Nabokov on Politics and Personal Morality


Since my youth – I was 19 when I left Russia – my political creed has remained as bleak and changeless as an old gray rock. It is classical to the point of triteness. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of art. The social or economic structure of the ideal state is of little concern to me. My desires are modest. Portraits of the head of the government should not exceed a postage stamp in size. No torture and no executions. No music, except coming through earphones, or played in theaters.

Can political ideas solve any of the big problems of an individual’s life?

I have always marveled at the neatness of such solutions: ardent Stalinists transforming themselves into harmless Socialists, Socialists finding a sunset harbor in Conservatism, and so forth. I suppose this must be rather like religious conversion, of which I know very little. I can only explain God’s popularity by an atheist’s panic.

Which is the worst thing men do?

To stink, to cheat, to torture.

Which is the best?

To be kind, to be proud, to be fearless.

Vladimir Nabokov
Interviews 1964 & 1969
Strong Opinions (1973)

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