The Strong Opinions of Vladimir Nabokov

I just finished reading, for the umpteenth time, Vladimir Nabokov’s Strong Opinions. This book is a collection of interviews with His Nabs and, as I finished reading it, I noticed that I have many of the pages marked so I can find my favorite bits more easily. The book is perfectly titled. No whiffling or waffling from this man. I’m going to present a few of them here for no other reason than I think many of them are quite brilliant. I highly recommend this book to readers of his books and to writers. These days it seems that many writers are afraid of voicing strong opinions. I think that’s a shame. Even though I might not agree with those opinions – and I certainly don’t agree with all of Nabokov’s – I rather enjoy getting that glimpse into a real human being  rather than the public facade.

On his likes and dislikes:

“My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.”

On rough drafts:

“Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one’s sputum.”

On ‘Lolita’:

“I was surprised that the book was published at all.”

On which is the most beautiful language:

“My head says English, my heart, Russian, my ear, French.”

On Freud:

“Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts. I really do not care.”

On editors:

“Among these I have known limpid creatures of limitless tact and tenderness who would discuss with me a semicolon as if it were a point of honor–which, indeed, a point of art often is. But I have also come across a few pompous avuncular brutes who would attempt to “make suggestions” which I countered with a thunderous “stet!”

On popular culture:

“I loathe popular pulp. I loathe go-go gangs, I loathe jungle music, I loathe science fiction with its gals and goons, suspense and suspensories. I especially loathe vulgar movies–cripples raping nuns under tables, or naked-girl breasts squeezing against the tanned torsos of repulsive young males.”

On his position in the world of letters:

Jolly good view from up here.”

On ‘Dr. Zhivago’:

“Leaving out politics, I regard the book as a sorry thing, clumsy, trivial, and melodramatic, with stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelievable girls, and trite coincidences.”

On what an astronaut should say upon setting foot on the moon:


About Diane Dooley

Writer, Mother, Geek
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, The Book Pile, The Writing Life. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Strong Opinions of Vladimir Nabokov

  1. I’ve seen a few of these before, but outside of the original context. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Ania says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love the one of first drafts–haven’t heard it before. Interesting re Dr. Zhivago. I love (LOVE!) Pasternak’s poetry. But Dr. Zhivago isn’t my favorite, and I kept wondering what was I missing.

  3. Pingback: The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors – Flavorwire

  4. Pingback: The Most Intimidating Literary Man to Interview | Bidnessetc

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