"Transparent Things revolves around the four visits of the hero - sullen, gawky Hugh Person - to Switzerland.... As a young publisher, Hugh is sent to interview R., falls in love with Armande on the way, wrests her, after multiple humiliations, from a grinning Scandinavian and returns to NY with his bride.... Eight years later - following a murder, a period of madness and a brief imprisonment - Hugh makes a lone sentimental journey to wheedle out his past.... The several strands of dream, memory, and time [are] set off against the literary theorizing of R. and, more centrally, against the world of observable objects."
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.
©1972 Article 3C Trust under the Will of Vladimir Nabokov (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” (John Updike)
"The several strands of dream, memory, and time [are] set off against the literary theorizing of R. and, more centrally, against the world of observable objects." (Martin Amis)
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
"When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntary sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!" - VN, TT
Like almost every one of Nabokov's novels/novellas I've read so far, 'Transparent Things' has moments of absolute and immortal genius. I feel too there exists layers and ghosts in those pages that can only be exposed if I were to read TT three of four more times (I love Nabokov, but I'm not ready to prostrate myself that far). Anyway, Nabokov is savage in his sophisticated subtlety. Through Hugh's repeated trips to Switzerland, Nabokov guides the reader deeper and deeper (but never straight) into the distorted mind, madness and memory of Hugh Person. It is a novel that deals with the phantoms and as Nabokov himself called it, the "ooze of the past" and the "tangle of random destinies".
I loved TT, but still didn't always like it. Nabokov's own opus keeps me from giving this more than four stars. But trust me each of those four stars are transparent and brilliant.
If you've never read anything by Nabokov then this probably isn't the first book you should get, but it's a very nice, very short novel. You get the feeling that it could just as easily have been a short story. As always with Nabokov, the writing is exquisite. I also found the plot and the main character quite touching.
There is one point I hope might help some readers: For some reason, the general view among reviewers of this novel seems to be that the riddle in it (Nabokov has to have a riddle...) is very hard to figure out and that the book leaves the reader utterly bewildered. Maybe I was lucky, maybe the novel is easier to understand today than when it first appeared, in any case I found the "mystery" element pretty clear as such things go. It was nothing so complex as, say "Pale Fire". My point is, don't let the supposed difficulty of the book deter you from a rewarding listen.
As for the narrator, he does a flawless job. He has the right voice, the right intonation, everything sounds just as it should. He does mispronounce a French word or two, but those really are minor nitpicks.
In short: an excellent minor work from a wonderful author.
Late period Nabokov, impossible to fully appreciate on a first reading. The narrator says some peculiar things which can only be understood through re-reading.
Christopher Lane is a gifted narrator, wonderful with accents, but I suspect he missed the book's solution - otherwise he would have read the final six words with a German accent - that he did not is, for me, a fatal flaw. See Nabokov's "Strong Opinions" pp. 194-196 if you want the solution provided by the author. But it's more fun to solve the puzzle yourself.
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