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Vladimir Nabokov et la France

Yannicke Chupin
Agnès Edel-Roy
Monica Manolescu
et al.

I. L'Invention de la France et de l'Europe

Fluid Spaces, Illusive Identities: Nabokov’s Depiction of France in the Late 1930s

Julian W. Connolly

Texte intégral

1Evocations of French landscapes and French characters crop up in Nabokov’s writings throughout his career, from the “ancient port in the South of France” visited by Nikitin in “The Seaport” (published in 1924) (Stories, 60) to “the Carlton Courts in Cannes,” where Flora lost her virginity to a ball boy in the unfinished Original of Laura (Laura, 77). As diverse as these references are, however, I think we can detect in Nabokov’s treatment of France in his fiction of the late 1930s a distinctive set of characteristics: the émigré characters he depicts encounter a realm of pervasive instability or unreliability in space, time, and even identity. It is the premise of this essay that Nabokov’s own experience in France in the late 1930s involved a considerable amount of dislocation and anxiety, and that he reflected this condition in his fiction. The chronotope of France depicted in his fiction is not the happy, tranquil, and stable site recalled in his memoirs of childhood summers spent at the French seashore. Rather, it is an ambiguous, disorienting locale tinged with intimations of a nightmare.

2Let us begin with the biographical facts. By late 1936, Nabokov’s situation in Germany had become increasingly uncomfortable and untenable. Between the repression of the Jews and the attempts of the Nazi regime to register all Russian émigrés living in Germany (Boyd, 1990, 43), the political status of the Nabokov family had become tenuous. What is more, Nabokov was in dire financial straits as well. Nabokov left Germany on a reading tour in January 1937, and as Brian Boyd puts it, he would never again “set foot on German soil” (1990, 430). Once on the move, though, Nabokov now had to face renewed anxiety about where he might live and how he could support himself and his family. Boyd’s chapter title for the relevant period in Nabokov’s life formulates the situation with exquisite succinctness: “Destitute: France, 1938-1939.” Boyd’s summary of conditions in 1938 is worth quoting: “With no savings as a buffer, no regular income and just enough from the latest small advance or loan to last another week or two’s rent, there was every reason for steady panic” (1990, 486). Moving to the south of France later in the year, the Nabokovs still found themselves in straitened circumstances. Again, I quote from Boyd’s biography: “Their situation was wretched, they had never been so poor, it all seemed a slow death, they just did not know what to do next” (1990, 488).

3Added to this had been the wrenching episode of Nabokov’s affair with Irina Guadanini, which spanned nearly three-quarters of the year in 1937. Nabokov had met Guadanini in 1936, but began his affair with her in February 1937. Significantly, however, this dalliance did not bring unmitigated joy. The strains of infidelity, of separation from Dmitri and Véra, left him mentally and physically drained. As he wrote to his wife, his bouts with psoriasis “drove me to the border of suicide—a border I was not authorized to cross because I had you in my luggage” (Selected Letters, 26). These strains did not entirely subside until Nabokov ended his relationship with Guadanini, meeting her for the last time in September 1937 (Boyd, 1990, 443). Perhaps all this led Nabokov to remark in Speak, Memory “[m] y bleakest recollections are associated with Paris, and the relief of leaving it was overwhelming” (258).

4When we turn to Nabokov’s fiction in the late 1930s, we find that France is depicted as a place with unusual and often unsettling characteristics, especially for the Russian émigré characters who find themselves in France. These include:

  1. time and space may appear to be unstable, shifting, or fluid;

  2. identities are often ambiguous, false, or misleading;

  3. reality and fantasy may grade imperceptibly into one another;

  4. logic breaks down;

  5. characters often describe their experience as nightmarish.

5We should note that some of these characteristics can be found in such works as Invitation to a Beheading, Pale Fire, or Ada, but what differentiates those works from the Stories to be discussed here is that those works tend to be set in vague, indefinite, or imaginary worlds (such as Zembla or Antiterra) whereas in the works under analysis in this essay, the setting is clearly identified as somewhere in France; moreover, the place names are quite frequently real cities and towns in France. It should be noted that occasionally some disorientation occurs in works set in Germany, but once again, there are major differences between those works and the works under discussion here. For the most part, the German characters are depicted as being more solid and conventional than the Russian émigré characters, and any instability they experience in their surroundings tends to caused by specific trauma or illness (one thinks of Mark Standfuss’s accident in “Details of a Sunset” or Martha Dreyer’s illness in King, Queen, Knave) rather than being grounded in the setting itself. Indeed, those settings are often celebrated for their beauty, even if mundane (see, for example, “A Guide to Berlin”). To clarify Nabokov’s complex treatment of the experience of Russian émigré characters in France, let us turn to specific works in which the phenomenon occurs.

