The novel as target practice: Vladimir Nabokov's The Gift and the "new malady of the century".
One should avoid the terrible odor of the emigre milieu (sure, it is easy for me to say, since I live far from it all, in almost idyllic backwoods), the best thing--applicable, by the way, to all times and smells--is to lock oneself up in a room [...] and do one's meaningless, innocent, intoxicating job [...] I find unbearable both intelligent and stupid speeches about "modern times," "inquietude," "religious renaissance" and, really, any phrase containing the word "post-war" [...] I wish neither to be "anxious" nor to be "reborn." (1)
To appreciate the import of this letter in the story of Nabokov's magnum opus, one must review the intellectual atmosphere which haunted the writer in his artistic hermitage. The notions he derides in the letter entered emigre Paris by way of interbellum French literature. His removal is deceptive: in the same letter he discusses Numbers (Chisla), the mouthpiece of the Paris School of emigre literature, while his scathing diatribe shows familiarity with Parisian critical debates. Nabokov's advertised disengagement from the issues ravaging the capital of emigre and French literatures seems to be an artistic stance dictated by the writer's strong opinions about these issues, which could not but mark his novel in progress.
In this article I argue that, heeding the life of literary Paris, Nabokov used Andre Gide's novel The Counterfeiters (Les Faux-Monnayeurs, 1925) as a springboard for refining his novelistic aesthetics and as a war manual for launching an attack on his literary foes in The Gift. Gide in the 1920s and Nabokov in the 1930s found themselves in similar positions. Discarding dominant aesthetic trends, they strove to save previous novelistic experience from attacks of the post-war writers and to provide a matrix for modern novels in contrast to 19th-century realism. Using "literature as a safe-conduct," they attempted to preserve threatened aesthetic norms by codifying them in fiction. (2) Like Gaito Gazdanov, Iurii Fel'zen, and Boris Poplavskii, Nabokov creatively reworked his French model; but unlike his Parisian peers, he did not use it as a conspicuous textual marker. (3) Gide's legacy contained traits unacceptable to Nabokov-aestheticization of homosexuality, infatuation with Dostoevskii, and communist sympathies. Drawing on Gide's poetics, The Gift exorcised its hostile features from Nabokov's art of the novel.
In the wake of the Great War, French literati described their cultural situation as a crisis that transformed the post-war intellectual into a "European Hamlet" tortured by existential anxiety-inquietude (Valery 988-1014). In 1924, the novelist Marcel Arland argued that contemporary intellectual atmosphere was a "new malady of the century" akin to the malady engendered by the French revolution. Young French writers, having matured in the time of social turmoil, were overcome by anxiety, metaphysical solitude, and despair, because the culture of positivism, which "killed God," perished in the war. Now literature had to become a "sincere," "documentary" study of the psychological and intellectual vicissitudes of its creators, an "exact painting of reality" that gave up the vanity of imagination for the sake of producing new "existential protection" and helping "European Hamlets" cope with the crisis ("Sur un Nouveau mal du siecle" 11-37). The "new malady" and its attributes quickly became critical commonplaces. (4) Among the answers to the "new malady" was Jacques Maritain's neo-Thomistic movement of "Catholic renewal," which attracted a number of artists thanks to its modernist spirit and saw the salvation from crisis in the individual's "rebirth" through Christianity (Cremieux, Inquietude et reconstruction 157).
The post-war "sensibility" engendered a new literary type--an anxious and disoriented young man. His appearance was heralded in 1920 by Jacques de Lacretelle's La Vie inquiete de dean Hermelin, Andre Obey's L 'Enfant inquiet, and Louis Chadourne's L'Inquiete adolescence. These novels were followed by Drieu la Rochelle's Etat civil (1921), Philippe Soupault's A la derive (1923), and Raymond Radiguet's Le Diable au corps (1923), linked by one type of young hero whose personality crisis, illustrative of the postwar spiritual void, forced him to seek various forms of escape from society, prompting critics to unite these texts under the rubric of "literature of evasion" (Mauriac 610-11).
French critical reflection on the novel brought about suggestions that the genre would not survive the spiritual crisis. In the early 1920s, the significance of short fiction, poetry and the essay far outweighed the novel, which was taken to task as the most bourgeois and fictional genre in need of interior reorganization. (5) The new, post-war novel was filled with psychological discursivity, losing compositional rigor and becoming a hybrid of psychology, journalism, and personal diaries. Striving for "sincerity," such novelists as Louis Aragon, Andre Breton, Rene Crevel, and Robert Desnos abolished all distance between author and hero, and used extra-literary material (photographs, posters, newspapers) to fight "fiction." In an ostensible shift from literature to confession, novels about anxious young men resembled autobiographies, drowned in uneventful discursivity. Young novelists, in unison, claimed that they did not write "literature," being moral, social, and metaphysical thinkers rather than writers (Leonard 66-67).
Programmatic declarations of the Paris School, which united younger emigre literati around the poet and critic Georgii Adamovich, attest to the expatriates' affinity with the cultural mythology of their French peers. (6) The "new malady" linked emigres to French Romantics, who had also known exile; its symptoms evoked the cultural and spiritual uprootedness of an expatriate. The Paris School literati argued that exile's spiritual vacuum produced the "emigre young man" or "emigre Hamlet," whose world-view differed from that of emigre fathers; they echoed Maritain's "Catholic renewal," seeing salvation in individual religious renaissance and a return to the Christian foundations of culture. (7)
Inspired by French models, the Paris School rallied for "documentary" literature, whose confessional motivation and "sincerity" at the expense of imagination conveyed "emigre Hamlets'" inquietude, solitude, and despair, sacrificing artistic concerns to the discussion of the "most important" questions of existence. (8) Since the novel had been the backbone of the Russian literary tradition, emigres poignantly felt the crisis of the genre, both as discussed in French circles and as illustrated in the plethora of "human documents" authored by Paris School literati in the early 1930s. (9) In poetry, the concept of the "human document" was supplemented with that of the "Paris note," which amalgamated the social, spiritual, and artistic attributes "emigre Hamlets" inherited from "European Hamlets."
The plight of the post-war novel triggered a defensive reaction. Gide's attempt to present the entirety of his literary and existential experience in a novel (JFM 13, 64, 66), encoding the artistic principles and human significance of the genre, was such a reaction. (10) Underscoring its generic identity, Gide called The Counterfeiters his first novel (FM 1081; JFM 35). The Counterfeiters is the story of a writer, Edouard, who conceives a "pure novel" describing the process of artistic creation and the genre's rules (FM 990, 1082-84). He calls his novel The Counterfeiters and envisions it as both a project of aesthetic conservation and a challenge to the naivete and narrative limitations of the 19th-century realist novel (FM 1201). Drawing literary material from the life of teenagers, Edouard discusses his progress in a diary that foreshadows much of the criticism Gide's novel received. Sketches of Parisian literary life place Edouard's project in a larger aesthetic context. Considering the story of a book more important than the book itself (FM 1083), Edouard does not finish his novel. The last words of The Counterfeiters suggest that Edouard's story and the story of his novel transcend the boundary of Gide's text. (11) In 1927, Gide published The Journal of The Counterfeiters, a record of his work and agenda, which echoes that of Edouard.
