Join us on Monday, April 26 at 6pm when Robert Alter is joined by Daniel Mason to discuss his book, Nabokov and the Real World: Between Appreciation and Defense, on Zoom!
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Praise for Nabokov and the Real World
"This essay collection assesses the stakes and real-world relevance of Nabokov’s writing, from his lectures and short stories to his major novels. It’s a great read if you’re a Nabokov fan, or if you’ve ever wondered, ‘Why did this guy write Lolita?'"—Literary Hub
"Elegant and penetrating. This important and timely book offers very personal readings of Nabokov by one of the most prominent literary scholars and translators today."—Galya Diment, author of Pniniad: Vladimir Nabokov and Marc Szeftel and A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky
"In his sustained appreciation of the relation between consciousness and reality, Alter intricately articulates how lived experience is, and can be, realized through the textual object. Nabokov and the Real World reveals how we can experience other worlds vicariously and does so in sumptuous prose from start to finish."—Michael Rodgers, author of Nabokov and Nietzsche: Problems and Perspectives
About Nabokov and the Real World
Admirers and detractors of Vladimir Nabokov have viewed him as an ingenious contriver of literary games, teasing and even outsmarting his readers through his self-reflexive artifice and the many codes and puzzles he devises in his fiction. Nabokov himself spoke a number of times about reality as a term that always has to be put in scare quotes. Consequently, many critics and readers have thought of him as a writer uninterested in the world outside literature. Robert Alter shows how Nabokov was passionately concerned with the real world and its complexities, from love and loss to exile, freedom, and the impact of contemporary politics on our lives.
In these illuminating and exquisitely written essays, Alter spans the breadth of Nabokov’s writings, from his memoir, lectures, and short stories to major novels such as Lolita. He demonstrates how the self-reflexivity of Nabokov’s fiction becomes a vehicle for expressing very real concerns. What emerges is a portrait of a brilliant stylist who is at once serious and playful, who cared deeply about human relationships and the burden of loss, and who was acutely sensitive to the ways political ideologies can distort human values.
Offering timeless insights into literature’s most fabulous artificer, Nabokov and the Real World makes an elegant and compelling case for Nabokov’s relevance today.
Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus.