One of the world’s leading literary and biblical scholars turns his attention to one of the most polarising novelists of all time in this unmissable online event. Live from the US, Robert Alter, professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at Berkeley since 1967, joins literary critic David Herman, to discuss his exploration of Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov. In Nabokov and the Real World: Between Appreciation and Defense, Alter – whose previous works include his translation of the Hebrew Bible and books on Kafka, Scholem and Stendhal – offers insights into literature’s most fabulous artificer, offering an elegant and compelling case for Nabokov’s relevance today.
“This essay collection assesses the stakes and real-world relevance of Nabokov’s writing, from his lectures and short stories to his major novels. It’s a great read if you’re a Nabokov fan, or if you’ve ever wondered, ‘Why did this guy write Lolita?‘” Literary Hub
Robert Alter is professor of the Graduate School and emeritus professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. His many books include The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age, Imagined Cities: Urban Experience and the Language of the Novel, and Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible (Princeton). He lives in Berkeley, California.
Admirers and detractors of Vladimir Nabokov have viewed him as an ingenious contriver of literary games, teasing and even outsmarting his readers through his self-reflexive artifice and the many codes and puzzles he devises in his fiction. Nabokov himself spoke a number of times about reality as a term that always has to be put in scare quotes. Consequently, many critics and readers have thought of him as a writer uninterested in the world outside literature. Robert Alter shows how Nabokov was passionately concerned with the real world and its complexities, from love and loss to exile, freedom, and the impact of contemporary politics on our lives.
In these illuminating and exquisitely written essays, Alter spans the breadth of Nabokov’s writings, from his memoir, lectures, and short stories to major novels such as Lolita. He demonstrates how the self-reflexivity of Nabokov’s fiction becomes a vehicle for expressing very real concerns. What emerges is a portrait of a brilliant stylist who is at once serious and playful, who cared deeply about human relationships and the burden of loss, and who was acutely sensitive to the ways political ideologies can distort human values.
Offering timeless insights into literature’s most fabulous artificer, Nabokov and the Real World makes an elegant and compelling case for Nabokov’s relevance today.