Nabokov's The Gift describes the maturation of a Russian emigre writer Fedor Godunov-Cherdyntsev. Through a series of literary experiments, Fedor comes to the conception of an ideal novel that echoes the universalist ethos of Edouard's project (G 94; D 108). The novel will convey Fedor's aesthetics and feeling of existence, at once harking to the classical Russian novel and departing from it. (12) Although it has no title, the novel could be entitled The Gift-describing his life in exile, Fedor will narrate the story of his talent. Like Edouard, Fedor dreams of narrative infinity (FM 1201; G 329, 337; D 369, 378). Thus, similarly to The Counterfeiters, The Gift does not incorporate its hero's ideal novel, but ends with an allusion to the narrative's unfinished nature. (13) Fedor's experiments in poetry and prose, like Edouard's diary, punctuate his artistic progress. By making Fedora participant of emigre literary life, Nabokov contextualizes his aesthetics. In his artistic search, Fedor invokes the main vestiges of Russian literary history, surpassing Edouard's preoccupation with a genre and codifying the Russian literary tradition as a whole.
The fact that The Gift addresses a greater scope of aesthetic problems follows from Nabokov's status as an emigre writer. If Gide responds to the crisis of the novel in French literature, Nabokov is preoccupied with the emigre mission of cultural continuity and the fate of Russian literature in general. Despite the difference in scope, both novels were aesthetically ahead of their time, as illustrated by the contemporary critical response, largely predicted in the novels proper, Edouard feels that his text will be misunderstood, because he orients his art toward the future reader (FM 990-991), while Gide writes in The Journal: "Frankly, I am not interested in urgent issues, and, remaining myself, I would rather work for the future" (JFM 17). Neither does Fedor expect much from his immediate audience, for "the real writer should ignore all readers but one, that of the future" (G 340; D 381).
Gide's refusal to follow the mimetic conventions of the realist novel earned The Counterfeiters its most vocal foes. At the time when the new literary generation engaged in the renewal of realist illusion, Gide's metafiction exposed the artifice of literature and the impossibility of "sincere" art. Furthermore, it openly mocked the naive realism of 19th-century novelists and their modern progeny. The Counterfeiters proved too radical for younger and older literati alike. Drawing attention to the process of art instead of claiming to reflect life, The Counterfeiters irritated both the average reader and the average writer. As the most authoritative critics aired hesitation and embarrassment in view of Gide's "novel for critics," few commentators ventured to defend it publicly and charged their contemporaries with misunderstanding the text's purpose and significance. (14) Finally, many a critic was annoyed with The Counterfeiters' overt homosexuality--some to the point of refusing to discuss the novel's artistic qualities. (15)
The Gift met with similar misunderstanding and embarrassment. Although Khodasevich hailed the novel as the summit of Nabokov's art ("'Sovremennye zapiski', kn. 63-ia" 9), it elicited few responses, failing to spark the critical debate Nabokov had expected. Like Gide, Nabokov realized that his novel would puzzle the average reader, (16) but even professional literati withheld critical judgment. During serialization, critics reserved their opinions until the novel appeared in full; later, they used the omission of Chapter Four as a pretext not to discuss The Gift so long as its definitive text was unavailable. (17) This situation lasted until the demise of emigre literature in Europe. Khodasevich unwittingly predicted this reception. Echoing Jaloux's verdict on The Counterfeiters, he suggested that, to describe a writer at work, Nabokov would use a complex composition requiring familiarity with literary craft from his reader. Later, he argued that The Gift "could hardly receive its due not only from 'the average reader' but also from 'the average writer'," as too far ahead of its time ("'Sovremennye zapiski', kn. 63-ia" 9; "O Sirine" 253). (18) Indeed, publication had scarcely begun, when Petr Pil'skii scolded Nabokov for writing "about literature" and refused to consider The Gift as a novel, echoing Gide's critics, some of whom, however, admitted that The Counterfeiters could be a new kind of novel. (19)
French reviewers of The Counterfeiters asserted that Gide failed to achieve either verisimilitude or plausibility for the events depicted. (20) In similar terms, Pil'skii condemned the author of The Gift as a prestidigitator, whose verbal rain fell "just like the real thing," and Mikhail Osorgin compared the novel's breach of realist conventions to a bust draped in a dress and exposed in a store window. This was an unwitting self-commentary, since in the suppressed Chapter Four of The Gift, the positivist aesthetician Nikolai Chernyshevskii used the example of mannequins in a women's fashion store to argue that life was superior to art.
Paraphrasing Stendhal, Edouard writes about his own diary: "This is a mirror that I carry. Nothing on my path exists inasmuch as I do not see it reflected here" (FM 1057). Critics seized on Gide's subversive use of a metaphor that commonly described the view of literature as a mirror of life. Reviewing The Counterfeiters, Arland wrote: "He appropriated Stendhal's epigraph: 'A novel is a mirror walking along a road.' But at least Stendhal chose his road carefully and, besides, Gide holds his mirror badly, for it reflects only himself." (21) Arland's criticism addressed Gide's violation of realist mimetic conventions. In his anti-realist rebellion, Gide rejected the novel as "a slice of life" and "a facsimile of reality" (FM 1080-81), resolving "to liberate the novel from its realist rut" (JFM 61). Edouard treats imitation of life as futile, because apparent reality is deceptive, while its photographic reproduction is outside the genre of the novel (FM 990). "The spirit of the novel is in living the possible instead of reliving the real," states The Journal (JFM 98), whose narrator cultivates imagination, claiming that the best parts of The Counterfeiters are "pure fiction" (JFM 75).
Departing from the view of art as a copy of life, Gide sees extra-artistic reality as inherently deceptive. Even when filtered through the lens of art, life utterances cannot be trusted. The plaque which Gide's teenage hero Bernard Profitendieu lifts off a locked chest containing his mother's correspondence is alternately described as onyx and marble. In a polished state, both materials have reflective surfaces in which Bernard can see himself and which conceal his true self--the letters reveal that he is the fruit of an extra-marital affair. Fedor also finds that mirror surfaces hide the true state of things, as in the coating of honesty peculiar to merchants. His memory appropriates the mother of pearl buttons of a tobacconist; he puts money on glass counters in exchange for overpriced goods; his new shoes do not fit well but have a polished and shiny surface (G 5-7, 69; D 12-13, 79). These details recall the central image of Gide's novel--fake coins that lose gold coating and reveal crystal surface. Nabokov goes further than Gide, showing that reality cheats in front of a mirror. Fedor's landlady stands before a wardrobe mirror with an "oddly altered expression (as if she were dimming and coaxing her reflection)" (G 357; D 401). The men carrying another wardrobe mirror also cheat: the mirror reflects boughs "sliding and swaying not arboreally, but with a human vacillation, produced by the nature of those who were carrying this sky, these boughs" (G 6; D 12).
Due to his wariness vis-a-vis apparent reality Edouard regards tension between life and imagination as the main problem of his novel (FM 1082). He wants to borrow his novel's plot from life by following the adventures of several teenagers. His view of the novel as a sum total of his own artistic and life experiences requires that he heed extra-literary reality (FM 1081). But his cult of imagination does not permit the use of this material as is. In this struggle, Edouard sees his authorial task in pushing the writer-protagonist of his novel closer to reality despite the protagonist's intentions (FM 1082). The same procedure is performed on Edouard by Gide. Edouard sets up a situation to be written down for his novel: he lets Georges Molinier read a draft describing Edouard's talk with the official who investigates the distribution of fake coins by Georges' and his friends. George's reaction disappoints Edouard, who had another reaction in mind. The novelist decides not to go with reality and rewrites the draft, which reproduced life too faithfully, ruining the imagined effect. He crowns his decision with a verdict: "Let the realist novelists be preoccupied with naturalness" (FM 1225).
In his attack on realist aesthetics, Gide uses the 19th-century Russian novel to exemplify the "self-imposed slavery of verisimilitude" (FM 1080; JFM 34). Incidentally, the opening sentence of The Gift cites the Russian novel's peculiar truthfulness that "a foreign critic once remarked" (G 3; D 9). This observation is stylized as a classical exposition describing the weather, time, and date of events with a characteristic ellipsis in place of year. The arrival of a movers' wagon recalls the arrival of Chichikov's cart in the beginning of Dead Souls; the date is April 1--Gogol's birthday and April Fool's Day--not a good day for a "true story." Like Edouard, Fedor hesitates between his desire to draw material from life and his cult of imagination. Nabokov pushes him closer to reality, following Gide's recipe for treating one's protagonist. As Fedor distances himself from life by imagining how he will creatively rewrite it (G 363-65; D 407-09), he is unaware of the surprise which fate has in store--neither he nor his beloved Zina have keys to the place where they want to consummate their love on the first night of freedom from Zina's family.
Following Gide's anti-realist quest, Nabokov blurs the historical time of The Gift. But if Gide's novel is openly ahistorical, Nabokov constructs a time puzzle for the reader. Gide freed his novel from "historical preoccupations" (JFM 17-18) and reached temporal ambiguity by "melting in one and the same intrigue" (JFM 23) events that marked fin-de-siecle and inter-war France. On one hand, the story of teenage counterfeiters harks to 1906, as pointed out in The Journal; the performance of Alfred Jarry's Ubu roi, discussed as recent, took place in 1896; the reading of Action francaise by the heroes was impossible before 1908. On the other hand, the heroes' projected review evokes the birth of dada after the war, while Marcel Duchamp's Joconda with a mustache, symbolic of the review's avant-gardism, dates from 1919. The reader of The Gift is similarly confused by temporal markers and must conduct a virtual archeological search in order to place the novel's historical time between 1926 and 1929. (22) But even this bracket is compromised by anachronisms. This ahistoricity is evident in Fedor's treatment of Germans as people of a totalitarian culture. Nabokov's letter of September 1937 repeats verbatim passages from The Gift, confirming that this ahistorical effect is intentional. In 1937, Nabokov still worked on The Gift and his impression of Nazism spilled into the novel's pages (Leving 123-24).
In view of Nabokov's historical imprecision, the conspicuous omission of an exact date in the beginning of The Gift signifies not the novel's truthfulness but the refusal to be a slave to extra-literary reality in its most distinct aspect--historical time. Like Zina, who is "unconcerned whether or not the author clung assiduously to historical truth" (G 205; D 230), the reader is invited to leave the peculiarly realist engagement with history. Reading the biography of Nikolai Chernyshevskii, Zina views its hero's real life "as something of a plagiarism," inferior to the book's artistic reality. Since the positivist belief in the linearity of historical time runs counter to the "the circular nature of everything in existence" (G 204; D 230), Gide's and Nabokov's rejection of historical rootedness in the realist novel is a refutation of the positivist concept of time as linear progression.
The Counterfeiters and The Gift have been called "anti-novels" thanks to their break with realist conventions. (23) The Counterfeiters presents apparent peculiarities of the genre, concealing under this gold coating different conceptions of narrative, composition, and relationship between art and life. Its title refers both to the counterfeiters in life, who insist on the validity of apparent reality, and the counterfeiters in art, who claim that art faithfully copies life. For Edouard, life is a cover for a reality that exists in another dimension; his ideal novel is a mystical undertaking and its realization is intuitive (FM 1097; 1185). This tension between apparent reality and a mystical dimension it conceals also runs through The Gift. Fedor's project is an intuitive "transfer" into this world of a novel existing in another dimension (G 138, 171, 194; D 156, 192, 218). Reality fakes this dimension, as in the inscription on a van in "blue letters, each of which (including a square dot) was shaded laterally with black paint: a dishonest attempt to climb into another dimension" (G 3; D 9). Fedor feels that daily life is "pocket money, farthings clinking in the dark," whose value is ephemeral (counterfeited) by contrast to the "real wealth, from which life should know how to get dividends" (G 164; D 183-184). Earthly existence is "a mere reflection of the material metamorphoses taking place within us" (G 342; D 384) and its manifestations, like fake coins, could be deceptive--something realists in literature were not ready to admit.
The Counterfeiters and The Gift take on the "rough-hewn materialism" (G 221; D 249) of those positivists, who deny mystical experience, all the while ignoring natural history. Fedor calls his biography of the 19th-century litterateur Nikolai Chernyshevskii "firing practice" (G 196; D 221), because by studying the career of the eminent positivist, he will reach the source of everything negative in present-day Russian literature (G 200; D 226). His target practice follows so closely the polemical devices of The Counterfeiters that the French novel appears to be an instruction manual and a subtext in Nabokov's aesthetic war.
The Counterfeiters's Vincent Molinier, an amateur of natural history whose accounts of marine fauna strike his listeners as literary material (FM 1049, 1053), mocks the Goncourt brothers' "stupidity and the dimness of their little minds," for they decried the paucity of imagination in nature during a visit to the Paris Zoo. Criticizing the positivist blindness of the apostles of Naturalism, Vincent condemns their aesthetics. He is convinced that "a novelist cannot, with impunity, take pride in being a psychologist, while turning away from the spectacle of nature and ignoring its laws" (FM 1051). Fedor also derives aesthetic pleasure from case studies in natural history (G 109, 115, 139; D 124, 131, 157) and castigates literary materialists "from Belinskii to Mikhailovskii," who reasoned about nature to substantiate their aesthetics but knew nothing of the flora and fauna of their country. To Fedor, their materialism seems abstract and their positivist aesthetics seem removed from positive knowledge (G 200; D 225-26). Chernyshevskii, for instance, used botanical examples to prove the superiority of life to art but could not distinguish between two kinds of trees and thought that Siberian and European flora were identical (G 243; D 273).
