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Nabokov Studies, 1 (1994), 131-53. MAXIM D. SHRAYER (New Haven, Conn., U.S.A.) "CLOUD, CASTLE, LAKE" AND THE PROBLEM OF ENTERING THE OTHERWORLD IN NABOKOV'S SHORT FICTION' Two works have appeared recently which open new horizons in Vladimir Nabokov research. Both Vladimir Alexandrov's Nabokov's Otherworld and Brian Boyd's two-volume biography of Nabokov attempt in their own ways to close a gap—constructed largely due to critics' insistence upon Nabokov's metaliterariness—between poetics and biography, between the narrative structures of Nabokov's texts and the philosophy of art that informs them.2 Ultimately, this new direction in Nabokov research aims to bring together an author's inferred world view and the hermeneutic strategy that this world view compels the critic to apply. Alexandrov places at the core of his investigation what he feels to be the central theme of Nabokov's writings, a theme that the vast majority of Nabokov critics have overlooked—namely that of the "otherworld." Alexandrov starts off with a reference to Vera Nabokov who was the 1. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the assistance of the John Enders Research Grant (Yale University) and the Yale Council on Soviet and East European Studies which made the funding of parts of this research possible with generous support. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the brilliant staff of Slovanská knihovna (Prague, The Czech Republic), an ideal library for a Slavicist, for their assistance in locating several sources for this study during a month of research in April-May, 1993. Special thanks go to the Director of Slovanská knihovna, Dr. Milena KlÃ-mová, and the librarians Ms. Helena Musátová, Dr. Jurij Vácek, Ms. Renata Stindlovà , Ms. )arka Fiserová. I am indebted to Ms. Margit E. Kaye of the Map Collection, Sterling Memorial Library (Yale University) for her help with outlining the geographical dimensions of the story. I would like to thank Ms. Hilary Fink of Columbia University—a dear colleague from the Middlebury Russian School— for looking at the final draft of this paper and making several important suggestions. Finally, my warm regards go to all the participants of the Vladimir Nabokov Society Panel at the 1992 AATSEEL Conference (NYC)~where an early draft of this article was read for their support and encouragement. 2. See Vladimir E. Alexandrov, Nabokov's Otherworld (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991), Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990), and Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991). 132 Nabokov Studies first to point to the centrality of potustoronnost' (otherwordliness) for both Nabokov's life and his art. In her foreword to the 1979 collection of Nabokov's verses, Vera Nabokov writes the following: Teper', posylaia ètot sbornik ν pechat', khochu obratit' vnimanie chitatelia na glavnuiu temu Nabokova. Ona, kazhetsia, ne byla nikem otmechena, a mezhdu tern eiu propitano vsë, chto on pisal; ona, kak nekii vodianoi znak, simvoliziruet vsë ego tvorchestvo. Ia govoriu o "potustoronnosti", kak on sam eë nazval ν svoëm poslednem stikhotvorenii "Vliublënnost".3 ("I would like to call the reader to a key undercurrent in Nabokov's work, which permeates all that he has written and characterizes it like a kind of watermark. I am speaking of a strange otherworldliness, the 'hereafter' (potustoronnost'), as he himself called it in his last poem, 'Being in Love.'")4 The claims regarding the fundamentally metaphysical nature of Nabokov's art have been made, if covertly, by Nabokov's émigré critics in the 1930s and carried over into the 1950s.5 All the more welcome was a moderrv investigation-of Nabokov-'s metaphysical dimension. In his analysis of a number of Nabokov's fictional and discursive texts, Alexandrov demonstrates that they are underlain and triggered by Nabokov's "sui generis faith in a transcendent realm." By claiming that the metaliterary serves as a model for Nabokov's metaphysical/otherworldly beliefs, Alexandrov opens a fruitful avenue of inquiry into the "nature=artifice" equation of Nabokov's art.6 However, some reviews of 3. Vera Nabokova, "Predislovie," in Vladimir Nabokov, Stikhi (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1979), p. 3. 4. This seminal passage was translated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 131-153
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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