Vladimir Nabokov boasts an impressive resume. As a writer, critic and scholar, he perfected both his own craft, and his ability to analyze the work of others. Similarly, within his texts, he focused a great deal of energy on the manipulation of his readers own reactions, earning him a reputation as a jokester and a game-player who actively sought to enhance the experience of the reader. He held famously high standards for his ideal reader, lecturing his students on the qualities such a reader should, preferably, possess (see quote above); while any lover of literature can certainly access meaning in his texts, it is this ideal reader who is able to best consume his novels, able to read between the lines to identify hidden meanings. This reader can identify the games Nabokov plays with them, and understands why he is reaching out to them in that way. This reader recognizes glimpses of their own society in his writing, and - more importantly - their perception is changed by virtue of his unique presentation of reality. They recognize, in the artificial worlds of his novels, an uncanny similarity to their own world.
Many of Nabokov's novels focus on specific aspects of the artistic life - they are about writers, readers, critics and other assorted literati. In The Gift, for example, we meet an entire community of expatriate writers, from the young boy who dreams of poetic greatness to the celebrated but jaded novelist.
[...] The process of differentiating between what is intended as fact and what is pure fiction is an example of one of Nabokov's less obvious ‘games.' "In Nabokov's case it is not that the action or characters of a novel 'stand for' or 'represent' the writing of a novel or the figure of the artist, but that certain descriptions of experience, character, or emotion illuminate and approximate artistic creation" (Bader 3). While this may seem at odds with what we have previously stated about Nabokov's use of autobiographical elements, it is meant to distinguish the difference between assuming that Nabokov is always writing about himself, versus the knowledge that he is weaving elements of reality into his narrative. [...]
[...] As we have begun to discuss, the fact that a clear link exists between the fictional creation and his creator does not suggest that Nabokov intended us to substitute his image for Fyodor's - rather, we see that the portrayal of this artistic community, of the writers who inhabit it, is factually based. It is similar to an observed reality, yet contains elements of the extraordinary, prompting us to label it ‘uncanny'. Paired with our observation that Fyodor himself is haunted by apparitions that remind him what has been, what could have been, and what may be, we are able to come to several conclusions regarding the nature of this text, and the web of doubling we observe. [...]
[...] While both have decidedly different aims, the processes by which knowledge is sought are very similar - could we, then, conclude that there is a closer relationship between psychoanalysis and the act of reading than Nabokov wished to acknowledge? Psychoanalysis demands that we search for meaning in our own lives - both our lived experience and the environment we're in, the conditions we're exposed to - in order to better understand our selves and our position within this environment. The ultimate aim is to better equip ourselves to handle our desires, and to interpret meaning from them. [...]
[...] Pale Fire, while largely enigmatic, also attempts to guide the reader to certain conclusions, with veiled references and links between Shade's introspective and seemingly mundane, and Kinbote's wildly alluring, split narratives. "By parodying prevalent literary conventions the author questions the reader's assumptions about literature, and by using these parodies as 'springboards' he surprises and corrects these assumptions " (Bader 19). The novel deals with the poetic recreation of memory - we are curious about Shade, the inspiration for Kinbote's own writing, and can rely only on his own narrative in order to learn more about the importance of his role. [...]
[...] Most apparently, we note the relationship between Fyodor and the dead poet Yasha, whom he is inherently linked to by virtue of the boy's bereft parents and their insistence that Fyodor, a man reminiscent of their son, fill the now-empty space in their parlor. an imagined figure, a soul, a shadow, a ghost or a mirror reflection that exists in a dependent relation to the original, the double pursues the subject as his second self and makes him feel himself and the other at the same time" (Zivkovic 122). [...]
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