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Nabokov's interview. (18) Swiss Broadcast [1972?

On September 8, 1971, Paul Sufrin came here to conduct a radio interview for Swiss Broadcast, European & Overseas Service. I do not know when, or if, our rather odd colloquy was used. Here are a few samples. You've been quoted as saying that in a first-rate work of fiction, the real clash isn't between the characters, but between the author and the world. Would you explain this? I believe I said "between the author and the reader," not "the world," which would be a meaningless formula, since a creative artist makes his own world or worlds. He clashes with readerdom because he is his own ideal reader and those other readers are so very often mere lip-moving ghosts and amnesiacs. On the other hand, a good reader is bound to make fierce efforts when wrestling wdth a difficult author, but those efforts can be most rewarding after the bright dust has settled. What is your particular clash? Well, that's the clash I am generally faced with. In many of your writings, you have conceived what {consider to be an Alice-in-Wonderland world of unreality and illusion. What is the connection with your real struggle with the world? Alice in Wonderland is a specific book by a definite author with its own quaintness, its own quirks, its own quiddity. If read very carefully, it will be seen to imply, by humorous juxtaposition, the presence of a quite solid, and rather sentimental, world, behind the semi-detached dream. Moreover, Lewis Carroll liked little girls. I don't. The mixture of unreality and illusion may have led some people to consider you mystifying and your writing full of puzzles. What is your answer to people who say you are just plain obscure? To stick to the crossword puzzle in their Sunday paper. Do you make a point of puzzling people and playing games with readers? What a bore that would be! The past figures prominently in some of your writing. What concern do you have for the present and the future? My conception of the texture of time somewhat resembles its image in Part Four of Ada. The present is only the top of the past, and the future does not exist. What have you found to be the disadvantages of being able to write in so many languages? The inability to keep up with their ever-changing slang. What are the advantages? The ability to render an exact nuance by shifting from the language I am now using to a brief burst of French or to a soft rustle of Russian. What do you think of critic George Steiner's linking you with Samuel Beckett and Jorge Luis Borges as the three figures of probable genius in contemporary fiction? That playwright and that essayist are regarded nowadays with such religious fervor that in the triptych you mention, I would feel like a robber between two Christs. Quite a cheerful robber, though.

Last-modified: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 20:44:44 GMT
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