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Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics 0th Edition

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300108866
ISBN-10: 0300108869
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the first chapter of this learned meditation on one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Khruscheva fictionalizes a conversation with Nabokov, stringing together quotes from his oeuvre. "Hypothetical and literary concepts have a far greater hold on Russia's people than practical ones," says Kruscheva, but the same suspension of disbelief might be too much to ask of American readers. Later, the author tries to conjure Nabokov again "to see whether I had got him right." The result-one intelligent reader's semi-indulgent attempt to communicate the intentions, origins, and inspirations of a favorite author-is more about Khruscheva than Nabokov. Luckily, Khruscheva-a scholar of international affairs, a reader of Russian literature, a Russian émigré and the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushschev-is a remarkable one with a unique perspective on Russia's "impracticality and nonmaterialism" that resonates in its languages and literature. Nabokov, who wrote in both English and Russian, belongs in these Russian traditions, which Khruscheva considers "an example" to other literatures' "spiritual leadership. Spirit, soul is our greatest national achievement as well as our great national handicap." At times a sentimental book, this take on Nabokov's oeuvre gathers its themes-Nabokov, language, Russia-together in a loose weave at turns shapeless and captivating.
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“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
(Michael Wood)

"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

(Ian Buruma)

“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
(Jack F. Matlock, Jr.)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300108869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300108866
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Aelita on January 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An excellent book, and just in time when the Putin question is big in the news. It interconnects literature and politics, providing compelling reasons at to why Russia is so brilliant at art, but is its own worst enemy when it comes to democracy. This fascinating book addresses a problem of Russia's "lopsided" development, i.e. why Russia is a problem for Russians in a way that America isn't for Americans. Russia's problem is that "hypothetical and literary projects have a far greater hold on Russian people than practical ones." The idealistic and unrealistic character of Russian thinking makes Russians incapable of pursuing realistic goals. The American Utopia is realistic, in Russia it is dream-like. Russians have an ingrained sense of the country's uniqueness and special messianic status. First, it was the holy Russian soul, then Russia as the Third Rome, then Russian imperialism, then communism which united the imperial and spiritual missions. Now Putin tells Russians that natural resources offer them the key to regaining their former might. In Russian culture, communal values and a `great state' agenda take priority over individual and practical principles. As Dostoievsky put it : "We may be backward, but we have souls."
Nina Khrushcheva convincingly argues that Nabokov is a better guide to the future than Dostoyevsky, because his characters `take responsibility for their lives.' In America, Nabokov taught Khrushcheva how to be a single `I' rather than a member of the many `we' in that "vast undifferentiated traditional Russian collective of the peasant commune, the proletarian mass, the Soviet people, the post-communist Rossiyane."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on March 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am so grateful to Nikita's great-granddaughter Nina for providing me with an excuse to talk about my favorite writer. Of course I had read everything available from Nabokov's Russian period in German or English translations, and from the American period more than once in the original. He was one of the greatest prose writers (let us ignore his poetry and his stage writing) of the 20th century, and he was the only writer that I know who achieved the top plateau in two languages. (The only comparison that occurs to me, J. Conrad, was a transcultural writer, but did he do anything substantial in Polish before he became an English writer? And as an English writer he never quite lost the touch of looking like a translation.)
VN was poetic, funny, provocative, playful, political, a-political, esoteric, scientific, opinionated, vain, in summary great. He is the only writer who motivated me to make a pilgrimage: I travelled to St.Petersburg mainly in order to visit the Nabokov Museum there, in the appartment where he had grown up during pre-revolution times.
Nina feels close to him: though she was a voluntary expatriate compared to his double-refugeedom (first from the Bolshies, then from the Nazis), both had made this transition from Russian ruling class to American middle class.
She sees more in him than an outstanding Russian exile author with a second language. He is a role model for a modernised Russia. And this is where I want to step out quietly, I can't comment on that subject, but I find her observations fascinating.
And I keep learning Russian on my bucket list.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By IYM on December 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book constitutes a new genre--part literary criticism (of Nabokov's novels), part political science (about Russia and the West), and part magical realism (about the author's own imagined relationship with Nabokov). All written in a voice that slips in and out of Nabokov's own. The book may have rivals as scholarly criticism of Nabokov's novels, but it certainly have none as a commentary on Nabokov's hinterland and sensibilities. Relating Nabokov's fictional world to the contemporary Russian politics and society is a fresh and original look at Russia that the reader needs.
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