Speaking with the novelist Passavant, Vincent illustrates his point with the example of deep-sea fish. These fish were thought to be blind, since they lived in complete darkness, but turned out to possess eyes and emitt their own light. This story strikes Passavant's imagination, and he appropriates it as an aesthetic parable. But he is not alone in this appropriation. The Gift's narrator uses it to describe a Russian writer, Shirin, who is blind to the surrounding world, especially the world of nature, and emits no inner light. Like the Goncourts at the Paris Zoo, Shirin does not heed animals at the Berlin Zoo, all the while discoursing on "the intellectual's alienation from nature" (G 316; D 353)..Emphasizing the connection with Vincent's fish story, Nabokov puts on Shirin's nose "large spectacles behind which, as in two aquariums, swam two tiny, transparent eyes--which were completely impervious to visual impressions." Shirin possessed
A blissful incapacity for observation (and hence complete uninformedness about the surrounding world) [...] It happens, of course, that such a benighted person has some little lamp of his own glimmering inside him--not to speak of those known instances in which, through the caprice of resourceful nature that loves startling adjustments and substitutions, such an inner light is astonishingly bright. (G 315-316; D 353)
As it happens, the resourceful nature which gave the deep-sea fish its eyes and inner light refuses the same qualities not only to Shirin but also to Vincent, whose "positive culture" is his undoing (FM 1045). Vincent believes that humans merely imitate nature, especially as concerns Darwin's theory of natural selection, and that one must both learn from nature and imitate it in art (Brosman 48-59). Thus he unwittingly becomes a predator, first with Laura Douviers, whom he uses and abandons, then with Lilian Griffith, whom he kills after a lucrative relationship. Despite his belief in the survival of the fittest, Vincent is punished by insanity and spends the rest of his life in African exile. His positivist view of the relations between art and life contradicts that of his creator. The narrator of The Journal adheres to Oscar Wilde's formula that "nature mimics art: instead of limiting himself to nature's suggestions, the artist should present nature with those things it can or must soon imitate" (JFM 33). This statement explains Edouard's own conviction that a good natural historian does not necessarily make a good novelist (FM 1076). One must study nature but should not emulate it; like all apparent realities, nature deceives those who take it at face value.
Fedor subscribes to Edouard's view. Using the example of butterflies, he concludes that nature is full of ingenious deception which cannot be explained by mimicry to the end of natural selection--it is too unmotivated and refined for the crude perceptive abilities of animal predators, as if "invented by some waggish artist precisely for the intelligent eyes of man (a hypothesis that may lead far an evolutionist who observes apes feeding on butterflies)" (G 110, 330; D 126, 370). Despite vulgar interpretations of Darwin's theory, apes differ from humans in evolutionary terms because they cannot relate to nature aesthetically (Alexandrov 239-244). In its gratuitous imagination, nature approaches and imitates art. Privy to natural history, Fedor sees that "the most enchanting things in nature and art are based on deception" (G 364; D 408-09): art must learn from nature but should not slavishly imitate it. The claim of 19th-century realists and their modern off-springs that they faithfully copy reality is rooted in the ignorance of that very nature to which they appeal.
The Counterfeiters and The Gift found their harshest critics in the new generation of writers. The "Hamlets" of both literatures were irritated by the novelists' refusal to play along the post-war renewal of realist conventions. Although, besides Adamovich, no Paris School litterateur commented on The Gift in print, Khodasevich thought that "emigre Hamlets'" attacks on Nabokov after 1937 were motivated by the derisive treatment of their aesthetics in the novel ("Sovremennye zapiski, kn. 65"). The Counterfeiters attacked the newly fashionable notion of "sincerity" in art. Edouard finds the question of sincerity pointless when it comes to the replication of extraliterary reality because reality itself is deceptive (FM 987). Suggesting the hypocritical and delusional nature of the discourse of sincerity, Gide's young artists act out roles, hiding behind the mask of false appearances (FM 934-35). Nabokov goes even further, likening "sincerity" to a monetary transaction that evokes the notions of corruption and false currency. Fedor says in the imaginary review of his poetry, punning on the polysemy of the verb podkupat', which can mean both "to bribe"/"to pay off" and "to seduce":
V tselom riade podkupaiushchikh iskrennost'iu . . . net, vzdor, kogo podkupaesh'? kto etot prodazhnyi chitatel'? ne nado ego. (D 18) (24) In a whole set of poems, seducing by their sincerity ... no, that's nonsense, who is being paid off? Who is this corrupt reader? We do not need him.
Since a monetary transaction is a convention that Fedor considers as disguised deception, literary sincerity is also a convention whereby author and reader become seller and buyer, engaging in the "nasty imitation of good" and "growing intoxicated from the wine of honesty" (G 5; D 11-12).
Pursuing his own agenda, Nabokov links the Paris School of emigre letters to 19th-century positivism and to Chernyshevskii, who, like "emigre Hamlets," subordinated art to extra-artistic considerations. Chernyshevskii's sermon to writers--"Speak of life, and only of life" (G 237; D 266)--recalls Adamovich's demands that writers be "sincere" and "responsible," reject imagination, and treat the "most important" problems of life. In his review of Fedor's Chernyshevskii, Christopher Mortus--a thinly veiled parody of Adamovich--writes about 19th-century materialists that "in the general 'intonation' of their criticism there transpired a certain kind of truth" and "in some final and infallible sense their and our needs coincide" (G 304; D 340). Although the Paris School rejected positivism as part of pre-war culture, its affinities with Russian utilitarians made "new children of the century," by Mortus' admission, Chernyshevskii's grandchildren (G 304; D 340).
Reflecting on the post-war artistic situation in France, Gide introduced two motifs marking contemporary literary debates--the association of Bernard Profitendieu with Hamlet and the conflict of fathers and sons. As a bastard, Bernard likens himself to Hamlet (FM 977). Chapter Six, which narrates Bernard's adventures after he leaves home, has as its epigraph Hamlet's line: "We are all bastards; and that most venerable man which I did call my father, was I know not where when I was stamp'd" (FM 975). Gide endows Bernard with features evocative of prince Hamlet. Both men are students. Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of his mother's infidelity, while The Counterfeiters starts with Bernard's discovery of his mother's affair, accompanied by his remark, "It is time to believe that I hear steps in the corridor," which opens the novel, paraphrasing Bernardo's opening remark in "Hamlet"--"Who's there?" (25) But Bernard is an illegitimate son reared by his adoptive father, while Hamlet is a legitimate son whose stepfather plots his demise. Unlike Hamlet, Bernard rebels against parental authority. "Ignorance of one's father cures the fear of resembling him," says this "European Hamlet" upon leaving home (FM 933).
