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Zina’s Paradox

The Figured Reader in Nabokov’s "Gift</I>

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Stephen H. Blackwell

One of the century’s greatest Russian novels, Vladimir Nabokov’s The Gift still continues to baffle new readers with its playfully unstable narration, its temporal shifts, and its huge inserted opus, The Life of Chernyshevski. This study, the first monograph on Nabokov’s last Russian novel, explores the connections between the narrative’s structural difficulties and its most pressing thematic concerns: love and self-transcendence. In a departure from traditional approaches to The Gift, Blackwell places Zina’s role as a loving, collaborating audience at the very center of the novel’s significance. This non-heroine, according to Nabokov, turns out to constitute a vital part of the narrative perspective, a fact with significant repercussions for the novel’s consideration of art’s meaning within human existence and beyond.