Read The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov Online


The Gift is the last of the novels Nabokov wrote in his native Russian and the crowning achievement of that period in his literary career.  It is also his ode to Russian literature, evoking the works of Pushkin, Gogol, and others in the course of its narrative:  the story of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, an impoverished émigré poet living in Berlin, who dreams of the book heThe Gift is the last of the novels Nabokov wrote in his native Russian and the crowning achievement of that period in his literary career.  It is also his ode to Russian literature, evoking the works of Pushkin, Gogol, and others in the course of its narrative:  the story of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, an impoverished émigré poet living in Berlin, who dreams of the book he will someday write--a book very much like The Gift itself.From the Trade Paperback edition....

Title : The Gift
Author :
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ISBN : 9780307787774
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Gift Reviews

  • Fionnuala
    2019-04-05 23:54

    Half way through this novel, we come on a scene where Russian writer Nikolay Chernyshevsky smudges his old boots with ink to hide the scuff marks, and freshens up his bootlaces at the same time by dipping them into the ink pot. Then he carelessly drops one of the ink-soaked laces on to a page he'd just written.It’s difficult to imagine that scene in an age when we rarely see an ink bottle, never mind dip anything into it. The ink we use today is safely sealed in cartridges, and more often destined for electronic printers than for any kind of writing instrument. However, this little scene made me wonder what would happen if an inky bootlace fell on a page of Nabokov's writing. I imagined a snake of ink blots sliding across the text causing some words to disappear completely, others to be partially obliterated, their shape emerging from the blackness like phantoms. Still others would be transformed into new words by the deletion of a beginning syllable, a middle one or an ending. And then I wondered how the text would read after the accident. Like something in code? Like something that has been censored? Like something only partially formed, something that has not yet emerged from a chrysalis state?Or like a text read in a dream..The Gift, the last novel Nabokov wrote in Russian, and the most exciting of his I’ve read, offers all those variations and much, much more.Fyodor Godunov, poet and writer, is the first-person narrator of the book. But like a knight who has moved sideways and fallen of the edge of a chessboard, Fyodor seems to be outside the world of the main story, watching himself, the other knight as it were, still active on the squares of the storyboard, and referred to in the third person.The early chapters of his narrative read like a dream in every sense of that phrase; Fyodor takes time out from describing daily life in Berlin in the 1920s - the chessboard of the main story - to look back at a time before the time of the story, a time that seems very remote and only visible as if through a moiré curtain. With a painter's eye for the effects of dissolving light and shimmering shade, he recreates a secondary narrative, the smoky outlines of that time before time, the childhood spent in a country that doesn't exist anymore but to which he holds the keys: Russia before the revolution. Fyodor mislays keys many times in the course of the book but he is certain that he will never mislay the keys to his Russia because he carries his homeland inside himself.Ought one not to reject any longing for one’s homeland, for any homeland besides that which is with me, within me, which is stuck like silver sand of the sea to the skin of my soles, lives in my eyes, my blood, gives depth and distance to the background of life’s every hope? Some day, interrupting my writing, I will look through the window and see a Russian autumn.To return to the framework of Fyodor’s Berlin story, there emerges within it a third entirely different but equally interesting narrative. Through a circuitous set of circumstances involving various interesting coincidences, Fyodor finds himself researching and writing a memoir of the Russian revolutionary writer-poet, Nicolay Chernyshevski (1828-1889) whose novels influenced many political activists including Lenin. But just as insects learn to mimic their surroundings in order to fool their enemies, Fyodor’s memoir is only the mimicry of a memoir. Though adequately factual and suitably literary, it is in reality a satire aimed at all the writer-revolutionaries like Chernyshevsky whose clumsy inky boots had trampled all over the literary legacy of Russia built so carefully by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Bely and many more. Not surprisingly, the editors and critics among the Russian emigré community in Berlin turn out to be very sharp-eyed predators who are not fooled by such a pseudo memoir (which the reader gets to read in its entirety in chapter four of The Gift); they are not prepared to accept that the satire might contain truth, even if only an artistic one. Fyodor’s Chernyshevsky memoir is more or less blotted out, deleted, forgotten. (In a case of life imitating art, when Nabokov succeeded in having The Gift published in serial form in a Paris emigré magazine in 1937, it appeared without Chapter Four. The Chernyshevski chapter had once again been censored, deleted, wiped out, just as had happened in its fictional existence. It didn’t finally appear in print until the 1952 edition of The Gift).Within the Russian doll that is The Gift lies a fourth story: Fyodor’s personal struggle to be a composer of something more lasting than literary or political satire. Before tackling the Chervyshevski memoir, he had already been searching for his own literary destiny; was he a poet, or a dramatist, or perhaps a novelist? Eventually, like Proust's narrator, he begins to figure out what it is he really wants to write about and how he wants to write it. Reading between the lines, and in spite of false trails and coded wording, the reader realises that The Gift itself is the chrysalis of the book Fyodor will one day write. ……………………………………………………………If I've given more information than I usually do about the plot of this book, it was to emphasize the structure which I think is really brilliant. But rest assured, there are a few more Russian dolls wrapped up inside The Gift; Fyodor's Berlin life is full of character and incident, and provides a valuable record of the world of the Russian emigré community in Berlin in the 1920s.

  • Manny
    2019-03-27 06:02

    I don't think I know enough about Russian literature to properly get this book, but it did have some great moments. One in particular that I'm often reminded of whenever people on either side of the religion/skepticism debate start saying that things are "obvious". A character is in the middle of an atheist rant. "There's no God!" he exclaims. "It's as obvious as the fact that it's raining right now!" Then Nabokov's camera moves back, and you see that the person upstairs has in fact been watering the flowers on his balcony. I loved this scene, but I'd be very wary about interpreting it to mean that Nabokov was religious. Just like the non-existence of God: it may be true, but it's not obvious.

  • Geoff
    2019-04-20 02:15

    The Gift finds among its peers works such as In Search of Lost Time and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Dedalus' scenes in Ulysses (does the root of every novel since inexorably stretch back to Ulysses? I see it everywhere). It even feels like a sequel to Speak, Memory, though Nabokov is careful to dissociate himself from Godunov-Cherdyntsev. Yet the book is woven with Pushkin and Gogol and lepidoptera, musings on chess and time, the deceptive and imitative qualities of the natural world, and the essence of fate and consciousness, all Nabokov's pet subjects. Godunov-Cherdyntsev resides in the same Berlin where Nabokov resided in the same time period (the lee between the world wars), associates with similar coevals as Nabokov kept company with in his Berlin years, and the literary progression of the poet becoming the prose stylist extraordinaire seems to mirror a rather familiar reflection. All in all, it feels like Nabokov's most personal work, outside of the autobiography. It is also a retort to all of those who criticize Nabokov for being all style and no substance, or those who claim his characters are inhuman or that he doesn't understand people or have compassion for them. Martin Amis, in his introduction to Lolita, called him "the laureate of cruelty". Certainly Lolita is a cruelly amusing work, and certainly he has created monsters. But if I can restrain from overstatement: The Gift is overwhelmingly hopeful and rapturous about life. It is an examination of and tribute to the design of fate, an embrace of the idea that the chaos of our lives is simply "the reverse side of a magnificent fabric", and if we strain our eyes out of time and look across the breadth of our memory, we will see the precise workings of a hidden design, even in the obstructions that have checked us along the way. Thus the form of the book takes on a series of biographies, playing out the mechanisms of a succession of lives and probing them for the shadow of the delicate hand of fate. Yasha's life, Fyodor's father's life, Chernyshevski's life (there is much to be said, essays worth to be said, of the duality in his recollection of his father's wanderings and his Life of Chernyshevski), his own life from an idyllic childhood to exile in a foreign city and falling in love with Zina; Nabokov through Godunov-Cherdyntsev transcribes many destinies in the service of splaying providence out on a dissecting table. In this way, Nabovok is skewing the idea that "life imitates art", expressing life as a work of art, that if we look closely we can see the individual brush strokes that together created our masterpiece. The Life of Chernyshevski (given as a whole text within the novel), Godunov-Cherdyntsev's skewering of Russia's "men of the sixties", the materialists whose ideas led to the banal artistic credo of Social Realism and in many ways directly to the Bolsheviks, is, to me, some of Nabokov's most interesting and strong writing. It takes the circular structure of The Gift itself, and is an inversion of Godunov-Cherdyntsev's philosophy and the entire novel. Great books don't need the ornament of reviews, and this is a great book. As such it should just be read, again and again. The Gift is something like what Fyodor himself at some point offhandedly thinks of writing, "a practical handbook: How to Be Happy".

