Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172

The dominant theme of Ada is the parody of our world by means of Nabokov’s construct, Antiterra It is both Utopia and anti-Utopia combined. It has features in common with science fiction—with some of the worlds imagined by Stanisaw Lem, for example—but also with books such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave...

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The dominant theme of Ada is the parody of our world by means of Nabokov’s construct, Antiterra It is both Utopia and anti-Utopia combined. It has features in common with science fiction—with some of the worlds imagined by Stanisaw Lem, for example—but also with books such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s My (1924; We, 1925). Nabokov’s “brave” world is, however, more elusive. It is a subtle combination of paradise and hell, without any middle ground, that is much more difficult to grasp. It is above all a parody of the world of unrestrained appetite.

The late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Nabokov seems to say, have gradually become an Antiterra, and all that is left of Terra is our longings. The causes for this are both external and internal: the triumph of the Golden Horde and Athaulf Hindler (Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler) from outside, and the cruelty of our demands for gratification, for an egotistical “paradise now,” from within.

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