Classification – name: Literary studies
Pages: 67–79
Publisher: A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS Publ.)
Rights – description: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 (СС BY-ND)
Rights – URL:
Language of the publication: Russian
Type of document: Research Article
Collection: I.A. Bunin and his Time: Context of Life — History of Work
Year of publication: 2021
Place of publication: Moscow


Author: Alexander A. Dolinin
Dolinin, A.A. “Bunin’s ‛The Life of Arseniev’ and Nabokov’s ‛The Gift’: a Father- Son Duel.” I.A. Bunin and His Time: Context of Life — History of Work. Ex. eds. T.M. Dvinyatina and S.N. Morozov; Eds. A.V. Bakuntsev and E.R. Ponomarev. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2021, pp. 67–79. (In Russ.)

About the author:

Alexander A. Dolinin, PhD in Philology, Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive; Madison, Wisconsin 53706. USA.


E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


The paper adds to accumulated scholarship on the literary kinship of Ivan Bunin and Vladimir Nabokov focusing on their major books in the genre of fictitious autobiography: “The Life of Arseniev” and “The Gift”. Nabokov came up with an idea of “The Gift” in summer of 1933, soon after the first chapters of part 5 of “The Life of Arseniev” were serialized in “Sovremennye zapiski” journal. The main theme of these chapters — the development of the young writer’s visual perception and the process of collecting material for a future autobiographic novel — was appropriated by Nabokov who made it central in his multilayered novel. It seems that Nabokov, intruding into Bunin’s territory, challenged him to a literary “duel” trying to prove that his visual senses and artistic memory were more acute than those of his literary father. Bunin, on his part, rejected Nabokov’s challenge and tried to denigrate Nabokov’s achievement in his correspondence and marginal notes.

Keywords: Ivan Bunin, Vladimir Nabokov, “The Life of Arseniev”, “The Gift”, rivalry, autobiography.