A Praise of Idleness?

Thomas Karshan

in Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Play

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199603985
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725333 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

A Praise of Idleness?

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While in the late 1920s Nabokov was particularly interested in understanding play through the specific qualities of individual games and sports, in the next decade he was thinking about play in relation to its antitheses with use and with work, and Chapter 4 is about play as the opposite of work in the novels of the 1930s. In the same month, December 1925, that Nabokov wrote his manifesto for play in ‘Play’, he also wrote a vision of art and the world as work in ‘A Guide to Berlin’. Nabokov's vision of play is haunted by a competing vision of work, and in Glory, Invitation to a Beheading, and Despair, both play and work are treated as provisional stages on a path towards some more complete goal. In the later 1930s Nabokov engaged in a battle against the nineteenth-century idealisation of labour, which he believed had led to the Soviet and Nazi ideologies, and in The Gift, he mounts an unambiguous assault on the culture of labour, focusing on the figure of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, the Russian radical of the 1860s.

Keywords: Nabokov; play; work; idleness; Marxism; Fascism; utilitarianism; freedom

Chapter.  19550 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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