From Vladimir Nabokov’s 1969 interview with James Mossman for BBC2’s Review. Reprinted in the same year in The Listener, and collected in Strong Opinions.
I picked up a hardback copy of Strong Opinions a few weeks back. I was browsing Nabokov titles as I was coming to the end of Pale Fire. I’ve shared some excerpts from this collection of interviews (&c.) and will likely share more.
I only know the specific date because I tweeted a pic of an Irish Murdoch novel I should’ve picked up while I was there.
From a 1968 interview with Nicholas Graham. Reproduced in Strong Opinions.
From Vladimir Nabokov’s 1970 interview with Alfred Appel. Originally published in Novel, A Forum on Fiction and republished in Strong Opinions.
From a 1964 Playboy interview. Republished in Strong Opinions.
IN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHAT SCENES ONE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE FILMED
Shakespeare in the part of the King’s Ghost.
The beheading of Louis the Sixteenth, the drums drowning his speech on the scaffold.
Herman Melville at breakfast, feeding a sardine to his cat.
Poe’s wedding. Lewis Carroll’s picnics.
The Russians leaving Alaska, delighted with the deal. Shot of a seal applauding.
From a 1966 interview with Alfred Appel Jr., originally published in Wisconsin Studies and reprinted in the collection Strong Opinions (1973).
I picked up Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire on a weird whim. I mean, I quite literally passed by it in the bookshop I frequent; it was misshelved, or unshelved, really. Someone had left it in sci-fi, near the “Bs” (B-for-Ballard, if you must know). Pale Fire, eh? I thought. Can’t remember this one. Because I had never read it, somehow. An amazing novel, one I dove into after sampling a bit of Clarice Lispector’s Selected Cronicas (still sampling—this is one of those books that’s lovely to dip gently into between selections) and after failing to get through the first essay in Elizabeth Hardwick’s Seduction and Betrayal. Not sure if I can (should?) muster a “review” of Pale Fire, but it’s one of the better prepostmodern-postmodernist novels I’ve ever read—very very funny and a beautiful mindfuck.
We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats. What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable (so I used to tell my students). Although I am capable, through long dabbling in blue magic, of imitating any prose in the world (but singularly enough not verse – I am a miserable rhymester), I do not consider myself a true artist, save in one matter: I can do what only a true artist can do – pounce upon the forgotten butterfly of revelation, wean myself abruptly from the habit of things, see the web of the world, and the warp and the weft of that web.
From Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire.