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Nabokov's Wrong Turns

Norman, Will (2022) Nabokov's Wrong Turns. Nabokov Online Journal, XV . ISSN 1911-8422. (KAR id:91688)


In this essay I trace the concept of history as it appears in the work of Vladimir Nabokov, and make the claim that Nabokov’s mid-career works such as Bend Sinister (1947) show the way in which he participated in a distinctive crisis in liberal historiography corresponding to World War Two and totalitarianism. The figure of the “wrong turn,” described in his introduction to Bend Sinister, offers a way of grasping Nabokov’s historical engagements dialectically, and distinguishing between different concepts of history as they relate to one another: the idea of history as pure contingency; as coherent process; and as nightmare logic. The essay situates Nabokov in relation to several traditions of historiography, including ancient Greek, Hegelian and Marxist, as well as comparing Nabokov’s views to those of émigré coevals such as Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper. I conclude by suggesting some of the ways in which key Nabokovian concerns, such as immortality and style, might be reframed in the light of these discussions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Vladimir Nabokov; Bend Sinister; philosophy of history; dialectic; Hegel; totalitarianism
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN851 Comparative Literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Will Norman
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2021 16:48 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2022 11:22 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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