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1970 Novel

"During a visit in the last week ..., Alfred Appel interviewed me again."

Некоторые НАБОКОВские интервью / Nabokov's interview

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     During  a  visit  in the last week of August, 1970, Alfred
Appel interviewed me again. The result was  printed,  from  our
careful  jottings,  in  the  spring, 1971, issue of Novel, A
Forum  on  Fiction,  Brown  University,  Providence,  Rhode

     In  the  twelve  years  since  the American publication
of Lolita, you've published twenty-two or so books-- new
American  or  Antiterran   novels,   old   Russian   works   in
English,  Lolita  in Russian-- giving one the impression
that, as someone has said-- John  Updike,  I  think--  your
oeuvre  is  growing  at both ends. Now that your first novel
has appeared  (Mashenka,  1926),  it  seems  appropriate
that,  as  we  sail  into the future, even earlier works should
adhere to this elegant formula and make their quantum leap into

     Yes,   my   forthcoming    Poems    and    Problems
[McGraw-Hill]  will  offer  several examples of the verse of my
early youth, including "The Rain Has Flown," which was composed
in the park of our country place, Vyra, in May 1917,  the  last
spring  my family was to live there. This "new" volume consists
of three sections: a selection  of  thirty-six  Russian  poems,
presented  in  the  original and in translation; fourteen poems
which I wrote directly in English, after 1940 and my arrival in
America (all of which were published in The New Yorker),
and eighteen chess problems, all but two of which were composed
in recent years (the chess manuscripts of the 1940-1960  period
have  been mislaid and the earlier unpublished jottings are not
worth printing). These Russian poems constitute  no  more  than
one  percent of the mass of verse which I exuded with monstrous
regularity during my youth.

     Do the components of that monstrous mass fall into  any
discernible periods or stages of development? 

     What  can  be  called rather grandly my European period of
verse-making seems  to  show  several  distinctive  stages:  an
initial  one  of  passionate  and  commonplace  love verse (not
represented in Poems and Problems)-, a period reflecting
utter distrust of the so-called October  Revolution;  a  period
(reaching well into the nineteen-twenties) of a kind of private
curatorship,  aimed  at preserving nostalgic retrospections and
developing Byzantine imagery (this has been  mistaken  by  some
readers  for  an  interest in "religion" which, beyond literary
stylization, never meant anything  to  me);  a  period  lasting
another  decade  or  so during which I set myself to illustrate
the principle of making a short poem contain a plot and tell  a
story  (this  in  a way expressed my impatience with the dreary
drone of the an?mie  "Paris  School"  of  emigre  poetry);  and
finally,  in the late thirties, and especially in the following
decades,  a  sudden  liberation  from  self-imposed   shackles,
resulting   both  in  a  sparser  output  and  in  a  belatedly
discovered robust style. Selecting poems for this volume proved
less difficult than translating them.

     Why are you  including  the  chess  problems  with  the

     Because problems are the poetry of chess. They demand from
the composer  the same virtues that characterize all worthwhile
art: originality, invention, harmony, conciseness,  complexity,
and splendid insincerity.

     Most of your work in Russian {1920-1940} appeared under
the name of "Sirin. " Why did you choose that pseudonym? 

     In modern times sirin is one of the popular Russian
names  of  the  Snowy Owl, the terror of tundra rodents, and is
also applied to the handsome  Hawk  Owl,  but  in  old  Russian
mythology  it  is  a multicolored bird, with a woman's face and
bust, no doubt identical  with  the  "siren,"  a  Greek  deity,
transporter  of  souls  and  teaser  of  sailors. In 1920, when
casting about for a pseudonym and settling  for  that  fabulous
fowl, I still had not shaken off the false glamour of Byzantine
imagery  that attracted young Russian poets of the Blokian era.
Incidentally,  circa   1910   there   had   appeared   literary
collections  under  the editorial title of Sirin devoted
to the so-called  "symbolist"  movement,  and  I  remember  how
tickled I was to discover in 1952 when browsing in the Houghton
Library  at  Harvard  that  its catalogue listed me as actively
publishing Blok, Bely, and Bryusov at the age of ten.

