Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nabokov in Kristy's Reading Corner

Yesterday I finished reading Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov. This is the first book Nabokov wrote while living the United States, and it's a powerful and poetic political satire (although more than that, really). The basic plot finds the recently widowed Krug, the foremost philosopher in a small, unnamed Eastern European state, living under the new dictatorship of Paduk, a former-classmate that Krug used to bully in the school yard. Krug's friends and eventually his son become pawns in Paduk's quest to get Krug to officially endorse his regime. Along the way the reader gets a wonderful parody of Hamlet, commentary on translation, poetic descriptions, humorous encounters, and really much more than I'm able to describe.

For a taste of the poetry, try this on for size:
"Old Azureus's manner of welcoming people was a silent rhapsody. Ecstatically beaming, slowly, tenderly, he would take your hand between his soft palms, hold it thus as if it were a long sought treasure of a sparrow all fluff and heart, in moist silence, peering at you the while with his beaming wrinkles rather than with his eyes, and then, very slowly, the silvery smile would start to dissolve, the tender old hands would gradually release their hold, a blank expression replace the fervent light of his pale fragile face, and he would leave you as if he had made a mistake, as if after all you were not the loved one -- the loved one whom, the next moment, he would espy in another corner, and again the smile would dawn, again the hands would enfold the sparrow, again it would all dissolve."

I bought this book years ago, but never read it. I'd read Lolita and liked it so much that I wanted to read more Nabokov. Then, when Josh and I moved in together, I was sorting through our collective books and noticed that we both had this one. In fact, we both had this exact same special edition with the awesome cover and introduction by Nabokov. I honestly can't remember if we kept mine or kept his, although I'm pretty sure the other copy is still at my old roommate's house.

This physical book is different than any of my other books -- it's a trade paperback, but with this stiff plasticy kind of cover, and deep red endpapers on the inside. The book is really stiff, but in kind of a comforting rather than irritating way. The pages are really thick and crisp. And just gaze upon back cover, which is even more wonderful than the front.


In other news, I know its boring to talk about ones health, but I am in the throes of the most horrible allergies known to man. My eyes are all crusty, the insides of my ears itch, my nose is about to fall off from itchiness, my throat is scratchy, and my head is killing me. Thus, I have stayed home from work and am able to compose long posts about books you should read... Ta da!


Krouchdog said...

I recently discovered that the correct way to pronounce his name is Vladimir (rhymes with redeemer)
Nah-BOA-koff (accent on the second syllable). I have always pronounced it NAH-ba-kov, but now I feel like an asshole walking around saying Nah-BOA-koff. So what's the deal? Do I look like a snob and say it correctly? Or, join the cool, dumb kids and say it America-style? Although Nabokov did once write, "One cannot hope to understand an author if one cannot even pronounce his name."

Dr. Mystery said...

Some people I know claim it's pronounced Na-BAH-kov. Who's right?

kristykay said...

The always helpful Merriam-Webster online dictionary has the pronunciation here. (Just click on the little speaker icon next to the word). Interestingly "Nabakovian" puts the emphasis on the first sylable just like I always have in my total ignorance of the correct pronunciation. And yes, we will all sound like assholes if we pronouce this the correct way.