In October, 1971, Kurt Hoffman visited me in  Montreux  to
film  an  interview for the Bayeriscber Rundfunk. Of its
many topics and themes I have selected a few  for  reproduction
in  this volume. The bit about my West European ancestors comes
from   a   carefully    executed    and    beautifully    bound
Ahnentafel,  given  me  on  my seventieth birthday by my
German publisher Heinrich Maria Ledig-RowohIt.




     We can imagine all kinds of  time,  such  as  for  example
"applied  time"--  time  applied to events, which we measure by
means of clocks and calendars; but  those  types  of  time  are
inevitably  tainted by our notion of space, spatial succession,
stretches and sections of space. When we speak of the  "passage
of  time,"  we  visualize  an  abstract river flowing through a
generalized landscape. Applied time,  measurable  illusions  of
time,  are useful for the purposes of historians or physicists,
they do not interest me, and they did not interest my  creature
Van Veen in Part Four of my Ada. 
     He and I in that book attempt to examine the essence of
Time,  not its lapse. Van mentions the possibility of being
"an amateur of Time, an epicure of duration," of being able  to
delight  sensually  in  the  texture of time, "in its stuff and
spread, in the fall of its folds, in the very impalpability  of
its  grayish  gauze, in the coolness of its continuum." He also
is aware that "Time is  a  fluid  medium  for  the  culture  of
metaphors."
     Time,  though  akin to rhythm, is not simply rhythm, which
would imply motion-- and Time does  not  move.  Van's  greatest
discovery  is  his perception of Time as the dim hollow between
two  rhythmic  beats,  the  narrow   and   bottomless   silence
between  the beats, not the beats themselves, which only
embar Time. In this sense human life is not a  pulsating  heart
but the missed heartbeat.




     Pure  Time,  Perceptual  Time, Tangible Time, Time free of
content and context, this, then, is the kind of Time  described
by my creature under my sympathetic direction.
     The  Past is also part of the tissue, part of the present,
but it looks somewhat out of focus.  The  Past  is  a  constant
accumulation of images, but our brain is not an ideal organ for
constant  retrospection  and  the best we can do is to pick out
and try to retain  those  patches  of  rainbow  light  flitting
through  memory.  The  act  of  retention  is  the  act of art,
artistic selection, artistic blending, artistic  re-combination
of  actual  events.  The bad memoirist re-touches his past, and
the result is a blue-tinted or pink-shaded photograph taken  by
a   stranger  to  console  sentimental  bereavement.  The  good
memoirist, on the other hand, does his best!  to  preserve  the
utmost  truth  of  the  detail. One of the ways he achieves his
intent is to find the right spot on his canvas for placing  the
right patch of remembered color.




     It  follows  that  the  combination  and  juxtaposition of
remembered details is a main factor in the artistic process  of
reconstructing  one's  past.  And  that  means probing not only
one's personal past but the past of one's family in  search  of
affinities  with  oneself, previews of oneself, faint allusions
to one's vivid and vigorous Now. This, of course, is a game for
old people. Tracing an ancestor to his lair hardly differs from
a boy's search for a bird's nest or for  a  ball  lost  in  the
grass. The Christmas tree of one's childhood is replaced by the
Family Tree.
     As  the  author  of several papers on Lepidoptera, such as
the  "Nearctic  Members  of  the  Genus  Lycaeides,"   I
experience  a  certain  thrill  on  finding  that  my  mother's
maternal grandfather Nikolay Kozlov, who was born two centuries
ago and was the first president of the Russian Imperial Academy
of Medicine, wrote a paper entitled "On the Coarctation of  the
Jugular  Foramen  in  the Insane" to which my "Nearctic Members
et cetera," furnishes a perfect response.  And  no  less
perfect  is  the  connection  between  Nabokov's  Pug, a little
American moth named after me, and Nabokov's River  in  Nova
Zembla  of all places, so named after
my great-grandfather, who participated at the beginning of  the
nineteenth  century  in  an  arctic expedition. I learned about
these things quite late in life. Talks  about  one's  ancestors
were  frowned  upon in my family; the interdiction came from my
father who had a particular loathing for  the  least  speck  or
shadow  of  snobbishness. When imagining the information that I
could now have used in my memoir, I rather regret that no  such
talks took place. But it simply was not done in our home, sixty
years ago, twelve hundred miles away.




