DESPAIR by Vladimir Nabokov

DESPAIR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Despair is one of Nabokov's Russian language novels now appearing here thirty years after At was written in the Germany of the '30's-- of which The Gift has been isolated by many critics as the connoisseur's choice. This perhaps as a story per se will make a stronger appeal to the general reader, even though it lacks the brilliant imaginative effects of which Nabokov is capable, or even the architectural perfection of The Defense. It's the story of a man who plans and executes his own murder-- and once again obsession is as engrained here as it is in many of his stronger books. Hermann is, when first self-introduced, an inspired liar, aimless to begin with, addictive as he proceeds. He is also a dilettante perfectionist with pretensions of genius which he will achieve through his crime or perhaps its account thereof, this story. In "silly" stage asides, droll fatuities, wordplay, he records his meeting with the man who As his exact likeness and whom he eventually will kill. He gets rid of the artist, his "bird-witted" wife Lydia's housepet, persuades Lydia and then the victim to go along with him. The despair-- that is the supreme irony. But before the story ends on that note, there have been a great many sardonic subtleties along with the interior echoes, vagaries, illusions of a mind precariously poised between reality and disassociation. Occasionally there is a matchless line-- "A cloud every now and then palmed the sun which reappeared like a conjurer's coin." But on the whole, the tone As more playful than any of Nabokov's books, classing it as an entertainment. Nonetheless, Nabokov is one of the incomparable storytellers and stylists of our time who may outlive it.
Pub Date: June 15th, 1966
ISBN: 0679723439
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1966




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