Pnin

Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
Length: 5 hrs and 37 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of the best-loved of Nabokov's novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian emigre precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations of a deliberately unreliable narrator.

Initially an almost grotesquely comic figure, Pnin gradually grows in stature by contrast with those who laugh at him. Whether taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has not mastered or throwing a faculty party during which he learns he is losing his job, the gently preposterous hero of this enchanting novel evokes the listener's deepest protective instinct. 

Serialized in The New Yorker and published in book form in 1957, Pnin brought Nabokov both his first National Book Award nomination and hitherto unprecedented popularity. 

Public Domain (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically." (John Updike)

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Why not leave their private sorrows to people?

“Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin

This isn't just the last nail in my Nabokov coffin, this is the ground thrown on the coffin. Finito sweet benito. I've now read all his ficiton (both those written in Russian and translated into English later and those written in English). It is kinda sad. But so too is Pnin. I'd call the novel melancholy, but it isn't quite sad or melancholy. There is something too sweet and funny and eccentric to be easily categorized. It is Nabokov's Don Quixote novel. His protagonist is a professor of Russian barely holding on in a fictionalized university (modeled a bit on Cornell). He isn't exactly absent minded. In fact, his mind is almost too much there. But there is something romantic and lovely about him.

The prose was beautiful and a couple chapters were near perfection. Chapter 5: Pnin drives to The Pines was amazing. I also adored the just barely intrusive narrator V.V. (Vladimir Vladimirovich). The novel wasn't my favorite Nabokov (Ada, Lolita, Pale Fire are all way better), but it is lovey and deserves a strong presence on Nabokov's slightly dusty second shelf.

2 people found this helpful