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vladimir nabokov Quotes

Vladimir Nabokov Quotes

Birth Date: 1899-04-22 (Saturday, April 22nd, 1899)
Date of Death: 1977-07-02 (Saturday, July 2nd, 1977)


vladimir nabokov life timeline

Vladimir Nabokov s controversial novel Lolita is published in the United States.Monday, August 18th, 1958


    • What is this jest in majesty? This ass in passion? How do God and Devil combine to form a live dog?
    • Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss Poems that take a thousand years to die But ape the immortality of this Red label on a little butterfly.
    • To know that no one before you has seen an organ you are examining, to trace relationships that have occurred to no one before, to immerse yourself in the wondrous crystalline world of the microscope, where silence reigns, circumscribed by its own horizon, a blindingly white arena - all this is so enticing that I cannot describe it.
    • I hastened to quench a thirst that had been burning a hole in the mixed metaphor of my life ever since I had fondled a quite different Dolly thirteen years earlier.
    • Lolita is famous, not I. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name.
    • Genius still means to me, in my Russian, fastidiousness and pride of phrase, a unique dazzling gift. The gift of James Joyce, and not the talent of Henry James.
    • Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.
    • I think he's crude, I think he's medieval, and I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me. I don't have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don't see umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons.
    • The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour.)
    • Her intense and pure religiousness took the form of her having equal faith in the existence of another world and in the impossibility of comprehending it in terms of earthly life. All one could do was to glimpse, amid the haze and the chimeras, something real ahead, just as persons endowed with an unusual persistence of diurnal cerebration are able to perceive in their deepest sleep, somewhere beyond the throes of an entangled and inept nightmare, the ordered reality of the waking hour.
    • Whenever in my dreams, I see the dead, they always appear silent, bothered, strangely depressed, quite unlike their dear bright selves. I am aware of them, without any astonishment, in surroundings they never visited during their earthly existence, in the house of some friend of mine they never knew. They sit apart, frowning at the floor, as if death were a dark taint, a shameful family secret. It is certainly not then - not in dreams - but when one is wide awake, at moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle-tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.
    • Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.
    • Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!
    • After Olympia Press, in Paris, published the book, an American critic suggested that Lolita was the record of my love affair with the romantic novel. The substitution 'English language' for 'romantic novel' would make this elegant formula more correct.
    • As far as I can recall, the initial shiver of inspiration was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature's cage.
    • I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane;
    • I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, I speak like a child.
    • My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.
    • I don't think in any language. I think in images. I don't believe that people think in languages. They don't move their lips when they think. It is only a certain type of illiterate person who moves his lips as he reads or ruminates. No, I think in images, and now and then a Russian phrase or an English phrase will form with the foam of the brainwave, but that's about all.
    • I don't belong to any club or group. I don't fish, cook, dance, endorse books, sign books, co-sign declarations, eat oysters, get drunk, go to church, go to analysts, or take part in demonstrations.
    • To be quite candid - and what I am going to say now is something I have never said before, and I hope that it provokes a salutory chill - I know more than I can express in words, and the little I can express would not have been expressed, had I not known more.
    • To return to my lecturing days: I automatically gave low marks when a student used the dreadful phrase 'sincere and simple' - 'Flaubert writes with a style which is always simple and sincere' - under the impression that this was the greatest compliment payable to prose or poetry. When I struck the phrase out, which I did with such rage that it ripped the paper, the student complained that this was what teachers had always taught him: 'Art is simple, art is sincere.' Someday I must trace this vulgar absurdity to its source. A schoolmarm in Ohio? A progressive ass in New York? Because, of course, art at its greatest is fantastically deceitful and complex.
    • Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts.
    • Oh, 'impressed' is not the right word! Treading the soil of the moon gives one, I imagine (or rather my projected self imagines), the most remarkable romantic thrill ever experienced in the history of discovery. Of course, I rented a television set to watch every moment of their marvelous adventure. That gentle little minuet that despite their awkward suits the two men danced with such grace to the tune of lunar gravity was a lovely sight. It was also a moment when a flag means to one more than a flag usually does. I am puzzled and pained by the fact that the English weeklies ignored the absolutely overwhelming excitement of the adventure, the strange sensual exhilaration of palpating those precious pebbles, of seeing our marbled globe in the black sky, of feeling along one's spine the shiver and wonder of it. After all, Englishmen should understand that thrill, they who have been the greatest, the purest explorers. Why then drag in such irrelevant matters as wasted dollars and power politics?
    • If I say that Nabokov, who was educated in England... turns out to be a master of English prose - the most extraordinary phenomenon of the kind since Conrad - this is likely to sound incredible. If I say that Nabokov is something like Proust, something like Franz Kafka, and, probably something like Gogol, I shall suggest an imitative patchwork, where Nabokov is as completely himself as any of these others - a man with a unique sensibility and a unique story to tell.
    • Lolita is a fine book, a distinguished book - all right then - a great book.
    • Lolita is pornography, and we do not plan to review it.
    • The political barbarism of the century made him an exile, a wanderer, a Hotelmensch, not only from his Russian homeland but from the matchless Russian tongue in which his genius would have found its unforced idiom... But I have no hesitation in arguing that this poly-linguistic matrix is the determining fact of Nabokov's life and art. But whereas so many other language exiles clung desperately to the artifice of their native tongue or fell silent, Nabokov moved into successive languages like a travelling potentate...
    • Lolita is one of our finest American novels, a triumph of style and vision, an unforgettable work, Nabokov's best (though not most characteristic) work, a wedding of Swiftian satirical vigor with the kind of minute, loving patience that belongs to a man infatuated with the visual mysteries of the world.
    • All of Nabokov's books are about tyranny, even Lolita. Perhaps Lolita most of all.
    • Some say the Great American Novel is 'Huckleberry Finn,' some say it's 'The Jungle,' some say it's 'The Great Gatsby.' But my vote goes to the tale with the maximum lust, hypocrisy and obsession - the view of America that could only have come from an outsider - Nabokov's 'Lolita. ... 'Those who bought 'Lolita' looking for mere prurient kicks must surely have been disappointed. 'Lolita' is dark and twisted all right, but it's also a corruptly beautiful love story of two tragically alike, id-driven souls... What makes 'Lolita' a work of greatness isn't that its title has become ingrained in the vernacular, isn't that was a generation ahead of America in fetishizing young girls. No, it is the writing, the way Nabokov bounces around in words like the English language is a toy trunk, the sly wit, the way it's devastating and cynical and heartbreaking all at once. Poor old Dolly Haze might not have grown up very well, but 'Lolita' forever remains a thing of timeless beauty.
    • Gentlemen, even if one allows that he is an important writer, are we next to invite an elephant to be Professor of Zoology?
    • vladimir nabokov

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