Nabokov’s interview anonymous [1962] lolita

Nabokov’s interview. Anonymous [1962]

On the morning of June 5, 1962, the Queen Elizabeth brought my wife and me from Cherbourg to New York for the film premiere of Lolita. On the day of our arrival three or four journalists interviewed me at the St. Ritzs hotel. I have a little cluster of names jotted down in my pocket diary but am not sure which, if any, refers to that group. The questions and answers were typed from my notes immediately after the interview.

Interviewers do not find you a particularly stimulating person. Why is that so?

I pride myself on being a person with no public appeal. I have never been drunk in my life. I never use schoolboy words of four letters. I have never worked in an office or in a coal mine. I have never belonged to any club or group. No creed or school has had any influence on me whatsoever. Nothing bores me more than political novels and the literature of social intent.
Still there must be things that move you –

likes and dislikes.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.

You write everything in longhand, don’t you?
Yes. I cannot type.

Would you agree to show us a sample of your rough drafts?
I’m afraid I must refuse. Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one’s sputum.

Do you read many new novels? Why do you laugh?
I laugh because well-meaning publishers keep sending me – with “hope-you-will-like-it-as-much-as-we-do” letters – only one kind of fiction: novels truffled with obscenities, fancy words, and would-be weird incidents. They seem to be all by one and the same writer – who is not even the shadow of my shadow.
What is your opinion of the so-called “anti-novel” in France?
I am not interested in groups, movements, schools of writing and so forth. I am interested only in the individual artist. This “anti-novel” does not really exist; but there does exist one great French writer, Robbe-Grillet; his work is grotesquely imitated by a number of banal scribblers whom a phony label assists commercially.

I notice you “haw” and “er”a great deal. Is it a sign of approaching senility?

Not at all. I have always been a wretched speaker. My vocabulary dwells deep in my mind and needs paper to wriggle out into the physical zone. Spontaneous eloquence seems to me a miracle. I have rewritten – often several times – every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.

What about TV appearances?

Well (you always begin with “well” on TV), after one such appearance in London a couple of years ago I was accused by a naive critic of squirming and avoiding the camera. The interview, of course, had been carefully rehearsed. I had carefully written out all my answers (and most of the questions), and because I am such a helpless speaker, I had my notes (mislaid since) on index cards arranged before me – ambushed behind various innocent props; hence I could neither stare at the camera nor leer at the questioner.

Yet you have lectured extensively-

In 1940, before launching on my academic career in America, I fortunately took the trouble of writing one hundred lectures – about 2,000 pages – on Russian literature, and later another hundred lectures on great novelists from Jane Austen to James Joyce. This kept me happy at Wellesley and Cornell for twenty academic years.

Nabokov’s interview anonymous [1962] lolita