     An arresting phantasmagoric  image  of  Russian  emigre
life  in  Germany is that of film extras playing themselves, as
it were, as do Ganin in Mashenka and those characters in
your story "The Assistant Producer,  "  whose  "only  hope  and
profession  was  their  past-- that is, a set of totally unreal
people, " who, you  write,  were  hired  "to  represent  'real'
audiences  in  pictures.  The  dovetailing of one phantasm into
another produced upon a  sensitive  person  the  impression  of
living in a Hall of Mirrors, or rather a prison of mirrors, and
not  even knowing which was the glass and which was yourself. "
Did Sirin ever do that sort of work? 

     Yes, I have been a tuxedoed extra as Ganin  had  been  and
that  passage  in  Mashenka, retitled Mary in the
1970 translation, is a rather raw bit of "real life."  I  don't
remember the names of those films.

     Did you have much to do with film people in Berlin?
Laughter in the Dark {1932} suggests a familiarity. 

     In the middle thirties a German actor whose name was Fritz
Kortner,  a  most famous and gifted artist of his day wanted to
make a film of Camera Obscura [Englished as  Laughter
in  the Dark]. I went to London to see him, nothing came of
it, but a few years later another  firm,  this  one  in  Paris,
bought an option which ended in a blind alley too.

     / recall that nothing came of yet another option on
Laughter  in the Dark when the producer engaged Roger Vadim,
circa I960-- Bardot  as  Margot?--  and  of  course  the  novel
finally  reached the no-longer silver screen in 1969, under the
direction of Tony  Richardson,  adapted  by  Edward  Bond,  and
starring  Nicol  Wil-liamson  and Anna Karma (interesting name,
that), the setting changed from old Berlin to Richardson's  own
mod London. I assume that you saw the movie. 

     Yes,  I did. That name is interesting. In the novel
there is a film in which my heroine is given a small part,  and
I  would  like  my  readers  to brood over my singular power of
prophecy, for the name of the leading lady (Dorianna  Karenina)
in  the  picture  invented by me in 1931 prefigured that of the
actress (Anna Karina) who was to play Margot forty years  later
in  the  film  Laughter in the Dark, which I viewed at a
private screening in Montreux.

     Are other works headed for the screen? 

     Yes, King,  Queen,  Knave  and  Ada,  though
neither  is  in  production  yet. Ada will be enormously
difficult to do: the problem of having a suggestion of fantasy,
continually, but never overdoing it. Bend  Sinister  was
done on West German television, an opera based on Invitation
to  a  Beheading was shown on Danish TV, and my play The
Event [1938] appeared on Finnish TV.

     The German cinema of the twenties  and  early  thirties
produced  several  masterpieces.  Living  in  Berlin,  were you
impressed by any of the films of the period? Do you today  feel
any  sense  of  affinity  with directors such as Fritz Lang and
Josef von Sternberg? The  former  would  have  been  the  ideal
director for Despair {1934}, the latter, who did The
Blue  Angel, perfect for Laughter in the Dark and
King, Queen, Knave {1928],  with  its  world  of  decor  and
decadence.  And  if  only F. W. Murnau, who died in 1931, could
have directed The Defense {1930}, with Emil Jannings  as

     The  names  of  Sternberg and Lang never meant anything to
me. In Europe I went to the  corner  cinema  about  once  in  a
fortnight and the only kind of picture I liked, and still like,
was  and  is  comedy  of  the  Laurel and Hardy type. I enjoyed
tremendously American comedy-- Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and
Chaplin. My favorites  by  Chaplin  are  The  Gold  Rush
[1925], The Circus [1928], and The Great Dictator
[1940]-- especially the parachute inventor who jumps out of the
window'-  and  ends  in  a  messy fall which we only see in the
expression on the dictator's face. However, today's Little  Man
appeal  has  somewhat  spoiled Chaplin's attraction for me. The
Marx Brothers were wonderful.  The  opera,  the  crowded  cabin
{A Night at the Opera, 1935], which is pure genius . . .
[Nabokov   then   lovingly   rehearsed  the  scene  in  detail,
delighting particularly in the arrival of  the  manicurist.]  I
must  have  seen  that  film  three times! Laurel and Hardy are
always funny; there are subtle, artistic touches in even  their
most  mediocre  films.  Laurel  is so wonderfully inept, yet so
very kind. There is a film in  which  they  are  at  Oxford  [A
Chump at Oxford, 1940]. In one scene the two of them are
sitting  on  a  park  bench  in  a  labyrinthine garden and the
subsequent  happenings  conform  to  the  labyrinth.  A  casual
villain puts his hand through the back of the bench and Laurel,
who  is  clasping his hands in an idiotic reverie, mistakes the
stranger's hand for one of his own hands,  with  all  kinds  of
complications  because  his  own  hand is also there. He has to
choose. The choice of a hand.