  • Darwin8u
    2019-03-25 03:11

    “Have you ever happened, reader, to feel that subtle sorrow of parting with an unloved abode? The heart does not break, as it does in parting with dear objects. The humid gaze does not wander around holding back a tear, as if it wished to carry away in it a trembling reflection of the abandoned spot; but in the best corner of our hearts we feel pity for the things which we did not bring to life with our breath, which we hardly noticed and are now leaving forever. This already dead inventory will not be resurrected in one's memory...”― Vladimir Nabokov, The GiftA very Proust-inspired (memory, love, dreams, art) Nabokov. The last of his Russian novels, 'the Gift' is a complex and rich Künstlerroman and is one of those novels that makes me wish I spent more time in college studying Russian simply so I could catch the nuanced differences between the Chapters where Nabokov is mimicking Pushkin, Gogol, and other Russian novelists. Nabokov always amazes me with his ability to provoke, entertain and awe his readers. There are some novelists where it is clear they are writing for a certain audience. Nabokov seems content just to write novels that entertain an audience of one (VN). If someone else gets his books, well, it is all just a sugary and mischievous bonus, but overall ... he'd prefer to be left alone to categorize and pin his rare butterflies and metric variations.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-04-10 00:18

    The Gift is Vladimir Nabokov’s best novel written in Russian – multifaceted, multilayered, multilevel and linguistically splendid.“Then, when I fell under the spell of butterflies, something unfolded in my soul and I relived all my father’s journeys, as if I myself had made them: in my dreams I saw the winding road, the caravan, the many-hued mountains, and envied my father madly, agonizingly, to the point of tears—hot and violent tears that would suddenly gush out of me at table as we discussed his letters from the road or even at the simple mention of a far, far place.”Reading The Gift I fell under its spell and relived all the hero’s emotional experiences: the gift of youth, the gift of love, the gift of talent, the gift of poetry…

  • Inderjit Sanghera
    2019-03-28 05:17 see website for the full reviewBeauty plus pity-that is the closest we can get to a definition of art: Vladimir Nabokov The Gift is Nabokov’s greatest and most important work-it is Nabokov’s most poetic novel, in which he develops the themes central to his work and philosophy; the ability of art to capture and recreate the miracle of consciousness, of parental, romantic and platonic love, of the wonders of childhood and the importance of individuality and the ephemerality in comparison to the endless void of death. The Gift is the clearest distillation of Nabokov’s humanist philosophy, of his aesthetic preferences and acts as a kind of guide book on happiness; it teaches us about the wonders of a sunbeam on a desolate park bench, to incandescent blueness of the eyes of a person we love, the beauty of a verse by Pushkin and shows us that life is miraculous beyond any words if only we would open our eyes and see. It is Nabokov’s gift to the world.BEAUTY The Miracle of Conciousness The novel begins with the description of an everyday scene; a couple are moving into a new flat and the narrator quips, “Someday, I must use that scene to start a good old fashioned novel.” The reason as to why the narrator would use this scene is explained further down the page, “Lined with lindens of medium size, with hanging droplets of rain distributed among their intricate black twigs according to the future arrangements of leaves (tomorrow each drop would contain a green pupil; complete with a smooth tarred surface some thirty feet across and variegated sidewalks (hand-built and flattering to the feet) it rose at a barely perceptible angle, beginning with the post office and ending with the church, like an epistolary novel.” Nabokov is attempting to reveal the quiddity of the most quotidian things; he is drawing our eyes to the beauty beneath the most everyday scenes and objects, the budding of a leaf and the reflection of the sky in a dusty mirror: “As he crossed towards the pharmacy at the corner he involuntary turned his head because a burst of light that had ricocheted from his temple, and saw, with that quick smile with which we greet a rainbow or a rose, a blindingly white parallelogram of sky being unloaded from the van-a dresser with mirror across which, as across a cinema screen passed a flawlessly clear reflection of boughs sliding and swaying, not arboreally, but with human vacillation, produced by the nature of those who were carrying the sky, these boughs, this gliding façade.” Nabokov’s musings on the beauty of the world and the wonders of life reach their crescendo in his lyrical evocations towards the end of the book; “The sun played on various objects along he right side of the street, like a magpie picking out the tiny things that glittered: and at the end of it, where it was crossed by the wide ravine of a railroad, a cloud of locomotive steam suddenly appeared from the right of the bridge, disintegrated against its iron ribs, then immediately loomed white again on the other side and wavily streamed away through the gaps in the trees.” Via his lyrical language and charming solecisms Nabokov is able to pay homage to life and consciousness and that most ephemeral of things: the present, forever trapped between the inexorable walls of the future and the past, whose fleetingness can only be captured via the… The intransigence of memory The narrator states, “It is strange how a memory will grow into a wax figure, how the cherub grows suspiciously prettier as its frame darkens with age –strange, strange are the mishaps of memory.” For Nabokov our memory, like nature, could be deceitful and has to power to deceive us, to trick us into believing something is more beautiful than it actually was or vice versa, the only way to overcome this is via art and its ability to recapture the wonders of consciousness, the beauty behind a sunset or the smile of a woman we love, and, unlike Proust, Nabokov felt that we could only reconstruct the past via conscious effort, not involuntarily. “The theory that I find most tempting-that there is no time, that everything is the present situated like a radiance outside our blindness.” For Nabokov memory and the imagination were intertwined-every time we remember something we go about imagining it too, because our memory is merely us consciously reimagining the past in accordance to the innumerable flights of our imagination. Great art, or in this case literature, is the purest and most distilled form of imagination possible, which leads us to…The power of art Despite the inability of the imagination to truly recapture the past, the imitation which Fyodor is able to conjure up is a thing of wondrous beauty; “Each of his poems iridesces with harlequin colours”. Fyodor ponders whether any readers will notice the boundless beauty which lay within his work, the secret messages which were disguised via the words , images and metaphors that made up his poems, as he observes, “While he had been musing over his poems, rain had lacquered the street from end to end. The van had gone and in the spot where its tractor had recently stood, there remained next to the sidewalk a rainbow of oil, with the purple predominant and prune-like twist. Asphalt’s parakeet.” Fyodor has several imaginary conversations with the artists Koncheyev and Vladimirov (both stand ins for Nabokov circa 1925) in which they discuss Russian literature and art in general. Fyodor has very definite tastes in literature, though Koncheyev points out that even supposedly worthless writers such as Dostoevsky have worthwhile elements and passages that Fyodor is too myopic in his literary tastes and myopia is the most inartistic of human qualities. And yet how to describe the joy which art brings is-that tell-tale tinge along the spine-or in its innate ability to, like magic, recapture and relive memories and emotions. For Fyodor, the question as to whether words can truly capture emotions drives him when he is writing his poetry (“models of your future novels” according to Koncheyev), Fyodor feels it can and it is one of his artistic purposes to do so; “The oft repeated complaints of poets that, alas, no words are available, that words are incapable of expressing our thingummy-bob feelings (and to prove it a torrent of trochaic hexameters is let loose) seemed to him just as senseless as the staid conviction of the eldest inhabitant of a mountain hamlet that yonder mountain has never been climbed by anyone and never will be.” Fyodor, like Humbert Humbert, may only have words to play with, but those words are Fyodor’s gateway in capturing…The wonders of childhood The narrator then thinks about the joy brought about the publication of his poetry, poems about childhood, about finding a lost ball or the drive to the dentists, yet the true importance of the poetry doesn’t lie in the subject matter, which is merely the vehicle by which the narrator is able to express, “The strategy of inspiration and the tactics of the mind, the flesh of poetry and the spectre of translucent prose.” Further than the narrator is celebrating the wonders of childhood and the insatiable curiosity it brings, of the uniqueness of every childhood and of how art is able to transmute our individual perceptions of the world into something tangible and universal; “the author ought on the one hand to generalize reminisces by selecting elements typical of any successful childhood-hence their seeming obviousness; and on the other hand he has allowed only his genuine quiddity to penetrate into his poems-hence their seeming fastidiousness.” For the narrator, in documenting the events of his own childhood he is able to both celebrate the uniqueness of his own experiences but also of others-after all which one of didn’t, as a child, felt disconsolate about a lost ball or desultorous about the dreaded trip to the dentist? The true artist is able to capture both the particular and the universal-in many ways this is Nabokov’s rejoinder to old fraud Freud, who chose to cloak childhood behind a phalanx of meaningless symbols and banal sexual theories, whereas Freud wished to fashion human consciousness according to his own neuroses, Nabokov wanted to celebrate the uniqueness of each individual existence and the ability of art to capture this. Another major Nabokovian theme is…The beauty of the natural worldFor Nabokov, books whose descriptions of nature were static and clichéd were completely inartistic. He frequently railed against books such as Don Quixote or eighteenth century literature (“the most inartistic of centuries”), because as a result of their picaresque and one-dimensional renderings of the natural world they failed to recapture or recreate the limitless bounty which nature, and thus life, has to offer. For Nabokov truly great art opens our eyes to the limitless beauty of the world, the inexhaustible potential of an existence, in which spider-webs are transformed into a shimmering rainbow as in Chekhov or pink hawthorns into a bridal train as in Proust, where clouds are not white but pink, snow is blue and the sea and sky coalesce into one as in a Turner painting. Everybody sees the world in different ways, the very concept of ‘realist’ literature or ‘objective reality’ was abhorrent to Nabokov, who valued the individual and particular and the artists ability to render their own unique outlooks on life and the world. Few writers were able to render nature as beautifully and completely as Nabokov; “Farther on it became very nice: the pines had come into their own, and beneath their pinkish, scaly trunks the feathery foliage of the low rowans and vigorous greenery of oaks broke the stripiness of the pinewood sun into an animated dapple.” And “…after being made transparent by the strength of the light, it was now assimilated to the shimmering of the summer forest with its satiny pine needles and heavenly-green leaves, with its ants running over the transfigured, most radiant-hued wool of the laprobe, with its birds, smells, hot breath of nettles and spermy odour of sun-warmed grass, with its blue sky where droned a high-flying plane that seemed filmed over with blue dust, the blue essence of the firmament.” And yet whilst nature is beautiful, without people its beauty is inherently empty-after all even Nabokov’s most poignant depictions of nature are still populated with people (however insignificant) and with people comes…The wonders of loveFyodor reminisces about his first love, a pale, pathetic and gentle woman, whose chestnut hair and black eyes still haunt him until he meets Zina Mertz, whose philistine family he lodges with. At first they hardly talk, as he cautiously observe her over the breakfast table; “She hardly spoke to him, although by certain signs-not so much by the pupils of her eyes as by their lustre that seemed slanted at him-he felt that she was noticing every glance of his and that all her movements were restricted by the lightest shrouds of that very impression she was producing on him; and because it seemed completely impossible to him that he should have any part in her life, he suffered when he detected anything particularly enchanting in her and was glad and relieved when he glimpsed some flaw in her beauty. Her pale hair which radiantly and imperceptibly merged into the sunny air around her head, the light blue vein on her temple, another on her long, tender neck, her delicate hand, her sharp elbow, the narrowness of her hips, the weakness of her shoulders and peculiar forward slant of her graceful body, as if he floor over which, gathering speed like a skater, she hastened was always sloping away towards the haven of the chair or table on which lay the object she sought-all this was perceived by him with agonize distinctness. ” She knocks on his door and insouciantly asks him to sign her copy of his poetry book, her impertinence driven perhaps by her attraction to him and her desire to keep this attraction a secret from her family. Gradually they meet in secret and their relationship develops and blossoms beautifully as Fyodor imbues every glance, every look, from the imperceptible bristles of hair on her forearm to the limpidity of her eyes or their shared love of literature and outlooks on life. They are finally able to be together without any kind of interruption from her parents, who conveniently relocate to Copenhagen and he is able to bask in the gentle warmth her presence brings to him, a salve to the loneliness which had punctuated his life before her met her; “As they walked down the street he felt a quick tremor along his spine, and again that emotional constraint, but now in a different languorous form. It was a twenty minutes slow walk to the house, and the air, the darkness and the honeyed scent of blooming lindens caused a suckling ache at the base of his chest. The scent evanesced in the stretch from linden to linden, being replaced there by a black freshness, and then again, beneath the next canopy, and oppressive and heavy cloud would accumulate, and Zina would say, tensing her nostrils, ‘Ah, smell it’”. There is also the love Fyodor feels for his parents. His parents are intrinsically linked to his love of art-for example his father’s love of Pushkin; and the serene, happy and almost conversationless walks with his mother, which inspires him to write a book on Pushkin, a book which he never finishes and in fact never really begins. Fyodor has a deep love for his father, whose individuality, indifference to public opinions and love of freedom, art and nature he hopes to emulate. He imagines what it must have been like on the trips his father took when he was exploring China; “Only in China is the early mist so enchanting…as into any abyss, the river runs into the murk of prematutinal twilight that still hangs in the gorges, while higher up, along flowing waters, all glimmers and scintillates, and quite a company of blue magpies has already awakened in the willows by the mill.” He thinks about his last farewell to his father, gradually his reminiscences coalesce with his present as he notes the fauna surrounding him as his father, who was a great naturalist, would; he puts his fist on a tree and bursts into tears, as he realises his father is irrevocably lost to him and all he has left of him is the memories of their time together, a precious gift, but shallow in comparison to the gift of hearing his father’s voice or hear him talking about his expeditions. He thinks back to his mother’s visit the previous year after a 3 year absence ; “powdered to a deathly pallor, wearing black gloves and black stockings and an old seal-skin coat thrown open, she had descended the iron steps of the coach, glancing with equal quickness first at him and then what was underfoot, and the next moment, her face twisted with the pain of happiness, was clinging to him…it had seemed to him that the beauty of which he had been so proud had faded, but as his vision adjusted itself to the twilight of the present, so different at first from the distantly receding light of memory, he once again recognized in her everything he had loved .” Nevertheless the spectre of his father’s death haunts the both of them, a grief too sad to put in words punctuated by the naïve hope that he may in fact still be alive somewhere, that maybe one day he will turn up again in Berlin or Paris or Petersburg or anywhere and come back into their lives, to fill in the endless chasm which his death has opened up in their lives, which leads us on to…PITY and The irrevocability of deathMemory, art, the powers of the imagination and sacredness of childhood are all important themes within Nabokov’s work, yet as Nabokov stated, art is beauty plus pity and we are about to feel pity for the pathetic Chernyshevskis. Fyodor is introduced to them after Mrs Chernyshevski noticed a passing resemblance between him and her dead son. Fyodor thinks any such resemblance is purely superficial, however is touched by their melancholy, by their anguish over the death of their son, the victim of a suicide in a banal love affair, Mr Chernyshevski, half crazed with grief, still sees an apparition of his son wondering around the flat. Before Fyodor leaves the flat he experiences a kind of epiphany, “And now they began gradually to grow less distinct, to ripple with the random agitation of a fog, and then to vanish altogether; their outlines, weaving in figure-eight patterns, were evaporating though here and there a bright point still glowed-the cordial glint in an eye, the gleam of a bracelet…and at the very last there was a floating glimpse of pistachio-coloured straw, decorated with silk roses and now everything was gone, and into the smoky parlour, without sound, in his bedroom slippers, came Yasha, thinking his father had already retired, and with a magic tinkling, by the light of crimson lanterns, dim beings were repairing the corner of the pavement…” This coalescment of life with death and the ability of art to, if not wholly overcome than to at least traverse the spectre of death are further developed in the relationship between Fyodor and his father, who went missing whilst exploring and is presumed dead.Fyodor’s forlorn hope, that his father is still alive and that he will perhaps one day meet him again, links him to lachrymose Chernyshevski who, like Fyodor is followed be the ghost of a loved one, though, unlike Fyodor, Chernyshevski is unable to differentiate between reality and his imagination. Yet, Fyodor ponders upon an aura his father had about him, as if he knew a profound secret, a secret known to very few people, the secret of consciousness and the ability of the mind to cheat and overcome the purely physical sensation of dying. Fyodor later ponders whether this is merely a flight of fancy, a sentimental embellishment of his father’s aura, after all just before Chernyshevski passes away (and who in the novel was closer to the world of dead than him?) he confirms that after death there is nothing. Yet a feeling still lingers on, that perhaps his father did know how to cheat death, on a spiritual if not physical level, and perhaps Fyodor himself has or is able to develop this gift via his literature. Perhaps his sharing of this knowledge via his art is his gift to the world, yet it is a gift which only few will ever know, appreciate or take pleasure in as he undergoes the The feeling that his art will be forever unappreciated or misunderstood More than this, however, Fyodor is disappointed that his art will never be known, that he will forever remain obscure, doubly obscure even, his homeland would be forever closed to him and his sole audience would consist of the Russian émigré community, most of whom, as Koncheyev points out, will never truly understand him. The only fame he will ever have is a kind of local literary fame, hard to gain and easy to lose. And yet beyond this Fyodor deeply feels…The loneliness of exileAnd it’s utter displacement-Fyodor can never revisit the places he writes about in his poems, they only exist within his memory, which will only ever be a pale imitation of his past life, the fact that the garden of his past will be forever closed to him via the unsurmountable gate of political exile-he imagines one day revisiting Leshino;

