The European Nabokov Web, Classicism and T.S. Eliot

The European Nabokov Web, Classicism and T.S. Eliot


Robin Davies

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures and History
ISBN: 9781936235650 (hardcover)
Pages: 298 pp.
Publication Date: September 2011

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Robin Davies here demonstrates that Nabokov’s Pale Fire has a classical unity and represents a direct attack on T.S. Eliot’s philosophical position, particularly as given in The Waste Land and as represented by Eliot’s later tendency for conservatism in literature, politics, and religion. After Nabokov was forced into exile from Germany and then France in the 1930s with his young son and Jewish wife, Eliot’s passivism must have seemed to him the very antithesis of survival. The enigmatic Pale Fire and its surface triviality suggested that there could be self-consistent logic within the obvious commentary of Charles Kinbote and John Shade’s poem. Davies places this work in its vast European context, forming a bridge between Russian and European literature which will be appreciated by scholars of both.

Robin Davies (DPhil Oxford University) is a senior research associate at Cardiff University. He has long studied Nabokov’s literature.

The European Nabokov Web, Classicism and Eliot is a very fine book by a person of great talent and expertise both in the humanities and sciences, a kind of work that Nabokov himself would love to read, a kind of commentary to Pale Fire, which goes to the very heart of Nabokov’s view of what literature is about.
— Lazar Fleishman, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, Stanford University

Table of Contents


I Lingua Franca and Topsyturvical Coincidence
II In search of Horace and a Web of Sense
III Heraclius, Hamlet, and Genealogy
IV Zembla—“How Farce and Epic Get a Jumbled Race”
V Hamlet Unrestored: Sémiramis and the Royal Tomb
VI Classical Affinities I: A Modern Aeneas
VII Classical Affinities II: An ancient Nisus
VIII The Browning Version and Contemporary Reality
IX Corn, Cuckoldry, and the Amazonian Chin
X Toilet d’Eliot, or Combinational Delight
XI Homeric Shades around Phoenicia: Myth and Reality
XII Varia—Selenography, Kinbote/Botkin, Glaucus, Fénélon
XIII Murderous Intrigues
XIV Tragedy and the Stagyrite
XV Dramatic Poetry, Regicide, and Poetic Drama
XVI Germanitas and Les Germains
XVII Deus in Machina


I Marburg (Maribor), general view, Styria, Austria-Hungary—1890
II Nova Zemla––1616.
Novae Zemlae delineatio. Cartographer Bertius, Amsterdam
III Nova Zembla––1719.
Nouvelle Zemble. Cartographer Mallet, Frankfurt.
IV Novaya Zemblaya — NASA Satellite Image
V Asolo in the Trevisan, scene of “Pippa Passes,” Via Browning