Vladimir Nabokov by David Rampton (auth.)

By David Rampton (auth.)

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The separation of Christian feeling from the entirely abstract, mathematical intellect - the two aspects of Russian genius - is final. 3 Or perhaps we should take comfort in way 'compassion and a sense of order' come together in the sensibility of the novelist hirnself. The chess patterns have a curious place in the overall design. ' The analogy between author and chess player at first seems inexact: Against whom does he play? His 'doomed' protagonist? The realistic novel whose conventions he exploits and extends?

Ifthe reader is as attentive to the details as the author wants, he or she will also be the co-creator of a masterpiece. He 'wins' in the same way that Anderssen did: he succeeds in realizing his vision, but even when temporarily fooled or floundering, he has assisted as the 'idea' of the game was distilled and worked out. The Defense does represent areal advance in Nabokov's development as a novelist, one that involves the elaborate structure in which Luzhin's life and death are encapsulated, the verbal echoes, 'wayside murmurs' of hidden themes that came to be a Nabokov signature.

But since he is giving us an account ofhis own travels, even while he projects a number of different personae, he indudes the context and circumstances that encouraged or frustrated or affected hirn during hisjourney, and this sometimes makes for an engaging sort of self-mockery or self-deprecation. Fyodor is writing an account of someone eISe's travels, and indulging in a great deal of speculation while he does it. This makes his account the projection ofa fantasy, the fantasy of the wise, knowing, fearless, haughty adventurer who scorns most of those he encounters.

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