Life as Annotation: Sebastian Knight, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Vladimir Nabokov

Priscilla Meyer, Wesleyan University


Annotation bridges and differentiates the interpenetrating realms of life and art. A literary character may suffer from referential mania, while his author is prey to the obverse; assaulted by references to literature at every step, he is persecuted by the omnipresence of others' words. Nabokov's art demands annotation. Without it, his four-dimensional tic-tac-toe game is invisible and the reader becomes Mr. Goodman failing to recognize the substitution of Hamlet's biography for Sebastian's. But who is Goodman, and what does his name signify? Annotation reveals yet another, personal, layer of dialogue between literature and life, one that Nabokov probably wanted to go undetected by all but one reader.