6One of the clearest illustrations of the disorienting effect associated with French topography in Nabokov’s fiction of the late 1930s is the short story “The Visit to the Museum,” written in October 1938. In this story a first-person narrator visits a small town in France, attempts to purchase a portrait hanging in the town museum, finds his return visit to the museum becoming a journey of epic proportions, and finally discovers to his horror that when he exits the museum he is no longer in France, but in Soviet Leningrad. This story exhibits several characteristics of the unusual French chronotope of the late 1930s, beginning with the very issue of fluidity of space itself. The narrator offers no explanation of how he could enter a museum in France and exit onto a street in Leningrad. Yet even before this occurs, one notes that there is something amiss with spatial proportions and arrangements in the French setting. At the very outset of the story, the narrator is searching for a stationery store, but he is frustrated by spying “the spire of a long-necked cathedral, always the same one, that kept popping up at the end of every street” (Stories, 277). On his return visit to the museum, he encounters many new rooms and he designates the place as “the unnecessarily spreading museum” (Stories, 282).

7Breakdowns in logic are a second characteristic of the chronotope in evidence here. When the narrator first meets the museum director, M. Godard, he sees the man throw a letter he had just sealed into the wastebasket. The narrator remarks: “This act seemed unusual to me; however, I did not see fit to interfere” (Stories, 280). Later, when Godard tries to rebuff the narrator’s attempts to settle on a price for the portrait, he states: “I must first discuss the matter with the mayor, who has just died and has not yet been elected” (Stories, 282). Although this can perhaps be construed as a garbled way of saying: “The mayor has just died, and a new one has not yet been elected,” the statement as the narrator conveys it is completely illogical.

8In attempting to make sense of the story, one might be tempted to view it as a dream, or, to be more precise, a nightmare. Upon spying the picture he has been asked to purchase, the narrator asserts: “It is fun to be present at the coming true of a dream, even if it is not one’s own” (Stories, 279). A dream would explain the lack of logic, the oddly expanding space, and so on. Significantly, however, the narrator addresses this possibility and refutes it, commenting on his discovery that he has arrived in Leningrad: “Oh, how many times in my sleep I had experienced a similar sensation! Now, though, it was reality. Everything was real…” (Stories, 285). Alternatively, we can perhaps assert that madness or delusion is operating here. The narrator opens the story by making reference to “a friend of mine—a person with oddities, to put it mildly” (Stories, 277). In referring to his “friend,” is he possibly referring to himself? Later he asserts that he had “always had doubts about my friend’s capacity to remain this side of fantasy” and refers to him as “the good freak” (Stories, 277). When he sees the picture, he is amazed to find “the very object whose existence had hitherto seemed to me but the figment of an unstable mind” (Stories, 279). When he tells the director of his discovery, Godard says “Agreed […] but I am not crazy either” (Stories, 280). At the end of the story, when he has somehow made it back from the Soviet Union, he tells us that he has “forsworn carrying out commissions entrusted one by the insanity of others” (Stories, 285).

9A third alternative is that the story chronicles an encounter with the demonic, as Leszek Engelking has suggested (Engelking, 351-356). We observe, for example, the signing of a contract with M. Godard in red ink, after which the narrator’s true torments begin.

