The Metafictional Realm in Vladimir Nabokov's "Look at the Harlequins!"

Najlaa K. Saleh


This study sheds light on the metafictional world as a new genre to be discovered. Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov invented a new way of writing. He documented his life and career through a fictional and real-world “metafictional realm.” In his novel Look at the Harlequins!, Nabokov uses the strategy of choosing an artist as a prototypical character, reflecting the duality between what is real and what is fictional. This paper demonstrates how Nabokov successfully unites these two vague worlds. Moreover, the study explores the illusive or hidden world that penetrates reality and fiction. In Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction, Patricia Waugh interprets an imaginative picture of the author’s mental world, revealing a mind capable of working in two different modes. According to Waugh, metafiction is the representation of the outside and inside intermingled realms of the novelist’s mind. She states that metafiction reveals the “self-consciousness” and “self-awareness” of the two creative worlds and introduces several strategies and structures in presenting the fictional and real “self-consciousness” of the author. She refers to Nabokov’s work as the “realm of a metafictional world” and asserts that the author evokes the “fictional and real” through Look at the Harlequins! This study shows how Nabokov sets his text within an additional context, using both outside and inside protagonists. In Look at the Harlequins!, he creates his own novel by creating a fictional novelist’s work, producing two mingled worlds. One of these is the fictional world of Vadim Vadimovich N., the narrator and protagonist. The other world is the real one, represented by Nabokov’s fictional career. This study, which serves as a guide for interpreting Nabokov’s postmodernist text and context, introduces a new genre of the novel—metafiction and its elements—and is intended to aid readers, particularly scholars, instructors, and critics, in their fields. Moreover, this study examines how postmodernists highlight reality through their novels. The scope of the study covers postmodern metafiction, particularly that of Vladimir Nabokov.


Keywords: self-consciousness, intermingled realms, metafiction, Vladimir Nabokov, mirrors.

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