Fedor has much in common with Bernard. They are of the same age: Fedor is born in 1900 (G 12; D 19); Bernard passes his bac (26) (taken at 18-19) in the year of dada's Parisian debut in 1919. Bernard's last name means "he who wrestles with God"; Fedor's first name means "God given." Fedor may represent a more mature continuation of Gide's rebellious teenager. The story of the literary beginner, Bernard, who eventually makes peace with his stepfather, finds a sequel in the story of Fedor, who venerates his father. Bernard hesitates about his artistic future and does not know what to write-poetry or prose (FM 1088, 1096, 1150). Fedor is confident about his artistic calling and the gift of creativity.
Explaining Bernard's disappearance, his stepfather invents a dead uncle who asked Mr. Profitendieu to adopt Bernard (FM 947). This father-uncle opposition is developed by Bernard's friend Olivier, who leaves home to live with his uncle Edouard--his artistic mentor and lover. The father-uncle alternative in The Counterfeiters played into Nabokov's interest for Viktor Shklovskii's view of literary history as a knight's move (9-11) in which writers chose as a model an uncle over a father. Fedor describes Chernyshevskii's diary:
The drolly circumstantial style, the meticulously inserted adverbs, the passion for semicolons [...] the knight-moves of sense in the trivial commentary on his minutest actions [... ] the seriousness, the limpness, the honesty, the poverty--all this pleased Fedor so much, he was so amazed and tickled by the fact that an author with such a mental and verbal style was considered to have influenced the literary destiny of Russia. (G 194-95; D 219)
This description recalls the aesthetic ideal of the Paris School. The seriousness, limpness, honesty, and poverty of narrative, as well as self-absorbed "commentary on minutest actions," characterized the neo-Proustian novels about "emigre Hamlets" by Gaito Gazdanov and Iurii Fel'zen, whose style was marked by "passion for semicolons" (Adamovich, "'Sovremennye zapiski' kn. 50-ia").
Free from the shackles of "European Hamletism," Fedor nevertheless applies the formula "We are all bastards" to his own artistic career, once again using the metaphor of a knight's move, but this time with positive connotations: "Any genuinely new trend is a knight's move" (G 239, 268). Such free use of Formalist phraseology rests on a double standard, for Nabokov changes connotations to suit his purposes. The qualities denounced in "emigre Hamlets" reappear in a positive light in Fedor's aesthetics. The fact that The Gift draws on Oide's legacy is enough to indicate that Nabokov practices a knight's move, choosing as his model not a father but an uncle the French counterpart of a Bunin or a Zaitsev. Bashing his Parisian peers for essentially similar practices, he marks their way of artistic borrowing as inappropriate. Like Hamlet, Fedor is both a legitimate son who does not renounce his father and a bastard in his artistic praxis.
Gide's position vis-a-vis "new children of the century" differed from Nabokov's in that, before the publication of The Counterfeiters, many "European Hamlets" appealed to Gide's legacy to justify their opposition to literary fathers. Although The Counterfeiters drew on the "new malady" by describing the life of anxious young men, Arland denounced the novel as removed from life ("Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 25); Ramon Fernandez argued that it did not present the figure of life his peers longed for (103); Andre Malraux blamed Gide for deceiving young writers (44); and Jean Maxence wondered, "What would be the use of this corpse without his anxiety?" (50). Thus Andre Therive was only partially right, saying that Gide "consciously played an important spiritual role among young post-war writers; gave the tone to a literary trend and may have received his own tone from it" (42). (27) In his homage to the literature of evasion Gide slammed the door on the "new malady."
Nabokov could not miss Gide's popularity with the "new children." He purged Fedor's art from "their" Gide's homosexuality, Dostoevskophilia, and communist leaning. But banishing unacceptable features of "Gidisme," he used The Counterfeiters as a manual and subtext for this operation. Mortus opposed Fedor's art to another type of writing, which was "plainer, more serious, drier--at the expense of art, perhaps, but in compensation producing (in certain poems by Tsypovich and Boris Barski and in the prose of Koridonov) sounds of such sorrow, such music" (G 303; D 339). The names of Tsypovich and Boris Barski recall such Paris School poets as Otsup, Boris Zakovich, and Boris Poplavskii, while Koridonov evokes Gide's Corydon (1925), a philosophical apology of homosexuality which, alongside The Counterfeiters, convinced many literati that it was "a matter of good taste to practice corydonisme or to pretend that one practiced it" (Billy, L'epoque contemporaine 287). Besides Adamovich, a homosexual promoter of Gide in emigre circles, another Paris School poet, baron Anatolii Shteiger, Adamovich's friend and disciple, was a Gide aficionado whose homosexual escapades were widely advertised in emigre Paris (Ianovskii 252-53). (28) But the best known "Gidean" among emigre Parisians was the prose writer Vladimir Varshavskii, the author of an article on "Gide and the emigre young man" and a rumored homosexual (Adamovich, "Pis'ma Vasiliiu Ianovskomu" 126). His "plain, serious, and dry" prose exemplified the Paris School ideal in art and could serve as the butt of Nabokov's mockery, especially since Varshavskii attacked Nabokov in Numbers from the standpoint of "sincere" art.
Homosexuality and suicide are two leitmotifs in the literary life of Gide's teenage heroes. Describing a radical artistic movement in their midst, Gide drew on the dadaist-surrealist suicidal myth, the "new children's" answer to young Werther. The post-war French avant-garde viewed physical self-effacement as a means of social and metaphysical transcendence and an artistic statement containing the ultimate proof of sincerity. There existed a model deathstyle: one had to die with company, blurring the lines between suicide and accident (Livak, "Boris Poplavskii's Art of Life and Death" 131-33). Gide unwittingly contributed to the formation of this deathstyle through the concept of a "gratuitous act," elaborated by Lafcadio, the protagonist of Les Caves du Vatican (1916). According to Jean Cocteau, the avant-garde artist and suicide Arthur Cravan had served as Lafcadio's prototype (Conover 252). Another famous suicide, Jacques Vache, had paid tribute to Lafcadio for his proto-dadaist spirit (Crastre 6-7). Debunking Gide's oeuvre, Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault made an exception for Les Caves du Vatican (Soupault 88). The requirement of gratuity served as an alibi: it protected from the charge of aesthetic ambition. Disgusted by bourgeois art, Gide's teenagers see writing as an obstacle to living; in this conflict, life becomes a way of artistic expression (FM 1150, 1198, 1229). Speaking with Olivier, who edits the review Avant-Garde, Bernard cites Rimbaud's self-effacement as his artistic model and muses about suicide as the act by which he can fully express himself (FM 1150-51). Pupils of the Azais pension take as their motto, "Strong man does not value life" (FM 1238)--a recipe for "gratuitous" and "spontaneous" self-destruction.
