bases of the new order were mass slaughternand “an ugly stupid little nostrumnwhich turns Russian simpletons intoncommunist ninnies, which makes ants •nout of people, a new species called Formicanmarxi var. lenini.” Above all henmocked “the sham aura smacking ofnmiddle-class Philistinism that is in everythingnBolshevik.” In the name of combattingnbourgeois society, the Bolsheviksnwere reducing culture to “political harangue”nand to “the grey pages of Pravda.”nThe attack on communist brutality andntastelessness finds a further echo in anRussian poem composed in 1944, as thentide was turning for Russia in her warnagainst the German invaders. Nabokovnadmonishes his ieWo’w-emigres againstnallowing their sympathy for the Russiannpeople to render them oblivious to Sovietnevils. He holds up to ridicule the “tinselnSoviet Rus,” the mechanized officialdomnof the proletariat homeland. And he cautionsnRussians in exile who have grownnsoft on Stalinist tyranny: “I am a poet,nand so I must ask you to count me out.’niabokov’s abhorrence of coUectivistntyranny also yielded two allegoricalnnovels, Invitation to a Beheading {1938)nand Bend Sinister (1947). The first worknis his response to the Moscow show trialsnof the 1930’s. Stalin, forcing his fallennrivals to grotesque and debasing formsnof public “confessions” prior to theirnexecutions, corroborated his worst premonitionsnabout the “soul” of both revolutionnand communism. In Invitationnto a Beheading the protagonist is imprisonednand condemned to death for ancrime the nature of which is never madenclear. Nabokov’s reading of Kafka’s ThenTrial, with its bleak picture of existentialndesperation, surely left its mark on thisnparticular plot. But of even greater dramaticnimpact for the author was Stalin’sntreatment of political adversaries asnthe “manure of history,” many of whomnwere reduced by torture to the conditionnof mental and physical pulp, ready tonaccept preposterous charges “for thengood of the communist party.” Like thendiscredited Bolsheviks in real life, then101nChronicles of Culturenprisoner in the novel is asked by hisnoppressors to cooperate in his own execution.nRather than walking sullenly to thenscaffold, he is urged to dance on his waynthere and, then, to graciously bow tonhis executioner.nX^or all its political undertones Invitationnto a Beheading may still be judgednas a kind of universal allegory. The eventsntake place in the distant future, whilenthe society described appears sufficientlynunlike the Soviet to enable its author tonescape any charge of writing a baldlynpolitical novel. By contrast. Bend Sinisternis the most unmistakably political, albeitnone of the least read, of Nabokov’s books.nThe setting here is a small Slavic countrynsomewhere in Eastern Europe; its peoplenhave recently come under a dictator,nobsessed with the principle of perfectnequality. The historical point of referencenis the Soviet occupation of EasternnEurope at the end of the Second WorldnWar and the subsequent imposition ofncommunist dictatorship upon theirnpeoples. The hero of the work, AdamnKrug, is a professor of philosophy livingnin a country now subject to the new order.nIn a rapid sequence of events, his wife isnlost to illness and his social position andnfreedom to the change of regime. Whilenit is certainly apparent here that Nabokovndespises the coUectivist and egalitarianndesigns of the communist leaders, hisndelineation of the villains sometimesnsuggests greater artistic revulsion thannmoral outrage. Paduk, the people’s dictator,nbears the Russian name for toad;nneedless to say, he and his associates arenmade to appear physically loathsome.nThey seek to reduce their subjects tonphilistine conformity, by imposing everywherentheir image of a new socializednman. Faced by the obdurate individualismnpresent in Krug’s character, they feelncompelled to break him, and undertakenthis job, first, by humiliating him and,nthen, by torturing his son to death.nThe political intent of Bend Sinisternis so apparent as to refute any interpretationnof Nabokov’s literature as beingnapolitical. Although this novel does avoidnnnpolitical commentary, it likewise indicatesnhis thorough distaste for the Soviet statenand for modern egalitarianism in general.nIt is not surprising, however, that literaryncritics paid tribute to Nabokov in thenfifties for the erotica of Lolita, whilenhardly noticing his frank depiction ofnsocialist dictatorship ten years earlier.nAfter all, so many of the current makersnof fashionable cultural opinion are asnfervent in their opposition to anti-communismnas they are in their reverencenfor anti-Victorianism.n-i.s a writer Nabokov took decisivenpolitical positions, without ever descendingnto Maileresque poses. Even his leastnovertly political literature gives evidencenof his hatred for social and cultural leveling.nAs one of his biographers has noted,ncommunists and radicals are neverntreated by him with sympathy, while hisnlove for the “old Europe,” though sometimesnmingled with a critical spirit, isnreadily apparent from his characterizations.nMoreover, Nabokov himself assertsnthe unresolvable opposition between artnand beauty, on the one side, and thencoUectivist Left, on the other. His rejectionnof the Soviet experiment was groundednas much in his commitment to literaturenas in his objection to Lenin’snconcentration camps and to Stalin’snpurges. In a very real sense, his art maynwell be considered a counter-revolutionarynactivity: a cultural continuationnof the struggle of the White Army againstncommunist rule.nJrlis essay for The Rudder had alreadynoutlined the task of the Russian writernin exile. He describes himself and hisnieWoy^-emigres as “the wave of Russianthat has left her shore.” Yet, preciselynbecause of their separation from thenRussian motherland, they alone of theirnentire nation are celebrating not enslavement,nbut “ten years of contempt, fidelity,nand freedom.” By the time of his death,nNabokov, the artist and man, had extendednthis glorious celebration of freedomnand beauty to a period of almostnfifty years. Dn