Imagining Nabokov

Russia Between Art and Politics

Nina L. Khrushcheva

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December 12, 2013
256 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300207323
Paper

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Vladimir Nabokov’s “Western choice”—his exile to the West after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution—allowed him to take a crucial literary journey, leaving the closed nineteenth-century Russian culture behind and arriving in the extreme openness of twentieth-century America. In Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics, Nina L. Khrushcheva offers the novel hypothesis that because of this journey, the works of Russian-turned-American Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) are highly relevant to the political transformation under way in Russia today. Khrushcheva, a Russian living in America, finds in Nabokov’s novels a useful guide for Russia’s integration into the globalized world. Now one of Nabokov’s “Western” characters herself, she discusses the cultural and social realities of contemporary Russia that he foresaw a half-century earlier.

 

In Pale Fire; Ada, or Ardor; Pnin; and other works, Nabokov reinterpreted the traditions of Russian fiction, shifting emphasis from personal misery and communal life to the notion of forging one’s own “happy” destiny. In the twenty-first century Russia faces a similar challenge, Khrushcheva contends, and Nabokov’s work reveals how skills may be acquired to cope with the advent of democracy, capitalism, and open borders.

 

 

Nina L. Khrushcheva is associate professor of international affairs, International Affairs Program, The New School, New York. The great-granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, she now lives in New York City.

“A very lively, funny, and informed piece of work, full of interesting opinions about Russia, the West, individual writers, and various national literatures.”—Michael Wood, Princeton University

"Combining literary criticism with political theory is often attempted and rarely done well. Nina Khrushcheva succeeds brilliantly in this highly original work. Her book deepens one's knowledge of Nabokov, Russia, and the condition of exile by mixing literary and political concerns without diminishing the importance or interest of either."—Ian Buruma, Henry Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights and Journalism, Bard College

“In her searching, thought-provoking meditation on Vladimir Nabokov’s reaction to exile from his native Russia, Dr. Khrushcheva gives us unique insights into the moral and intellectual struggle going on in Russia today. It is an important work, not only for admirers of Nabokov’s writings, but also for anyone who wishes to understand better what lies behind the dramatic and seemingly contradictory changes that are taking place in post-Soviet Russia.”—Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, 1987-1991; author of Autopsy on an Empire, and Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended

"Ms. Khrushcheva's approach is both accessible and modest. . . . She wears her learning lightly. If you are not quite sure at the beginning of the book who Pushkin was and why he matters, you will know enough by the end to appreciate her finely drawn comparisons and contrasts between these two towering figures. . . . [An] excellent book."—The Economist

"This lively personal account treats a large, speculative theme and draws on extensive historical scholarship. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"The text is refreshing in its avoidance of the didacticism and dryness of a political or philosophical tract. And its publication is certainly timely, as Russians continue to search for a way to reconcile their own history with the possibilities of democracy."—James Marson, The Moscow Times

"The author's cross-cultural experience results in intriguing insights. . . . Historians and political scientists will find that this book makes a provocvative companion to debates about Russia and the west, while literary scholars will discover how differently a nonprofessional reader can approach literature, even with someone as literary as Nabokov."—John Burt Foster, The Russian Review