Homosexuality and suicide are inseparable in Gide's novel. Olivier tries to kill himself after making love to his uncle Edouard, because, as Bernard tells him, one can commit suicide "out of enthusiasm" (FM 1151). The suicide of Boris de La Perouse is also laden with homoeroticism. Boris comes to the Azais pension after undergoing a psychoanalytical treatment for masturbation. Longing for acceptance into a group of boys whose affection he craves, he falls prey to their deadly game. Unlike Boris, the "strong men" of the Azais pension do not live up to their motto. Gide's condemnation of the suicidal myth is clear from the fact that the wrong people try to kill themselves--not the preachers of suicide but the gullible victims of spiritual counterfeiters. Incidentally, the "strong men" distribute false coins under the supervision of avant-garde artists.
One aspect of The Counterfeiters's suicidal theme may have brought it closer to Nabokov's agenda. Boris is considered Russian by his French grandfather: he was born in Warsaw when it was part of the Russian empire and even wears a "Russian shirt" in the picture kept by the old La Perouse (FM 1028). In addition, speculating about "enthusiastic" suicide, Bernard cites Dmitrii Karamazov as the source of his theory (FM 1151, 1180). Nabokov was critically disposed to Dostoevskii--the butt of many jokes in his novel Despair (1932) and Fedor's underdog (G 341; D 382), whose association with Olivier's homoerotic suicidal attempt was opportune for Nabokov's exorcism of "another Gide." The Gift's version of a modern suicide, the story of Iasha Chernyshevskii, stigmatizes the aesthetic cult of homosexuality, Symbolist and Decadent artistic praxis, French and Soviet avant-garde, the Paris School of emigre letters, the myth of the Russian writer as a prophet-martyr, and any affirmation of life's primacy over art. In Fedor's target practice, suicide is a unifying trait that brings diverse cultural phenomena to a common denominator. Nabokov described this practice in a letter: "I was guided not by an urge to laugh at this or that person [...] but solely by a desire to show a certain order of literary ideas, typical at a given time--which is what the whole novel is about (its main heroine is literature)" (Boyd 480).
Anne Nesbet has argued that Iasha's story echoed a 1928 suicide case in Berlin (827-35). But it seems that more important for Nabokov's "target practice" was the fate of the Paris School poet Boris Poplavskii, who amalgamated many traits unacceptable to Nabokov, dying in 1935 in an apparent group suicide. Besides a link to the dadaist-surrealist suicidal myth, this case presented a homoerotic enigma about Poplavskii's relations with his fellow victim Sergei Iarko. It could also appeal to Nabokov because its fusion of homosexuality and artistically fashioned death harked back to Russian Symbolists and Decadents, in whose milieu homosexuality was a fad encouraged by the practice of "life-creation"--aesthetically organized behavior evocative of dadaist-surrealist practices. A self-proclaimed heir to Symbolism, Poplavskii was a former bolchevisant and avant-gardist who fashioned himself as a prophet-martyr and promoted Adamovich's aesthetic theories in Numbers. (29)
Iasha's story is a condemnation of the theory of the "new malady." Fedor is nauseated by "the latest drivel, vulgar and humorless drivel, about the 'symptoms of the age.'" Echoing Edouard, he discards these theories as false rhetoric that produces victims like Iasha, in whose story "any 'serious' novelist in horn-rimmed glasses--the family doctor of Europe and the seismographer of its social tremors--would no doubt have found [...] something highly characteristic of the 'frame of mind of young people in the post-war years'" (G 40-41; D 48). But Fedor's ruthless treatment of the "new malady" is tainted by a double standard, because Gide must be included among the exploiters of Europe's doubtful malady. Edouard is so anguished by Olivier's suicide attempt and Boris' death that he refuses to consider them as literary material (FM 1246). Yet both stories are part of The Counterfeiters, which contains many other elements of the fashionable literature of evasion. Nabokov repeated Gide's move: Fedor refuses to use Iasha's story as literary material (G 41, 49), but it is fully narrated in The Gift.
Fedor's father, a very good shot, trained the thought and the hand of his son. "I even conceded," says Fedor, "that one could take a certain delight in the accuracy of a shot," a delight "better represented in special branches of sport" and which "in no way compensated for that touch of dismal idiocy inherent in any war" (G 127; D 145). Viewing art as akin to sport (chess) and using shooting metaphors to describe his own poetry, where "words go wide of the mark, or else slay both the pard and the hart with the exploding bullet of an 'accurate' epithet" (G 18; D 25), Fedor turns Iasha's story into a firing range for settling aesthetic scores. Shooting belongs in sport and in art but not in man-slaughtering enterprises, where it is part of extra-artistic reality and kills literally, not metaphorically. The aesthetic treatment of suicide is foreign to Fedor because suicide is alien to art proper.
By contrast to fashionable interpretations of suicide, Fedor presents Iasha's story as very simple and sad (G 41; D 48). Iasha is caught in the intellectual counterfeit of his time and his entire drama sounds "in the context of the epoch [...] like an unbearably typical, and therefore false, note" (G 44; D 53). The emigre reader could see in this detail a reference to Poplavskii, who coined the expression the "Paris note." Iasha's artistic persona is informed by Nabokov's view of the Paris School poetry. His "anxiety" over Spengler calls up the post-war inquietude; his indebtedness to Alexander Blok echoes Poplavskii's return to Blok after 1927; Iasha's inability to see the poetic triteness of the word "rose," to follow Russian stress rules, to count the number of syllables in the word "October," and to avoid such cliches as sailors, gin and jazz merely reiterates Nabokov's review of Poplavskii's book of poetry, Flags (1931). Compare Nabokov's and Fedor's respective opinions.
