The Nabokov Project. how it begins.
I feel that my year begins on my birthday, instead of on the 1st of January. My 25th year was amazing, the best year of my life so far. All sorts of interesting things happened, all kinds of people and places, and most of all, writers, were discovered and loved. I can only look forward to what extraordinary adventures might occur in my 26th year which has only just begun. And I have an idea for a new project.
In my teens I began reading Nabokov, and I remember learning that he had taught at Wellesley and Cornell in the 1940's and 1950's. It left me with the regret that I had been born some fifty years too late. I quickly read many of his novels, but it was his memoir, Speak, Memory, which I loved the most. (This should come as no surprise to anyone). Then years passed before I read anything more by Nabokov. It was not until recently that I began returning to the writers I loved ten years ago so that I might fall in love with them all over again.
I was wandering through the stacks of literature at the bookstore when I stumbled upon Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature. There is a companion volume, Lectures on Literature, but it was the Russian Literature volume which attracted me. I had studied 19th century Russian literature some five or six years ago, Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Tolstoy, Goncharov, Dostoevski and Chekhov. Here was a series of lectures given by Nabokov on Gogol, Turgenev (whom I did not study, but whose work I had read years ago), Dostoevsky, Tolstoy (whose War and Peace I had studied the semester before), Chekhov, and Gorki (whom I've never actually read).
A new idea bloomed in my mind. Why not read Lectures on Literature in conjunction with the books discussed by Nabokov? So. This will be my project for the next year, my 26th year. In between whatever else I am reading, eating, cooking, I will go through each of the works mentioned in the lectures, and write about my experience with the books and with Nabokov's thoughts on them. The first one will be Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol. I can't wait to begin.