10In several respects the story recalls early short stories by Nikolai Gogol, such as the “The Bewitched Spot” (“Zakoldovannoe mesto”) or “The Lost Letter” (“Propavšaja gramota”), both of which involve magic flights, encounters with the demonic, and unstable spatial boundaries. The featured role of the contested portrait, of course, reminds one of Gogol’s own “The Portrait,” in which a partially finished portrait of a man exercises a demonic influence upon those who possess it. In the first version of the story, the portrait’s baleful powers come to an end when it is miraculously turned into a pastoral landscape. Here, Nabokov reverses that move: what the museum catalogue records as a pastoral landscape—“The Return of the Herd”—is mysteriously transformed into the portrait of a man—“Portrait of a Russian Nobleman.” Ultimately, the reader is left in the dark as to how gauge or understand the “reality” of the story, and interpretations range from Brian Boyd’s simple affirmation: “Nabokov calmly confirms that, yes, the impossible has happened, and it is part of our world” (Boyd, 1990, 493), to Matthew Roth’s suggestion that the narrator has been run over by a bus (à la “Details of a Sunset”) on his way to Godard’s house, and that therefore “[T] he supernatural nature of the museum is more easily understood when taking place in a realm uninhibited by natural law” (Roth). Roth himself acknowledges, however, that his interpretation leaves unanswered the question of “what part of the afterlife” the narrator is speaking from.

11A second story set in France and written just a month after “The Visit to the Museum” is “Lik.” As in the earlier story, Russian elements are blended into the French setting. Lik, the stage name of Lavrentiy Ivanovich Kruzhnitsyn, is a Russian actor cast in a French play. With the theme of acting and the assignment of a stage name, Nabokov immediately raises issues of identity, and his narrator reinforces this when he writes that Lik “was a man of many indistinct callings who had chosen one of them at random but could just as well have been a painter, jeweler, or ratcatcher” (Stories, 462). Then, in a sentence that carries echoes of the ending of “The Visit to the Museum,” the narrator asserts that “[s]uch a person resembles a room with a number of different doors, among which there is perhaps one that does lead straight into some great garden, into the moonlit depths of a marvelous human night, where the soul discovers the treasure intended for it alone” (Stories, 462). Unfortunately for Lik, he never discovered that door, and thus remained “a stranger” amidst the theater company, plagued with the feeling “of being superfluous, of having usurped someone else’s place” (Stories, 463).

  • 1 Koldunov’s behavior here recalls that of the boisterous landowner Nozdryov in Gogol’s novel Dead So (...)

12As sad as Lik’s life is, it takes a turn for the worse when he encounters in this French town a Russian compatriot named Koldunov. The word koldun means sorcerer (as in Gogol’s title “Zakoldovannoe mesto”), and thus Nabokov introduces the theme of the unearthly, and, possibly, the demonic into the story. Lik’s subsequent encounter with Koldunov grades into nightmare as the man forces him to drink while he spins out tales of woe and tries to sell Lik a gun.1 Indeed, Nabokov uses the word “nightmare” in reference to this encounter when his narrator writes that the visage of the adult Koldunov had lost any connection with the image of the handsome schoolboy who used to torment Lik, “but the coefficient of nightmare remained unchanged” (Stories, 475). Lik’s escape from Koldunov’s clutches at first promises relief, but he finds to his “horror” that he is dreadfully sick, and even senses “the approach of a heart attack” (Stories, 477).

13At this point, “reality” seems to recede. As Lik thinks of saying the first words of his role, the words themselves “seemed far more real than the lapping and splashing of the weary waves” in front of him (Stories, 479). A further sense of relief and release comes when Lik remembers the box of new shoes he had left at Koldunov’s: “As soon as he remembered it, this image proved so stimulating that immediately everything was simplified, and this saved Lik” (Stories, 479). What follows is a kind of fairy tale ending. “Forgetting the pressure in his chest,” Lik hails a conveniently empty taxi “in a sonorously recorded voice,” and proceeds back to Koldunov’s place where he finds his erstwhile tormentor dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound (Stories, 479). This ending would seem to be a happy one: the tormentor Koldunov is dead, Lik is alive. Boyd comments: “The story’s seemingly inevitable end turns into a surprise that rounds out better than any other conclusion could have done the patterns of both Koldunov’s and Lik’s own lives. Fate cannot be detected in advance […] but in retrospect, by some inherent artistic magic, its imposed accidents seem to fulfill the unique and as if preexistent harmony of each individual life” (Boyd, 1990, 494). Nabokov’s ending, however, may actually be more ambiguous than Boyd suggests. Alexander Dolinin has argued that Lik did not escape a heart attack, and has in fact died, but, as with the tutor Ivanov in the story “Perfection,” his consciousness lives on (Dolinin, 146-147). Dolinin points to salient differences in the topography of the square on which Koldunov’s apartment was located as evidence for his theory. Lik used to have “nighttime thoughts” of killing Koldunov (Stories, 469). Now, having stepped through the portal of death, he realizes the fulfillment of his dreams, but perhaps only in an alternate reality.

