Genius: Seeing Things Others Don’t See. Or Rather the Invisible Links Between Things

Quotation: “What do you call ‘genius’?”
“Well, seeing things others don’t see. Or rather the invisible links between things.”

Creator: Vladimir Nabokov, author of “Pale Fire”, “Lolita”, and “Speak, Memory”

Context: The lines excerpted above show two characters talking from the 1974 novel “Look at the Harlequins!” by Nabokov. 1 These two lines are often compressed to yield the following statement: Genius is finding the invisible link between things. However, assigning this compressed remark to Nabokov is inaccurate.

Related Article: Research Is to See What Everybody Else Has Seen and Think What Nobody Has Thought

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Brad Davies who asked about this quotation. Thanks also to Athel Cornish-Bowden who led QI to add the link to the “Related Article” when he pointed out the conceptual connection.

Image Notes: Picture of Harlequin and Columbine from the mime theater at Tivoli, Denmark; author: Malene Thyssen; CC BY-SA 3.0. Portrait of Vladimir Nabokov circa 1973; author: Walter Mori; public domain image accessed via Wikimedia.


  1. 1990 (1974 Copyright), Look at the Harlequins! by Vladimir Nabokov, Quote Page 40, (Originally published in 1974 by McGraw-Hill International) Vintage international: A Division of Random House, New York. (Google Books Preview)