Nabokov and Epilepsy – my letter to the TLS

I have a Letter to the Editor in the current TLS responding to Galya Diment’s piece on Vladimir Nabokov and epilepsy. The letter is behind a paywall but you can see the much of it at the link above:

Sir, – One could not doubt Galya Diment’s sensitivity and acuity as a reader and teacher of Nabokov (Commentary, August 5). One also cannot doubt that her lived experience of epilepsy gives her vivid insight into the condition. Nevertheless, one can also hold reasonable scepticism about her assertion that “he, too, must have suffered from some form of epilepsy”.

There are many explanations, clinical and above all non-clinical, that could be advanced for the ­fugitive mental states Nabokov so superbly describes in his prose. “Joggy and jiggy and buzzy” is, for me, an exact description of a certain stage of insomniac restlessness. Diment cites his synaesthesia, which she writes occurs in “at least 4 per cent of temporal lobe epilepsies”; the corollary of this statistic is that it does not occur in up to 96 per cent of temporal lobe epilepsy, and the majority of synaesthesiacs do not have epilepsy,…


There isn’t an awful lot more, except a brief bit about the whole historical-diagnosis caper. The letter is a more concise version of what I blogged about here in response the article originally.

Edit  – 12/08/16 – As Galya Diment graciously points out in the comments below, in this post (and in the letter also!) her first name is misspelled as Gayla – so I’ve corrected what I can on my blog, and will get in touch with the TLS also (though I fear it has

2 Thoughts

  1. thanks for your letter and, of course, valid points — but next time could you please spell my first name correctly? 🙂


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