For Nabokov the creative process begins with a vision of the book he is to write in some pre-existing state, something he described in his key lecture-turned-essay ‘The Creative Writer’. In this chapter, the autonomous aesthetics that this idea expressed are unpacked, showing how Nabokov was engaging in debates about art’s utility that had raged from the time of Pushkin to the Second World War and its aftermath. The chapter considers the way that this aesthetic autonomy was itself conditioned by historical context before going on to show how Nabokov’s public aesthetic statements were part of a larger strategy to position himself in opposition to various forms of perceived determinism, be they historical (Marxist), biological (Darwinist), or psychological (Freudian). The chapter concludes by considering the way Nabokov conceived of the book as a privileged, transformative space.
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