  • Gabriele
    2019-04-12 05:52

    Questo libro è rimasto in attesa quasi due anni sul mio scaffale, nonostante Nabokov sia da sempre uno dei miei autori preferiti. È rimasto in attesa soprattutto perché da più parti mi veniva indicato come un librone di quelli difficili e che, senza un'adeguata conoscenza della letteratura russa, difficilmente avrei capito tutte le allusioni che l'autore vi aveva inserito. Allora io, in questi due anni, mi sono preparato attentamente, leggendo i miei Tolstoj, i miei Dostoevskij, i miei Gogol', ho scavato nella (sempre troppo poca) letteratura russa tradotta in italiano, con la speranza di capire almeno una buona parte dei riferimenti di Nabokov. Ecco, è servito a ben poco. A fine libro, quando ho letto il saggio in cui Serena Vitale racconta a suo modo "Il dono", ho capito di non aver riconosciuto un buon 80% delle allusioni che Nabokov ha inserito in questo suo librone.Detto questo, ora che probabilmente avrò scoraggiato tutti coloro che vorrebbero leggere "Il dono" di Nabokov e che dalla loro non hanno mai neanche aperto "Guerra e pace", posso aggiungere che non importa. Alla fine il libro di Nabokov è comunque godibile, anche se non si riconoscono tutte le allusioni alla cultura russa. Nabokov, nel suo trasformismo che lo porta a scrivere romanzi sempre molto distanti fra loro — tanto come forma, quanto come contenuto —, si lancia in un racconto che a tratti pare molto autobiografico: un emigrato russo nella Berlino degli anni venti affronta la perdita del suo Paese con l'amore per la letteratura (e una passione per i lepidotteri). Ma il libro è a sua volta un contenitore, una scatola in cui tanti racconti si incastrano fra di loro, un labirinto che, giunti al finale, ci riporta esattamente lì da dove eravamo partiti. La maestria di Nabokov viene qui tutta allo scoperto, tanto che mi è parso in certi momenti che due romanzi fondamentalmente avessero "influenzato" l'idea di Nabokov. Il primo è l'Ulisse di Joyce, il secondo La Recherche di Proust. L'Ulisse perché la struttura de "Il dono" è potenzialmente simile: ci troviamo alle prese con un protagonista i cui pensieri e azioni sono in primo piano, e tutto ciò che lo circonda viene visto dai suoi occhi e al tempo stesso è il protagonista che cerca di modificarlo. La Recherche perché anche in Nabokov è l'idea del libro stesso ad essere alla base del libro che stiamo leggendo: protagonista e scrittore si mescolano fra loro, e al lettore non resta che capire in questo "sistema a più livelli", in queste scatole che racchiudono al loro interno altre scatole, dove finisce una storia e dove inizia l'altra. Entrambi, Ulisse e Recherche, hanno poi la stessa caratteristica de "Il dono" di divagare avanti e indietro nel tempo, di riesumare vicende passate su cui il protagonista rimugina e che pian piano presenta al lettore. Ma Nabokov ha uno stile tutto suo (più stili tutti suoi, a voler essere corretti): "Il dono" non è un flusso di coscienza e non è un testo con frasi descrittive lunghe cinque pagine. La personificazione degli oggetti, la ricerca spasmodica del termine più rappresentativo, l'uso della lingua in maniera maniacale, fanno di Nabokov uno scrittore che con la singola frase è capace di lasciare il segno nel lettore."Il dono" ha però anche un difetto, ed è una pesantezza eccessiva, soprattutto lì dove i riferimenti alla letteratura russa iniziano a diventare fondamentali. Leggere questo libro, che nel primo centinaio di pagine sembra essere decisamente scorrevole, si rivela pagina dopo pagina sempre più pesante, tanto che arrivati ai due terzi del libro vi sembrerà di aver scalato una montagna a mani nude.Detto questo, sicuramente non è il libro giusto per chi Nabokov non l'ha mai letto né per chi non ha una minima conoscenza della letteratura russa. Tutti gli altri, anche senza per forza sapere chi è Cernysevskij (ma almeno Puskin, quello sì), potranno provare ad affrontare questo mattone, sapendo già in partenza che richiederà un bel po' di fatica e di costanza. Per me rimane comunque il solito Nabokov, quello de "Un mondo sinistro" piuttosto che di "Lolita", l'emigrato russo che, alla maniera di un Dovlatov o di uno Sklovskij, rimpiange con calore la fredda Russia.

