Michael Rodgers: Nabokov and Nietzsche Problems and Perspectives

Nabokov and Nietzsche: Problems and Perspectives addresses the many knotted issues in the work of Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita‘s moral stance, Pnin‘s relationship with memory, Pale Fire‘s ambiguous internal authorship – that often frustrate interpretation. It does so by arguing that the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, as both a conceptual instrument and a largely unnoticed influence on Nabokov himself, can help to untie some of these knots.

The study addresses the fundamental problems in Nabokov’s writing that make his work perplexing, mysterious and frequently uneasy rather than simply focusing on the literary puzzles and games that, although inherent, do not necessarily define his body of work. Michael Rodgers shows that Nietzsche’s philosophy provides new, but not always palatable, perspectives in order to negotiate interpretative impasses, and that the uneasy aspects of Nabokov’s work offer the reader manifold rewards.

List of Abbreviations

Section I: Nietzschean Engagements
1. Eternal Recurrence and Nabokov’s Art of Memory
2. The Will to Disempower: Nabokov and His Readers
Section II: Nietzschean Readings
3. Lolita‘s Nietzschean Morality
4. Pale Fire: A Differing Perspective
Section III: Beyond Nietzsche
5. Rewriting Nietzsche
6. Nabokov’s ‘Other’ World



Nabokov and Nietzsche: Problems and Perspectives is the first in-depth examination of the relationship between Vladimir Nabokov’s writing and Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. Rodgers delivers on his promise to provide an interesting contribution that covers an existing lacuna in the Nabokov studies. His book is engaging reading for all those interested in the history of ideas and in the adoption of philosophical concepts by modernist literature.” –  Yuri Leving, Professor of Russian Literature and Film, Dalhousie University, Canada“Michael Rodgers’ study, initiated by his discovery of Zarathustra on a book list compiled by Nabokov in Bolshevik Russia in 1918, constructs an engaging and compelling argument for the validity of reading Nabokov in the light of Nietzschean thought. Through its lively and insightful analysis of Nabokov’s fiction, criticism and auto/biography, set against the principal tenets of Nietzsche’s philosophy-eternal recurrence, the fluidity of truth and the Übermensch-Nabokov and Nietzsche enriches our responses both to problematic issues of transgression, alienation and discomfort across Nabokov’s work, and to fundamental questions of morality and metaphysics.” –  Barbara Wyllie, University College London, UK, author of Nabokov at the Movies and Vladimir Nabokov (Critical Lives)

“Nabokov was certainly influenced by Nietzsche because almost every European writer in his generation was, but this subtle and intelligent book takes us far beyond the question of direct debt. A series of astute readings of key moments in Nabokov’s work suggests that his achievement was the creation not of bliss, as he said, or of pure art or indirect morality, but of a complex ‘uneasiness’ that is the artistic measure of the unsettled world Nietzsche set us on the path to understanding.” –  Michael Wood, Professor Emeritus of English, Princeton University, USA

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