Julian W. Connolly


University of Virginia

Articles de l'auteur


Cycnos | Volume 24 n°1

The Challenge of Interpreting and Decoding Nabokov: Strategies and Suggestions

Every writer's work poses certain challenges to the reader. When the writer speaks three languages fluently, has a vast knowledge of European literature, is an accomplished lepidopterist, and compares the relationship between the author and the reader to that between the composer of chess problems and the solver of those problems, this challenge takes on unusual dimensions. This paper will examine the kinds of challenges presented by Nabokov's work, and it will offer strategies and suggestions for surmounting them. While general observations on how to read Nabokov are well-known (beginning with Nabokov's own “one cannot read a book, one can only reread it”), specific guidelines are still lacking. To map out a workable blueprint for the interpretation for Nabokov's art, this paper will look at several individual components of his art, from the smallest building blocks to the largest questions of interpretation. In discussing these elements, we shall analyze ways to increase the likelihood of arriving at plausible interpretations and to minimize the chances of erroneous or overreaching speculation. Among the elements to be considered are Nabokov's use of anagrams and coded messages; the multiple roles played by literary allusion; the presence of traps set by the author for the unwary reader; the thorny issue of intentionality and authorial control; and finally, the issue of ultimate interpretation: are certain of Nabokov's texts genuinely open-ended, or do all the puzzles he sets have one, and only one, “correct” interpretation. If time permits, we will discuss how one might approach The Real Life of Sebastian Knight using the principles outlined in this paper.

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Cycnos | Volume 10 n°1

From Biography to Autobiography and Back: The Fictionalization of The Narrated Self in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

“Readers of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight - the story of a man’s research into the life of his half-brother — face a complex pattern of interwoven identities and fictions. The intricate interrelationship between the experiences of the narrating figure known as “V” and the fictions of the subject of his narration, the author known as “Sebastian Knight”, has generally occasioned three broad interpretations. According to one group of readers, Sebastian Knight himself is the author of the text: he creates V, V’s quest, and V’s encounter with characters from his (Sebastian’s) own fiction (see Field 27 and Stuart 37). ...”

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Cycnos | Volume 12 n°2

Cincinnatus and Différance: Subversive Discourse in Invitation to a Beheading

“The names of Vladimir Nabokov and Jacques Derrida are not frequently linked in critical essays, and the reasons for this are understandable. Derrida’s dense philosophical explorations would seem to have little in common with Nabokov’s exquisite imaginative fictions. A reading of Nabokov’s novel Invitation to a Beheading, however, suggests that the two writers may have shared at least one area of common interest: both writers evince concern with the way in which authoritarian traditions work to suppress or eliminate traces of otherness found in their midst. In the following essay, we shall examine some of the parallels between Nabokov’s treatment of Cincinnatus’s ...”

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