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The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by…

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (original 1941; edition 1992)

by Vladimir Nabokov

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9941212,343 (3.83)26
Title:The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
Authors:Vladimir Nabokov
Info:Vintage (1992), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Literary Fiction

Work details

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov (1941)

  1. 00
    Going West by Maurice Gee (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books feature two different men writing biographies of the same man.
  2. 00
    Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: a character seeks to understand the life of a recently deceased fictitious author whom he knew peripherally
  3. 00
    The Death of David Debrizzi by Paul Micou (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels feature antagonistic pairs of biographers writing of the same subject.
  4. 00
    Flaubert's Parrot / Talking It Over by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)

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» See also 26 mentions

English (11)  French (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I've now read this four times. Still love the lavender-tinged sadness that lies at this story's heart. Very clever, very sad, very very.

I've read this three times and love it more with each re-reading. The novel's real climax comes about three-fourths of the way in, but you won't know about it until you've read the book once.
( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
A slight confection in comparison to his later novels but enchanting all the way through. Notable as the first Nabokov novel I've found that not even a single hint of sexual luridity to it. ( )
  jhudsui | Dec 16, 2013 |
Nabokov's first foray into English, a story about a novelist, his brother, and the search to discover the 'real life' of the former. Nabokov's prove is not as sparkly as usual, as he is still becoming accustomed to English, but it still shines. Recommended to those who know the struggle of an artist's life, or Nabokov fans. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Nabokov é incrível por sua imaginação e seu domínio da linguagem – atributos que ele mesmo admirava em outros escritores. O final é brilhante: o narrador se vê mais próximo do irmão do que nunca, velando o seu leito no hospital, apenas para descobrir que velava um desconhecido, e que seu irmão já estava morto. ( )
  JuliaBoechat | Mar 30, 2013 |
As Conrad Brenner wrote so aptly about the author in the Introduction to this novel - "He is NOT the author of only one book ("Lolita") and only one masterpiece. He is not a literary curiosity". True, Nabokov is mostly known for "Lolita" (which I am yet to read - having grown up in that part of the world where Nabokov's books were banned at the time), but I started with "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight" and found it very appealing, particularly because Nabokov's style (at least in this book) has so reminded me of one of my favorite authors - W.S.Maugham. Knowing only the basic facts of Nabokov's life, I nevertheless felt that this book was at least in some small part autobiographical. It greatly impressed me that in spite of the fact that this novel was Nabokov's first book written in English (and not a translation from Russian) - his mastery of the language and the richness of expression are incredibly high. A very worthy read. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Jan 17, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vladimir Nabokovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dirda, MichaelIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brenner, ConradIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sebastian Knight was born on the thirty-first of December, 1899, in the former capital of my country.
[Writers' common struggle with words]: the bridging of the abyss lying between expression and thought; the maddening feeling that the right words, the only words are awaiting you on the opposite bank in the misty distance, and the shudderings of the still unclothed thought clamouring for them on this side of the abyss.
A language is a live physical thing which cannot be so easily dismissed.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679727264, Paperback)

"I am very happy that you liked that little book," wrote Vladimir Nabokov to Edmund Wilson in 1941. "As I think I told you, I wrote it five years ago, in Paris, on the implement called bidet as a writing desk--because we lived in one room and I had to use our small bathroom as a study." The book in question was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. And despite its humble origins, Nabokov's first novel in English showed him to be in absolute command of his adopted language.

Like many of the author's later triumphs, this one revolves around a question of identity. The late Sebastian Knight, we discover, was a transplanted Russian novelist whose taste for linguistic trickery bears a certain resemblance to Nabokov's. Now his half-brother is attempting to reconstruct the existence of this elusive figure. As he readily admits, the raw material isn't exactly the stuff of melodrama: "Sebastian's life, though far from being dull, lacked the terrific vigour of his literary style." But even the most mundane facts prove difficult for the narrator to nail down. He does, on the other hand, describe Sebastian's creative processes in exquisite and accurate detail:

His struggle with words was usually painful and this for two reasons. One was the common one with writers of his type: the bridging of the abyss lying between expression and thought; the maddening feeling that the right words, the only words are awaiting you on the opposite bank in the misty distance, and the shudderings of the still unclothed thought clamouring for them on this side of the abyss.
Sebastian's real life--or anybody's, for that matter--refuses to yield up a verbal equivalent. Still, the narrator manages a kind of fraternal fusion with his subject on the book's final page, which suggests a fluid and very Nabokovian view of identity itself. For this reason, and for the splendors of its prose, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight is a necessary read. It's also safe to say that it's the very best novel ever written on a bidet. --James Marcus

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:05 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Following the death of a famous novelist, his half brother sets out to uncover the truth behind the two great loves of the man's life -- and uncovers more than the enigmatic legacy of the writer.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185996, 0141196998

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