Nabokov’s fourth novel, The Eye is as much a farcical detective story as it is a profoundly refractive tale about the vicissitudes of identities and appearances. Smurov, a lovelorn, excruciatingly self-conscious Russian émigré living in pre-war Berlin, commits suicide after being humiliated by a jealous husband, only to suffer even greater indignities in the afterlife as he searches for proof of his existence among fellow émigrés who are too distracted to pay him any heed.
©1930 Vladimir Nabokov (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” (John Updike)
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
“a sinner’s torment in the afterworld consists precisely in that his tenacious mind cannot find peace until it manages to unravel the complex consequences of his reckless terrestrial actions.”
A short, tight little Nabokov novella about a Russian émigré's suicide. The protagonist/protagonist's ghost attempts, after a(n) (un)successful suicide to determine the characteristics of Smurov.
The novella explores the concept of identity as being manufactured out of the many differing mirrors of how we are viewed by others. Our social construction or understanding|significance|meaning are not found in the Descartian "cogito ergo sum" but instead discovered by the "I am viewed|seen, therefore, many 'eyes' exist of me." Or said differently, "We are each known|viewed|understood by others. The real US is the sum and the momentum of these phantoms."
How well do we really know ourselves? If I could 'comprehend' myself by seeing me as others see me, would that change the nature of who I am? I mean, as they REALLY see me. Does the knowledge of this observation change the nature of who I am? It is a total EGO exercise, but there have been many times when I REALLY wanted to know exactly how I was seen or perceived by others. Not how I thought they saw me, but an almost dislocated desire to see|experience myself through their 'eyes.' That is the essence of this novel. "Ego vero, ergo sum".
I liked it, but just didn't LOVE it. It contains many of the germs|embryonic themes Nabokov would chase (and actually catch) in his later novels.
Since the narrator was great, I see no reason why this tale should get any less than 5 stars in all departments. That is, if one is rating the novel on its own merit and/or against other works of fiction - NOT WRITTEN by Nabokov.
IMO, Nabokov's most prolific audiobook reviewers appear to have some compulsive need to compare / pit all his works against each other & rate henceforth (rather than on individual merit).
There's also a huge mix of the existential vs. the straightforward in his works.
My advice -- assume they are all 4.2-5.0s & pick your Nabokov based on the item's SUMMARY (not 1 or 2 reviewers' descriptions or "analyses"). His novels, novellas & short stories vary wildly, but the 80% I've listened to so far were all excellent to glorious!
Also, I'm NEUROTIC about narrators & have had no issues thus far (tho I'm currently reading Pale Fire old school...the clip scared me). Arthur Morey (from other Nabokov audios) reads kinda slow & a bit soft/dry, but after a short while, I found his even keel soothing.
My daughter likes Nabokov and recommended this book but I found it boring and pointless. The beginning was OK, interesting twist, and some humor but the middle was dreadful and the end???? Lets say I've learned how to cut my losses. I am quite analytical. There are those who can find deep meaning in what is pointless abstract crap to me. God bless them but spare me.
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