THE SHADED LANES.

OK, I know everybody’s sick of Nabokov by now, and I’m trying to post about other things, but I ran across a quote I like so much I have to share it. I’ll tack on a couple other Nab-related items at the end for those who still have an appetite for Nabokoviana. This is from one of the lectures he gave at Wellesley in 1946, and it perfectly expresses how I view life and learning:

The more things we know the better equipped we are to understand any one thing and it is a burning pity that our lives are not long enough and not sufficiently free of annoying obstacles, to study all things with the same care and depth as the one we now devote to some favorite subject or period. And yet there is a semblance of consolation within this dismal state of affairs: in the same way as the whole universe may be completely reciprocated in the structure of an atom, . . . an intelligent and assiduous student [may] find a small replica of all knowledge in a subject he has chosen for his special research. . . . and if, upon choosing your subject, you try diligently to find out about it, if you allow yourself to be lured into the shaded lanes that lead from the main road you have chosen to the lovely and little known nooks of special knowledge, if you lovingly finger the links of the many chains that connect your subject to the past and the future and if by luck you hit upon some scrap of knowledge referring to your subject that has not yet become common knowledge, then will you know the true felicity of the great adventure of learning….

(Quoted in Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, by Brian Boyd.)


In other Nabokov news, Dmitri Nabokov, VV’s son, after years of dithering and agonizing, has decided to defy his father’s dying wish and publish the incomplete manuscript of his last novel, The Original of Laura. I approve of the decision (if you want things burned, burn them yourselves, persnickety creators—once you’re dead they belong to the living) but I don’t expect to be bowled over by the book.
And here‘s the Barcelona Review Nabokov Quiz from 1999. It’s difficult!

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    I did much better than I thought. I got 8 without guessing, guessed right about 4 times, and left ten blank (of which I presumably would have gotten 3 or 4 right).
    I’m not a Nabokov buff at all, but I’ve read his autobiography and a little bit of biographical stuff. A tougher quiz would require you to have read his real books, of which I’ve read only Lolita and the Gogol book (and the Don Quixote “book”).
    Nabokov is pervasive for bookish people, even if they haven’t read him.

  2. John Emerson says:

    I did much better than I thought. I got 8 without guessing, guessed right about 4 times, and left ten blank (of which I presumably would have gotten 3 or 4 right).
    I’m not a Nabokov buff at all, but I’ve read his autobiography and a little bit of biographical stuff. A tougher quiz would require you to have read his real books, of which I’ve read only Lolita and the Gogol book (and the Don Quixote “book”).
    Nabokov is pervasive for bookish people, even if they haven’t read him.

  3. Thank you for posting such a lovely quote. It neatly describes the greatest “felicity” in my life; my belief in this credo (if I’m using my new English word correctly!) is precisely what has helped me keep faith through terrible times.

  4. I just want to second Dee’s comments. I can’t recall having read such a thoroughly entrancing description of the beauty of learning. Many, many thanks!

  5. David Harmon says:

    I believe it was while discussing Tolkien that someone commented something to the effect of: “dig deeply enough beneath any given field of study, and you strike a vein running beneath the whole of human knowledge”. Nabokov was certainly in that class….

  6. What a great quote, appropriate to you, dear Hat, and probably many of your readers. Thanks. (And I agree with you about creative works left un-burned; bring them on, they’re ours now…)

  7. J. DelCol says:

    What impressed me was his acknowledgement that such discovery and satisfaction is a matter of luck and will, virtu and fortuna, though I doubt he’d have approved of the Machiavellian implications.

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