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AN APPROACH TO VLADIMIR NABOKOV’S “OTHERWORLD”¹ SETTING THE SCENE Vladimir Nabokov’s massive literary output has yielded perhaps the greatest bounty of plausible interpretations ever since Pekka Tammi appreciatively classified him among “the most energetically studied modern American novelists” of contemporary literature (TAMMI, 1985, 13). This assessment was made in 1985, when the critical reception of the author’s spectacularly large oeuvre had as yet inspired a disproportionately sparse number of books, essays, and studies. The three decades following Nabokov’s death in 1977 have seen revolutionary developments in the interpretation of the author’s intricately composed fictional worlds, and the critical appraisal of his works today is comparable in size to his own literary production. While the Nabokovian text seems to offer a bewildering variety of readings even today, it is the pervasive concept of the “otherworld” that has stimulated the most intense discussion among scholars in recent years. The claim that any single critical school can ever hope to capture all the aspects of the author’s fiction may sound preposterous to the trained ear, and yet there seems to be a mutual agreement among scholars that the “otherworld” has evolved into a major repository of all the thematic dominants that had been formerly identified in connection with his texts. The notion of the “otherworld” only becomes entirely comprehensible in the Nabokovian context once the general overtones associated with the conventional realm of the hereafter have been driven out of our interpretative process. It is correctly conjectured that the “otherworld” in Nabokov’s fiction is not analogous with the traditionally conceived domain of the dead, or, as Maxim D. Shrayer has stated, it is not “the domain where the souls of the deceased dwell in traditional metaphysical systems” (SHRAYER, 1999, 21). Pierre Delalande, the imaginary philosopher of The Gift (and perhaps the only philosopher whose postulations the author unconditionally accepted) also reinforces this view by stating that “the otherworld surrounds us always and is not at all at the end of some pilgrimage” (NABOKOV, 1991, 321-322). Instead of envisaging the world as a garden of forking paths, bifurcating into mundane reality and the ecstatic, the majority of his works focuses on the author’s attempts to unify these two universes during moments of spiritual revelations that Nabokov described as “aesthetic bliss”, that is, “a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm” (NABOKOV, 2000, 305). 2
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This note was uploaded on 10/09/2010 for the course ENG Eng2301 taught by Professor Roy during the Spring '09 term at Austin Community College.

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