Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness | Paperback
Nabokov’s Ada: The Place of Consciousness
Not only are Vladimir Nabokov’s style and strategies richer than readers have suspected, they also express an original philosophy of consciousness - a lucid and coherent aesthetics, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. This is the essential argument of Brian Boyd’s Nabokov’s Ada: The Place of Consciousness, a study that has been widely acclaimed as the definitive guide to a great twentieth-century literary classic.
Boyd reveals the myriad ways Nabokov found both to extol the amplitude and freedom of consciousness and at the same time to deplore our appalling entrapment in the self and the moment. Nabokov sought always to transcend the limits of the mind, looking for intimations of some freer consciousness beyond the mortal and material world. These attitudes, as Boyd shows, shape every level of his fiction, from the patterning of phrases to the interplay between reader and author.
Ada is Nabokov’s longest and lushest novel, and Boyd demonstrates how it takes Nabokov's style and thought to new heights. Although the central character, Van Veen, seems only to celebrate his love for his sister Ada, Nabokov's own focus is as much on their far more ordinary half-sister, Lucette, whom Van and Ada overlook or tragically entangle in ways that serve as an index and indictment of their actions. Even after her suicide, Lucette returns to enrich both the lives of Van Veen and Ada and their lyrical tribute to their past.
In a new preface for CYBEREDITIONS, Brian Boyd places Ada in the context of Nabokov’s work, subsequent critical discussion, and his own later work. He adds four new chapters, written in the late 1980s and the 1990s, offering overviews of Ada from a variety of new vantage points. An Index of Passages in Ada allows readers to check for discussions of particular chapters of the novel, while a detailed General Index serves those interested in Ada in particular or in tracing Nabokov’s style or thought in general.
With the appearance of this augmented edition of Nabokov’s Ada: The Place of Consciousness, Brian Boyd has greatly enhanced and updated the essential guide both to the thought of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and to one of his most complex and rewarding works.
Comments on the First Edition
“. . . magnificent” - Simon Karlinsky, Washington Post
“Brian Boyd knows more about Nabokov's longest and most complex book than any other scholar. . . . the book seriously engages Nabokov's metaphysics and ethics and brings them to bear on his chef-d'oeuvre. . . . stunning . . . a major contribution to Nabokov scholarship and a delight for all serious students of Nabokov.” - D. Barton Johnson, Slavic and East European Journal
“. . . exceptionally fine . . . provides not only the best commentary on the novel, but also a most perceptive overview of Nabokov's art in general. . . . a brilliant overview of Nabokov's metaphysics.” - Stephen Jan Parker, Understanding Vladimir Nabokov
“. . . the most thorough-going investigation of Ada to date, and with application outside this novel to Nabokov’s entire production and philosophy.” - Jane Grayson, Slavonic Review
“. . . the definitive work on Ada. . . . rivals Stanley Fish in showing, for example, how readers are lulled into failures of judgment by the Rimbaud intertext to the otherwise Marvellian passage beginning ‘Stumbling on melons, fiercely beheading the tall arrogant fennels with his riding crop, Van . . . .’ Boyd's reading of these lines is one of the finest of Nabokov’s prose that I know.” - Charles Ross, Modern Fiction Studies
“. . . a deep and clear treatise of Nabokov’s artistic ontology, where ‘new horizons loom on every page’ (as William James said of another philosophical work).” - Gennadi Barabtarlo, Phantom of Fact: A Guide to Nabokov’s Pnin
Brian Boyd is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Auckland. He has written, among other works, Nabokov’s Ada: The Place of Consciousness (first edition, Ardis, 1985); a two-volume biography, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Princeton, 1990) and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton, 1991); and Nabokov’s Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery (Princeton, 1999). He has edited Nabokov’s English-language novels, memoirs and screenplay (3 vols., Library of America, 1996), and, with Robert Michael Pyle, Nabokov’s Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings (Beacon, 2000). He is currently writing an analysis of fiction in evolutionary and cognitive terms, a critical book on Shakespeare, and a biography of the philosopher Karl Popper.
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