     How many years bas it been since you  saw  that  movie?

     Thirty  or  forty  years. [Nabokov then recalled, again in
precise detail, the opening scenes of  County  Hospital,
1932, in which Stan brings a gift of hardboiled eggs to relieve
the  misery  of  hospitalized  Oilie and consumes them himself,
salting them carefully.] More recently, on French TV  I  saw  a
Laurel and Hardy short in which the "dubbers" had the atrocious
taste  to  have the two men speak fluent French with an English
accent. But I don't even remember if the best Laurel and  Hardy
are talkies or not. On the whole, I think what I love about the
silent  film is what comes through the mask of the talkies and,
vice versa, talkies are mute in my memory.

     Did you only enjoy American films? 

     No. Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc [1928]  was
superb,  and  I  loved the French films of Ren? Clair-- Sous
les Toits de Paris [1929], Le Million  [1931],  ?
Nous  la  Libert?  [1931]--  a  new  world,  a new trend in

     A brilliant but self-effacing critic  and  scholar  bas
described   Invitation   to  a  Beheading  {1935-36]  as
Zamiatin's We restaged by the Marx Brothers. Is it  fair
to  say  that  Invitation to a Beheading is in many ways
akin to the film comedies we've been talking about? 

     I can't make the comparison between  a  visual  impression
and  my  scribble  on  index  cards,  which  I always see first
included quite a number of scenes that I had discarded from the
novel but still preserved in my desk. You mention one of  those
scenes  in  The  Annotated Lolita-- Humbert's arrival in
Ramsdale at the charred ruins of the McCoo house.  My  complete
screenplay  of  Lolita,  all  deletions  and emendations
restored, will be published by McGraw-Hill in the near  future;
I want it out before the musical version.

     The musical version? 

     You look disapproving. It's in the best of hands: Alan Jay
Lemer  will do the adaptation and lyrics, John Barry the music,
with settings by Boris Aronson.

     I notice that you didn't include  W.  C.  Fields  among
your favorites. 

     For  some  reason  his  films did not play in Europe and I
never saw any in the States, either.

     Well, Fields' comedy  is  more  eminently  American
than  the  others,  less exportable, I suppose. To move from
movies  to  stills,  I've  noticed  that  photography  is  seen
negatively  (no  pun  intended,  no  pun!) in books such as
Lolita and Invitation to a Beheading. Are you  making
a by now traditional distinction between mechanical process and
artistic inspiration? 

     No, I do not make that distinction. The mechanical process
can exist  in a ludicrous daub, and artistic inspiration can be
found in a photographer's choice of landscape and in his manner
of seeing it.

     You once  told  me  that  you  were  born  a  landscape
painter. Which artists have meant the most to you? 

     Oh,  many. In my youth mostly Russian and French painters.
And English artists such as Turner. The painters and  paintings
alluded  to  in  Ada  are  for the most part more recent

     The process of reading and rereading your novels  is  a
kind  of  game of perception, a confrontation of novelistic
trompe  l'oeil,  and  in  several  novels  ("Pale   Fire
and Ada among others) you allude to trompe l'oeil
painting.  Would  you  say  something  about  the  pleasures
inherent in the trompe l'oeil school? 

     A good trompe l'oeil painting proves at least  that
the  painter  is  not  cheating.  The  charlatan  who sells his
squiggles to ?pater Philistines does not have the talent
or the technique to draw a nail, let  alone  the  shadow  of  a

     What  about  Cubistic  callage?  That's  a  kind of
trompe l'oeil.

     No, it has none of the poetic appeal that  I  demand  from
all art, be it letters or the little music I know.

     The  art  teacher  in  Pnin says that Picasso is
supreme, despite his commercial foibles.  Kinbote  in  Pale
Fire likes him too, gracing his rented house with "a beloved
early  Picasso:  earth boy leading rain-cloud horse, " and your
Kinbotish questioner recalls a  reproduction  of  Picasso's
Chandelier,  pot et casserole ?maill?e on your writing desk,
1966 (the same one Kinbote had up on his wall during his
reign as King Charles). Which aspects of Picasso do you admire?

     The graphic aspect, the masterly technique, and the  quiet
colors. But then, starting with Guernica, his production
leaves   me   indifferent.   The  aspects  of  Picasso  that  I
emphatically dislike are the sloppy products of his old age.  I
also loathe old Matisse. A contemporary artist I do admire very
much,  though not only because he paints Lolita-like creatures,
is Balthus.

