The Luzhin Defense

( 6 )

Overview

Nabokov's third novel, The Luzhin Defense, is a chilling story of obsession and madness. As a young boy, Luzhin was unattractive,  distracted, withdrawn, sullen--an enigma to his parents and an object of ridicule to his classmates. He takes up chess as a refuge from the anxiety of his everyday life.  His talent is prodigious and he rises to the rank of grandmaster--but at a cost:  in Luzhin' s obsessive mind, the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality.   His...
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The Luzhin Defense

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Overview

Nabokov's third novel, The Luzhin Defense, is a chilling story of obsession and madness. As a young boy, Luzhin was unattractive,  distracted, withdrawn, sullen--an enigma to his parents and an object of ridicule to his classmates. He takes up chess as a refuge from the anxiety of his everyday life.  His talent is prodigious and he rises to the rank of grandmaster--but at a cost:  in Luzhin' s obsessive mind, the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality.   His own world falls apart during a crucial championship match, when the intricate defense he has devised withers  under his opponent's unexpected and unpredictabke lines of assault.

A withdrawn, sullen child becomes a master in chess; the game gradually supplants the world of reality as he moves into madness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mel Foster turns in a workmanlike performance in this uninspired audio version of Vladimir Nabokov's third novel. Luzhin is a sullen, lonely child who takes refuge in chess and eventually becomes a grandmaster until chess begins to control and alter his conception of reality. Mel Foster's narration is crisp and clear, but too stiff for Nabokov's limber, playful prose. And while Foster deftly creates voices for the various characters, listeners might wish he could have mustered a Russian accent. However Foster's performance has its highlights: his rendition of the adult Luzhin, with his high-pitched voice and abrupt, awkward manner is delightful. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679727224
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/13/1990
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 279,192
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

Biography

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. As a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri.

Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses -- the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions -- which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Vladimir Sirin
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 23, 1899
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Petersburg, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      July 2, 1977
    2. Place of Death:
      Montreux, Switzerland

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2008

    Nabakov Understands Madness

    Some of the lines that are present in Lolita are foreshadowed in this wonderful book. Nabakov is uniquely able to immerse the sane reader into the mind of those losing their minds.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2006

    An Outstanding Literary Work!

    'The Defense' is a well-written and engrossing read, wherein Vladimir Nabokov uses foreshadowing masterfully. It is a first-rate book!

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    Posted July 28, 2010

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    Posted February 21, 2010

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    Posted March 7, 2011

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    Posted November 30, 2013

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