  • Jeff Jackson
    2019-04-03 01:57

    Includes: Hunting expeditions in Tibet; fake executions; nude sunbathing; mysterious disappearances; Siberian exiles; three-way suicide pacts; left-wing censorship; recurring ghosts; Russian emigre life in Berlin; an affecting love story; the secrets of fictional composition; and much, much more. One of Nabokov's greatest masterpieces.

  • Eric
    2019-04-22 04:00

    The last, longest, and greatest of Nabokov's Russian novels, a project that in some form occupied him for much of the 1930s, is frequently compared to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man but I think it's better, and more ambitious (a rival for Ulysses actually). Nabokov focuses not so much on Fyodor's childhood and youth (although they are powerfully present in the first chapter) as much as on his growth and expansion as a quickly maturing writer, and on his impassioned relation to Russian literary tradition--more interesting processes, and much harder to render dramatically. This novel's ingenuity is unbounded. It communicates the essence of Nabokov's art, and displays his total mastery.

  • John
    2019-04-07 07:18

    Nabokov looms as one of the navigational stars, glimmering against a novelist's horizon just when things seem darkest. THE GIFT makes my Goodreads list because it's the book I came to most recently, maybe 30 years after PALE FIRE & his other American novels rewired my makeup for good. This one is his European masterpiece, a transcendent reimagining of himself & his small family as they shuttled between apartments in central Europe, vagabond souls with a more-than-half-mad notion of keeping the flesh in place around them by means of love & art alone. But the autobiographical element is but the smallest of the figures in the marvelously colored nest of Russian dolls. The primary plotline concerns a wayward Russian emigré poet in Berlin, a 1920s slacker with genuine talent but little grasp of how the world works, discovering his calling & his backbone in the sketchiest sort of writing-about-writing project imaginable: a book that knits together little-known Russian poets & critics, all of them eventually impoverished exiles, in what becomes almost a saintly vision, the triumph of -- what else? -- love & art. The effect is improbably compelling to the reader, a deepening enchantment, & the climax might be compared to finding fairy-tale rainbows in the mud puddles of the Gulag, & then riding those parti-colored lights to freedom. On top of that, the book has an astounding publication history. After magazine excerpts indisputably established the author as a young genius, THE GIFT then went four decades without appearing between covers. Anyone who cares about story in its highest forms can afford to overlook this one, glimmering on the horizon.

  • Olivia
    2019-04-20 01:20

    This book is incredibly quotable, so this post is going to be pretty disastrous. I liked this book a lot, but of course it was difficult (it was, after all, Nabokov). I love his writing, though, and I love the way his brain works, and I love that in parts of this book he was anticipating so many other masterful things, like Lolita and other plots that appear randomly. I love that he loves his art so much, and that love comes through with the main character, and so many others. And I loved that the book focused so much more than his later (English) books on Russian life, the life left behind, the emigre experience, the dismay from afar at what was happening there, etc. A beautiful book, and there is almost no reason I am not giving it 5 stars, as I think anyone seriously contemplating a love for Nabokov should read this book. I don't really know why I am not giving it five stars, still. I think I just didn't emotionally connect with it as much as I did Ada, or Ardour, or Invitation to a Beheading. But there are amazing and beautiful moments in it. A warning: I tried to read it in my early 20s, and I had no idea what this book was about. It was actually incomprehensible to me. I literally remember not having any idea that this book had a plot. Reading it this year, at 30, it made so much sense and resonated so strongly with me... I may have to come back at 40.--- QUOTES I LIKED / LOVED (there is lots) ---- "And those lowered lashes of modest price ... the nobility of the discount ... the altruism of advertisements ... all of this nasty imitation of good, which has a strange way of drawing in good people: Alexandra Yakovlevna, for example, confessed to me that when she goes shopping in familiar stores, she is morally transplanted to a special world where she grows intoxicated from the wine of honesty, from the sweetness of mutual favours, and replies to the salesman's incarnadine smile with a smile of radiant rapture." (3) [[[a depiction of people carrying a mirror, which is one of my own favourite images from a time I saw it in Fredericksburg, VA - p. 4]]]"When I reach the sites where I grew up and see this and that -- perhaps on the mountain pass to a kind of happiness which it is too early for me to know (I know only that when I reach it, it will be with pen in hand)." (23-4)"(the Russian 'vy'), as a sick Frenchman addresses God" (37)"he was tormented by the feeling that there was some line of thought he had not pursued to its conclusion that day and now could never finish." (51)"and you would appreciate my radiant 's' if I could pour into your cupped hands some of those luminous sapphires that I touched as a child, trembling and not understanding when my mother, dressed for a ball, uncontrollably sobbing, allowed her perfectly celestial treasures to flow out of their abyss into her palm, out of their cases onto black velvet..." (72)"And I also think of the fact that it sometimes seemed to me then that I was unhappy, but now I know that I was always happy, that that unhappiness was one of the colours of happiness." (103)"It sometimes seems to me nowadays that -- who knows -- he might go off on his journeys not so much to seek something as to flee something, and that on returning, he would realize that it was still with him, inside him, unriddable, inexhaustible." (113)"However that may have been, I am convinced that our life then really was imbued with a magic unknown in other families. From conversations with my father, from daydreams in his absence, ... life took on a kind of bewitching lightness that made me feel as if my own travels were about to begin. Thence, I borrow my wings today." (113)"What did he think about? ... About the innate strangeness of human life, a sense of which he mysteriously transmitted to me? Or perhaps I am wrong in retrospectively forcing upon him the secret which he carries now, ... but simply was happy in that incompletely named world in which at every step he named the nameless." (117)"If you like I'll admit it: I myself am a mere seeker of verbal adventures, and forgive me if I refuse to hunt down my fancies on my father's own collecting ground." (137)"Have you ever happened, reader, to feel that subtle sorrow of parting with an unloved abode? The heart does not break, as it does in parting with dear objects. ... but in the best corner of our hearts we feel pity for the things which we did not bring to live with our breath, which we hardly noticed and are now leaving forever." (142)"Since there were things he wanted to express just as naturally and unrestrainedly as the lungs want to expand, hence words suitable for breathing ought to exist." (152)"None of this did he see for the moment, but it was all there: a small society of objects schooled to become invisible and in this finding their purpose, which they could only fulfil through the constancy of their miscellaneousness." (153-4)"Love only what is fanciful and rare; what from the distance of a dream steals through; what knaves condemn to death and fools can't bear." (154)"O swear to me that while the heartblood stirs, you will be true to what we shall invent." (154)"Or else: the constant feeling that our days here are only pocket money, farthings clinking in the dark, and that somewhere is stocked the real wealth, from which life should know how to get dividends in the shape of dreams, tears of happiness, distant mountains." (161)"Ought one not to reject any longing for one's homeland, for any homeland besides that which is with me, within me, which is stuck like the silver sand of the sea to the skin of my soles, lives in my eyes, my blood, gives depth and distance to the background of life's every hope?" (173)"Russian prose, what crimes are committed in thy name!" (198)[[[similarity between the executioner on p 200 and Invitation to a Beheading?, similarity to Pale Fire in description of possible plot on p 201]]]"But it was to the past they drank, to past glamour and scandal, to a great shade ... but who would drink to a tremulous little old man with a tic, making clumsy paper boats for Yakut children somewhere in these fabulous backwoods?" (279)"We would very much like this to revolve: egoism-altruism-egoism-altruism ... but the wheel stops from friction, What to do? Live, read, think. What to do? Work at one's own development in order to achieve the aim of life, which is happiness. What to do? (But Chernyshevski's own fate changed the business-like question to an ironic exclamation)." (279)"As a matter of fact, the analysis of *any* book is awkward and pointless..." (302)"There is a lack of metaphysical gallantry in this, but death deserves no more. Fear gives birth to sacred awe, sacred awe erects a sacrificial altar, its smoke ascends to the sky, there assumes the shape of wings, and bowing fear addresses a prayer to it. Religion has the same relation to man's heavenly condition that mathematics has to his earthly one: both the one and the other are merely the rules of the game. Belief in God and belief in numbers: local truth and truth of location. I know that death in itself is in no way connected with the topography of the hereafter, for a door is merely the exist from the house and not a part of its surroundings, like a tree or a hill. ... And then again: the unfortunate image of a 'road' to which the human mind is accustomed (life as a kind of journey) is a stupid illusion: we are not going anywhere, we are sitting at home." (307)"If the poor in spirit enter the heavenly kingdom I can imagine how gay it is in there. I have seen enough of them on earth. Who else makes up the population of heaven? Swarms of screaming revivalists, grubby monks, lots of rosy, shortsighted souls of more or less Protestant manufacture - what deathly boredom!" (308)"There pincers behind and this steely pain are quite comprehensible. Death steals up from behind and grasps you by the sides. Funny that I have thought of death all my life, and if I have lived, have lived only in the margin of a book I have never been able to read." (309)[[[... poetry of railroad banks, butterflies, etc. - everything I love about railroad tracks, p 326]]]"Where shall I put all these gifts with which the summer morning rewards me -- and only me? Save them up for future books? Use them immediately for a practical handbook: How to Be Happy? Or getting deeper, to the bottom of things: understand what is concealed behind all this, behind the play, the sparkle, the thick, green greasepaint of the foliage? For there really is something, there is something! And one wants to offer thanks but there is no one to thank. The list of donations already made: 10,000 days -- from Person Unknown." (326)"I search beyond the barricades (of words, of senses, of the world) for infinity, where all, all the lines meet." (327)"In these circumstances the attempt to comprehend the world is reduced to an attempt to comprehend taht which we ourselves have deliberately made incomprehensible." (340)

