Published two weeks after Vladimir Nabokov’s seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of his greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest, but it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue. Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat. This is the first American edition to include the extensive and ingeniously sardonic appendix by the author, written under the anagrammatic pseudonym Vivian Darkbloom. One of the twentieth 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.
©1969 Vladimir Nabokov (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” (John Updike)
"Ada or Ardor", written late in Nabokov's career, is a brilliant, hilarious and poignant story about two young people wildly in love who grow up to be two old people wildly in love. It takes place in an alternative world related to the one in which we live, but with interesting and peculiar differences (sort of sci-fi / fantasy). It is tricky, twisty and complicated but still lucid and and illuminating. I've read it several times over 30 years.
Regrettably, the narrator has a flat affect. I might be listening to a list of stocks and their values from the back pages of the newspaper. I found I could listen very closely - pretending there was no narrator but perhaps a computer generated voice - and then try to color the text with my own emotions. It didn't work out very well.
I hoped for a performance that recognized and illuminated the nuances of the text. It wasn't what I got. About 15% through the book I gave up.
I wouldn't have thought anybody could make Nabokov's wonderful prose sound this bad: grating, irritating and affected. In his mouth, all the characters sound like conceited, shallow, spoiled, self indulgent teenagers, instead of thoughtful, lyrical, mulitdimensional people. Yes, the characters are meant to be young and self absorbed, but they shouldn't sound like valley girls (and boys) with big vocabularies, insulated from real emotional life and development by even bigger bank roles. What a disappointment ! ! !
But, of course, it is Nabokov, and if you can some how tune out the ugly veneer applied by the reader, the story, and the language, are still there.
Anybody else, alone or with a cast, would be better.
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