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One of the 20th century’s master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator. He taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977.
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By Darwin8u on 05-19-13
Death is often the point of life's joke
An early Nabokov with many funky allusions to Tolstoy, early anticipations and presages of Lolita, and Nabokovian black humor from beginning to end. As a independent work, I don't think it belongs in the top tier of Nabokov's lush ouvre, but it seems to me to be a piece where Nabokov establishes his literary sea legs. The genealogy of most of his great later work seem to all thread back to 'Laughter in the Dark'/aka 'Kamera obskura'.
In this novel, Nabokov is playing with themes of vision, blindness, truth, deception, art and morality. You see many of Nabokov's later motifs surrounding vision floating (like mouches volantes) through this early work: mirrors, window pains, mimicry, scintillations, semblances, glasses, movies, etc. It wouldn't be Nabokov if he played any of these themes straight. He bends the narrative and plays with Tolstoy's belief that it is "the essential nature of truth to be hidden from, then revealed to, the eyes." Nabokov gives you the goods and gives them to you good and hard right between the eyes.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
By Darryl on 07-03-12
Nabokov is excellent and this is a good intro
Nabokov is far and away one of the best authors. this is a very accessible novel and very fun as well. dark humor, brilliant writing. I loved this one more after listening to it at same time as a friend and we talked about it. I read it long ago and am glad to have chance to revisit all his work. I keep turning friends onto Nabokov and they are not disappointed. I particularly like how he tries to mirror the themes and content in the actual writing and structure. when you get to the end, imagine it all as the movie it's structured as with the scenes/short chapters and then you'll see it in your head as he intended. one of my favorites, until the next Nabokov i listen to...
5 of 6 people found this review helpful