Nabokov vs. Forster

On a long trip to Brazil, that most lusophone of places, I had scant English reading material to amuse myself with, so I persisted in reading EM Forster’s A Passage to India right to the mock shocking end — the natives aren’t so bad after all! — rather than stare vaguely out into the distance. And my, hasn’t that persistence finally paid off handsomely: had I not read the damn thing, I would never have felt the frisson flitter through me upon finding myself face-to-face with the following fine Nabokovian verbal barb directed towards that most beastly of novels:

EM Forster speaks of his major characters sometimes taking over and dictating the course of his novels. Has this ever been a problem for you, or are you in complete command?

My knowledge of Mr. Forster’s works is limited to one novel which I dislike; and anyway it was not he who fathered that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills, although of course one sympathises with his people if they try to wriggle out of that trip to India or wherever he takes them. My characters are galley slaves.

Leave a Reply