  • Mikimbizii
    2019-04-02 05:09

    "......but suddenly the unpleasant feeling of lateness was replaced in Fydor's soul by a distinct and somehow outrageously joyful decision not to appear at all for the lesson - to get off at the next stop and return home to his half-read book, to his unworldly cares, to the blissful mist in which his real life floated, to the complex, happy, devout work which had occupied him for about a year already. He knew that today he would receive the payment for several lessons, knew that otherwise he would have to smoke and eat again on credit, but he was quite reconciled to this for the sake of that energetic idleness (everything is here, in this combination), for the sake of the lofty truancy he was allowing himself. And he was allowing it not for the first time. Shy and exacting, living always uphill, spending all his strength in pursuit of the immumerable beings that flashed inside him, as if at dawn in a mythological grove, he could no linger force himself to mix with people either for money or for pleasure, and therefore he was poor and solitary. " - Vladimir Nabokov (The Gift)In my journey through books I always glimpsed flashes of myself in the characters. In The Gift, I came across this passage that exactly summerises my life and the lives of several thousand souls like me that lived down the ages and will continue to haunt the forgotten corners of the earth till the end of time.How many times have I broken away from the 'acceptable' course of daily activities to hide away among the pages of a delightful book or to hold my pen feverishly between my ink-stained fingers and scratch across a page. How many job offers, how many invitations to go shopping, eating, movies I'd given up, how many things I've postponed, people I've forgotten to call because I was lost in wonder at the drama unfolding around me, between the folds of a book. Oh the bliss, the bliss of swimming, sinking, floating in that abyss, caring nothing, dreaming everything, reading deep into the night, watching the pre-dawn sky trickle into my eyes. The numbing yet sensual joy of floating through the mundanity, of languishing at the office waiting, just waiting for the clock to strike 5.30 to rush out into the arms of magic waiting for me out there. And the inspiration a single book can spawn - the number of things to be made, flavours to be tasted, verses to be recited in soft whispers over and over again, rains to be drenched in, sunsets to be seen, blue-grey starry nights to be touched staining my face with their inky shadows, and the ideas, the stories the countless ones waiting to be captured, tended, fondled, loved and eventually written down.Reading a book is like hiking to the mountains, each bend opening a new vista of ideas, histories, a new ways of thinking. And this book, despite its complexities, and meanderings, opened to me a new way to accept the way I am and inspired me to continue this madcap path that I've taken.

  • ΑνναΦ
    2019-04-18 04:59

    Libro dalla struttura particolare, labirintica, dove ad ogni angolo c'è un mondo nuovo. Ora è la quieta triste vita di émigrée a Berlino, traboccante di echi biografici, ora saggio botanico naturalista e poi racconto di viaggio e poi ancora (siamo all'ostico IV capitolo) ecco un bel saggio storico letterario su un alquanto sconosciuto (ai più, io tra loro) scrittore e rivoluzionario russo della seconda metà dell'800, ironicamente fatto a pezzi dal Nabokov eccelso critico letterario, ma anche figlio di un padre progressista e riformista, viene da pensare che il retaggio storico familiare abbia avuto un qualche peso nel giudizio pessimo verso il malcapitato Cernicevskij, il quale oltre a veder la propria vita fatta a pezzi dalla repressione zarista (era stato accusato di aver organizzato l'attentato allo zar Alessandro II), fu anche denigrato post mortem in questo capitolo, peraltro a suo tempo censurato per diffamazione. Libro dunque innovativo nella struttura, che ne fanno ora che ci penso, un precursore della disarticolata letteratura postmoderna, e difficile perché nel già citato capitolo quarto i continui rimandi a personaggi storici e letterari presumono un'ottima conoscenza della società culturale della Russia pre-rivoluzionaria, ma anche per via dei frequenti cambi di punto di vista narrativo dei libri molteplici che compongono il romanzo. Tuttavia intessuto dai preziosi arabeschi linguistici per i quali Nabokov è noto e amato, che ne fanno una lettura impegnativa ma sempre bellissima, ho riletto più volte incantata interi brani e credo che questo sia uno dei più bei libri di Vladimir Vladimirovich.

  • Galina
    2019-04-03 05:01

    Светът на "Дар" е толкова сложен, необичаен, фантастичен, мисля си дори - фантасмагоричен, че това със сигурност е роман, който има нужда от повече от един прочит. Не мога да преценя какво пропуснах от съдържанието, но не улових всички нюанси, не разгадах пластовете докрай, не успях да последвам полета на авторовото въображение и не се оказах готова за пълнотата и пълнокръвието на тази книга. Страниците плавно преливат от една в друга и точно, когато ми се струваше, че следя повествованието, че съм схванала дълбочината, ме изненадваше поредната развръзка - недействителна, нереална. Герои, съдби, биографични факти, исторически събития, места и усещания - всички те се докосват, пресичат, разминават. Дали?!Намирам езика за прекрасен, изключително богат, страхотно нюансиран, едновременно подмамващ и реален. Но това едва ли изненадва някого, Набоков владее някакво рядко заклинание, което му позволява да си играе с думите и значенията им и да ги подрежда по необясним, неповторим начин."Дар" има специфичен послевкус - стигайки до финала, се чувствах така, все едно тепърва ми предстои среща, която всъщност вече се е състояла. Странно е и по някакъв начин напълно омагьосващо.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2019-04-18 05:51

    ‘Give me your hand, dear reader, and let’s go into the forest together.’This is the last book Vladimir Nabokov wrote in what he called his ‘untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue’. The story of Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, a young Russian émigré aristocrat in Berlin, told in this novel is both a personal journey and a reflection of Russia’s past. Nabokov provides a brief synopsis in his foreword:‘The plot of Chapter One centers in Fyodor’s poems. Chapter Two is a surge toward Pushkin in Fyodor’s literary progress and contains his attempt to describe his father’s zoological explorations. Chapter Three shifts to Gogol, but its real hub is the love poem dedicated to Zina. Fyodor’s book on Chernyshevsky, a spiral within a sonnet, takes care of Chapter Four. The last chapter combines all the preceding themes and adumbrates the book Fyodor dreams of writing someday: The Gift.’I would need to read this book at least two more times to fully appreciate it. It is not a novel to be devoured quickly, it deserves to be savoured slowly. On this, my first read, I simply enjoyed Nabokov’s use of language both as he describes Fyodor’s progress and as he lampoons Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) in the ‘spiral within a sonnet’. It’s beautifully done, the way that Nabokov works a biography of Chernyshevsky into his novel, contrasting two quite different Russias but with some shared shortcomings.‘Existence is thus an eternal transformation of the future into the past – an essentially phantom process – a mere reflection of the material metamorphosis taking place within us.’And when the novel ends, will Fyodor’s success continue? Will he and Zina be happy? Or will his (and their) moment be brief, like the butterflies? We have seen Fyodor evolve for self-indulgent idleness to focussed observer: one of his roles in the book is complete; the other is neatly transferred to the reader. Or so I think, on this reading.‘Good-bye, my book!’Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Jonathan
    2019-04-04 23:14

    My review after rereading the book:This book is worthy to stand among its chief literary influences, to wit: Proust and Joyce. "Portrait of the Artist Remembering Things Past." Nabokov exploits the workings of memory to describe his childhood and the birth and development of the the protag's "gift." This gift is the mysterious element that drives one to become a writer, and very few to become writers of the highest caliber. On first reading, I was so earnest on keeping the characters sorted that I missed a lot of the humor. [This happened when I first read Swann's Way as well.] I also enjoyed chapter 4 on the second reading, whereas it tried my patience the first time in my desire to see the narrative resumed.Original review:Nabokov sought to celebrate Russian literature with this novel. He draws on Proust heavily, especially in the treatment of the protag's memories of childhood. I was puzzled by the shifts in the book, with the biographical "book within the book" seeming overindulgent as it went on and on. As I neared the novel's end, however, my skepticism about Nabokov's plan for his book dissipated. [So kind of me to condescend, I know.] This being only the second of his works I've read, I think I wasn't ready for it.I've actually begun rereading it immediately.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-01 00:00

    Tremendous. It requires attention and it lost me at times, as I was dodging puddles on the back streets, and Künstlerroman is not really my genre and I don't know nearly enough about Russian literature to fully appreciate what Nabokov is up to (and the best thing about that is that he clearly just doesn't care whether I get it or not) but wandering along and getting a bit lost in, especially, Chernyshevky's life and thinking about other things, I was more than once hauled up and made to pay attention by the clarity, compassion and beauty of some long passage. The butterflies-- oh-- The bit on synaesthesia fairly knocked me over one grey evening. The sibilant S of the sapphires and the sobbing mother will be vividly associated for me with a tight, dirty bottle-neck near the fruit shop lit by candles among the persimmons, where one little hand-built house sticks its dirty concrete elbow out into the road and across from it another of unfinished bricks totters and overhangs in an Ottoman style and threatens to collapse with the first tremor, and the drain covers are long gone and the bicycle Roma squeeze past with their monstrous loads of plastic scavenged from the skips. Or rather, that corner is now sapphires. Extraordinary. Nabokov can change how you view the world.

