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Transcending the Boundary of Death: Ecclesiastes Through a Nabokovian Lens

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Ch. 12 of Ecclesiastes depicts a scene that combines elements of the death of a person with others that describe the death of an entire world. Vladimir Nabokov's novel Invitation to a Beheading ends with a similar scene. Both Nabokov's writings and his biography suggest that he shared Qohelet's view of life "under the sun" as hevel, but his own experience as a creator led him to believe that there is a higher-order reality than our own. The literary technique described here was Nabokov's attempt to show how one might cross the boundary into that higher reality. With a particular focus on Nabokov's novel Pale Fire, I will argue that the parallel to Ecclesiastes suggests that the writer of Eccl. 12:9-14 was also the writer of that entire book, who chose to drop the persona of Qohelet at the end of his book and speak as himself, to burst through the boundaries of death (in 12:7) and offer a view of the world that the Qohelet persona could not perceive.

10.1163/156851506778767911
/content/journals/10.1163/156851506778767911
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2006-10-01
2016-12-07

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