Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2020 October 09 • Friday

Nabokov first editions tend to be on the expensive side. With the exception of The Original of Laura, which I literally could not give away the last time I sold books to The Strand, they're probably a decent investment.

An affordable Nabokov first edition that is likely at least not to lose value even though it might not appreciate in any significant way, is 2018's Insomniac Dreams: Experiments with Time by Vladimir Nabokov, compiled, edited & with commentaries by Gennady Barabtarlo.

Nabokov had a greater than average interest in time and human consciousness. And so it's not surprising that he was drawn to this experiment in which particpants wrote down their dreams upon awaking, to see if any future events had occurred first in their dreams.

The idea was not that anybody had the gift of seeing into the future but that time not only moved forward but also pulled back, like ocean waves on a beach.

And so Nabokov's dream writings were published here for the first time in this rather charming book, with occasional photographs of the actual index cards he wrote on.

The book is further fleshed out by an informative introduction, setting the stage and establishing the context and history of the experiment. (This section had a couple of easily noticed proofreading errors that made me a bit nervous about what to expect, but the rest of the books didn't have any other such obvious alarms.)

After the dream section Barabtarlo gets to work on dreams in all of Nabokov's other writings, from the famous novels to lesser known stories, poems and letters. This section shows some very impressive scholarship and detective work, including some of Barabtarlo's own translations from Russian in which the official English translation (usually by Nabokov himself) offers different text, as well as such gems as "an unpublished Russian poem" written "on an index card, in a folder now in a private archive in Palm Beach, Florida". That last bit seeks worthy of a place in one of Nabokov's own fictions.

I found the book fascinating though I wasn't persuaded by any of the coincidences or congruities or whatevers that impressed Barabtarlo. Nonetheless, this volume that he helmed is wonderful and a delightful and valuable addition to any Nabokov collection.