The Ethics of Delusion

  • Michael Glynn


I have argued that Nabokov’s diverse fictions engage with the broad theme of delusion, with the mind that does not apprehend reality. Where does this thematic preoccupation place Nabokov as a writer? The question is not an idle one because at least two contradictory Nabokovs emerge from the critical response to the work. On the one hand, some commentators have seen Nabokov as a writer fully equipped with an endlessly complex and sui generis metaphysic. Underlying this tendency is a desire to assert Nabokov’s greatness, a determination to ensure that posterity does not come to view Nabokov as a ludic lightweight lacking in the moral and intellectual vision deemed appropriate to literary genius. We sense this undercurrent when Brian Boyd prefaces his disquisition on Nabokov’s elaborate philosophy of the “spiral of being” with the worrisome reflection that the writer “was often charged with being a trickster with nothing to say.”1 W.W. Rowe appears to be similarly troubled when, in arguing for “the complex pattern of ghostly activity in Nabokov’s works,” he expresses the hope that “at least some of those who consider Nabokov ‘merely’ a master stylist—with few deep ideas and little concern or compassion for the fate of his characters—will be persuaded to take another look.”2 These anxieties perhaps explain why Nabokov’s work has sometimes been praised in the wrong way.


Moral Message Vicious Circularity Ghostly Activity North American Literature Contingent World 
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© Michael Glynn 2007

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  • Michael Glynn

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