“Let me tell you about my mother.”
I wrote earlier that every culture revolves around a certain central idea, which is best expressed in a single word, thus allowing one to see that culture in sharp focus. I gave several examples, with the notable omission of American culture. Maybe now we can fill in this missing piece. The theme of American culture is destruction. Continue reading
(Conclusion. Continued from part 3.)
Nabokov gave dozens of interviews and expressed hundreds of opinions, even when they were not asked for (in his translations, for example). For the most part, this material is just as fictional as his novels. Continue reading
“An oak is a tree. A rose is a flower. A deer is an animal. A sparrow is a bird. Russia is our fatherland. Death is inevitable.”
1884 grammar textbook quoted in the epigraph (11)
“The epigraph is not a fabrication.”
Nabokov’s foreword to the English edition (9)
(Continued from part 2.)
Nabokov despised clichés, but his life easily fits them. The Gift, his penultimate novel in Russian (the last being Other Shores), is proof that money does not buy happiness. It was written in obscurity, in Berlin, when Nabokov roomed in boarding-houses and made a living as an English tutor. The same drab life is shared by the protagonist of The Gift, and yet he is remarkably free from it. His inner world offers him an escape. In Pale Fire, a quarter-century later, it will lead only to a more restrictive prison. Continue reading
Icon of the Resurrection.
Fallen Leaves wishes its readers, whoever they may be, a happy Orthodox Easter. Continue reading
“Madison Beer, a singer and TikTok star who boasts 11 million followers on the platform, is facing backlash after admitting to ‘romanticizing’ the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, a story of a middle-aged professor who becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl.”
Insider, June 2020
(Continued from part 1.)
Let’s not waste time talking about the beauties of Nabokov’s prose, as do many uncomfortable readers in desperate need of some angle from which Lolita might be safely appreciated. As you can see, there isn’t one. Continue reading
Icon of the Meeting of the Lord, Andrei Rublev, 1405.
Cathedral of the Annunciation, Moscow.
Fallen Leaves greets its readers, whoever they may be, on the day of the Meeting of the Lord. Continue reading
“Nabokov was an aristocrat who enjoyed American motels and looked down on the literary fashions of his era.”
“infographic” from a website that helps college students cheat on homework
John Shade, a professor of English literature at a very thinly disguised Cornell University, and a poet in his spare time, composed a poem in Popean iambic pentameter titled “Pale Fire.” Unfortunately, he died before it could appear in print, but his colleague, Prof. Charles Kinbote, has eagerly volunteered to curate its publication. Pale Fire, the novel, is the published edition (or at least the corrected proofs) of “Pale Fire,” the poem — Kinbote’s foreword, followed by Shade’s poem itself, then Kinbote’s commentary, and finally an index. Continue reading
(Conclusion. Continued from part 2.)
Kokoro was finished two years before Soseki’s death, and is representative of his late work. It has become his signature, certainly in the English-speaking world, and to some extent in Japan as well (although in schools they prefer to teach his early novels). The style and atmosphere of the novel elicit bewilderment and fascination, which parallel the feelings of the protagonist. Continue reading
The Adoration of the Magi.
Fresco from a cave church in Cappadocia, 12th century.
Fallen Leaves wishes its readers, whoever they may be, a merry Christmas according to the Julian calendar. Continue reading
Sanshiro’s old stomping grounds.
(Continued from part 1.)
But so far, it is only 1908, and Soseki has just completed Sanshiro. Quite unlike the solitary, introspective atmosphere of The Three-Cornered World, the new novel takes place in the midst of Tokyo university life. Its world is much bigger and wider, full of dialogue and social situations whose participants have diverse points of view and frequently appear to be deeper and more fully realized than the protagonist, rather than serving as vessels for his aesthetic appreciation. Regardless of how much actually happens on its pages, it certainly feels like it takes place in an active, energetic world where things are happening all around. Continue reading