Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nabokov on students and reading

I acquired Vladimir Nabokov's 'Lectures on Literature' to find out what he had to say about Proust in particular.
Nabokov discovered literature in Russia but fled after the Bolshevik revolution. He lived in France from 1920 to 1940, writing in French and Russian. He came to America in 1940 and learned to write in English. Meanwhile he taught great books in translation, an oddly unusual thing at an American university. In his final lecture, he said:
“Now the course comes to its close. The work with this group has been a particularly pleasant association between the fountain of my voice and a garden of ears – some open, others closed, but all of them human and divine. Some of you will go on reading great books, others will stop reading great books after graduation; and if a person thinks he cannot evolve the capacity for pleasure in reading the great artists, then he should not read them at all. After all, there are other thrills in other domains: the thrill of pure science is just as pleasurable as the pleasure of pure art. The main thing is to experience that tingle in any department of thought or emotion. We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.”
Isn’t that lovely?

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