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1972 Anonymous-2

"This interview, conducted by a docile anonym, is preserved
in a fragmentary transcript dated October, 1972

Некоторые НАБОКОВские интервью / Nabokov's interview

Источник: www


     This interview, conducted by a docile anonym, is preserved
in a fragmentary transcript dated October, 1972.

     There  are  two Russian books on which I would like you
to comment. The first is Dr. Zhivago. I  understand  you
never wished to review it? 

     Some   fifteen   years   ago,   when   the   Soviets  were
hypocritically denouncing Pasternak's novel (with the object of
increasing foreign sales,  the  results  of  which  they  would
eventually  pocket  and  spend  on propaganda abroad); when the
badgered and bewildered author was  promoted  by  the  American
press   to   the  rank  of  an  iconic  figure;  and  when  his
Zhivago vied with my Lalage for the  top  rungs  of  the
best-seller's  ladder;  I  had the occasion to answer a request
for a  review  of  the  book  from  Robert  Bingham  of  The
Reporter, New York.

     And you refused? 

     Oh,  I  did,  The other day I found in my files a draft of
that answer, dated  at  Goldwin  Smith  Hall,  lthaca,  N.  Y.,
November  8,  1958.  I  told  Bingham  that  there were several
reasons preventing me from  freely  expressing  my  opinion  in
print.  The  obvious  one  was  the fear of harming the author.
Although I never had much influence as a critic, I  could  well
imagine   a   pack   of   writers   emulating   my  "eccentric"
outspokenness and causing, in the long run, sales to drop, thus
thwarting the Bolshevists  in  their  hopes  and  making  their
hostage  more  vulnerable than ever. There were other reasons--
but I certainly left out of consideration one point that  might
have  made  me change my mind and write that devastating review
after  all--  the  exhilarating
prospect of seeing it attributed to competitive chagrin by some
ass or goose.

     Did you tell Robert Bingham what you thought of Dr.

     What  I  told  him  is  what  I  still  think  today.  Any
intelligent  Russian  would  see  at  once  that  the  book  is
pro-Bolshevist  and  historically  false,  if  only  because it
ignores the Liberal Revolution of spring,  1917,  while  making
the  saintly  doctor  accept  with delirious joy the Bolshevist
coup d'etat seven months later--  all  of  which  is  in
keeping with the party line. Leaving out politics, I regard the
book  as a sorry thing, clumsy, trivial, and melodramatic, with
stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelievable  girls,  and
trite coincidences.

     Yet  you  have a high opinion of Pasternak as a lyrical

     Yes, I applauded  his  getting  the  Nobel  Prize  on  the
strength  of  his  verse.  In  Dr. Zhivago, however, the
prose does not live up to his poetry.  Here  and  there,  in  a
landscape or simile, one can distinguish, perhaps, faint echoes
of  his  poetical  voice, but those occasional fioriture
are insufficient to save his novel from the provincial banality
so typical of Soviet  literature  for  the  past  fifty  years.
Precisely  that link with Soviet tradition endeared the book to
our progressive readers. I deeply sympathized with  Pasternak's
predicament  in  a police state; yet neither the vulgarities of
the Zhivago style nor a philosophy that sought refuge in
a sickly sweet brand of Christianism could ever transform  that
sympathy into a fellow writer's enthusiasm.


     The  book, however, has become something of a classic. How
do you explain its reputation? 

     Well, all I know is that among Russian readers of  today--
readers,   I  mean,  who  represent  that  country's  wonderful
underground  intelligentsia  and  who  manage  to  obtain   and
distribute  works  of dissident authors-- Dr. Zhivago is
not prized as universally and unquestioningly as it is,  or  at
least  was,  by  Americans. When the novel appeared in America,
her left-wing idealists were delighted  to  discover  in  it  a
proof  that  "a  great book" could be produced after all
under the Soviet rule. It was for them the triumph of Leninism.
They were comforted by the fact that for better  or  worse  its
author  remai!  ned  on  the side of angelic Old Bolsheviks and
that nothing in his book even  remotely  smacked  of  the  true
exile's  indomitable contempt for the beastly regime engendered
by Lenin.

     Let us now turn --

                          (The fragment stops here) 


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