     How are you progressing with your book on the butterfly
in art? 

     I am still working, at my  own  pace,  on  an  illustrated
Butterflies  in Art work, from Egyptian antiquity to the
Renaissance. It is a  purely  scientific  pursuit.  I  find  an
entomological  thrill  in  tracking  down  and  identifying the
butterflies represented  by  old  painters.  Only  recognizable
portraits  interest  me.  Some  of  the  problems that might be
solved are: were certain species as common in ancient times  as
they  are  today?  Can  the  minutiae of evolutionary change be
discerned in the pattern of a five-hundred-year-old  wing?  One
simple  conclusion I have come to is that no matter how precise
an Old Master's brush can be it cannot vie  in  artistic  magic
with  some  of  the colored plates drawn by the illustrators of
certain scientific works in  the  nineteenth  century.  An  Old
Master  did  not know that in different species the venation is
different and never bothered to examine its  structure.  It  is
like  painting  a hand without knowing anything about its bones
or indeed without suspecting it has any. Certain impressionists
cannot afford to wear glasses. Only myopia condones the  blurry
generalizations  of  ignorance.  In  high  art and pure science
detail is everything.

     Who are some of the artists who  rendered  butterflies?
Might  they not attribute more symbolism to the insect than you

     Among  the  many  Old  Masters  who  depicted  butterflies
(obviously netted, or more exactly capped, by their apprentices
in  the nearest garden) were Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516), Jan
Brueghel (1568-1625), Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Paolo Porpora
(1617-1673), Daniel Seghers (1590-1661), and many  others.  The
insect  depicted  is  either  part  of a still-life (flowers or
fruit) arrangement, or more  strikingly  a  live  detail  in  a
conventional  religious  picture  (Durer, Francesco di Gentile,
etc.). That in some cases the  butterfly  symbolizes  something
(e.g.. Psyche) lies utterly outside my area of interest.

     In  1968  you  told  me  you hoped to travel to various
European museums for research purposes.  Have  you  been  doing

     Yes, that's one reason we've been spending so much time in
Italy,  and  in  the  future will be traveling to Paris and the
Louvre, and to the Dutch museums. We've been to small towns  in
Italy,  and  to  Florence,  Venice,  Rome,  Milano, Naples, and
Pompeii, where we found a very badly drawn butterfly, long  and
thin,  like  a Mayfly. There are certain obstacles: still-lifes
are not very popular today,  they  are  gap-fillers,  generally
hanging in dark places or high up. A ladder may be necessary, a
flashlight, a magnifying glass! My object is to identify such a
picture  if  there  are  butterflies  in  it  (often  it's only
"Anonymous" or "School of -- "), and get an efficient person to
take a photograph. Since I don't find many of those pictures in
the regular display rooms I try to  find  the  curator  because
some  pictures  may  turn  up in their stacks. It takes so much
time: I tramped through the Vatican Museum in  Rome  and  found
only   one   butterfly,   a   Zebra  Swallowtail,  in  a  quite
conventional Madonna and Child by Gentile, as  realistic
as  though  it were painted yesterday. Such paintings may throw
light on the time taken for evolution; one thousand years could
show some little change in trend. It's an almost endless
pursuit, but if I could manage to collect at least one  hundred
of   these  things  I  would  publish  reproductions  of  those
particular paintings w^hich include  butterflies,  and  enlarge
parts   of   the  picture  with  the  butterfly  in  life-size.
Curiously,  the  Red  Admirable  is  the  most  popular;   I've
collected twenty examples.

     That  particular  butterfly  appears frequently in your
own work, too. In Pale Fire, a Red  Admirable  lands  on
John  Shade's  arm  the  minute before he is killed, the insect
appears in King, Queen Knave just after you've withdrawn
the authorial  omniscience--  killing  the  characters,  so  to
speak--  and  in the final chapter of Speak, Memory, you
recall having seen in a Paris park, just

     before the war, a live Red Admirable being promenaded on a
leash of thread by a little girl. Why are you  so  fond  of
Vanessa atalanta?

     Its coloring is quite splendid and I liked it very much in
my youth.  Great  numbers  of  them  migrated  from  Africa  to
Northern Russia, where it was called "The  Butterfly  of  Doom"
because  it  was  especially  abundant  in  1881, the year Tsar
Alexander  II  was  assassinated,  and  the  markings  on   the
underside  of  its  two hind wings seem to read "1881." The Red
Admirable's ability to travel so far is matched by  many  other
migratory butterflies.

