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Book Reviews 209 wonder why Verlaine, who is actually quoted in the text of Mary (p. 63), should rate only two references in the index, neither to that passage. Lists of any kind seem to haunt this study. Foster scrutinizes them no less minutely than the late Kremlinologists used to perform equational magic over the positions of leaders atop Lenin's tomb. In Glory Nabokov writes that a character "had read Proust and Joyce." Foster: "Proust's position ahead of Joyce in this initial roll call of European modernists is surprising, given Nabokov's later preference for Ulysses over the Recfierche."(p. 74) Significance is even seen in the fact that, in the Playboy interview with Alvin Toffler, Nabokov places Joyce between Bergson and Proust, thus giving him a "French tinge." Later, in another list, Rimbaud loses some of the onus of "avant-garde" simply by occupying a slot "near" Flaubert a modernist precursor. This overinterpretation of minutia is the cement-if the reader will forgive yet another resort to the building trades—that binds the blocks of text in this "cultural biography." That term, Foster writes, "is not self-explanatory, nor does it refer to an established branch of literary scholarship; but it does suggest the basic enterprise of this book, which is to study a person's life and achievements as they unfold within a specific cultural context"(p. 10) As with the house a-building, there is less here than meets the eye. In those places where Foster brilliantly succeeds, he is practicing the method that the best literary biographers of modern times have used so instinctively that they have seen no need for a special term. Foster's book will long be indispensable to anyone with a professional interest in studying or teaching the work of Nabokov. I should not think of dealing with the texts of-the period covered here without consulting his highly intelligent and shrewd readings. The treatment of Speak, Memory is a distinguished reading of one of the greatest of modern autobiographies. Graduate students will find the book a gold mine (as well as a mine field) for enlightenment and debate. Whether undergraduates could negotiate the dangerous scaffolding is more difficult to decide. Clarence Brown Princeton University HHKOJiafl A. AHacTacbee. OehoMeH Ηαόοκοβα [Nikolai A. Anastas'ev. The Phenomenon of Nabokov]. Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1992. 317 pp. Nikolai Anastas'ev, co-organizer of the first international Nabokov conference (Moscow-Petersburg, June 1990), has written the first major Nabokov study to be published in the former Soviet Union. As a prolific scholar of twentieth -century literature (American, West European, and Russian) and former editor of the journal Foreign Literature, Anastas'ev brings impressive credentials to his task. He draws oh his wide-ranging background to set Nabokov's work in the context of twentieth century Western literature. Indeed, there is hardly a major name that does not appear. When it comes to the analysis of Nabokov's work, however, Dr. Anastas'ev is less impressive. 210 Nabokov Studies The author sets forth his program in the opening chapter where he describes what he sees as the two reigning approaches to Nabokov: the biographical and the metaliterary. Both have their merits, but are lacking. Anastas'ev sets his goal by quoting Zinaida Shakovskaia: "To find the 'deep' Nabokov truth is impossible, but one can approach it." His aim is to find "the main thing" and that inevitably entails twentieth-century political and cultural history. When ail is said and done, Anastas'ev has produced a very traditional study that owes much to Andrew Field, and to the expectations of a Russian audience who will find a great deal that is new to them in the work's text and photographs. The key element in Nabokov's character is the subject of the next chapter. Nabokov's loathing for the Soviet regime was not essentially "political" but lay in its cruel disregard for the individual at the expense of the group. The writer's political stance was simply an extension of an extreme individualism that had found earlier expression in his dislike of the Tenishev School. Nabokov's subjective individualism underlies all of his attitudes and his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 209-213
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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