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Stalking Nabokov Hardcover – November 8, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0231158565 ISBN-10: 0231158564 Edition: F First Edition, 1st Printing

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; F First Edition, 1st Printing edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231158564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231158565
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A readable collection on one of the 20th century's greatest writers, this will be enjoyed by Nabokov fans and students of 20th century literature.

(Library Journal)

Boyd's graceful style and passionate advocacy achieves the goal of the best literary criticism: it compels us to pick up Nabokov and read, or read again, the work of a master.

(Publishers Weekly)

In Stalking Nabokov Boyd attempts something fairly ambitious: he takes the titanic Nabokov and seeks to revise him upwards. As Boyd sees it, he is not only the greatest novelist of the century; he is also a considerable poet, an important scientist, a controversially original translator, a fearless and liberating critic, a learned psychologist.... Véra [Nabokov] soon came to value him and to trust him; and we should follow her lead.... Professor Boyd, as the author of books on evolution and cognition, is well equipped to give us a real sense of Nabokov's scientific weight.... The long and fervent essay in Stalking Nabokov [on the poem] "Pale Fire," compel us to reexamine the poem as an autonomous whole. And the exercise is epiphanic. "Pale Fire" glows with fresh pathos and vibrancy--and so does Pale Fire. For the first time we see the poem in all its innocence, and register the vandalism of Kinbote's desperate travesty. // So at last the true dimensions of Pale Fire are more clearly revealed to us.... On the timbre of Nabokov's artistic spirit Boyd is fundamentally right-headed.

(Martin Amis Times Literary Supplement)

Advances a consistent and intriguing reading of [Nabokov's] work.... a powerful corrective to a prevailing view of Nabokov.

(Larry Hardesty Boston Globe)

Essential for everyone interested in the Russian master.


Boyd's deft analysis of the novels is superb.... genuinely exhilarating.... Brian Boyd is not only Nabokov's biographer but also his pre-eminent critic. This is a valuable and delightful collection of essays on one of the twentieth century's most significant novelists.

(Paul Morgan Australian Book Review)

There is plenty of sensible and revealing stuff here.

(New Yorker)

Absolutely fascinating.... Uniquely compelling.... This is Boyd at his best.

(Eric Naiman San Francisco Chronicle)

There is much here that will inform, enliven, and enlighten the work of one of the greatest novelists of his century.

(New York Times Book Review)

Required reading for serious students of Nabokov.

(Choice 1900-01-00)

Boyd is always a pleasure to read...and this collection does not disappoint.

(Stephen H. Blackwell Slavic Review 1900-01-00)

Ambitious.... Fervent.... Epiphanic.

(Martin Amis Times Literary Supplement)

Substantial.... Impressive.... Enlightening.... Best of all, his enthusiasm for Nabokov's verbal pyrotechnics, for his comically deluded heroes pursuing elusive objects of desire, for the ability to depict life itself, joyously 'swarming with inexhaustible diversity and delight,' sends you back to read the books... of one of literature's great masters.

(David Eggleton The Listener)

Boyd's sophisticated use of texts and contexts, close readings informed by archival materials and decades of experience, and wonderful writing style mean that all Nabokov scholars and fans will enjoy.

(Jason Merrill The Russian Review 1900-01-00)

Boyd is, without a doubt, an incredibly exacting and rigorous scholar -- his tireless research and collection of a vast array of materials is something which coming generations of academics will continue to be grateful for.

(U.H. Dematagoda Slavonic and East European Review 1900-01-00)


This book is a real treasure. It represents a considerable range of work by the author of one of the great biographies of the late twentieth century, who is also a lucid and consistently engaged and engaging critic. A remarkable read—all readers and scholars of Vladimir Nabokov will need this book.

(Michael Wood, Princeton University)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on April 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brian Boyd is a Kiwi and the number one authority on Nabokov. How unlikely. He is now working on a Karl Popper bio. Can't wait for that (not kidding, though I am a little incredulous; it is such a contrast --- apart from some biographic similarities like the escape from tyranny).

This book collects essays on Nab, mostly written after Boyd's outstanding two volume Nabokov biography had been published.
It is a delight and a must to the unreformed fan. No writer has given me, personally, more pleasure than Nabokov, over the years, and Boyd is a great stalker.
This book is a bit of a market skimming exercise, obviously, repackaging previously published material. The essays are speeches from various occasions, or contributions to discussions with other Nabophiles, and similar stuff. We learn a lot about Boyd's interaction with Vera and with Nab's son. He never met the man himself, due to Nab's untimely death.