     The painters you admire are for the most part realists,
yet it  would  not be altogether fair to call you a "realist. "
Should one find this paradoxical? Or does  the  problem  derive
from nomenclature? The problem derives from pigeonholing.

     Your   youngmanhood  coincides  with  the  experimental
decade in Russian painting. Did you follow  these  developments
closely  at  the time, and what were (are) your feelings about,
say, Malevich, Kandinsky, or, to choose a more representational
artist, Chagall? 

     I prefer the experimental decade that  coincided  with  my
boyhood--  Sornov,  Benois  (Peter  Ustinov's uncle, you know),
Vrubel, Dobuzhinski, etc. Malevich and Kandinsky  mean  nothing
to  me  and  I  have  always  found Chagall's stuff intolerably
primitive and grotesque.


     Well, relatively early works such as The Green  Jew
and  The  Promenade  have their points, but the frescoes
and windows he now contributes  to  temples  and  the  Parisian
Opera House plafond are coarse' and unbearable.

     What   of   Tchelitchew,   whose   Hide   and  Seek
(another version of Speak, Memory's Find What the Sailor
Has Hidden?^ inpart describes the experience of reading  one
of your novels? I know Tchelitchew's work very little.

     The  latter artist recalls the Ballets Russes. Were you
at all acquainted with that circle, painters as well as dancers
and musicians? 

     My parents had many acquaintances who painted  and  danced
and  made  music.  Our  house  was one of the first where young
Shalyapin sang, and I have foxtrotted with  Pavlova  in  London
half a century ago.

     Mr.   Hilton   Kramer,  in  a  recent  article  in  the
Sunday  New  York  Times  (May  3,  1970)  writes,  "The
accomplishments  of  at least two living artists who are widely
regarded  as  among  the  greatest  of  their   time--   George
Balanchine  and  Vladimir  Nabokov-- are traceable, despite the
changes of venue and language  and  outlook,  to  the  esthetic
dream  that  nourished  Diaghilev  and  the artists he gathered
around him in St. Petersburg in the  nineties.  "  This  is,  I
suppose,  what  Mary  McCarthy meant when she characterized
Pale Fire as a "Faberge gem. "  Are  these  analogies  just?

     I  was never much interested in the ballet. "Faberge gems"
I have dealt with in Speak,  Memory  (Chapter  Five,  p.
III).    Balanshin,    not    Balanchine    (note   the   other
mistransliterations). I am at a  loss  to  understand  why  the
names  of most of the people with whom I am paired begin with a

     All of which brings to mind another  outspoken  emigre,
Mr. Stravinsky. Have you had any associations with him? 

     I  know  Mr.  Stravinski very slightly and have never seen
any genuine sample of his outspokenness in print.

     Whom in Parisian literary circles did you meet  in  the
thirties,  in  addition to Joyce and the editorial board of

     I was on friendly terms with the poet  Jules  Supervielle.
Him and Jean Pauhan (editor of Nouvelle revue fran?aise)
I especially remember.

     Did you know Samuel Beckett in Paris? 

     No,  I  did  not. Beckett is the author of lovely novellas
and wretched plays in the Maeterlinck tradition. The trilogy is
my   favorite,   expecially   Molloy.   There   is    an
extraordinary scene in which he is crawling through a forest by
dragging  himself, 'by catching the crook of his walking stick,
his crutch, in the vegetation before him, and  pulling  himself
up, wearing three overcoats and newspaper underneath them. Then
there  are  those pebbles, which he is busily transferring from
pocket to pocket. Everything is so gray, so uncomfortable,  you
feel  that  he is in constant bladder discomfort, as old people
sometimes are in their dreams. In this abject  condition  there
is no doubt some likeness with Kafka's physically uncomfortable
and  dingy  men.  It is that limpness that is so interesting in
Beckett's work.

     Beckett has also composed in two tongues, has  overseen
the  Englishing of his French works. In which language have you
read him? 

     I've read him in both French and English. Beckett's French
is a schoolmaster's French, a preserved French, but in  English
you  feel  the  moisture  of  verbal  association  and  of  the
spreading live roots of his prose.