  • Hamish
    2019-04-24 23:03

    The Gift is a bit different from other Nabokov novels. Its closest contemporary is the earlier Glory, and to a lesser extent his memoir Speak, Memory. Instead of the tricky, complex and maze-like plots that structure most of his works, this one is a slow burn. It takes its time and doesn't necessarily lead anywhere, but instead provides its pleasure in the beautiful density of the prose and the wonderful observations and sly jokes. Granted, those are aspects that make a large part of all of N's novels, but here they are pushed to the fore. It's a very slow read, but not because it lacks interest. The Gift is like fresh cream, it's delicious, but it's so rich that you can only take a little bit at a time. And while it is slow-moving, there's a very subtle and very pleasing payoff at the end. Maybe the Chernyshevski section drags on a little long, but that's really my only complaint here. Also it lacks a little something to push it over the hump from really good to being a masterpiece.I really can't praise the prose enough. I tend to rib on certain writers who I think lack evocation in their writing (Hi, Hemingway! Hi, McCarthy!), so I want to take a second to point out the work of a master to contrast with that. From page 292 of my edition: "Fyodor sat between the novelists Shahmatov and Vladimirov by a wide window behind which the night gleamed wetly black, with two-toned (the Berlin imagination did not stretch to any more) illuminated signs - ozone-blue and oporto-red - and rumbling electric trains with rapidly and distinctly lighted insides gliding above the square along a viaduct, against whose architvolts below slow, grinding trams seemed to keep butting without finding a loophole." See that? "The night gleamed wetly black"!!! See how simply and perfectly that brings the scene to life?To digress slightly for a second, I want to point out how lucky we are with Nabokov. There's a long list of great writers who produced very little great material, either due to early death, late start, slow output, quitting, or continuing to write but falling off (or in some cases suddenly jumping from mediocrity to greatness). Nabokov, however, wrote steadily from his 20s until his death at 78. He wrote 17 novels (plus two more published posthumously; once complete and one in very rudimentary stages), a memoir, and six hundred pages of short stories, not to mention essays, poems, plays and lectures. Not one of those novels (except the unfinished one that never should have been published) was less than good, most of them are very good to great, and at least three of them are masterpieces. Being a Nabokov fan is like being treated to a seemingly never-ending treasure trove, and there are not many writers you can say that about.The other wonderful thing about dear old N is that reading his work isn't the only joy he provides. While he would no doubt object to the idea that any of his works have a message, if you did decide to derive one, it's that art is all around you. The most consistent theme in his work is the observation of the little details in all aspects of life, and that those details are what bring true joy. He teaches you to become a connoisseur of your own world, to separate the common and mundane (another major theme of his is an utter distaste for the common) from the truly exceptional and artistic in all areas your surroundings. It's not something that jumps out immediately upon reading his work, but the more you immerse yourself in it, the more you will find yourself making the very types of observations that he would.P.S. If you have his collected short stories, "The Circle" is a sort of companion piece to The Gift and is worth reading afterwards.

  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    2019-03-30 07:07

    I liked the first 100 pages or so, but then began to lose interest. I tried reading 10 pages or so at a time, interspersed with something else. Then I began putting off reading those 10 pages for longer and longer, until I finally realized - more than halfway through - that I simply didn't care about finishing. This is semi-autobiographical, although Nabokov denies it. It is about a writer who has left Russia following the revolution and who settles in Berlin. He is involved in the ex-pat community, some of whom are also writers. I liked the main character, but Nabokov's prose is beyond annoying, which it is said to have been influenced by Proust. I loved the way Proust wrote, but didn't like what he had to say and set him aside. I loved what Nabokov had to say, but hated the way he said it. It is his last novel written in Russian, but I doubt my objection is the translation because Nabokov himself translated it.

  • Alana
    2019-04-06 06:14

    I hesitate to give anything by Nabokov such a low rating, but I found the Gift to be stuffy, pretentious, tedious, and at times downright dull. Admittedly, I am not well acquainted with 19th century Russian literature. Having an in depth knowledge and appreciation of the likes of Pushkin, Gogol, and Chernyshevsky is a prerequisite for enjoyment of the Gift. You will otherwise be lost with all the namedropping and style referencing. There are, of course, bits of Nabokov brilliance that shine through for the average reader. A passage here and there that makes the heart soar or elicits spontaneous laughter. The book's structure is itself a piece of art. Pay attention to the subtle shifts in point of view which serve as cues that you are reading a book within a book (within a book). Those small rewards were only just enough to keep me going.

  • Howard Olsen
    2019-03-27 05:11

    This is my favorite Nabokov book. It's a melancholy story about exiled Russian nobles living in Berlin after the Revolution. The narrator is an exile who is also a novelist. Most of the book slips effortlessly between his childhood memories in Russia, his creative reveries, and his life in dreary Berlin. His thoghts eventually become so jumbles that it becomes impossible to tell what is real and what is memory. There is some remarkable writing here. One chapter begins with the narrator's vivid description of a snowball fight in Russia when he was a child; he takes a step, and he is back in Berlin stepping off of a tram. The Gift is full of such moments, and Nabokov's skill is such that you can never tell what is real and what is fantasy.

  • Nico Lee
    2019-04-15 23:21

    Probably Nabakov's best, which is saying one heckuva lot, the sequence with the steppes revealing themselves from the bedroom wallpaper is breathtaking and every page contains a gem of vivid description.

