- Series: Harvest Book
- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; First edition (December 16, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156027755
- ISBN-13: 978-0156027755
- Package Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 49 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Lectures on Literature First Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a service we offer sellers that lets them store their products in Amazon's fulfillment centers, and we directly pack, ship, and provide customer service for these products. Something we hope you'll especially enjoy: FBA items qualify for FREE Shipping and Amazon Prime.
If you're a seller, Fulfillment by Amazon can help you increase your sales. We invite you to learn more about Fulfillment by Amazon .
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
But despite it's insightfulness , one of the annoying things about Nabokov's book on Russian Literature is his idea that the language of a literature separates it from "a universal art to a national one," i.e, to fully appreciate literature one must understand its language, which may in fact be true, as Nabokov shows us how various translators of Russian literature, omit, distort, make banal, and prim the works they are translating. Also Nabokov's requirements of a good translator seem impossible: the translator in Nabokov's opinion must be on the level of the writer whom he is translating. But to create a book on Russian Literature and analyze it only to put up the disclaimer that you cannot truly appreciate or care about Russian literature because you cannot understand Russian seems a poor way to introduce or share insights to Russian Literature.
My other pet peeve about this book is his analysis of Dostoevsky. In Nabokov's opinion, Dostoevsky wrote crime novels, about crazy people, and crime novels in Nabokov's opinion cannot aspire to art, and crazy people have no humanity and therefore their actions cannot be taken seriously. I will limit my argument to Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment and say, yes he was pathological and grandiose, but he was a human, who was remorseful, and realized his motive for killing the pawnbroker was entirely delusional. Nabokov fails to understand this book because he fails to realize the motive for Raskolnikov's murder because he simply dismisses it, as "inhuman, and stupid," and fails to connect all the dots of the motive, which can be explained as Raskolnikov's need to be daring and willful, because those who take up power, and those who are benefactors of humankind, must be daring, in order to defy authority, and the revered but conventional and outmoded way of doing things, and are willful because they defy and destroy authority and the old, and set a new way. Galileo is an example of a benefactor of humankind who defied the church, and set a new standard for science. But what makes Raskolnikov human is that yes he proves he can be daring and frighteningly willful, but he lacks the third and most key element to justify his crime, genius, which he becomes clearly and powerfully aware of, as he realizes his actions and their consequences. In my mind Nabokov simply dismisses Dostoevsky, and doesn't feel the need to analyze his work, which is made clear when he talks about Brothers Karamazov as a whodunit, and does not examine the most noteworthy chapter in Brothers K., The Grand Inquisitor, which is a glaring omission one would not expect from a scholar or even a student.
Don't get me wrong I learned alot from this book, and the best thing that can be said for it is that it makes you want to revisit all the classics that it analyzes. But to simply dismiss Dostoevsky, and his admirers is something I didn't expect.
Here Nabokov continues his thought that a writer is mostly a creative artist, rather than a historian or philosopher. This is how he summarized Gogol's desperate attempts to collect facts for the second part of "Dead Souls": "[Gogol] was in the worst plight that a writer can be in: he had lost the gift of imagining facts and believed that facts may exist by themselves" (Gogol was asking his friends to supply him with descriptions of life around them which he could use in his art). Contrast with it Nabokov's admiration of Chekhov's writing for being so true to life. Chekhov invented his characters, but did it so well that they naturally created a coherent world. Nabokov always put imagination and style at the top of the writer's arsenal, and much above any "reality" (which he always mentioned in quotation marks).
Nabokov clearly prefers characters to reveal themselves rather than be explained by the author: for example, where Chekhov let his characters act (not surprisingly, Chekhov was a great playwright), Turgenev tended to over-explain. In "Fathers and Sons", he uses epilogue to describe what happened next in the story. In the scene where Bazarov's father embraces his wife "harder than ever", Turgenev feels the need to explain that this happened because "she had consoled him in his grief". For the same reason Dostoevsky, whose characters Nabokov sees as "mainly ideas in the likeness of people", was not one of his favorite authors. Primacy of idea over form and style was anathema to Nabokov. Both Turgenev and Dostoevsky were too visible on the page for his taste.
Personal style of a writer enjoys a special consideration throughout these lectures. While Chekhov is presented as a master of light touch, of suggestion, Dostoevsky appears repetitive, dogmatic, hurried and over-working. As an illustration, Nabokov points out that to set up the murder in "Crime and Punishment" the author needed a whole confluence of circumstances: "Raskolnikov's poverty, self-sacrifice of his sister and utter moral debasement of the intended victim".
Nabokov believes that literature should not be gulped, but "taken and broken into bits, pulled apart, squashed", gradually releasing its flavors. One could hear a master chef admiring the virtues of spice freshly crushed in a mortar. His obvious delight in attending to the minute flavors of the novel makes his lectures so enjoyable and unique.