Praise for The Secret History

"A penetrating analysis certain to compel a major reassessment of the Nabokov canon."
— starred review, Booklist

"...a brilliant examination that adds to the understanding of an inspiring and enigmatic life."
— starred review, Kirkus

"Highly recommended for all Nabokov fans..."
— starred review, Library Journal

"Certainly the most remarkable and insightful book on Vladimir Nabokov in many years."
— Michael Maar, author of Speak, Nabokov and The Two Lolitas

"... an intriguing and provocative new take on one of the giants of modern American letters."
— Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion: 1914-1918 and other books

"... a feat of fascinating literary detective work ..."
— Christopher Goffard, author of You Will See Fire and Snitch Jacket

"A wide-ranging introduction to Nabokov's life and work as well as a game-changer for those readers who thought they knew his writing cold."
— Steven Belletto, author of No Accident, Comrade: Chance and Design in Cold War American Narratives (Oxford U. Press)

Archive for the "Intermediate" Category

Was Véra Nabokov’s sister a spy?

When the Nabokovs came to America in 1940, they sailed through immigration, pausing only to struggle with a locked trunk that needed to be inspected by customs. But arrival in a new country was less simple for thousands of other refugees fleeing Europe during World War II, including Véra Nabokov’s younger sister Sonia. Making her […]

Isaac Babel and Vladimir Nabokov

Russian author Isaac Babel is reported to have said of his literary contemporary Vladimir Nabokov that “he can write, but he’s got nothing to say.” Early in his career, Babel wrote a short story just three pages long called “Line and Color.” This story goes to the heart of the tension between invention and reality in […]

Hiding history in fiction: Nabokov’s Proustian wink

Tomorrow The Secret History will be published! I’m headed up to New York to do my first interview for the book. But before it drops, I wanted post a quick note on something important. I’ve spent the last five years exploring the links between Nabokov’s fiction and the world in which he lived. There’s a […]

The mysteries of Zembla

So much fiction relies on what’s missing from a story, the details an author fails to or chooses not to include. In the spirit of just such incomplete information, Vladimir Nabokov’s 1962 novel Pale Fire delivers that most unreliable of narrators, the mad Charles Kinbote, who obsesses over ping-pong, young boys, and his beloved country […]

Nabokov as digital prophet and Pale Fire as hypertext

Born in the nineteenth century, was literary alchemist Vladimir Nabokov also a digital pioneer for our electronic era? Nabokov’s description of a primordial emoticon from 1969 (“I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile—some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket”*) gets new coverage each decade from those chronicling […]

Pnin, the Cremona Women’s Club, and Jewish refugees after the war

Nabokov was crazy for complex allusions, intentionally seeding his fiction with literary and historical references, from pop culture and epic poetry to both in a single line (see “Chapman’s Homer” from Pale Fire). But there are so many winks and nods and proper names in his books, sorting out what has coherence from what is […]