  • Yupa
    2019-03-26 03:20

    Copincollo un luuungo commento che avevo scritto tempo addietro per un siti di libri e letteratura...===============================“Il vero scrittore dovrebbe infischiarsene di tutti i lettori, salvo uno: il lettore futuro”: questo viene detto ne Il dono di Nabokov, a pagina 421, quando soltanto un’altra cinquantina ci separano dalla conclusione. Una frase che è quasi un piccolo premio proprio per il lettore futuro, cioè, contemporaneo (Il dono è stato scritto negli anni ’30 e in seguito pubblicato integralmente), il lettore che sia riuscito nell’impresa di superare la fittissima giungla delle pagine precedenti. È una frase che, peraltro, fa parte di un dialogo fittizio, immaginato dal protagonista, e quindi c’è quasi il sospetto che Nabokov, maestro d’ironia, si stia prendendo gioco della sua stessa opera con una dichiarazione d’intenti fasulla. Più che sospetto è speranza: perché Il dono sembra rappresentare ad ogni sua riga, ad ogni suo capoverso, tutto ciò che un romanzo destinato a un lettore futuro non dovrebbe essere.Scritto, come già si è accennato, negli anni ’30 (tra il 1935 e il 1937 per esser precisi) e quindi pubblicato a puntate tra il 1937 e il 1938 su rivista. Il suo pubblico immediato (non quello futuro) è il mondo dell’emigrazione russa, un mondo che, dopo la Rivoluzione d’Ottobre (1917), si trovava sparso su entrambe le sponde dell’Atlantico, tra Germania, Francia e Stati Uniti; mondo di cui anche Nabokov era parte. E pur non essendone l’argomento centrale, è sicuramente il grande paesaggio del libro, le cui vicende si svolgono nella Berlino della prima metà degli anni ’20, tra traslochi lungo appartamenti più o meno fatiscenti, serate letterarie di prosa e poesia, lunghe passeggiate nei parchi estivi. Lo spazio narrativo è compresso nell’arco di pochi mesi, ma le divagazioni, libere quanto frequenti, lo espandono viaggiando avanti e indietro lungo i decenni della vita del protagonista, della sua infanzia, e ancora più indietro lungo la vita di suo padre, esploratore entomologico e naturalista che aveva percorso i sentieri di quasi tutta l’Asia, perdendocisi infine senza far ritorno. Rischio condiviso dal lettore de Il dono, perplesso da un andirivieni temporale tortuoso e capriccioso, dal continuo e incontrollato alternarsi, per il protagonista, della narrazionae in terza e prima persona; dall’ostacolo, consueto nella letteratura russa, dell’abbondanza di nomi, cognomi, patronomici, vezzeggiativi e (per le signore) cognomi acquisiti dallo sposo, che riescono a popolare gli ambienti di dieci e più personaggi dove in realtà ce ne sono tre o quattro. Nabokov desidera volare alto, e lo scrittore della sua razza certamente può permetterselo (perché ci riesce), ma qualche piccola pietosa didascalia in più per il lettore meno avveduto (per il lettore futuro?) non avrebbe guastato. Anche perché l’ostacolo maggiore alla lettura del Il dono, lo vedremo subito, è ben altro.Spazio narrativo compresso nell’arco di pochi mesi, lungo i quali Il dono non mette in scena grandi azioni o incredibili sconvolgimenti. Quasi tutto il gioco si svolge nella mente di Fëdor Kostantinovič Gudonov-Čerdyncev, un’introversione estetizzante che ha i suoi due apici nei dialoghi immaginarî del protagonista con il suo rivale letterario Končeev. Protagonista è un termine non del tutto corretto, e bastano poche decine di pagine per concordare in pieno, volenti o nolenti, con quel che Nabokov afferma nella “premessa all’edizione inglese”, riprodotta anche in quella italiana: la grande protagonista de Il dono è la letteratura russa! Rispetto alla quale le involute divagazioni di Fëdor, l’esposizione delle sue piccole manie, la sua storia sentimentale con Zina, la distesa, mai logora tensione nostalgica verso la monumentale figura paterna, tutto è funzionale a lunghe cavalcate in pianure le cui capitali sono Puškin, Gogol’, Čechov, dove l’autore non teme la sosta presso i nomi più oscuri, quasi totalmente ignoti a chi sia meno che specialista. Ma certamente sapeva sarebbe stata immediata la comprensione e complicità di un pubblico, i letterati della diaspora russa; pubblico dal quale è invece lontano, troppo lontano, il semplice lettore generico d’inizio XXI secolo, per quanto interessato alle letterature d’ogni tempo, per quanto resistente alle sfide e al fascino dell’ignoto intellettuale. La resistenza rischia di essere sfiancata a più riprese da un procedere dispersivo e raramente strutturato, attraverso nomi e patronimici di personaggi a volte appena accennati che tornano un cento pagine dopo pretendendo una riconoscibilità immediata; attraverso gallerie di poeti simbolisti d’inizio ‘900 ormai dimenticati dalle nostre antologie, di critici letterarî dell’800 il cui cognome è, senza preavviso, identico a quello di altri personaggi… Gineprajo ostico che, e forse ciò è ancor più frustrante, al suo interno, nei suoi anfratti più buj e ardui a raggiungersi, nasconde le consuete perle della scrittura di Nabokov, splendide e generosa, quella capacità di creare immagini d’una invenzione sempre sorprendente, di costruire catene di metafore intrecciate, di ricreazioni verbali, di tracciare insospettabili connessioni tra gli elementi della vita, della natura, del mondo percepito e del mondo pensato; connessioni e metafore che si nutrono nello stesso istante da una parte di uno snobismo affettato e dichiaratamente ostentanto, intriso di alta cultura, di riferimenti dotti, di particolari ricercati, dall’altra di un’ironia sempre viva e pungente, capace di rovesciare la quotidianità più triviale, di dar luce e realtà, di dare splendore a volte sfolgorante, agli aspetti più marginali, più sordidi, meno letterarî del mondo, gli odori dei corpi e degli ambienti, le anatomie scomposte e antiestetiche delle comparse di sfondo, i tic e le idiozie pedestri dei personaggi principali. Rara alchimia, questa ironia snob, che esclude a priori qualunque riferimento diretto alle grandi narrazioni degli uomini nel loro tempo, a quella storia che tanti altri autori vogliono scrivere con la “S” il più possibile majuscola, nerbo indispensabile, mezzo e fine irrinunciabile di ogni narrativa sensata e di valore. La storia (minuscola, minuscolissima) è, in Nabokov, un dettaglio tra i tanti, parte del materiale di scena che ha da rimanere dietro le quinte, e che per quanto chiasso possa fare non merita la ribalta se non di riflesso e solo quando capita. Non sorprende, dunque, che l’avvento di Hitler sia evocato e liquidato per sempre in poche parole, “l’ascesa di una nauseante dittatura”; nauseante e ridicola più che per la natura totalitaria (o, come dicono alcuni, antiumanistica o antiumanitaria) della sua ideologia, piuttosto per la pretesa rozza e isterica di farsi l’incarnazione di spiriti storici e destini collettivi irrevocabili.D’altra parte anche Il dono è una concretizzazione di quell’idea di letteratura che Nabokov dichiara, senza mezzi termini, nella postfazione di Lolita: “Per me un’opera di narrativa esiste solo se mi procura quella che chiamerò voluttà estetica, cioè il senso di essere in contatto, in qualche modo, in qualche luogo, con altri stati dell’essere dove l’arte (curiosità, tenerezza, bontà, estasi) è la norma” (pagina 392 dell’edizione italiana). Già, Lolita. Serena Vitale, nella sua più che sentita postfazione a Il dono avverte il lettore di certa critica che definisce “lolitocentrica”, critica che alle opere di Nabokov nate “prima del 1995 assegna il ruolo di periferia del capolavoro, di laboratorio o incubatrici in cui ci si limita a scorgere i segni del prodigio a venire”. Ma la puntuale postfazione di Vitale, che come “guida” a Il dono di Nabokov può risultare quasi salvifica, non riesce a evitare di porsi, in più punti, proprio come una difesa di ciò di cui parla, una difesa consapevole d’essere più che necessaria. Il libro “più russo” di Nabokov, ci vien detto, e di questo ce ne eravamo accorti già percorrendo faticosamente le sue pagine meno dense e poi annaspando e arrancando lungo il micidiale quarto capitolo, un’ipotesi di saggio biografico sulla vita di Černyševskij (“Chi era costui?”), il più importante critico letterario russo del secolo XIX. Nabokov ci informa nella sua prefazione che questo quarto capitolo al tempo gli venne cassato dall’editore perché giudicato poco rispettoso della Storia e della morale, un capitolo scandaloso e volgare; ma il maligno lettore dei nostri tempi può divertirsi a immaginare, piuttosto, un’altra motivazione, nata dagli sbadigli versati su quelle pagine dai correttori di bozze.Il confronto con Lolita è purtroppo inevitabile, e il lettore più occasionale non potrà che preferire quest’ultimo, mille miglia lontano dal codice iniziatico for fans only de Il dono. Lolita, la cui ironia luminosa, la cui profonda intelligenza e l’arte della scrittura sono certamente parenti più che strette de Il dono, ma la cui accessibilità è infinitamente più ampia. Nessuna polemica sui maggiori o minori diritti della letteratura universale, se l’arte debba/possa essere dei molti o dei pochi, del disinteresse per un largo pubblico che, anche in grado di leggere e far di conto, rimane comunque un bue che pascola nei rotocalchi. È un ben più semplice e terreno dispiacere per la dispersione, per lo spreco (diciamolo pure) di un talento così grande e inesauribile. Un talento che è capace di aprirsi al di fuori del proprio angusto recinto, di quella attitudine entomologica che il Nabokov studioso di lepidotteri riserva allo studio e alla contemplazione delle parole. È bello poter immaginare che la cura con cui Nabokov chiudeva i colori rari dei proprî insetti al di sotto del vetro lucido delle teche sia la stessa con cui allinea le più elaborate cromature degli eventi entro la cristallina rivestitura della sua prosa. Ricamo letterario ricercato che in Lolita chiunque è in grado di apprezzare, perché la citazione dotta c’è ma coglierla non è vincolante alla comprensione generale. Il dono, invece, che sembra richiedere almeno qualche laurea in letteratura russa, frustra pagina dopo pagina il lettore (quello futuro), rinchiudendo entro gabbie esoteriche un gioco stilistico e romanzesco sicuramente eccellente ma, purtroppo, quasi sempre soltanto intuibile, raramente accessibile quel tanto che basterebbe per gustarne anche solo un poco.