     My father Vladimir Nabokov was a liberal statesman, member
of the first Russian parliament, champion of justice and law in
a difficult  empire.  He  was  born in 1870, went into exile in
1919, and three years later, in Berlin, was assassinated by two
Fascist  thugs  while  he  was  trying  to  shield  his  friend
Professor Milyukov.
     The  Nabokov  family's  estate was adjacent to that of the
Rukavishnikovs in the Government of St. Petersburg.  My  mother
Helen  (1876-1939)  was  the  daughter  of  Ivan Rukavishnikov,
country gentleman and philanthropist.
     My paternal grandfather  Dmitri  Nabokov  (1827-1904)  was
State Minister of Justice for eight years (1878-1885) under two
tsars.
     My  grandmother's  paternal ancestors, the von Korffs, are
traceable to the fourteenth century,  while  on  their  distaff
side  there  is  a long line of von Tiesenhausens, one of whose
ancestors was Engelbrecht von Tiesenhausen of Liviand who  took
part,  around  1200,  in the Third and Fourth Crusades. Another
direct ancestor of mine was Can Grande della Scala,  Prince  of
Verona,  w-ho  sheltered  the exiled Dante Alighieri, and whose
blazon (two big dogs holding a ladder)  adorns  Boccaccio's
Decameron (1353). Della Scala's
granddaughter   Beatrice   married,   in  1370,  Wilhelm  Count
Oettingen, grandson of fat Bolko the Third,  Duke  of  Silesia.
Their daughter married a von Waldburg, and three Waldburgs, one
Kittlitz,  two  Polenzes  and  ten Osten-Sackens later, Wilhelm
Carl von Korff and Eleonor von der Osten-Sacken  engendered  my
paternal  grandmother's grandfather, Nicolaus, killed in battle
on June 12, 1812. His wife, my grandmother's grandmother Anto
inette Graun, was the granddaughter of
the composer Carl Heinrich Graun (1701-1759).




     My first Russian novel was written  in  Berlin  in  1924--
this was Mary, in Russian Mashenka, and the first
translation  of  any  of my books was Masbenka in German
under the title Sie kommt--  kommt  Sie?,  published  by
Ullstein  in  1928.  My  next seven novels were also written in
Berlin and all of them had,  entirely  or  in  part,  a  Berlin
background.  This  is the German contribution to the atmosphere
and production of  all  my  eight  Russian  novels  written  in
Berlin.  When  I  moved there from England in 1921,1 had only a
smattering of German picked up in Berlin during an earlier stay
in the winter of 1910 when by brother and I went there  with  a
Russian tutor to have ! our teeth fixed by an American dentist.
In  the  course  of  my  Cambridge  University  years I kept my
Russian alive by reading Russian literature, my imain  subject,
and  by  composing  an  appalling quantity of poems in Russian.
Upon moving to Berlin I was beset by a panicky fear of  somehow
flawing  my  precious  layer  of  Russian  by learning to speak
German fluently. The task  of  linguistic  occlusion  was  made
easier  by  the  fact that I lived in a closed emigre circle of
Russian  friends  and  read  exclusively  Russian   newspapers,
magazines,  and  books.  My only forays into the local language
were the civilities exchanged with my successive  landlords  or
landladies  and  the  routine  necessities  of shopping: Ich
mochte etwas Schinken. I now regret that I did so poorly; I
regret it from a ! cultural point of view. The  little  I  ever
did  in  that  respect  was  to translate in my youth the Heine
songs for a Russian contralto-- who, incidentally,  wanted  the
musically  significant vowels to coincide in fullness of sound,
and therefore I turned Ich  grolle  nicbt  into  Net,
zloby  net, instead of the unsingable old v-ersion Ya ne
serzhus'. Later I read Goethe and Kafka en  regard's
I  also  did  Homer  and  Horace.  And of course since my early
boyhood I have been tackling a multitude  of  German  butterfly
books with the aid of a dictionary.




     In  America,  where I wrote all my fiction in English, the
situation was different. I had spoken  English  with  the  same
ease  as  Russian,  since  my  earliest  infancy. I had already
written one English novel in Europe besides translating in  the
thirties  two  of  my  Russian  books.  Linguistically,  though
perhaps not emotionally, the transition was endurable.  And  in
reward  of whatever wrench I experienced, I composed in America
a few Russian poems which are incomparably better than those of
my European period.




     My actual work on lepidoptera is comprised within the span
of only seven or eight years in the nineteen forties, mainly at
Harvard, where I was  Research  Fellow  in  Entomology  at  the
Museum  of  Comparative  Zoology.  This entailed some amount of
curatorship  but  most  of  my  work   was   devoted   to   the
classification  of  certain small blue butterflies on the basis
of their male genitalic structure. These studies  required  the
constant  use  of  a  microscope, and since I devoted up to six
hours daily to this kind of research my eyesight  was  impaired
for  ever;  but  on  the  other  hand, the years at the Harvard
Museum remain the most delightful and thrilling in all my adult
life.  Summers  were  spent  by  my  wife  and  me  in  hunting
butterflies, mostly in the Rocky Mountains. In the last fifteen
years  I  have collected h! ere and there, in North America and
Europe,  but  have  not  published  any  scientific  papers  on
butterflies,   because  the  writing  of  new  novels  and  the
translating of my old ones encroached too much on my life:  the
miniature  hooks  of a male butterfly are nothing in comparison
to the eagle claws of literature  which  tear  at  me  day  and
night.  My  entomological  library  in  Montreux is smaller, in
fact, than the heaps of butterfly books I had as a child.
     I am the author or the reviser of a number of species  and
subspecies  mainly in the New World. The author's name, in such
cases, is appended in Roman letters to the italicized  name  he
gives  to  the  creature. Several butterflies and one moth have
been named for me, and in such cases my name is incorporated in
that of  the  described  insect,  becoming  "nabokovi,"'
followed  by  the  describer's  name.  There  is  also  a genus
Nabokovia Hemming, in South  America.  All  my  American
collections  are  in  museums, in New York, Boston, and lthaca.
The butterflies I have been collecting during the last  decade,
mainly  in  Switzerland and Italy, are not yet spread. They are
still papered, that is kept in little glazed envelopes which are
stored in tin boxes. Eventually they will be relaxed in damp
towels, then pinned, then spread, and dried again  on  setting
boards,  and finally, labeled and placed in the glassed drawers
of a cabinet to  be  preserved, I hope, in the splendid entomological
museum in Lausanne.




