Experiments with Time by Vladimir Nabokov
Compiled, edited, and with commentaries by Gennady Barabtarlo
Nabokov's dream diary, published for the first time—and placed in biographical and literary context
On October 14, 1964, Vladimir Nabokov, a lifelong insomniac, began a curious experiment. Over the next eighty days, immediately upon waking, he wrote down his dreams, following the instructions he found in An Experiment with Time by the British philosopher John Dunne. The purpose was to test the theory that time may go in reverse, so that, paradoxically, a later event may generate an earlier dream. The result—published here for the first time—is a fascinating diary in which Nabokov recorded sixty-four dreams (and subsequent daytime episodes) on 118 index cards, which afford a rare glimpse of the artist at his most private. More than an odd biographical footnote, the experiment grew out of Nabokov’s passionate interest in the mystery of time, which influenced many of his novels, including the late masterpiece Ada.
Insomniac Dreams, edited by leading Nabokov authority Gennady Barabtarlo, presents the text of Nabokov’s dream experiment, illustrated with a selection of his original index cards, and provides rich annotations and analysis that put them in the context of his life and writings. The book also includes previously unpublished records of Nabokov’s dreams from his letters and notebooks and shows important connections between his fiction and private writings on dreams and time.
Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1899. After studying French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, he launched his literary career in Berlin and Paris, writing innovative fiction, verse, and drama in his native Russian. In 1940 he moved to America, where he wrote some of his greatest works, including Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962). He died in Switzerland in 1977. Gennady Barabtarlo (1949–2019) was professor of literature at the University of Missouri and the author of a number of books on Nabokov. Barabtarlo also translated into Russian three of Nabokov’s novels and all of his English-language short stories.