Fedor: "Epitety, u nego zhivshie v gortani [...] upotrebliaemye molodymi poetami ego pokoleniia, obmanutymi tern, chto arkhaizm, prozaizm, iii prosto obednevshie nekogda slova vrode 'roza', sovershiv polnyi krug zhizni, poluchali teper' v stikhakh kak by neozhidannuiu svezhest'." (D 46) "Those epithets inhabiting his larynx [...] Young poets of his generation used them, fooled by the fact that an archaism, a prosaism, or simply a long impoverished word like 'rose,' having completed a full life cycle, now seemed to acquire unexpected freshness in poetry." Nabokov: "Poplavskii ne izbezhal povetriia modnykh obrazov: morekhodstva i roz u nego khot' otbavliai. Liubopytnaia veshch': posle neskol'kikh let, v techenie koikh poety ostavili rozu v pokoe, schitaia, chto upominanie o nei stalo banal' shchinoi i priznakom durnogo vkusa, iavilis' molodye poety i rassudili tak: 'E, da ona sovsem noven'kaia, otdokhnula, poshlost' vyvetrilas', teper' roza v stikhakh zvuchit dazhe izyskanno'." (168) "Poplavskii has not been spared by the epidemic of fashionable images: he has more than his share of navigation and roses. A curious thing: after some years, during which poets left the rose alone, considering its evocation banal and in bad taste, young poets have appeared and reasoned as follows: 'Hey, it is brand new and rested, its banality has disappeared, now the rose sounds even exquisite in poetry'." Fedor: "I vse eto bylo vyrazheno bledno, koe-kak, so mnozhestvom nepravil'nostei v udareniiakh [...] 'oktiabr' zanimal tri mesta v stikhotvomoi stroke, zaplativ lish' za dva." (D 47) "All of this was expressed insipidly, just anyhow, with a multitude of incorrect stresses [...] 'October' occupied three spaces in a line, having paid only for two." Nabokov: "Udareniia popadaiutsia nevynosimye [...] Neriashlivost' slukha, kotoraia, udvaivaia poslednii slog v slove, okanchivaiushchiisia na dve soglasnykh, zanimaet pod nego dva mesta v stikhe: 'oktiaber'." (168) "One finds intolerable stresses [... His] slovenly ear doubles the last syllable in a word that ends with two consonants [oktiabr'], allotting it two spaces in a verse: 'October' [oktiaber]."
By drawing attention to "roses," Nabokov, in both cases, shoots through his primary target in order to hit another one--Georgii Ivanov, the author of the collection Roses (1931) and of a mean-spirited article in Numbers that attacked Nabokov from the standpoint of the Paris School aesthetics. Characteristically, Nabokov removed "roses" and "October" from The Gift's English translation (G 39), since only emigres could recognize their referents.
Iasha's "adventurous sailors" (G 39; D 47) evoke not only a poetic cliche of the time and Poplavskii's dress mannerisms (he wore a sailor's shin), but homosexuality, familiar to Nabokov's contemporaries through Jean Cocteau's numerous homoerotic drawings of sailors. At the same time, Iasha's homosexuality harks to the sensibility of Chernyshevskii and the "men of the sixties," filtered through the aesthetics of Russian Symbolists and Decadents (Skonechnaia 40-49). The poet's homoerotic passion is "akin to that of many a Russian youth in the middle of the last century, trembling with happiness, when, raising his silky eyelashes, his pale-browed teacher, a future leader, a future martyr, would turn to him" (G 43; D 51).
Fedor emphasized the literary and aestheticized nature of Iasha's death. Iasha and his friends, Rudolf and Olia, form "a banal triangle of tragedy" with a "suspiciously neat structure, to say nothing of the fashionable counterpoint of its development" (G 42; D 51). Rudolf is in love with Olia; Iasha experiences a homosexual attraction to Rudolf, which Fedor condemns as an "incorrigible deviation" that makes "Rudolf's squeamishness understandable"; whereas Olia plays the role of femme fatale, arousing in Fedor "all the proper literary associations" (G 42-43; D 50-51). Incidentally, Fedor thinks that all three act like traditional dramatis personae in classical French theater (G 44; D 52) and, one should add, modern French theater, considering that they try to resolve the problem by a group suicide so fashionable in the French avant-garde.
Iasha's death illustrates the falsity of the rhetoric that pushes him to suicide. Like Boris, Iasha is encouraged by friends to pull the trigger. Boris and his pals draw lots to determine who fires first, but the lots are prearranged. Iasha is also doomed by taking the enterprise seriously. He wants to go first, refusing to draw lots, but "the stroke of drawn lots [...] in its coarse blindness, would probably have fallen on him anyway" (G 47; D 56). After Iasha's death, Rudolf follows the example of Gide's calculating teenagers, hiding the gun as incriminating evidence. Similarities between Boris and Iasha extend beyond the circumstances of their demise. Iasha is five years younger than Fedor (G 34; D 41); the same age difference exists between Bernard and Boris. But if Bernard still toys with the aesthetic value of suicide, Fedor, as in other respects, has covered the distance separating Bernard from Edouard. His vantage point on Iasha's story coincides with Edouard's view of Boris' tragedy. Like Edouard, Fedor denies suicide's aesthetic function and frequents the family of the deceased. Iasha's father furnishes material for Fedor's imaginary monologues, while Boris' grandfather stimulates Edouard's imagination.
Among other things, Iasha is a victim of the Russian tradition of literary martyrs, who, "if they did not meet with some kind of more or less heroic death--having nothing to do with Russian letters [...]--subsequently abandoned literature altogether" (G 38; D 46). One of Iasha's models is the pet martyr of the intelligentsia Nikolai Chernyshevskii, about whom Iasha's father says: "There are, after all, cases where the fascinating beauty of good man's dedicated life fully redeems the falsity of his literary views" (G 40; D 48). For Fedor, this opinion smacks of philistinism. His version of Iasha's story shows that artistic incompetence cannot be remedied by tragic life. Fedor undermines the myth of the writer-martyr by projecting it upon Soviet literature. Alluding to Roman Jakobson's apology of Maiakovskii, who "walked the Russian poetic Golgotha" and died with a "thorny wreath of revolution on his head" (15, 20, 32), Fedor writes about Chernyshevskii: "His biographers mark his thorny path with evangelical signposts (it is well known that the more leftist the Russian commentator the greater is his weakness for expressions like 'the Golgotha of the revolution')" (G 215; D 242).
Iasha falls prey to false aesthetics, counterfeited by Chernyshevskii and his heirs. Chernyshevskii toyed with the idea of suicide but was too pragmatic to realize it (G 235; D 263), while Maiakovskii's martyrdom was compromised by collaboration with the Soviet regime. Fedor links the Paris School aesthetics to Chernyshevskii, to Soviet writers, and to their emigre apologists. As Chernyshevskii's self-proclaimed grandson, Mortus contrasts Koncheev, Fedor's favorite emigre poet, to Soviet writers whose art approaches Mortus' aspirations. Koncheev's "little pieces about dreamy visions are incapable of seducing anyone," writes Mortus; "it is with a kind of joyous relief that one passes from them to any kind of 'human document,' to what one can read 'between the words' in certain Soviet writers (granted even without talent), to an artless and sorrowful confession" (G 168; D 189). These words reveal that Mortus regards artistic talent, that very girl of creativity which Fedor values above all, as secondary to extra-artistic concerns. Like the 19th-century positivists and their Soviet heirs, the Paris School aesthetics lie outside art, as Fedor sees it.