     I have always been an omnivorous consumer  of  books,  and
now,  as  in my boyhood, a vision of the night's lamplight on a
bedside tome is a promised treat and a guiding star  throughout
the  day. Other keen pleasures are soccer matches on the TV, an
occasional cup of wine or a triangular  gulp  of  canned  beer,
sunbaths  on  the  lawn,  and  composing  chess  problems. Less
ordinary, perhaps, is the unruffled flow of a family life which
during its long course--  almost  half  a  century--  has  made
absolute  fools  of  the bogeys of environment and the bores of
circumstance at all stages of  our  expatriation.  Most  of  my
works  have been dedicated to my wife and her picture has often
been reproduced by some mysterious means of reflec!  ted  color
in the inner mirrors of my books.
     It  was  in Berlin that we married, in April, 1925, in the
midst  of  my  writing  my  first  Russian   novel.   We   were
ridiculously  poor,  her  father  was ruined, my widowed mother
subsisted on an insufficient pension, my wife and  I  lived  in
gloomy rooms which we rented in Berlin West, in the lean bosoms
of  German  military families; I taught tennis and English, and
nine years later, in 1934, at the dawn of a new era,  our  only
son  was  born.  In the late thirties we migrated to France. My
stuff was beginning to be translated, my readings in Paris  and
elsewhere  were  well  attended;  but  then  came the end of my
European stage: in May, 1940, we moved to America.




     Soviet politicians have a rather comic provincial  way  of
applauding  the  audience that applauds them. I hope I won't be
accused of facetious sufficiency if I say in response  to  your
compliments  that  I  have  the greatest readers any author has
ever had. I see myself as an American writer raised in  Russia,
educated in England, imbued with the culture of Western Europe;
I  am  aware of the blend, but even the most lucid plum pudding
cannot sort out its own ingredients, especially whilst the pale
fire still flickers around it. Field, Appel, Proffer, and  many
others  in  the USA, Zimmer in Germany, Vivian Darkbioom (a shy
violet in Cambridge), have all  added  their  erudition  to  my
inspiration,  with brilliant results. I would like to say a tot
about my heroic readers in Russia but am prevented  from  doing
so--  by  many  emotions besides a sense of responsibility with
which I still cannot cope in any rational way.




     Exquisite postal service. No bothersome demonstrations, no
spiteful strikes. Alpine butterflies. Fabulous  sunsets--  just
west  of  my  window, spangling the lake, splitting the crimson
sun! Also, the pleasant surprise of a  metaphorical  sunset  in
charming surroundings.
     The  phrase  is  a  sophism because, if true, it is itself
mere "vanity," and if not then the "all" is wrong. You say that
it seems to be my main motto. I wonder if there  is  really  so
much   doom   and  "frustration"  in  my  fiction?  Humbert  is
frustrated, that's obvious;  some  of  my  other  villains  are
frustrated;  police states are horribly frustrated in my novels
and  stories;  but  my  favorite  creatures,   my   resplendent
characters--   in   The  Gift,  in  Invitation  to  a
Beheading, in Ada, in Glory, et cetera--  are
victors  in  the  long  run.  In  fact I believe that one day a
reappraiser will come and declare that, far from having been  a
frivolous firebird, I was a rigid moralist kicking sin, cuffing
stupidity,  ridiculing  the  vulgar  and  cruel-- and assigning
sovereign power to tenderness, talent, and pride.




     The phrase is a sophism because, if  true,  it  is  itself
mere "vanity," and if not then the "all" is wrong. You say that
it  seems  to  be my main motto. I wonder if there is really so
much  doom  and  "frustration"  in  my  fiction?   Humbert   is
frustrated,  that's  obvious;  some  of  my  other villains are
frustrated; police states are horribly frustrated in my  novels
and   stories;   but  my  favorite  creatures,  my  resplendent
characters--  in  The  Gift,  in  Invitation   to   a
Beheading,  in Ada, in Glory, et cetera-- are
victors in the long run. In fact  I  believe  that  one  day  a
reappraiser  will come and declare that, far from having been a
frivolous firebird, I was a rigid moralist kicking sin, cuffing
stupidity, ridiculing the  vulgar  and  cruel--  and  assigning
sovereign power to tenderness, talent, and pride

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