On the other hand, I cannot honestly recommend it to a non-fan. It is just too specialized. If you are not a fan, don't start trying to become one here.

A particularly rocky subject about Nab is the lamentable probability that he was a creationist when he dealt with his scientific world. His zoological work as a lepidopterist was very technical and fact- focused, but he did not abstain from one or the other thought. A few times he made distinctly anti-Darwinian statements, generally about mimicry.
His attitude was based on some kind of metaphysical heresy about the beyond. In fact, he seems to have believed in ghosts, or say, better, the possibility of communication between our world and another. He didn't go as far as Alfred R. Wallace, who participated in spiritualist sessions during his last years. Nabokov kept it well hidden in his books.
Boyd himself disagrees with Nab's metaphysics, but sees no reason to reduce his admiration for the fiction writer. Neither do I.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By las cosas on May 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Brian Boyd is the author of several works of criticism, but it is his two volume biography of Vladimir Nabokov for which he is best known. The current book is a set of essays written about Nabokov after the publication of the biographies. The majority of these essays were first presented at conferences. There is a short introduction to each essay providing the background of the piece, and the essays are divided into nine subject matter sections such as metaphysics and butterflies. Tellingly, the book is dedicated "to my friends in the Nabokov world." For better or worse (and I veered between the two), this is definitely a book for those for which no Nabokov factoid or theory is without interest.

The best essays are those in which Boyd shares with his audience insights gained from decades of thinking about various aspects of Nabokov's work and life. Examples include the essays in the first section, on Nabokov's life and the difficult of obtaining Vera's consent to read certain papers, and surprisingly, the section on Nabokov's butterflies.

Explaining how he obtained permission from Vera to write the biography, he also chronicles penniless years spent searching for material in libraries and archives spread over continents. In one case he purchased a monthly bus pass and each evening when the library closed he would travel all night on long distance buses arriving back in time for the library to open.

He includes several essays that served as introductions to individual Nabokov novels, and these provide helpful and well reasoned analysis of the various works. Particularly interesting was his volte face on the publication of the Original of Laura.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Panayoti Kelaidis on July 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was distressed when I read through the other reviews of this wonderful book: I wonder if they even read it?

Boyd's essays are gathered from various sources, each with a distinct theme based on the lecture he was delivering or the focus he treats: they are the gentlest form of stalking imaginable--no Kinbote falling off the eaves here...

Brian is and shall likely remain the definitive scholar on Vladimir's life and work. Anything he produces resonates with his close relationship with the Nabokov clan, and intimate knowledge of Vladimir's oevre: had Boswell left a festschift of his thought about Samuel Johnson, it would rank right up there with his Life, and I have no doubt this volume will endure similarly.

It stands proudly along with a hundred or more other volumes I have written by Vladimir, and a growing body of monographs, peripheral studies, "and much, much more!"
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By Nuri K on October 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a devoted fan of Nabokov's later work, written in English. Having read Boyd's 'Nabokov: American Years', part criticism part biography, and overall an amazing study, I could barely wait for this book's release.Diligent research on Nabokov's work & criticism, conducted over dozens of years by Boyd, is revealed in a collection of essays quite varied in the disciplines & approaches employed (science-Lolita parallels, translating/editing Nabokov, Nabokov Scholarship, to name a few). That being said, since the selection covers all of Nabokov's work, his life, at times his literary criticism, and other subjects, sometimes one longs for the more focused, specialized approach of 'American Years', then again, since each essay stands on its own, Boyd's eclecticism doesn't get bothering.

None of the essays included, so far as I can tell, have been previously published in book-form, so if you're already a Boyd devotee, have no qualms buying this book.
If you're new to Boyd and looking for a point of entry, I'd suggest beginning with Boyd's 'American Years' and following up with this.
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More About the Author

Brian Boyd, University Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, has published on American, Brazilian, English, Greek, Irish, New Zealand and Russian literature, from Homer to the present and from child to adult, and on biography, comics, drama, essays, fiction, film, literary theory, poetry, science, and translation. His writing has appeared in seventeen languages and has won awards in four continents.

He has worked especially on Vladimir Nabokov, as annotator (see AdaOnline,, archivist, bibliographer, biographer, consultant, critic, donor, editor, expert witness, historian, lecturer, lepidopterist, museum advisor, negotiator, reviewer, supervisor, teacher, translator.

He also works on literature and evolution, including his recent Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare's Sonnets (Harvard University Press, 2012).

His other Shakespeare work includes Words That Count (University of Delaware Press, 2004).

He is currently researching and writing Karl Popper: A Life.

For key publications, see

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