- Od Masenjke do Lolite: Pripovjedacki svijet Vladimira Nabokova [From Mary to Lolita: The Narrative World of Vladimir Nabokov] (review)
- Nabokov Studies
- International Vladimir Nabokov Society and Davidson College
- Volume 1, 1994
- pp. 226-231
- View Citation
- Additional Information
226 Nabokov Studies Since for Nabokov creativeness does not always have to take the shape of an ability to excell in some recognized art form, it also involves creative living. And this means that, in the language of Connolly's book, the "authorial dimension " of the self infuses the "character dimension." Through thematic and narrato logical analysis (the latter leaning on the system that Gerard Genette evolved out of an engagement with Proust's text, as well as on Pekka Tammi's Problems of Nabokov's Poetics), Nabokov's Early Fiction cogently demonstrates that these constituents of one's personality must separate in order to allow the "authorial" potential to develop and place the "character dimension" into perspective. Yet on the basis of Nabokov's works one could also make a case for the belief that one's highest personal achievement demands the ultimate reunification of the two parts of the self. Such an interpretive disagreement is, however, a symptom of the book's ability to stimulate further thoughts in its reader. Well informed and lucidly written, Nabokov's Early Fiction does not merely redescribe a group of texts in terms of an abstract paradigm: despite the author's scholarly restraint and cautious avoidance of the threshold of over-interpretation, each section of the book offers new insights, both interpretive and textual, and thus enriches one's understanding of Nabokov's work. Leona Toker The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Magdalena Medaric. Od Masenjke do Lolite: Pripovjedacki svi/'et Vladimira Nabokova [From Mary to Lolita: The Narrative World of Vladimir Nabokov). Zagreb: August Cesarec, 1989. 259 pp. This is among the first East European book-length studies of Nabokov, and given the low likelihood of its being read by English-speaking Nabokovians in the original Croatian, it deserves to be considered at lengths not usually granted reviewers, even in inaugural issues. Dr. Medaric declares herself to be a "Russianist who holds that this American-Russian writer was formed primarily in a milieu illumined by Russian literature, and that he had already reached creative maturity in the thirties when he wrote exclusively in Russian" (5). "Creative maturity" in this case means that before leaving Europe for the United States, Nabokov had developed a new literary model which Medaric terms "synthetic prose." Nabokov's "synthetism" consists of adapting and modifying literary patterns inherent in the innovative writing of his "predecessors": Belyi, Kaverin, Kuzmin, Olesha, Sologub. Since in a letter to Edmund Wilson Nabokov proclaimed himself a product of the literary atmosphere created by Belyi, Blok, Bunin and others who wrote in the first two decades of this century, Medaric's bold opening seems perfectly justified. In fact, such boldness gives rise to a hope that Medaric's book would take its place on a shelf next to a growing library of fine studies (by Karlinsky, Proffer, Johnson, Book Reviews 227 Connolly, Barabtarlo, Davydov, Toker, and Alexandrov) that explore the subtextual presence of Russian literature and culture in Nabokov's work. It is surprising then to find on the next page Medaric qualifying her assertion about Nabokov's essential Russianness by describing his work as "synthesizing several literary traditions (Russian, English, French and German) with the experience of the European avant-garde and [thus serving as] a precursor of today's ... postmodernist literature." The effect of this international "synthetism" turns Nabokov into a Borgesian cosmopolite (rather than a Russian) writer whose work may be characterized as "mannerist, cerebral, sophisticated," devicebaring, parodistic, problematizing of its own fictionality, and "sometimes" pervaded by an "atmosphere glowing with cold rationality and an almost oneiric horror" (6). The definitional expanse created by this qualification underscores the difficulty of an swering the central question facing the Nabokov scholar-what is the proper con text for reading Nabokov: the Russian literary tradition of philosophical and ethical inquiry or postmodernist escape from such inquiry into the aesthetics of linguistic self-reflexrveness? With claims for Pnin as a latter day Pierre Bezukhov (95) and Lensky as a precursor of Quilty (42), one is tempted to conclude that Medaric prefers the first context and will concentrate on large narrative units. Medaric, however, treads the middle ground. Her book proposes to "analyze in detail the...