Iasha's death functions as a force field amalgamating diverse cultural phenomena that bring about the death of a young Russian poet. Using Gide's novel, as the model, subtext, and butt of aesthetic exorcism, Nabokov marks for Fedor's target practice the cultural mythology of the post-war literary generation, artistic utilitarianism, the myth of the Russian writer, the aesthetic cult of homosexuality, the Paris School of emigre poetry, Russian and French avant-gardes, and Soviet literature. These targets are united by the common claim to life's pre-eminence over art which destroys Iasha and is as pernicious to the future of Russian letters. Composing The Gift with Gide's unacknowledged help, Nabokov furnishes Fedor with an artistic and existential safe-conduct. Unlike Iasha's art and life, Fedor's art will endure and transport the memory of his life back to Russia (G 350; D 394). This safe-conduct will also guarantee the future of Russian literature, which Nabokov views as threatened on all sides of its political and aesthetic divide.
Translations from French and Russian are my own unless otherwise specified. Page references are given as follows: "G" for The Gift, "D" for Dar, "FM" for Les Faux-Monnayeurs, and "JFM" for Journal des Faux-Monnayeurs.
(1) The Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Yale University), Nina Berberova Papers, Series VIII: Vladislav Khodasevich Papers, Box 15, Folder 409 "Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich/1934-1939, n.d."
(2) On the concept of "literature as a safe-conduct," see Segal 151-244.
(3) Nabokov's technique of dissimulating his indebtedness to Gide is beyond the scope of this article. The Gift implicitly proposes Proustian narrative as its model, while following Gide's compositional devices as a way out of Proustian circularity. See Livak, "Vladimir Nabokov's Apprenticeship in Andre Gide's Science of Illumination."
(4) See Arland, "Temoignage" 117-21; Daniel-Rops, "Enquete sur l'inquietude contemporaine" 1073 and "Un bilan de dix ans" 178.
(5) See Breton 16-19, 43; Cremieux, "L'Annee litteraire 1924" 1; Duhamel 128; Raimond 128-35; Thibaudet, Le Liseur de romans 37, 48.
(6) See Adamovich, "O frantsuzskoi 'inquietude'" 2 and "Pis'ma o Lermontove" 2; Gorodetskaia 5; "Iskusstvo i politika" 3; Leis 5-6.
(7) See Adamovich, "Puteshestvie vglub' nochi" 3; "Na raznye temy" 3; "Zhizn' i 'zhizn'" 2; "'Smert' v razsrochku'" 3; Fedotov 34-35, 41; Golenishchev-Kutuzov 3-4; Mandel'shtam, "Evoliutsiia Selina" 9; Terapiano 210-12; Varshavskii 216-22; Veidle, "Odinochestvo khudozhnika" 57, 62.
(8) See Adamovich, "Zhizn' i 'zhizn'" 2 and "Nachalo" 504; Fel'zen 285; Ianovskii 247, 277; Mandel'shtam, "Smert' v kredit" 5.
(9) See Aldanov, 437; Bitsilli, "Zhizn' i literatura" 277 and "Venok na grob romana" 166; Mandel'shtam, "Poteriannoe bezrazlichie" 4; Mochul'skii 76; Veidle, "Kriticheskie zametki" 3 and "Odinochestvo khudozhnika" 55.
(10) See Decaudin 98; Jaloux, "Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 12-13; Leonard 123; Raimond 243.
(11) "Nous devons nous revoir demain soir ... Je suis bien curieux de connaitre Caloub" (FM 1248).
(12) See G 4, 9, 94, 327, 349, 364; D 10, 15, 108, 367, 392, 409.
(13) "Good-by, my book! Like mortal eyes, imagined ones must close some day. Onegin from his knees will rise--but his creator strolls away. And yet the ear cannot right now part with the music and allow the tale to fade; the chords of fate itself continue to vibrate; and no obstruction for the sage exists where I have put The End: the shadows of my world extend beyond the skyline of the page, blue as tomorrow's morning haze--nor does this terminate the phrase" (G 366; D 411). The view that Nabokov's novel does not incorporate Fedor's future novel is not shared universally. For a review of this critical debate and an attempt to prove the impossibility of such incorporation, see Livak, "Vladimir Nabokov's Apprenticeship in Andre Gide's Science of Illuminations"
(14) See Arland, "Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 25; Buenzod 13; Charpentier 22; Cremieux, "Andre Gide et l'art du roman" 134; Du Bos 49; Jaloux, "Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 9; Massis 740; Therive 43; Thibaudet, "Roman pur et pure critique" 55-56, 58.
(15) See Billy, "Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 24; Du Bos 50; Honnert 74-75; Martineau 31; Marin 124; Massis 743; Therive 44; Thibaudet, "Roman pur et pure critique" 58.
(16) See his letter to Vadim Rudnev (February 11, 1935): "I have been working on the novel 'about Chernyshevskii' for two years now, but it is quite unprepared for print, not to mention the fact that the circle of readers who will find it accessible will be, in all probability, extremely limited" (Alloi 278). Cf. Gide: "Ce cahier ou j'ecris l'histoire meme du livre, je le vois verse tout entier dans le livre, en formant l'interet principal, pour la majeur irritation du lecteur" (JFM 52).
(17) See Adamovich, "'Sovremennye zapiski', kniga 64" 3, "'Sovremennye zapiski', kniga 65" 3, and "' Sovremennye zapiski', kniga 67" 3; Khodasevich, "' Sovremennye zapiski', kniga 64" 9, "'Sovremennye zapiski', kniga 66" 9, and "Knigi i liudi" 9.
(18) Cf. Edmond Jaloux about The Counterfeiters: "Andre Gide n'a echoue que dans la mesure ou il n'a pu se maintenir a un point ou d'autres n'ont jamais pense s'elever et que la plupart ne concoivent meme pas" ("Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 10).
(19) See Cremieux, "Andre Gide et l'art du roman" 126; Martineau 31.
(20) See Charpentier 22; Du Bos 49; Jaloux, "Andre Gide et le probleme du roman" 163.
(21) "Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 25. See also Jaloux, "Andre Gide et le probleme du roman" 158.
(22) See Dolinin, "'Dvoinoe vremia' u Nabokova" 283-322; Peterson 36-40.
(23) Dolinin, "The Gift" 140; Rieder 97; Goux 91-108.
(24) The aspect of monetary transaction was lost in Nabokov's own translation: "In a whole set of poems, disarming by their sincerity ... no, that's nonsense--Why must one 'disarm' the reader? Is he dangerous?" (G 11).
(25) For a detailed treatment of the links between Bernard and Hamlet, see Steel 485-86.
(26) The final high school examination in France.
(27) Cf. also Jaloux's comment on the novel's overpopulation with anxious young men ("Les Faux-Monnayeurs" 11).
(28) Dolinin (Nabokov, Sobranie sochinenii 758) was the first to suggest that "Boris Barskii" was a contamination of baron Shteiger and Boris Poplavskii but the critic missed the link to Gidean corydonisme which allowed the assimilation of both poets in one persona.
(29) For a detailed treatment of Poplavskii's death, see Livak, "Boris Poplavskii's Art of Life and Death." On the association of homosexuality with Symbolist aesthetics, see Brodsky 95-115; Skonechnaia 33-52.
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|Publication:||Studies in the Novel|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2002|
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