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The question of the affinities I may think I have or not have with nineteenth-century Russian writers is a classificational, not a confessional matter.
There is hardly a single Russian major writer of the past whom pigeonholers have not mentioned in connection with me.
This interview (published in Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature, vol. 2, spring 1967) was conducted on September 25, 27, 28, 29, 1966, at Montreux, Switzerland. Nabokov and his wife have for the last six years lived in an opulent hotel built in 1835, which still retains its nineteenth-century atmosphere. ther wrote out his answers to the questions or dictated them to the interviewer; in some instances, notes from the conversation were later recast as formal questions-and-answers.
Their suite of rooms is on the sixth floor, overlooking Lake Geneva, and the sounds of the lake are audible through the open doors of their small balcony. Nabokov does not like to talk off the cuff (or "Off the Nabocuff," as he said) no tape recorder was used. The interviewer was Nabokov's student at Cornell University in 1954, and the references are to Literature 311-312 (MWF, 12), a course on the Masterpieces of European Fiction (Jane Austen, Gogol, Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Stevenson, Kafka, Joyce, and Proust).
My aversion to groups is rather a matter of temperament than the fruit of information and thought.
I was born that way and have despised ideological coercion instinctively all my life.
I can only add that I devoted as much honest labor to the task of gathering the material for the Chernyshevski chapter as I did to the composing of Shade's poem in Pale Fire.
Would you say something about the controversy surrounding the Chernyshevskl biography in The Gift?
You have commented on this briefly before, but since its suppression in the thirties expresses such a transcendent irony and seems to justify the need for just such a parody, I think your readers would be most interested, especially since so little is known about the emigre communities, their magazines, and the role of intellectuals in these communities, lf you would like to describe something of the writer's relationship to this world, please do.
For years bibliographers and literary journalists didn't know whether to group you under "Russian" or "American.
"Now that you're living in Switzerland there seems to be complete agreement that you're American.