In his novel Podvig (Glory, 1932) Nabokov follows Martyn Edel’vejs’s journeys through Europe, as a young Russian emigrate, and the gradual development of his obsession with accomplishing a heroic deed. While exploring the symbolic value of such recurring images as forest paths, walls, trains and water, Nabokov intertwines Russian folklore from byliny and skazki with the Western tradition of epic poems. Martyn’s adventures will culminate in his ultimate destination, Zoorlandija, an imaginary country that bears a disturbing resemblance to Soviet Russia. Is then Martyn’s exploit a desperate attempt at recovering his own identity? What does Zoorlandija really stand for? Such are the questions informed by a narrative in which travel becomes a symbol for the experience of displacement and the impossibility of going back to a place that has been heavily changed by history.
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