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Border CrossingRussian Literature into Film$
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Alexander Burry and Frederick White

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474411424

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411424.001.0001

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Fassbinder’s Nabokov—From Text to Action:Repressed Homosexuality, Provocative Jewishness, and Anti-German Sentiment

Fassbinder’s Nabokov—From Text to Action:Repressed Homosexuality, Provocative Jewishness, and Anti-German Sentiment

Chapter:
(p.202) Chapter 10 Fassbinder’s Nabokov—From Text to Action:Repressed Homosexuality, Provocative Jewishness, and Anti-German Sentiment
Source:
Border Crossing
Author(s):

Dennis Ioffe

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411424.003.0010

This chapter analyzes Werner Fassbinder’s 1978 film of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1936 novel Despair. In light of Nabokov’s own border crossing as a Russian immigrant in Berlin, Fassbinder draws out the implications of the German setting in the writer’s time. The chapter argues that by focusing on the homosexual and Jewish themes of the novel in light of Fassbinder’s own homosexuality and experience as a citizen of a nation that had carried out the Holocaust just before his birth in 1945, the director creates a complex cultural map of sexuality, religious identity, and the mental illness that plagues the protagonist, Hermann. Fassbinder also develops Nabokov’s device of the double: in the film, Hermann, by murdering his stand-in Felix as a symbolic suicide, allows him to experience a rebirth through a new identity, away from Germany and his financial, marital, and social problems.

Keywords:   double, Fassbinder, Holocaust, homosexuality, mental illness, murder, Nabokov, suicide

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