  • Vittorio Ducoli
    2019-04-22 06:03

    Il manifesto dell'identità intellettuale di Nabokov (e molto altro)Il dono segna la fine della prima fase della produzione letteraria di Nabokov, e la storia della sua pubblicazione è abbastanza contorta. Fu infatti scritto in russo nell'ultimo periodo della permanenza dell'autore a Berlino, tra il 1935 e il 1937, ed apparve a puntate negli anni successivi, su una rivista dell'emigrazione russa a Parigi, in una edizione non integrale. Solo nel 1952 vide la luce integralmente a New York, essendosi l'autore ormai da tempo trasferito prima in Gran Bretagna e poi negli USA, e nel 1963 fu tradotto in inglese (con revisione dello stesso Nabokov). Questa edizione Adelphi è condotta sul testo originale russo.Le peripezie editoriali del libro ben si adattano alla complessità del testo: Il dono è infatti una sorta di autobiografia romanzata dei primi anni berlinesi dell'autore, nella quale sono comprese altre due storie, quella del padre del protagonista e un “libro” su Nikolaj Černyševskij, lo scrittore e pensatore rivoluzionario dell'ottocento russo autore di Che fare?, scritto dal protagonista de Il dono.Queste due storie, che occupano rispettivamente quasi tutto il secondo e l'intero quarto capitolo dei cinque in cui è suddiviso Il dono sono le colonne su cui si fondano due delle tematiche fondamentali sviluppate nel libro (tematiche peraltro sempre presenti nell'opera di Nabokov, almeno del Nabokov russo: la nostalgia per la Russia prerivoluzionaria – associata ad un profondo disprezzo per la Russia sovietica – e la polemica (che anche in questo caso sfocia nel disprezzo) nei confronti dell'arte utilitaristica, realista, volta all'impegno civile, rappresentata in sommo grado – nell'immaginario dell'intelligentsia russa di inizio '900, proprio dall'opera di Černyševskij. Accanto a questi due temi portanti, che Nabokov sviluppa lungo tutto il libro, Il dono contiene anche una sferzante satira sull'ambiente dell'immigrazione intellettuale russa a Berlino, ci mostra il disprezzo (ancora!) di Nabokov per la città e la mentalità tedesca in genere, ci fa conoscere nuclei familiari gretti e meschini o sconvolti da tragedie personali, ci narra della nascita dell'amore del protagonista per una giovane russa e ci espone la sua completa dedizione all'opera dei grandi poeti russi romantici e simbolisti, Puškin e Blok sopra tutti.Il tributo a Puškin emerge sin dal nome scelto da Nabokov per il protagonista, Fëdor Kostantinovič Godunov-Čerdincev: egli è da poco giunto a Berlino, all'inizio degli anni '20, ed ha pubblicato un primo volume di poesie dedicate alla sua agiata e serena infanzia russa, che ha tuttavia venduto poche decine di copie. A Berlino frequenta, oltre ai circoli letterari degli emigranti, anche la casa dei Černyševskij (significativamente una famiglia con il cognome dello scrittore ottocentesco), il cui unico figlio, Jaša, aspirante poeta, si è da poco suicidato. Il secondo capitolo del libro è in gran parte dedicato alla rievocazione del padre, famoso entomologo ed esploratore, che non è più tornato da un viaggio in Asia nel periodo della rivoluzione, sulla cui figura Fëdor vuole scrivere un libro (che non scriverà). Fëdor Kostantinovič quindi si innamora, corrisposto, di Zina, la figlia dei suoi nuovi padroni di casa, gretti borghesi antisemiti a loro volta emigrati dalla Russia. Progetta e scrive un libro sulla vita di Nikolaj Černyševskij, il cui risultato è il contenuto del quarto capitolo. Il libro, tuttavia, mettendo decisamente alla berlina un intellettuale considerato un po' da tutti uno dei massimi rappresentanti della letteratura russa dell'800, prima trova difficoltà ad essere edito, quindi riceve molte critiche negative. Nelle ultime pagine, Fëdor Kostantinovič prima partecipa ad una seduta dell'associazione degli scrittori emigrati, nella quale si scontrano diverse correnti la cui unica finalità è gestire la cassa, poi ha un divertente incidente mentre fa il bagno al Grünewald, infine, approfittando della partenza dei genitori di Zina per Copenhagen, si appresta ad andare a vivere con lei e progetta un nuovo libro, magari da scrivere tra alcuni anni, in cui raccontare la sua vita a Berlino. Questa a grandi linee la trama, che sicuramente non è l'elemento essenziale del libro: facendo i dovuti distinguo, ritengo che Il dono, come struttura, possa essere accostato ad un capolavoro assoluto scritto un decennio prima: L'Ulisse di Joyce. Così come nella insignificante giornata di Leopold Bloom si dispiega il viaggio esistenziale dell'uomo novecentesco, la sua ricerca di identità di fronte al venir meno di ogni certezza, sublimata nel bisogno di paternità, negli anni berlinesi di Fëdor Kostantinovič ci viene mostrato il viaggio intellettuale dell'emigrato Nabokov, la ricerca di una nuova identità fondata sulla nostalgia del paradiso perduto russo e sul recupero di quella parte della sua cultura antecedente alla grande rottura che non ne costituisse il presagio o l'humus letterario. Tra l'altro sembra (anche se nella traduzione di Serena Vitale è a mio avviso difficile trovarne traccia) che ciascuno dei cinque capitoli de Il dono sia stato scritto nello stile di diversi autori russi (Puškin, Gogol', Saltikov – Ščedrin), il che aumenterebbe il tasso delle inquietanti assonanze con il capolavoro di Joyce. Il dono, l'esaltazione di Puškin, il disprezzo per Černyševski, certamente quantomeno ingeneroso e secondo me dettato in buona parte dall'ammirazione apertamente espressa da Lenin, non possono quindi a mio avviso essere compresi appieno se non si tiene presente il sostrato di viscerale antibolscevismo che animava Nabokov, già emerso appieno nei primi racconti, raccolti da Adelphi ne “La veneziana”. Sarebbe interessante indagare se la posizione rigidamente individualistica e la sua concezione dell'arte per l'arte, il suo rifiuto di qualsiasi ruolo sociale dell'intellettuale e del suo prodotto siano stati la causa o la conseguenza del suo assoluto rifiuto di comprendere ciò che stava avvenendo nel suo Paese.Al netto di questi presupposti ideologici è indubbio che Il dono sia un libro estremamente affascinate, per la complessità dei temi trattati, per l'efficacia satirica del ritratto impietoso degli intellettuali russi emigrati, per la prosa di Nabokov che sta raggiungendo le vette espressive della maturità, per la forza quasi picaresca di alcuni episodi (su tutti quello del bagno al Grünewald).Il libro tra l'altro ha un andamento quasi circolare, e questo è un ulteriore indubbio motivo di fascino, nel senso che la sua fine è anche l'inizio dell'idea del suo racconto da parte di Fëdor Kostantinovič. Questa circolarità è espressa anche in alcuni episodi apparentemente secondari: Nelle prime pagine l'osservazione di un trasloco fa pensare a Fëdor che quello Sarebbe un buon inizio per un bel romanzo lungo, di quelli che si scrivevano una volta; sia nel primo sia nell'ultimo capitolo vi è una storia di chiavi dimenticate da Fëdor, che gli impediscono di entrare in casa; due (e simmetrici) sono gli incontri che Fëdor immagina di avere con il poeta Končeev. Vi sono poi alcuni episodi anticipatori di Lolita, a testimonianza del fatto che Nabokov sapeva di dover scrivere il suo capolavoro: il colloquio con il patrigno di Zina in cui questo esprime l'idea di scrivere un romanzo su un vecchio che si innamora di una giovanissima, e il modo in cui Fëdor Kostantinovič decide di prendere in affitto la stanza offertagli dai genitori di lei.Si è discusso molto del fatto se nel personaggio di Fëdor Kostantinovič si rispecchi totalmente il giovane Nabokov: l'autore stesso, nella prefazione all'edizione statunitense, nega recisamente l'identità con il suo personaggio. Io credo che la questione non sia importante: è Il dono nel suo complesso che è Nabokov, un Nabokov ormai pronto per traghettare la sua opera al di là dell'oceano ma che non si è ancora liberato completamente (se mai lo farà) di alcuni retaggi della sua aristocratica origine.

  • Olha Khilobok
    2019-04-09 07:13

    Вместо тысячи книг по стилю. Чтоб не быть глупым как бетон, блондином во всем и требовать от стихов больше, чем ямщикнегонилашадейности. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Scott Zaramba
    2019-04-19 06:58

    I read this book in the middle of last summer. I loved it. When I finished, I set about reading the rest of Nabokov's Russian work. None of it equals this book - not even Despair, which comes close, or Invitation to a Beheading, which I've liked since I read it as a teenager.My enjoyment surprised me. Nabokov receives criticism for preciosity. This is the only book of his that I've read which feels precious all the way through. The sentences trace long paths down the page. The perspective shifts from the third to the first person at the break of a paragraph. That first person takes the perspective of different characters throughout. You come to understand that Fyodor, the main character, is imagining himself in the place of his acquaintances, but the manner starts at the very first sentence. Thrown into the deep end, you have to swim.It can be hard going. The book delights in its lack of a plot. In part one, a sensitive Russian émigré worries about the reviews of his latest book of poetry. He thinks about the poems in the book. He writes a few poems. In part two, he tries to write a book about his father, a naturalist. This is his attempt to move away from poetry. He fails. He moves from one apartment to another, where, in part three, he falls in love with the landlord's daughter. He writes a satirical biography of a revolutionary writer of the 1860s. That biography is part four. In part five, he contemplates writing a novel about creative genius. It sounds much like The Gift itself. There's more, but the delight is in the details.As if all that weren't enough, Fyodor springs imaginary events and conversations upon you. He only says they're imaginary once they're over. He pulls this trick pretty often. As usual, Nabokov reminds you of the fourth wall as much as he can. Certain lines - such as the one at the end of part two, where Fyodor "turns from Pushkin Lane onto Gogol Avenue," if memory serves - are too obvious, given the book's already bookish atmosphere.For all that, the book is a masterpiece. The biography of Chernyshevsky manages to sympathize with the man's conscience, even as it mocks his literary clumsiness. As Fyodor lies in bed, composing a poem, the prose suddenly bounces into iambic pentameter. The metaphors are apt, the imagery striking (especially the fence onto which animals had been painted, only for the boards to be scrambled later), and the themes (particularly the triangle-and-circle theme) well developed. Plus, Nabokov's talent for insult shines: One character is "as blind as Milton, as deaf as Beethoven, and a blockhead to boot."This book is at least worth a try. If you get there, pay attention at the end of part five. Nabokov drops the curtain before his characters find themselves in a small trouble.

  • Brent Legault
    2019-03-27 05:02

    The most difficult, I'm sure, of Nabokov's Russian novels. Certainly the most Russian of them. And second only to Ada or Ardor A Family Chronicle in his, er, oeuvre for both page count and complexity. And while I'm getting catagorical and even possibly (pardon my neologism) elistical, let me add that it is, in my opinion, his sweetest novel (one sugary step above Pnin). And before you cock a brow, Mr. Spock, the answer is no, I don't feel the slightest bit corny in writing that because I am a married man, wholly devoted to my wife and I prize, above all, the private planet I share with her.The Gift is a long, languid and sometimes laborious love letter to his wife, Vera, to Mama & Papa Nabokov and to the best and worst of Russian literature. It is strange and slow, occasionally static, like certain stubborn European films that don't mind lingering over a thing for perhaps longer than the audience would like. This novel is not for the person who's never read Nabokov or who might have read only Lolita. It is for the person who likes to watch how god (a literary god and therefore the greatest of gods) makes up a world just by wishing it to be so.

  • Anna Tatelman
    2019-03-25 00:53

    As someone who is admittedly in love with Nabokov (or at least Lolita & Invitation to a Beheading), I really wanted to like this book. And maybe one day I will. But that day is not today. Today (and for the foreseeable future), this book just makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Repeatedly.

  • vi macdonald
    2019-04-10 05:20

    Let's get one thing clear, The Gift is basically Vladimir Nabokov saying he is more well read than you. The Gift is essentially Nabokov's version of The Marriage Plot, the fact I managed to come through it thinking it was brilliant and not completely detestable (Jeffrey Eugenides, take notes) is really a testament to how amazing Nabokov is.

  • Bobiczdoh
    2019-04-13 03:16

    Будто крем-брюле объелся.Вроде и изыскано, и приятно, и ещё хочется, а ком у горла стоит, и блевать тянет.