Insomniac Dreams: Experiments with Time by Vladimir Nabokov

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Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabokov: in 1963 Nabokov recorded his dreams for 80 days to test a theory by philosopher John Donne. Photograph: Horst Tappe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabokov: in 1963 Nabokov recorded his dreams for 80 days to test a theory by philosopher John Donne. Photograph: Horst Tappe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sat, Jan 13, 2018, 00:00

   
 

Book Title:
Insomniac Dreams: Experiments with Time by Vladimir Nabokov

ISBN-13:
978-0691167947

Author:
Vladimir Nabokov

Publisher:
Princeton University Press

Guideline Price:
£19.95

Somehow unsurprisingly, Vladimir Nabokov was an insomniac, and so woke regularly from his dreams. In 1963, Nabokov recorded his dreams for 80 days to test a theory by philosopher John Donne.

Here, Gennady Barabtarlo – so trusted a scholar that he was once sought out by Nabokov’s son to translate the writer’s final work into Russian – here sets out the dreamscapes in the context of the writer’s life and work.

Short of grabbing cotton gloves and diving into the archive boxes, nothing sets literary hearts a-flutter like facsimiles of a favourite author’s ephemera, and here Nabokov’s own scrawl lays bare his innermost subconscious thoughts on cheap, ruled index cards.

For all Barabtarlo’s tireless research, these multimedia pages, with detailed references to Nabokov’s biography, essays, short stories and novels, make an attractive collection, mercifully well edited, laid out and designed.

It gives a window into the writer’s inner world, and that of his wife, Véra, who, ever his rock, joined in the experiment too. Insomniac Dreams is winning, as dreams are of course revelatory, deeply personal and at times downright silly, even for Nabokov.