  • 2 It may be worth noting that Nabokov read both “Lik” and “The Visit to the Museum” at a literary eve (...)

14As in “The Visit to the Museum,” Nabokov does not provide a definitive explanation for the character’s ultimate fate. Both narratives create a kind of distinctive magical realism, in which a character seems able to slide from one state of being to another. If this transition is facilitated by the character’s death, then clearly death does not cause a cessation of life, but rather a movement into another realm of existence, much as Cincinnatus discovers at the end of Invitation to a Beheading (which was written in France). In each of these cases, of course, Nabokov’s narrative features elements of nightmare, questionable identity, and uncertain reality from which the protagonist seeks to escape.2

15A third story containing these elements in a French setting was written a few years later. In the story, “‘That in Aleppo once…’”, written in May 1943 (Boyd, 1991, 62), the first-person narrator, addressing himself to the writer “V,” recounts a strange tale about his marriage to a woman he is now convinced “never existed” (Stories, 560). French settings are prominently referred to in the story. The man’s marriage occurred “about after a month after you left France and a few weeks before the gentle Germans roared into Paris” (Stories, 560). He notes a boy who turns over a rock and watches ants “heading for places of safety in the Gard, and the Aude, and the Drôme, and the Var, and the Basses-Pyrénées”; he and his new wife “paused only in Pau” (Stories, 562). Because it was too difficult for the couple to emigrate to Spain, they decided to move on to Nice, and it was at a train stop in Faugères that the narrator became separated from his wife. And it was there that his “nightmare” began (“my nightmare struggle with the telephone proved futile” [Stories, 563]). From this point on, elements of unreliability and irreality take over.

16In Nice he is taken to a hotel where, he is told, his wife has been found. Not only does this prove to be erroneous, however, but the issue of identity becomes problematic: “The girl he produced was an absolute stranger of course, but my friend Holmes kept on trying for some time to make her and me confess we were married” (Stories, 563). When he finally does find his wife, she tells him how she borrowed money from a woman she met, “got into the wrong train, however, and traveled to a town the name of which she could not remember” (Stories, 564). As odd as this story is, she quickly changes it and now confesses: “I’ve been lying to you dear […] I stayed for several nights in Montpellier with a brute of a man I met on the train” (Stories, 564). The narrator now interrogates her pitilessly, wearing them both out in the process. To compound the situation, they must wrestle with the authorities for “certain papers which in their turn would make it lawful to apply for a third kind which would serve as a stepping-stone toward a permit enabling the holder to apply for yet other papers which might or might not give him the means of discovering how and why it had happened” (Stories, 565). The reader notes that the narrator’s struggle with the authorities grades into his struggle with his wife.

17Yet all this culminates in a new admission from his wife: “‘You will think me crazy,’ she said with a vehemence that, for a second, almost made a real person of her, ‘but I didn’ t—I swear that I didn’t. Perhaps I live several lives at once. Perhaps I wanted to test you. Perhaps this bench is a dream and we are in Saratov or on some star.’” (Stories, 565). As odd as this outburst is, it has the effect of ushering in a period of calm or something like peace into their relationship, but that peace is shattered when she again disappears, and this time begins spinning a new saga to mutual acquaintances about the man she has now left her husband for. Wisely, perhaps, the narrator decides: “That was the end. I should have been a fool had I begun the nightmare business of searching and waiting for her all over again” (Stories, 567). Not long afterwards, on his sea voyage to the United States, he meets a doctor who tells him that he had seen the narrator’s wife in Marseilles, and that she had said she would soon be joined by her husband with her bag and the tickets for their voyage. “It was at that moment that I suddenly knew for certain that she had never existed at all” (Stories, 568). The narrator now strives to console himself: “life had been real before, life will be real from now on” (Stories, 568). Desperately he tries to relegate his brief marriage in France to the realm of dreams or nightmare, but sadly, he continues to be haunted by images of her walking to and fro on the shore. Into this story Nabokov has clearly distilled both his own frustrating struggles with official French bureaucracy (see Boyd, 1990, 514-515) and the trauma of his brief affair with Irina Guadanini. The result displays marked traits of delirium, confusion, and pain.

