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Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
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1,453247,935 (3.85)24
  1. 00
    Where There's Love, There's Hate by Adolfo Bioy Casares (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Unreliable narrators, packed with literary references, and appear at first to have cliched plots.
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    The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Jarandel)
    Jarandel: The presence or absence of doubles leads protagonists to the strangest extremities. Also, unreliable narrators.

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English (23)  Italian (1)  All languages (24)
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מהתלה מורכבת יותר מדי ומצחיקה פחות מדי. לא מהטובים של נבוקוב לדעתי ( )
  amoskovacs | May 9, 2019 |
I want toreadthis again!
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
my ongoing quest to read the complete Nabokov continues. this was #9, a wry metaphysical drama about identity, doppelgangers and (self) delusion, told in Nabokov's trademark crystalline prose. ( )
  haarpsichord | Nov 5, 2018 |
3.5 stars. What I think is most interesting about this novel is that it is a revision of a novel by the same name that Nabokov published in 1934. It made me wonder if, and when, a work of art is ever finished in the eyes of the artist. ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
I read a lot of Nabokov when I was in college and in graduate school; I read all the short stories and almost all of the novels. Besides Invitation to a Beheading, the perfect novel I occasionally teach, I haven’t returned to Nabokov in twenty years. Despair is proof that I have been away too long. Nobody writes like him and trying to explain to someone why he’s so terrific is like trying to explain why the Grateful Dead are the best band of all time or why the Word Cup is so exciting: it’s a non-argument. This line of reasoning extends to the length that any “faults” in the book (or in his work as a whole) are, I’d almost guarantee, faults of perception on my part.

And “faults of perception” is Despair’s chief issue: to Hermann, Nabokov’s artist/killer, the hoi polloi (embodied by his wife, Lydia, and others) are the ones unable to appreciate his genius, his subtle creation, his ability to see what others cannot. Like Humbert, Cincinnatus, Kinbote, and many others, Hermann is a means by which Nabokov explores his great theme: the nature of artistic perception and production. Thus Despair is a novel in which the author frequently reminds his reader of his presence, rather than (as many authors do) attempt to stage-manage things skillfully enough that the reader “loses himself” in the book. The novel’s second sentence is a comment on its first, and Hermann routinely addresses the reader about his own prose style and means of communicating to the reader what is occurring. At one point, Hermann states of a paragraph he has just written, “Very mediocre stuff, I know that myself.” These moments, of which there are many, jar the reader; the scene in which Hermann agonizes over what to title his book is pitch-perfect.

It is Hermann’s plot to murder the hapless Felix in which he flexes his artistic muscles. His long story to his wife about how Felix is really his long-lost brother who has asked him to assist in a noble suicide, his dropping pieces of information for later effect, and his errors in the execution of his plan all allow a reader to better appreciate the complexities, joys, and struggles of artistic production. The reader is also put into the mind of an artist who thinks he is far better than he is. Hermann is furious with himself for overlooking a detail (“S-T-I-C-K”) and thinks that this was his undoing—although, of course, the reader finds another error of Hermann’s artistic judgment far more egregious.

In his Foreword, Nabokov states that Despair “has no social comment to make, no message to bring in its teeth. It does not uplift the spiritual organ of man, nor does it show humanity the right exit.” This stance, reminiscent of Twain’s warning at the start of Huck Finn (“persons attempting to find a moral in it will be shot”) is refreshing in a hand-wringing age like ours, where the art is too often viewed as a means of “social justice.” I’d rather spend a year with Hermann than a day with Barbara Kingsolver.
( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679723439, Paperback)

Extensively revised by Nabokov in 1965--thirty years after its original publication--Despair is the wickedly inventive and richly derisive story of Hermann, a man who undertakes the perfect crime--his own murder.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:58 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Extensively revised by Nabokov in 1965--thirty years after its original publication--Despair is the wickedly inventive and richly derisive story of Hermann, a man who undertakes the perfect crime--his own murder.

» see all 2 descriptions

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Average: (3.85)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118454X, 0141196963

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