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Nabokov's Flaubert: Influence, Deviation and Continuity

Abstract : The notion of influence is a problematic one, that takes on different meanings when used in different contexts. This paper does not aim to establish Flaubert's writing as the main influence, or indeed the driving force, behind Nabokov's work. Not only was Nabokov's work influenced by a certain number of writers just as important as Flaubert, such as Tolstoy or Pushkin, but both Nabokov's and Flaubert' staunch belief in the individuality of the artist makes such a perspective untenable. Flaubert proved this by his lifelong refusal to be associated with any literary movement, Nabokov by his claim that all great contributions to literature came from individual efforts, never collective ones. Andrew Field, in his biography of Nabokov, even wrote that for Nabokov the two words "individual artist" were inseparable (Field, 146). In this case, influence should be seen as a link between the two works, stemming solely from Nabokov's individual interpretation of Flaubert's work. Nabokov, as a reader/writer, formed his own Flaubert as we all do when reading any book. Just as Gérard Genette indicates in his book Palimpsestes, where he stresses the importance of interpretation and the fact that when Proust imitates Flaubert's style in his famous pastiche, it is only a "Flaubert read by Proust". In the same way, Nabokov was not influenced by Flaubert but by a Flaubert read by Nabokov, whose style is made up of those of Flaubert's stylistic idiosyncrasies that were picked up by the reader/writer Nabokov. Therefore, the force of individuality is not to be neglected but should be incorporated into the idea of influence: influence is seen as a movement starting from Nabokov's singular reading of Flaubert's singular invented world, and ending with the effect of this on Nabokov's writing.
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Contributor : Léopold Reigner <>
Submitted on : Thursday, May 9, 2019 - 11:15:23 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 25, 2019 - 8:56:05 AM
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Léopold Reigner. Nabokov's Flaubert: Influence, Deviation and Continuity. Représentations dans le monde anglophone, CEMRA, 2018. ⟨hal-02123989⟩

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