Nabokov’s Response to Tyranny, 1938
Offering fresh insights into all of Nabokov’s works of 1938, this book focuses on a major new reading of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, revealing that Nabokov’s seemingly non-political novel contains a hidden subtext of espionage and totalitarian tyranny. Drawing on the popular British authors he admired as a boy, Nabokov weaves a covert narrative reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes story, in which Sebastian Knight, a latter-day Scarlet Pimpernel, uncovers a world of Wellsian scientific misadventure that foreshadows the Holocaust. The Real Life of Sebastian Knight emerges as an antitotalitarian masterpiece, in which the «absolute solution» is both a dire prediction of the future and Nabokov’s artistic answer to the problem of the time.
Preface xi List of Abbreviations xv Introduction 1 Part 1 1938 5 Chapter 1 January, and Chapter 5 of The Gift 7 Chapter 2 January to March, and the Genesis of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight 15 Chapter 3 April to May, and “Tyrants Destroyed” 23 Chapter 4 May to September, and The Waltz Invention 33 Chapter 5 October, and “The Visit to the Museum” 47 xChapter 6 November, and “Lik” 57 Chapter 7 December, and the Writing of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight 65 Part 2 The Real Life of Sebastian Knight 69 Chapter 8 Re-reading The Real Life of Sebastian Knight: The Covert Level Uncovered 71 Chapter 9 Decrypting The Real Life of Sebastian Knight: Notes and Commentary 123 Bibliography 233 Index 245
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