Sighting: Pnin in Best American Stories 2013

Elizabeth Tallent on her story "Wilderness," and on professor types in fiction (as seen in the back matter of 2013's Best American Short Stories): "Maybe it mattered less, but there was also the grain-of-sand/oyster vexation of fictional professors' almost always being assholes, with Pnin as the fantastically lovable exception to the rule. In fiction, professor is predatory, student is prey. This ironclad dyad goes to bed without caring much about the intricacy, anxiety, and comedy of teaching. So there's room" (337).

The same anthology also features Lorrie Moore's "Referential," a tribute/take-off of Nabokov's "Signs and Symbols."

Sighting: Mantel and Pnin

From Ian Crouch's Hilary Mantel and the Pitfalls of the Public Lecture:

She might have suffered the transportation indignities of Nabokov’s poor Professor Timofey Pnin, who, when we meet him, is seated comfortably in a compartment on what we learn is the wrong train, on his way to deliver a lecture—“Are the Russian People Communist?”—to the august ladies of the Cremona Women’s Club. He soon learns of the mistake, too, and a conductor sends him from the train to wait for a promised bus. What follows qualifies, as the narrator promises, as “still better sessions in the way of humor.”

Sighting: Maxim Shrayer on Five Nabokov Books

Pnin is the immigrant of Nabokov’s American novels. The main character is a Russian professor at an American college, and the novel is to a large extent about Russian culture misunderstood by Westerners. But it is also a truncated love story with a moral dilemma. Pnin himself is not Jewish but Mira, once Pnin’s beloved, is Jewish, and she died in Buchenwald. The story is punctuated by the tension of his trying to forget and being incapable of unremembering. Nabokov was one of the very first American writers to write extensively about the Shoah in a work of fiction. Nabokov wrote Pnin in the 1950s and parts of it were published in the New Yorker, so it is astounding how far ahead of his literary contemporaries Nabokov was in his thinking about the Shoah and how it might be remembered and memorialised.
Read the rest at Five Books. (Via the Nabokv-L forum.)