Extensively revised by Nabokov in 1965 - 30 years after its original publication - Despair is the wickedly inventive and richly derisive story of Hermann, a man who undertakes the perfect crime: his own murder.
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.
Public Domain (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” (John Updike)
“A beautiful mystery plot, not to be revealed.” (Newsweek)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
While this isn't my favorite Nabokov novel and I have to leave room and stars for its better, it is stil bold and amazing. Nabokov is one of those writers I will never tire of. He is imaginative, funny, tight and always just a little naughty. Despair is a false double novel that at once mocks, parodies and honors Crime & Punishment. It was like Nabokov set out to write a fanciful doppelgänger novel of Crime and Punishment, but felt like he would prefer to dress Raskolnikov up a bit; bend the mirror and make him fancy, turn him into a Russian emigre candy dandy.
This may sound bad, but the book makes me think about these modern paintings, black on black, little cubes on white font; in fact, the vaguely modern Rothko image in the front is a good indicator of who should like the book.
Honestly, the book is entirely incomprehensible, something that the narrator does masterly convey (and contributes to). Everything that happens is completely absurd, to the point that it is difficult to say that something is actually supposed to be funny. It's hard to understand the character, what happens to him as if everything happened in a haze. The intrigue takes a long time to kick in and, when it does, the mind is so anesthetized that it took me a while to realize that some intrigue was beginning. I know this is a literary style, maybe it's closer to poetry than it is to a novel?
Nabokov is a master prose-writer. I really enjoyed the beauty and cleverness of his writing. After Lolita, this was the second book I listened to by Nabokov. I can't wait to listen to more of his works.
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