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Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov
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Bend Sinister (1947)

by Vladimir Nabokov

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Nabokov's novel is set in a fictitious European city known as Padukgrad, where a government arises following the philosophy known as "Ekwilism", which discourages the idea of anyone being different from anyone else, and promotes the state as the prominent good in society. The story begins with the protagonist, Adam Krug, who had just lost his wife to an unsuccessful surgery, asked to sign and deliver a speech to the leader of the new government by the head of the university and his colleagues. However he refuses. This government is led by a man named Paduk and his "Party of the Average Man." As it happens, the world-renowned philosopher Adam Krug was, in his youth, a classmate of Paduk, at which period he had bullied him and referred to him disparagingly as "the Toad". Paduk arrests many of the people close to Krug and those against his Ekwilist philosophy, and attempts to get the influential Professor Krug to promote the state philosophy to help stomp out dissent and increase his personal prestige. The novel is effective in tone and demonstrates Nabokov's unique style of word play. ( )
  jwhenderson | Apr 8, 2013 |
On the hand, the main reason I was reading this is because from the plot summary I thought it would be a good "intro-to-Nabokov" book to give to a young person, but it turns out there's a minor subplot where a 15 year old girl tries to seduce the protagonist and then later gets raped by like 50 guys. OH WELP. Hey Nabokov you already treated this subject matter to perfect in one book how about you keep it out of your others. Also lay off the homophobia while you're at it, it's wearying.

That said, this is a much more coherent and therefore better novel than Ada. So far the first Nabokov novel I've read with a sympathetic protagonist, which makes the (wackily metafictional) ending touching in a conventionally enjoyable way. ( )
  jhudsui | Feb 20, 2013 |
This is an entertaining and intriguing novel. It is a story set in a time slightly different than any that does or has actually existed – a strife-torn unnamed European country that is being ruled by a dictator who happens to be the school-time “friend” of the novel’s protagonist, a famous philosopher named Professor Adam Krug. The tone of the novel is established in the first chapter with a ridiculous, although funny in a catch-22 sort of way, situation in which Krug is allowed to cross a bridge, only to be turned back because papers are not appropriately signed. On returning, the guards on the side of the bridge that first let him cross will not let him come back. And so, for a short time, he is between the two worlds.

The novel itself is the story of various groups trying to bring Krug and the dictator together, each for their own ends. This includes the dictator’s desire to reconcile. In the end, the dictator finds Krug’s weak spot, but this only leads to additional tragedy. The unveiling of that tragedy was like watching a slow motion car crash – the reader can tell what is coming, but watching that ultimate disaster occur holds its own weird enchantment.

The novels contains humor and tragedy and satire and truth, and Nabokov handles it all so skillfully we almost do not see how much is being accomplished.

And then I went back and read the author’s new introduction (new as of publication of this edition – 1964). And the story became that much better. And now I want to go back and reread it with this new found knowledge. Nabokov was playing even more games in the writing than I first suspected. And, the way he plays games, you can’t even be sure he isn’t playing games in the introduction.

Don’t read too much about this novel before diving in. Read it. Then learn more about what it is. Then read it again. And, as I am sure I will do, read it one more time. ( )
  figre | Oct 1, 2012 |
pesantissimo ( )
  Lorenzo_Giannini | Sep 10, 2012 |
pesantissimo ( )
  Lorenzo_Giannini | Sep 10, 2012 |
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An oblong puddle inset in the coarse asphalt; like a fancy footprint filled to the brim with quicksilver; like a spatulate hole through which you can see the nether sky.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679727272, Paperback)

The first novel Nabokov wrote while living in America and the most overtly political novel he ever wrote, Bend Sinister is a modern classic.  While it is filled with veiled puns and characteristically delightful wordplay, it is, first and foremost, a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught in the tyranny of a police state. It is first and foremost a compelling narrative about a civilized man and his child caught up in the tyranny of a police state.  Professor Adam Krug, the country's foremost philosopher, offers the only hope of resistance to Paduk, dictator and leader of the Party of the Average Man.  In a folly of bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude, the government attempts to co-opt Krug's support in order to validate the new regime.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Professor Adam Krug, the foremost philosopher of his country, is, along with his son, kidnapped by the government in hopes of making him support Paduk, dictator and leader of the Party of the Average Man.

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