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Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
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Pnin (original 1957; edition 2004)

by Vladimir Nabokov

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3,062511,852 (3.9)1 / 138
Member:zvs
Title:Pnin
Authors:Vladimir Nabokov
Info:Everyman's Library (2004), Hardcover, 184 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:russian, usa

Work details

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov (1957)

  1. 02
    Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith (bertilak)
    bertilak: Smith's book is a trifle by comparison, but both deal with eccentric academics.
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English (47)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Gentle, meandering, sometimes goofy but mostly sad. The descriptions of art and nature are the best part. People should read this instead of Stoner. ( )
1 vote xicohtli | Jul 20, 2016 |
The chapters of this book are really fairly self contained short stories, all centred on Pnin (I am none the wiser how to pronounce this name after reading the book). They are funny and a little pathetic, Pnin is a fairly hapless character. A good book on living in exile, university life, and difficult relationships. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Apr 17, 2016 |
Timofey Pnin is a Russian who fled from the wars during the first half of the 20th century. First to Europe, then to the US. He has a community of like-minded men and women around the globe, many of whom he knew (or knew of) in Russia.

His marriage collapsed when his wife found another man--and she used Pnin to migrate to America. His academic career has stalled at Assistant Professor at a small school in upstate New York. HIs grasp of English has improved, but he still speaks in malapropisms and misunderstood synonyms and homonyms. He doesn't seem to be a great professor, though not many students filled Russian language classes in the 1950s. He has no great friends left, but has many good acquaintances.

But yeah--that's it. This is a story about this man's sad life, though he is not a sad man. Sad through no real fault of his own (his ex-wife ends up on her 4th husband by the end, he had no control over Russia's politics, and he has made a life for himself in America). Really, this character is just a regular guy. And most of us are not interesting enough to make for a good novel. And this character really isn't either. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
Very funny and very sad. The scene where Pnin thinks he's broken the green glass dish, which his stepson gave to him -- it's almost more that you can bear to read.

Second (maybe third) reading:

Nabokov is the master of description and patterning. To quote one of the book's characters: "...Don't you think that what he is trying to do practically in all his novels is to express the fantastic recurrence of certain situations?" That's what I mean by patterning. And in /Pnin's/ case, one of the repeated patterns is "the squirrel pattern." This, because Tim Pnin's one true love, who was killed in a German concentration camp, Mira Belochkin, her last name apparently means, or relates to, the Russian word for squirrel.

Here are a few passages that stood out in this recent re-reading of /Pnin/ (and why re-read? because the only good reader is a careful re-reader, so said VN in /Lectures on Literature/):

(1) "[Mrs. Thayers:] husband had such a soothing capacity for showing how silent a man could be if he strictly avoided comments on the weather."

(2) "[Pnin:] scraped various tidbits off the plates into a brown paper bag, to be given eventually to a mangy little white dog, with pink patches on its back, that visited him sometimes in the afternoon -- there was no reason a human's misfortune should interfere with a canine's pleasure."

(3) Finally, here's the scene mentioned in the first review's initial paragraph, where Pnin thinks he's broken his stepson's punch bowl (which the 14-year-old boy had saved up for and sent him, an antique, probably about $1000 or so, and this boy, Victor, is one of this novel's few characters who treat Pnin well):

"[Pnin:] prepared a bubble bath in the sink for the crockery, glass, and silverware, and with infinite care lowered the aquamarine bowl into the tepid foam. Its resonant flint glass emitted a sound full of muffled mellowness as it settled down to soak....[Pnin washes dishes, including gathering the "wiped spoons into a posy":]....He groped under the bubbles, around the goblets, and under the melodious bowl, for any piece of forgotten silver--and retrieved the nutcracker. Fastidious Pnin rinsed it, and was wiping it, when the leggy thing somehow slipped out of the towel and fell like a man from a roof. He almost caught it--his fingertips actually came into contact with it mid-air, but this only helped propel it into the treasure-concealing foam of the sink, where an excruciating crack of broken glass followed upon the plunge.

"Pnin hurled the towel into a corner and, turning away, stood for a moment staring at the blackness beyond the threshold of the open back door. A quiet lacy-winged little green insect circled in the glare of a strong naked lamp above Pnin's glossy bald head. He looked very old, with his toothless mouth half open and a film of tears dimming his blank, unblinking eyes. Then, with a moan of anguished anticipation, he went back to the sink and, bracing himself, dipped his hand deep in the foam. A jagger of glass stung him."

What follows is beautiful and subdued. You'll have to read the novel to find out what happens. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Obviously rather autobiographical, this was the first Nabokov novel I ever read. Though I did not loathe it when I first read it, I was a bit confused by the satirical narration. After having read a lot of other Nabokov books, this one finally started making sense... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vladimir Nabokovprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayer, A. E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthes, UrlichNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, MichaelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zimmer, Dieter E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The elderly passenger sitting on the north-window side of that inexorably moving railway coach, next to an empty seat and facing two empty ones, was none other than Professor Timofey Pnin.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679723412, Paperback)

Pnin is a professor of Russian at an American college who takes the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he cannot master. Pnin is a tireless lover who writes to his treacherous Liza: "A genius needs to keep so much in store, and thus cannot offer you the whole of himself as I do." Pnin is the focal point of subtle academic conspiracies he cannot begin to comprehend, yet he stages a faculty party to end all faculty parties forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:06 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Pnin is a professor of Russian at an American college who takes the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he cannot master. Pnin is a tireless lover who writes to his treacherous Liza: "A genius needs to keep so much in store, and thus cannot offer you the whole of himself as I do." Pnin is the focal point of subtle academic conspiracies he cannot begin to comprehend, yet he stages a faculty party to end all faculty parties forever.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141183756, 0141197129

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