Geordie Williamson

Writing For His Life

The Tyrant's Novel

By

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NABOKOV LOATHED ‘ISSUE’ novels – ‘topical trash’, he called them – and looked forward with unconcealed Schadenfreude to a time when someone would come along ‘with a hammer and take a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann’. Reviewing Bend Sinister in 1960, Frank Kermode offered this explanation for the Russian’s pique: ‘The novel is too easy. It can be stuffed with facts or doctrine, a photograph or tract; or it can be laboriously moulded to fit the shape of some moralistic obsession.’

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