BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Nabokov through Dostoevsky’s Eyes: “Old Dusty” in Sogliadatai

Fri8  Apr04:20pm(20 mins)
Games Room


Alina Wyman


In the last several decades, the once common view that Dostoevsky was the Russian writer Nabokov most loved to hate has been nuanced to distinguish between a moderate, largely aesthetically based dislike of the early, Berlin period and a much stronger, wholesale rejection of Dostoevsky during the American years, when Nabokov’s harsh judgment of his famous predecessor seems to be as much ideologically as aesthetically motivated. Distinguishing between the American Nabokov’s rejection of Dostoevsky and his rejection of Dostoevskiism (dostoevshchina) during the Berlin years (Dolinin) and analyses that take into consideration the largely impersonal “inertia” of the genre memory, characteristic of Nabokov’s consistently modernist poetic consciousness, hostile to a representative of a different movement (Meerson), have added considerable depth to the question of the Nabokov-Dostoevsky relationship and productively steered the scholarly discussion toward inquiring into the nature of Nabokov’s extensive use of Dostoevsky’s material as an important literary resource. Building up on the work of Dolinin, Connolly, Tammi and others, this paper will explore Dostoevskian subtext in Nabokov’s The Eye, finding echoes of several Dostoevsky texts, some of which received little to no attention in Nabokov criticism, and analyzing Nabokov’s development of Dostoevsky’s key metaphysical conflicts to make them relevant to the demands of a modernist aesthetic.