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)

Mad Men, Nabokov, and more praise for The Secret History

What do Entertainment Weekly, The Brooklyn Rail, and the Netherlands’ Radio One all have in common?

They’ve been pondering Nabokov!

Writing about Mad Men‘s season premiere, EW‘s Keith Staskiewicz begins with a quote from Nabokov (which, he notes, comes from the era in which the episode is set). The two sentences he includes are taken from the opening paragraph of Speak, Memory and talk about the twin abysses, “two eternities of darkness,” that lurk before birth and after death. For those wishing to further contemplate mortality—Don Draper’s or their own— Staskiewicz recaps the episode and addresses the Nabokovian implications.

The Brooklyn Rail also recently considered Nabokov, but in this case, it was The Secret History that got the spotlight. Reviewer Christopher Michel called the book’s research “astounding” and noted that when it comes to Nabokov making use of political history:

It’s possible that for Nabokov the human and the minute were the political—that the forgotten details of yesterday’s headlines (and the lifelong effects they had on survivors) held far more significance for him than the broad brushstrokes of history held in the popular imagination. It’s possible that for Nabokov, the problem with sweeping histories and clashing ideologies lay, finally, in that very loss of detail: the oversimplifications and generalizations that ideology necessarily entails. His works were careful, precise, and detailed because he was trying to create (or find) the kind of people who could be careful enough readers to understand the adverse effect those generalities have on the mind, and to resist them. If so, Ms. Pitzer is one of those readers. And she has done us all a great service in revealing more of Nabokov’s genius than was previously known. This book is a vital aid to any fan of Nabokov’s who wants to understand a little more clearly what the stakes really are.

And additional kudos came on Saturday when novelist and critic Arie Storm talked in depth about The Secret History on Radio One in the Netherlands. Recommending the book to listeners as “a phenomenal read,” he called it the book of the month.* Dutch speakers can listen to the whole program here.

If you include the publication of Nabokov’s Selected Poems and The Tragedy of Mister Morn (both shepherded ably into print in the last year by Thomas Karshan), and the forthcoming Letters to Vera (perpetually delayed but now apparently slated for February 2014), The Secret History is arriving with a wave of other information about Nabokov’s life and work.

So much newly-public or newly-collected material brings to mind the words of Faulkner (whose writing Nabokov insulted): “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” As we reconsider Nabokov’s work, I will note that Mad Men, like The Secret History, nods to the ongoing play between a character’s hidden history and the harm he sets in motion in daily life.

*Thanks to Laurens Nijzink for the unofficial translation.

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