Thanks to a tip from Open Culture, I found one of those things you don’t know exist in the world, but have been waiting patiently for you to discover it.
To be precise, actor Christopher Plummer portraying Vladimir Nabokov giving a lecture on Frank Kafka at Cornell Univeristy in the 1950s.
The 30-minute video, in which Nabokov gives a lecture on Kafka’s masterpiece, The Metamorphosis, was made for a PBS broadcast in 1989. Plummer does a great job capturing the erudite ebullience of the author of Lolita and Pale Fire, even evoking his patrician, international-expat accent. My only complaint is that in the effort to keep the video to thirty minutes, the scriptwriter left out a hefty chunk of Nabokov’s analysis of the story. Missing are some fabulous lines, including
Mark the curious mentality of the morons in Kafka who enjoy their evening paper despite the fantastic horror in the middle of their apartment.
You can read the full lecture here, or better yet, track down a copy Nabokov’s collection Lectures on Literature, which includes the text (and Vladimir’s hand-drawn illustrations) from talks on Joyce, Austen, Dickens, Flaubert and others.
One request. Can we please make videos like this a Thing? The imagination stirs at the possibilities: Helen Mirren playing Virginia Woolf lecturing on Mary Shelley…or Michael Fassbender as Nietzsche explicating the Dionysian forces at work in Greek tragedy. Perhaps Don Cheadle would play James Baldwin talking about W.E.B. Dubois or Javier Bardem as Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the influence of Faulkner. I’d pay good money to watch Marion Cotillard portray Anais Nin talking about the life and work of Henry Miller.
Other suggestions? Post them in the comments…