Nabokov's Fifth Arc (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) has been widely acclaimed as one of the greatest literary artists of this century, but his exact place in literary history has been disputed. None of his works has reached a large audience, except the once controversial Lolita (1955). He is often dismissed as an elitist because his fiction, which has so little overt social and political content, is, so it is charged, merely art for art’s sake. Few will disagree, however, that he is a brilliant stylist, a verbal genius in two languages: his native Russian and the English of his adopted America. As one of the commentators in Nabokov’s Fifth Arc: Nabokov and Others on His Life’s Work says, he “might well be considered in another realm of language from the common sphere of English prose.” The contributors to this collection of essays and notes attempt to define Nabokov’s genius as a stylist and also make a strong case for his being much more than a stylist.
Nabokov’s Fifth Arc is the second such collection to appear since the writer’s death. J. E. Rivers and Charles Nicol write in their introduction that they intend it to supplement and complement Vladimir Nabokov: A Tribute (1980), edited by Peter Quennell. The latter volume, they say, is primarily concerned with the spirit of Nabokov’s fiction rather than its development over his entire career. According to Rivers and Nicol, the contributions in their collection focus...
(The entire section is 1922 words.)
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