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Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969)

by Vladimir Nabokov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,776642,806 (4.09)2 / 163
Published two weeks after Vladimir Nabokov's seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of his greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest, but it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue. Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat. This is the first American edition to include the extensive and ingeniously sardonic appendix by the author, written under the anagrammatic pseudonym Vivian Darkbloom. One of the twentieth century's master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator. He taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977. "Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically." --John Updike… (more)
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» See also 163 mentions

English (51)  Tagalog (4)  French (3)  Danish (2)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (63)
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47. Ada or Ardor : A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov
published: 1969
format: 589-page 1969-edition hardcover
acquired: 2011 – from my in-laws collection
read: Sep 19 – Oct 12
time reading: 26:25, 2.7 mpp
rating: 4
locations: Antiterra – an alternate world with an America heavily influenced by Russians and Russian culture
about the author: 1899 – 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922. Lived in Berlin (1922-1937), Paris, the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977).

An excerpt from [Beowulf on the Beach], (about [Lolita], which is praised): "...I think Nabokov is overrated... One of my most literary friends told me that Nabokov's novel Ada is among her favorite books, so I "read" it, if pedaling the square-wheeled trike of his prose can be called reading. And I said to her, "You really like this book? What about the 'rhythm'? Didn't it clunk and stagger like a besotted Cossack?" "I guess you're right," she said, "I just liked it for the incest."

This is not a book on the sin of incest. It's a romantic incest, insatiable. And outside our world. Nabokov creates a world that is parallel to ours but different…and happens to be a lot like Nabokov‘s privileged childhood world was. This is an America full of indulgent landowners of households run by all-knowing, psychological damaged but mostly loyal servants. And these well-educated landowners speak in a mixture of English, French (untranslated) and Russian (translated, but probably playfully). So things happen out of sequence with real history. They discuss Proust in the 1880's, and technologies are a little different ours in timing and style. It's main purpose seemed to me to be to allow Nabokov to make things anyway he wanted that was convenient. But philosophically there are games, especially with time, memory and imagination and their interplay.

Ultimately we never really know what happened to Van Veen. He writes this book in 3rd person looking back at the lifelong incestual love of his life, and all its rewards and bitter disappointments. But he's our only source. And he fill his version with playful literary references and linguistic games.

I read the first roughly 80 pages and understood nothing that was going on and loved it. I can't place why, but it was romantic and Nabokov can do some things. But the sex starts and Nabokov can't stop. For large chunks of this book, that, the sex, was not only continuously prevalent and the entire focus, but seemed to be the only reasonable purpose. Plodding through pages and pages of this I got tired and bored. I pick up other books...and that's when this one called and I realized I liked this. It's an oddly endearing parody, and the tone of this parody has a hard to place awkward comfort. I finished the book feeling much better about it, and its ideas and purpose, than I did in that middle section. So, mixed recommendation at best.

(side note - Nabokov's influence on Thomas Pynchon is really clear here, especially that "square-wheeled trike" prose.)

2021
https://www.librarything.com/topic/333774#7629959 ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Oct 17, 2021 |
600 pages so heavily freighted with information that I, a person of average intelligence, was in no way capable of absorbing, organizing, or recalling. The textual density does thin somewhat about 300 pages in, though by then you're encountering names and places that will send you back into the preceding pages--an ebook version proved an invaluable aid. Also invaluable is Brian Boyd's annotated edition that is freely available online (I wish a print version could be published, similar to the Annotated Lolita). Unfortunately, Boyd's freely available annotations cease with Part 2, Chapter 3, and after that the annotations are only available to subscribers of the Nabokovian.The novel is at least as shocking as Lolita. I will be rereading this one. On an unrelated note, I kept wondering if Wes Anderson is a Nabokov fan. ( )
2 vote gtross | Jul 30, 2021 |
Good writer but not a geat book; self-indulgent. Probably somewhat autobiographical but includes too many situations of little interest except apparently to himself and a few friends. Too much Russian and French with wordplay therein of little use unless you speak those languages. Some sense of a journal written for his personal amusement. ( )
1 vote KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
This is a baffling book. I had to read its Wikipedia page to get my head around it at all after the first chapter. After that I plodded through it, but just didn't really ever get going or enjoy it. And I usually love Nabokov. As if all that wasn't enough the final page was literally just the blurb on the back of the book. No idea if it's like this for all editions, but it was not the ending I expected or wanted! ( )
1 vote AlisonSakai | Nov 9, 2020 |
This was very, very hard going. Nabokov is not an easy man to keep up with when he puts all the power of his mind into something, and he just couldn’t stop himself with this one.

The story of two siblings who hit it off and eventually end up lovers and then they grow up and then … I forget. I really do.

Although I’m sure there are some sublime moments in there somewhere, I was so utterly confused and confounded that I simply couldn’t see them. The storyline didn’t help. It’s not particularly interesting and there’s no desperately clear plotline to help things along.

The writing is complex and, I thought, littered with puns and plays on words which, after a while, had all the entertainment value of dad jokes at a Christmas dinner. I found the whole thing really laborious.

When Nabokov wrote Lolita, he was on fire. By the time he had Ada published, he seemed locked in his own world. His flame was no less powerful, but it had more of a scorching effect on me than a warming one at this point. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Sep 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
At Cornell University, Vladimir Nabokov would always begin his first lecture by saying, "Great novels are above all great fairy tales . . . literature does not tell the truth but makes it up." "Ada," Nabokov's 15th novel, is a great fairy tale, a supremely original work of the imagination. Appearing two weeks after his 70th birthday, it provides further evidence that he is a peer of Kafka, Proust and Joyce, those earlier masters of totally unique universes of fiction. "Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle" (its full title) spans 100 years. It is a love story, an erotic masterpiece, a philosophical investigation into the nature of time.
 

» Add other authors (45 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vladimir Nabokovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Morey, ArthurNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Mit Ausnahme von Mr. und Mrs. Ronald Oranger, ein paar Randfiguren und einigen nicht-amerikanischen Bürgern sind alle in diesem Buch namentlich erwähnten Personen tot. (Der Hrsg.)
Dedication
To Véra
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"All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike," says a great Russian writer in the beginning of a famous novel.
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A dozen elderly townsmen, shabby and uncouth, walked into the forest and sat down to a modest colazione.... The predominant gesture seemed to be ritually limited to this or that fist crumpling brown paper or coarse gazette paper or baker's paper (the very lightweight and inefficient sort), and discarding the crumpled bit in quiet, abstract fashion.
A famous international agency, known as the VPL, handled Very Private Letters.... fantastically priced ... Van retrieved a batch of five letters, each in its VPL pink silk-paper case.
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Published two weeks after Vladimir Nabokov's seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of his greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest, but it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue. Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat. This is the first American edition to include the extensive and ingeniously sardonic appendix by the author, written under the anagrammatic pseudonym Vivian Darkbloom. One of the twentieth century's master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator. He taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977. "Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically." --John Updike

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141181877, 0141197137

 

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