"Crossing the dark sky of exile": Vladimir Nabokov and the Issue of Exile (Abstracts due Sept. 30)

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Northeast Modern Language Association
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In Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov writes that "Sirin passed," "across the dark sky of exile" "like a meteor, and disappeared, leaving nothing much else behind him than a vague sense of uneasiness." While most would disagree that Nabokov disappeared or left nothing much behind him, many would agree that exile played a large role in his life and works. Even before he was forced to flee Russia, Nabokov's earliest poetry expressed the pain of exile and loss, a pain that would only intensify in the years to come. After several years in Germany - during which time Nabokov continued to write in Russian despite becoming increasingly aware that he would probably never return to the land of his birth - and France, Nabokov finally settled in America where he would find fame, fortune, and notoriety in his adopted home, a life very different from that described by Charles Kinbote in Pale Fire: "a writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but his art." Such a triumph never could have occurred if Nabokov had not left behind his Russian tongue for English, a move that Nabokov once referred to as his "private tragedy," a tragedy perhaps compounded when he later came to translate Lolita into Russian and found that he had lost his mastery of the language of his nation. This panel seeks to explore the theme of exile in the works of Vladimir Nabokov: his poetry, his novels, his translations of and lectures on Russian literature, and his famous autobiography. What role does exile play in his works? In what ways do his works transcend national boundaries and become works of world literature? This panel should appeal to anyone with an interest in Nabokov and the issue of transnational influence on world literature. Please submit 250-300 word abstracts (MSWord) to Jackie Cameron at jackiec159@hotmail.com by September 30.