TRANSPARENT THINGS by Vladimir Nabokov


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Nabokov once remarked that his true cher lecteur would be "a little Nabokov"; it will only be the little Nabokov who will enjoy (and find familiar comfort in) the Nabokovisms which this slight novella so fully illustrates: the theme, to start with, those transparent things "through which the past shines" and once again memory speaks; the language full of those "nobiliary particles" and spackled with French and Russian as well as his own matchless vocabulary; and the ancillary love or lust -- in Nabokov lechery is never more than a glint of the mind's eye. The mind is of course sovereign. Central here is one Hugh Person also "You" (or also heponymously he) as he makes several trips to Switzerland from his native United States, first with his father who dies there; later to see an author since Person -- a gauche if bright young man with no particular ambition -- has ended up in publishing. He has also been on-and-offly involved with R.'s daughter until he falls in love with and marries the jewel-bright Armande who proves too much for him. The story such as it is is only a vehicle for some of Nabokov's darting asides on (surprisingly) tennis and skiing; on sleeplessness and dreams (with the expected potshots at Freud); on New York publishing or the theater ("the 'avant-garde' means little more than conforming to some daring philistine fashion"). Here he is moderately amusing and dismissive. But all in all there is no question that the artifice often veers into artificiality (remember Ada) and that what can only have been a minor diversion for Nabokov doesn't amount to more than a diddle, an occasional diddle.
Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1972
ISBN: 0679725415
Page count: 113pp
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1972


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