THE LUZHIN DEFENSE by Vladimir Nabokov
Kirkus Star

THE LUZHIN DEFENSE

KIRKUS REVIEW

This sibilant, dazzling tale by the writer who has been defined as the leading fabulist of our time was written in 1930 (the period of The Gift) and it deals with the "spectral art" of chess here carried to the point of obsession which is so much a part of Nabokov's integral work both past and present. As is nostalgia, so that the opening game here is filled with the memory-misted scenes of Luzhin's boy-hood in Russia and his first initiation in the "game of the Gods" for which he will have a prodigious talent. Miserably alone, at home where his mother wonders whether he has some "painful inner life," and at school, Luzhin, the Wunderkind, grows-up to become a maestro. A morose, awkward figure, he is completely isolated in his opaque, imaginary world of configurations where he alone is sovereign as kings and queens and pawns are in eternal motion across his private field of vision. Now, as Luzhin is ready to enter a major tournament in Berlin, he meets a girl with a special affinity for all helpless characters. In spite of her, he finds his return from his "real life, chess life," with its clear-cut patterns, more and more difficult. It is during the match itself that his disassociation becomes complete. On his release from a sanatorium, she marries him and guards him vigilantly against his return to his "dangerous delusion." Withdrawing gradually, hiding from her, his eyes assuming a slippery expression, Luzhin finally eludes her altogether; his last refuge is an uncharted country... A classic conte, with a brilliant descriptive elegance and all the impalpable tension and hushed fascination of a grandmaster's game.
Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1964
ISBN: 0679727221
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1964




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