Vladimir Nabokov and the Jews

'Lolita' Author Was Outspoken Critic of Anti-Semitism

Defender of the Jewish People: Growing up in a privileged family, Vladimir Nabokov opposed anti-semitism on both moral and aesthetic grounds.
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Defender of the Jewish People: Growing up in a privileged family, Vladimir Nabokov opposed anti-semitism on both moral and aesthetic grounds.

By Benjamin Ivry

Published May 14, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.

(page 3 of 3)

To cite only one example, in “Lolita,” Humbert feels sympathy for a classmate of Lolita’s named Irving Flashman because he was “the only Jew among all those Gentiles.” Unlike Irving Flashman, nowhere in “Lolita” is Humbert identified as Jewish, which does not prevent Pitzer from suggesting portentously, “If Humbert is Jewish, he is a Wandering Jew for the post-Holocaust era.”

Fortunately, “The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov” reminds us that, as Shrayer, Boyd, Goldman and others have previously argued, there are enough documented instances of Nabokov’s ardent devotion to the Jewish people — not least of which was his long-standing staunch support for the State of Israel — to show that no dubious theories are needed to provide further examples.

Benjamin Ivry is a frequent contributor to the Forward.



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