cover image Speak, Nabokov

Speak, Nabokov

Michael Maar, , trans. from the German by Ross Benjamin. . Verso, $24.95 (148pp) ISBN 978-1-84467-437-4

German scholar Maar titles his cogent and authoritative study, which mingles Nabokov’s experiences with his art, after the writer’s memoir Speak, Memory . Maar is good at decoding a range of literary influences on the combustible and withering Nabokov, including Goethe, Thomas Mann, Wilhelm Busch, Hans Christian Andersen (especially The Little Mermaid ), the dour yet mystical Arthur Schopenhauer, and others. There is a new view of the eroticism of Lolita through the lens of Nabokov’s early experiences with a homosexual uncle and brother, the latter dying in a concentration camp. The assassination of the writer’s father is also held up as a seminal experience. Of especial interest are Maar’s examinations of the campus novel Pnin , The Enchanter , and The Original of Laura , cobbled by son Dimitri from 138 index cards and published just a year ago. With some 250 footnotes, many of the explanatory variety, this book will be tough sledding for many, which is not to detract from it as a significant addition to Nabokov studies from a continental point of view. (Mar. 10)