Strong Opinions by Vladimir Nabokov is just that. A collection of interviews, articles, and letters to the editor, this book offers a glimpse—almost as revealing as the author’s autobiography, Speak, Memory—of Nabokov, the writer, the man, the lepidopterist. Through the works included, we see the wit, the style, the anger, and, at times, the almost peevishness of the author.
To say that Nabokov was a man of stature in the literary world is to be incredibly meiotic. Nabokov, who wrote thirty books during his lifetime, is perhaps best-known for his novels Invitation to a Beheading, Laughter in the Dark, Pale Fire, Ada, and, of course, Lolita. He is considered by many to be the consummate stylist and craftsman of the twentieth century. So much impact have his works had, in fact, that through them he has introduced a number of words into the English vocabulary, not least among which is “nymphet.”
Nabokov, however, was much more than merely a man of letters, as his interviews, letters, and articles indicate. He was equally at home creating chess problems, collecting and studying butterflies, or translating works of Russian literature into English. He was largely apolitical, but he passionately opposed dictatorships and the Communist regime of the Soviet Union. His appetites ranged from novels and short stories to butterflies and chess; his dislikes included radios and piped music. A scholar, translator, scientist, and author, Nabokov’s life was remarkably symmetrical in some ways—living in Russia for the first twenty years of his life, leaving soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917; in Germany for twenty years as an émigré until he fled Hitler’s rise to power in 1939; in America for twenty years until 1959; and finally in Switzerland for eighteen years until his death in July, 1977. He was comfortable in any of these countries, and was equally at ease with their languages, particularly Russian and English.
Strong Opinions offers a better glimpse of the author, perhaps, than would a collection of his letters compiled after his death. It does so because it has been selected and arranged by the author and because it has a focus that a posthumous collection of letters seldom does. One must also say, however, that there is an obvious bias due to the author’s control of the contents, but this seems a relatively...
(The entire section is 987 words.)