  • 3 This quest, it should be noted, includes an episode of total illogic, or reverse logic. When V asks (...)

18Although there are several other stories one could point to that contain elements of the basic chronotope (these include “Ultima Thule,” where Falter apparently goes mad and discovers the secret of his existence in “a tiny Riviera town” [Stories 505]; “Vasily Shishkov,” where Nabokov’s sad poet seems “to disappear, to dissolve,” perhaps into his verse in Paris; The Enchanter, where the protagonist’s last hours include a nightmarish search for his hotel room and his frantic dash in front of a speeding truck, all this, according to Nabokov, taking place in Provence [Enchanter, 12]; and “Spring in Fialta,” where the narrator can never quite get a grip on Nina’s authentic identity, whether he meets her in Paris or in “the Riviera part of Fialta” [Stories, 426]), let us conclude with a brief consideration of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, written at the end of 1938 and the beginning of 1939. A central theme of the novel, of course, is identity, and there are many variations on the theme of misleading or unstable identity in the work. One of the most colorful of these involves Nina Rechnoy, and V’s quest to track down the identity of the Russian woman Sebastian met at Blauberg in Alsace occupies a significant portion of the latter part of the novel.3 In his effort to find one of the candidates for the role of Sebastian’s lover, V tries to track down “Madame de Rechnoy,” and after consulting the Paris telephone directory, he goes to Paul Rechnoy’s residence. Paul initially thinks that V is looking for his present wife, but after some confusion, he realizes that V should be trying to contact his former wife, whose real name is not Rechnoy, but Toorevetz. Already in Paul’s discussion of this figure we find intimations of the unreal or illusory that crop up in the narrator’s description of his wife in “‘That in Aleppo Once…’”: “Somebody saw her in Rome, and somebody saw her in Sweden—but I’m not sure even of that. She may be here, and she may be in hell” (Sebastian Knight, 145); “No, I think you won’t find her. As a matter of fact, I often catch myself thinking that she has never existed. I told Varvara Mitrofanna about her, and she said it was merely a bad dream after seeing a bad cinema film” (Sebastian Knight, 147).

  • 4 On the rusalka theme in Nabokov’s work, see Johnson, 225-248; Connolly, 674-686 and Rakhimova-Somme (...)
  • 5 On the nečistaja sila in Russian folk belief, see Maksimov, Pomerantseva and Ivanits.

19V subsequently goes to visit another possible candidate, Helene von Graun, but finds there not Helene, but one Madame Lecerf, who appears to be a French friend of Helene. This person, of course, is actually Nina Rechnoy, but she deceives V and pretends that it is really Helene who carried on the affair with Sebastian. She does so in order to flirt with V herself, and she is so successful in the deception that V feels with “great relief” that he “could now drop the Rechnoy clue altogether,” sparing himself “the impossible task of unearthing Pahl Pahlich’s first wife, who for all I knew might be in jail or in Los Angeles” (Sebastian Knight, 163). This confusion of identities persists until V by chance uncovers a clue that Lecerf is actually Nina Rechnoy after all (when she tells V that she once kissed a man because he could write his name upside down, he realizes that this man is Pahl Pahlich’s cousin). Now he uses linguistic play to unmask the deceiver, speaking about a spider in Russian, a language that the supposedly French woman Lecerf would not understand. Nina, by the way, may be associated with the rusalka theme in Nabokov’s work.4 The name of her first husband “Rechnoy” means in Russian “of the river,” and Nina, like the folkloric rusalka, exists to exercise a fatal power over unsuspecting men. If she is not actually a demonic figure, she may be linked to what the Russians call the nečistaja sila—the unclean force.5

20On top of this, of course, is the entire atmosphere of irreality or dream state that surrounds V’s effort to get to the bedside of his dying brother in St Damier. The journey by taxi and train ride he takes to get there has a nightmarish character (Sebastian Knight, 198-199), and when he passes by St Damier later, he comments: “The place looked so simple and staid and definite compared to the distorted dream impression which lingered in my memory. Or was it distorted now?” (Sebastian Knight, 164). This episode itself concludes with a colossal instance of mistaken identity, when V believes he is gaining some precious knowledge by listening to the breathing of a man he thinks is his brother, when, in fact, his brother had already died.