     I have a "theory" that the  French  translation  of
Despair  (1939)--  not  to  mention the books she could have
read in Russian-- exerted a great influence  on  the  so-called
New  Novel. In his Preface to Mme. Sarraute's Portrait d'un
inconnu (1947), Sartre includes you among the antinovelists,
a rather more intelligent remark-- don't you think?-- than  his
comments  of  eight  years  before when, reviewing Despair,
he said that as an emigre writer--  landless--  you  bad  no
subject  matter.  "But  what is the question?" you might ask at
this point. Is Nabokov precursor of the French New Novel? 

     Answer: The French New Novel does not really  exist  apart
from a little heap of dust and fluff in a fouled pigeonhole.

     But what do you think of Sartre's remark? 

     Nothing.  I'm  immune  to  any  kind of opinion and I just
don't know what an "anti-novel" is specifically. Every original
novel is "anti-" because it does not resemble the genre or kind
of its predecessor.

     / know that you admire Robbe-Grillet. What  about  some
of the others loosely grouped under the "New Novel" tag: Claude
Simon?  Michel  Butor? and Raymond Queneau, a wonderful writer,
who, while not a member of l'?cole,  anticipates  it  in
several ways? 

     Queneau's   Exercices   de  style  is  a  thrilling
masterpiece and, in fact, one of the greatest stories in French
literature. I am also very fond of Queneau's Zazie,  and
I  remember  some  excellent essays he published in Nouvelle
revue fran?aise. We met once at a party  and  talked  about
another  famous  fillette.  I do not care for Butor. But
Robbe-Grillet is so unlike the others. One cannot,  one  should
not   lump   them   together.  By  the  way,  when  we  visited
Robbe-Grillet, his petite, pretty wife, a  young  actress,  had
dressed  herself  ? la gamine in my honor, pretending to
be Lolita, and she continued the performance the next day, when
we met again at a publisher's luncheon in a  restaurant.  After
pouring   wine   for   everyone  but  her,  the  waiter  asked,
"Voulez-vous un Coca-Cola,  Mademoiselle?  It  was  very
funny,  and  Robbe-Grillet,  who  looks so solemn in his
photographs, roared with laughter.

     Someone has called the New Novel "the  detective  story
taken  seriously"  (there  it  is  again,  the influence of the
French edition of Despair). Parodistic or not, you  take
it  "seriously,  "  given the number of times you've transmuted
the properties of the genre. Would you say something about  why
you've returned to them so often? 

     My  boyhood  passion  for  the  Sherlock Holmes and Father
Brown stories may yield some twisted clue.

     You once said l hat Robbe-Grillet's  shifts  of  levels
belong  to  psychology--  "psychology  at  its  best.  "Are you
apsychological novelist? 

     All novelists of any worth are psychological novelists,  T
guess.  Speaking of precursors of the New Novel, there is Franz
Hellens, a Belgian, who is very important. Do  you  know
of him?

     No, I don't. When was he active, in which period did he
write? The post-Baudelaire period.

     Could you be more specific? 

     Hellens  was  a  tall,  lean, quiet, very dignified man of
whom I saw a good deal in Belgium in the middle thirties when I
was reading my own stuff in  lecture  halls  for  large  emigre
audiences.  La  femme  partag?e  (1929), a novel, I like
particularly, and there are three  or  four  other  books  that
stand  out  among  the  many that Hellens wrote. I tried to get
someone in the States to publish him-- Laughlin, perhaps--  but
nothing  came  of  it. Hellens would get excellent reviews, was
beloved in Belgium, and what friends he had in Paris  tried  to
brighten  and  broaden his reputation. It is a shame that he is
read less than that awful Monsieur Camus and  even  more  awful
Monsieur Sartre.

     What   you  say  about  Hellens  and  Queneau  is  most
interesting, in part because journalists always  find  it  more
"colorful" to stress your negative remarks about other writers.

     Yes,  "good  copy"  is  the phrase. As a private person, I
happen to be good-natured, straightforward,  plain-spoken,  and
intolerant  of  bogus art. A writer for whom I have the deepest
admiration is H. G. Wells, especially his romances: The Time
Machine, The Invisible Man, The Country of the Blind,  The  War
of  the  Worlds,  and the moon fantasia The First Men on
the Moon.

     And as final food for thought, sir, what is the meaning of
life? [A rather blurry reproduction of  Tolstoy's  photographed
face  follows  this  question in the interviewer's typescript].

     For solutions see p. 000 (thus  says  a  MS  note  in  the
edited  typescript of my Poems and Problems which I have
just received). In other words: Let us wait for the page proof.


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