Faculty Colloquium



Ludmila Lavine

Publication Date




Today, Russia continues its centuries-old tradition of running its cultural figures out of the country. Nabokov, one of the most famous examples of this trend, embodies a kind of displacement that is inextricably tied to language. While remaking himself as a novelist for his new American audience, what he hides – his formative greats like Pushkin and Gogol – is often more important than the parade of explicit literary allusions to his adopted culture. I will discuss one of Nabokov’s most beautiful and most complex novels, Pale Fire, where “smuggling” reverberates on every level. Pale Fire is a story of a stalker and a thief, preying on a well-respected American poet, stealing his narrative of pain and warping it into his own. Through it all, I argue that one of Pushkin’s famous texts is perhaps the most important contraband that lurks beneath the surface, something that our deranged narrator cannot name, yet it is something that underscores the narrator’s loss of a native language, city, country, and an audience that shares his cultural modes of communication.


Open Access Film


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Russian Studies