21It should now be clear that Nabokov’s depiction of France, or to be more precise, of his Russian émigré’s experiences in France in his work of the late 1930s bears some distinctive markings, including unstable or misleading identity, fluid or shifting spatial and temporal parameters, dreamlike mixtures of fantasy and reality, and breakdowns in logic and meaning. This period in Nabokov’s life was characterized by extreme emotional and material difficulties. Fortunately for his readers, these difficulties found a marvelous form of expression in his fiction.


Boyd, Brian. (1991): Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Boyd, Brian. (1990): Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Connolly, Julian W. (2007): “Why are Nymphets ‘Demonic’?: Remarks on the Cultural Roots of Nabokov’s Lolita.” In The Real Life of Pierre Delalande. Studies in Russian and Comparative Literature to Honor Alexander Dolinin. Stanford Slavic Specialities, vol.34, part 2. Ed. David M. Bethea, Lazar Fleishman, and Alexander Ospovat. Stanford, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University. 2, p. 674-686.

Dolinin, Aleksandr. (2004): Istinnaja žizn’pisatelja Sirina. Raboty o Nabokove. St. Petersburg, Akademičeskij proekt.

Ivanits, Linda. (1989): Russian Folk Belief. Armonk, M. E. Sharpe.

Engelking, Leszek. (1985): “Some Remarks on the Devil in Nabokov’s ‘The Visit to the Museum.’” Canadian-American Slavic Studies 19.3, p.351-356.

Johnson, D. Barton. (1992): “‘L’ Inconnue de la Seine’and Nabokov’s Naiads.” Comparative Literature 44.3, p.225-248.

Maksimov, S. V. (1994): Nečistaja, nevedomaja i krestnaja sila [1903]. Reprint, St. Petersburg, TOO “Poliset.”

Nabokov, Vladimir. (1986): The Enchanter. New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Nabokov, Vladimir. (1959): The Real Life of Sebastian Knight [1941]. New York, New Directions.

Nabokov, Vladimir. (1989): Selected Letters. 1940-1977, ed. Dmitri Nabokov and Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich / Bruccoli Clark Layman.

Nabokov, Vladimir. (2002): The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. New York, Vintage.

Nabokov, Vladimir. (2008): The Original of Laura. New York, Knopf.

Pomerantseva, E. V. (1975): Mifologičeskie personaži v russkom fol’klore. Moscow, Nauka.

Rakhimova-Sommers, Elena. (2000): “The Ona (She) of Nabokov’s Hereafter: Female Characters as Otherworldly Agents in Nabokov’s Fiction.” Ph. D. diss., University of Rochester.

Roth, Matthew. (2012): “Thoughts: Death and Afterlife in ‘Visit to the Museum,’” posted on NABOKV-L, the Vladimir Nabokov Forum, on April 16, 2012. Accessed February 23 2016.


1 Koldunov’s behavior here recalls that of the boisterous landowner Nozdryov in Gogol’s novel Dead Souls. Just as Nozdryov relentlessly attempts to persuade (or bully) Chichikov to make some kind of outlandish deal in exchange for the rights to his dead serfs, Koldunov declares: “Come on, make me an offer of some kind” (Stories, 476).

2 It may be worth noting that Nabokov read both “Lik” and “The Visit to the Museum” at a literary evening in Paris in December (Boyd, 1990, 494).

3 This quest, it should be noted, includes an episode of total illogic, or reverse logic. When V asks the private detective named Silbermann to tell him how much V owes for Silbermann’s research, the detective engages in some odd arithmetic to arrive at a total sum of zero (see Sebastian Knight, 133).

4 On the rusalka theme in Nabokov’s work, see Johnson, 225-248; Connolly, 674-686 and Rakhimova-Sommers, Chapter One.

5 On the nečistaja sila in Russian folk belief, see Maksimov, Pomerantseva and Ivanits.


Professeur de littérature et langue russes à l’Université de Virginie. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres : Ivan Bunin (1982), Nabokov’s Early Fiction : Patterns of Self and Other (1992), The Intimate Stranger : Meetings with the Devil in Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature (2001), A Reader’s Guide to Nabokov’s Lolita (2009) et Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (2013). Il a aussi édité les recueils collectifs Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading : A Course Companion (1997), Nabokov and His Fiction : New Perspectives (1999) et The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov (2005).

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