Vladimir Nabokov on his way to go butterfly hunting
A heretofore unknown interview with Vladimir Nabokov has been posted on meduza.io. It was originally an interview with an Israeli journalist, Nurit Beretzky, who visited Nabokov in Montreux, Switzerland in 1970 for a two-hour chat. Check out our favorite passages below, including Nabokov’s thoughts on Israel-American partnership, or the whole interview here.
Why do you live in Switzerland?
I am comfortable here. I like mountains and hotels. I detest strikes and hooligans.
What is boring for you? What is most amusing for you?
Let me tell you instead what I hate: Background music, canned music, piped-in music, portable music, next-room music, inflicted music of any kind.
Primitivism in art: “abstract” daubs, symbolic bleak little plays, junk sculpture, “avant-garde” verse, and other crude banalities. Clubs, unions, fraternities, etc. (In the course of these last twenty-five years I must have turned down some twenty offers of glamorous membership).
Oppression. I am ready to accept any regime – Socialistic, Royalistic, Janitorial, – provided mind and body are free.
The touch of satin.
Circuses – especially animal acts and robust ladies hanging by their teeth in the air. The four doctors: Dr. Freud. Dr. Schweitzer, Dr. Zhivago and Dr. Castro.
Causes, demonstrations, processions. “Concise” dictionaries, “abridged” manuals. Journalistic clichés: “The moment of truth,” for example, or the execrable “dialogue.”
Stupid, inimical things: the spectacles case that gets lost; the clothes-hanger that topples down in the closet; the wrong pocket. Folding an umbrella, not finding its secret button. Uncut pages, knots in shoelaces. The prickly aura of one’s face after skipping one’s morning shave. Babies in trains. The act of falling asleep.
What do you think of the situation in the Middle East?
There exist several subjects in which I have expert knowledge: certain groups of butterflies, Pushkin, the art of chess problems, translation from and into English, Russian and French, word-play, novels, insomnia, and immortality. But among those subjects, politics is not represented. I can only reply to your question about the Near East in a very amateur way: I fervently favor total friendship between America and Israel and am emotionally inclined to take Israel’s side in all political matters.