimer). Goldschmidt sets the film's opening in Russia and then moves the setting to Berlin where the protagonist, Ganin, experiences flashbacks of his Russian past. This makes the plot more accessible and stresses the analogy between physical and interior journeys. Several critics describe Nabokov's other Russian novels as precursors of later developments in his works or of literature in general. Otto F. Beer (1985a and 1985b) and Wilhelm Krull (1986) regard The Eye as stylistically ahead of its time: Beer concludes that Nabokov used fantastic realism thirty years before it became popular and Krull describes The Eye as a meta-novel. Glory strikes four reviewers as praiseworthy (cf. Friesel 1978, Frisé 1977, Leech-Anspach 1978, Wirsing 1977). Uwe Friesel, the translator of several English Nabokov novels, describes Glory as a step in Nabokov's evolution towards Speak, Memory and Ada. The novel's weakness lies in the merely decorative function of its historical and cultural details, whereas in Ada Nabokov creates a timeless world, "a utopia with occasional eschatological allusions." Sibylle Wirsing stresses that Nabokov does not ridicule Glory's ineffectual protagonist, but treats him with tenderness. She regards the characterization of Martin as an argument against Freudian theories about the fragmentation of the self and finds Nabokov concerned with the sacredness of the individual mystery. In contrast, Sabine Schultze's brief review in Die Zeit describes Glory as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 185-234
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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