Zina's Paradox: The Figured Reader in Nabokov's The Gift
One of the century's greatest Russian novels, The Gift still continues to baffle new readers with its playfully unstable narration, its temporal shifts, and its huge inserted opus, The Life of Chernyshevski. This study, the first monograph on Nabokov's last Russian novel, explores the connections between the narrative's structural difficulties and its most pressing thematic concerns: love and self-transcendence. In a departure from traditional approaches to The Gift, Blackwell places Zina's role as a loving, collaborating audience at the very center of the novel's significance. This non-heroine, according to Nabokov, turns out to constitute a vital part of the narrative perspective, a fact with significant repercussions for the novel's consideration of art's meaning within human existence and beyond.
"The Gift has been called the greatest Russian novel of the twentieth
century. Nabokov's longest and most complex Russian work, it subtly
interweaves Fyodor's and Zina's love story with a study of the narrator's
creative process. By focusing on Zina's role as the novel's muse and first
reader, Blackwell develops a new, insightful reading of The Gift and
provides fresh light on Nabokov's creative philosophy. Unlike many critical
monographs, Blackwell's work appeals to the generalist as well as the
Stephen H. Blackwell is Assistant Professor of Russian at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has published several articles on Nabokov.
Zina's Paradox is available from Peter Lang.
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