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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679723431
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/01/1989
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 399,796
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

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.

Date of Birth:

April 23, 1899

Date of Death:

July 2, 1977

Place of Birth:

St. Petersburg, Russia

Place of Death:

Montreux, Switzerland


Trinity College, Cambridge, 1922

What People are Saying About This

John Updike

"Nabakov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, estatically."

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Despair 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel both disgusts and delights at once. The despicable narrator, Hermann Hermann (no that's not an error),with his skewed perceptions, constantly lies and challenges your assumptions as you read. The narration is unique as well; sometimes it seems as if Nabokov's voice is slipping in between Hermann's (when he speaks of different ways to start the chapter, for instance). As with his other novels, Nabokov plays with words as if they're toys, with interesting and usually masterful results. Despair is one of the most unique books I¿ve ever read, by one of the most intriguing authors to ever write. Though you may be puzzled, you won't be disappointed.
SaraPrindiville on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The title describes it perfectly. Such good writing! I wish it wasn't so sad though. I got to about the middle before I realized that something bad was going to happen. Very quick read.
Karlus on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I have just finished readng Despair by Vladimir Nabokov, my 15th novel in a row by him /egad/, and the first that has truly disappointed me. Hermann is a chocolate manufacturer who is none too successful as a businessman. One day, an amazing coincidence puts him in mind that, of all things, he can commit the perfect murder, and of himself no less. Not suicide, but murder! Unfortunately, this Nabokovian conceit of a plot idea is insufficient to sustain Hermann's crashingly long and boring first-person rendition of his detailed planning and execution (no pun) of his scheme. Worse yet, he is writing it all down in a dreadful book-within-the-book and he shares his superficial writing agonies and indecisions with us also. How shall he write the story? Hermann eventually reaches a point of despair, long after this reader came to have the same feeling.It turns out that I am actually re-reading the book. Oick? I can't help wondering if I missed a crucial turn somewhere that permitted Nabokov to pull off a Perfect Deception and completely turn the tables on me. As it is, it is a disappointing book and, because of its structure -- being written by Hermann -- one has to put the blame on Hermann, the putative author. It may be that it is Nabokov who has finally committed the perfect crime here!Read it if you are interested in the development of Nabokov's writing style. Otherwise pick a real detective story!
wirkman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
My favorite novel by this writer, excepting, of course, the great "Lolita." It is droll, another tale told by an unreliable narrator. The ending ismore than droll, it is hysterically funny, and I'm told the film of it was, also, perfect and witty.
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5"3, auburn hair, brown eyes. Now lets go fu.q but not here. Meet me at wet n wild res one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tell me how you look like then i will have s.e.x. with you.
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