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The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Andrea Pitzer

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The Secret History of Vladimir Nabakov A startling and revelatory examination of Nabokov's life and works--notably Pale Fire and Lolita--bringing new insight into one of the twentieth century's most enigmatic authors. Full description


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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.3 von 5 Sternen  22 Rezensionen
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Something for Everyone 15. März 2013
Von Matthew Roth - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Of all the books on Nabokov published since 2000, this may be my favorite (and I have read most of them). The book manages to be a number of things all at once--a biography, a primer on revolutionary Russian history, a critical survey of Nabokov's novels, an act of literary detective work, and a cliffhanger narrative concerning a fateful dinner appointment between literary legends. That it does all these things at once, in a way that is both accessible to newcomers and engaging to seasoned Nabokovians, is a credit to the author. The main idea of the book is that Nabokov, contrary to his reputation as an apolitical aesthete, did in fact write about the horrors of his century. Rather than make these horrors the focus of his subjects, he instead embedded the sadness and tragedy of Europe's dispossessed deep within the weave of his novels. The effect is a kind of psychological realism; the novels' submerged currents of pain mirror those hidden in the background of thousands who, like Nabokov himself, were haunted by the history they managed to escape.

As a biography, the book is not meant to compete with Brian Boyd's two-volume bio; however, Pitzer offers a fresh perspective on Nabokov's family life and unearths genuinely new material related to several important family members. It's an excellent introduction to Nabokov for those who don't have the time or inclination to read Boyd. (I would also recommend Barbara Wyllie's Vladimir Nabokov (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives) bio.) And as I said, Nabokovians too will find a great deal of essential insight here. Highly Recommended!
28 von 33 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting in Parts, Not so in Others 30. April 2013
Von Zeebu - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I don't claim to be a "Nabokovian" (although I wrote my PhD thesis on him), but I've read most of his novels and tried to keep up with the scholarship. I found Pitzer's book a workmanlike piece of writing that was at times informative and interesting, but too often annoying and superficial.

I applaud the author's scholarship and detective work, which was put to excellent use in placing the books in their historical and literary contexts. Less convincing were the strenuous efforts to reveal any sort of "secret history," which struck me more as a clever marketing device than anything else. What Pitzer has unearthed from the texts are the basic real-world materials that all authors use to provide the simulacra of reality in their fictions ("write what you know"). Nabokov didn't "bury" these things; he used them as foundations for the elaborate invented worlds he is so celebrated for. Pitzer strives to make all this important, but if Nabokov thought it was important, why didn't he make it more visible? Moreover, Nabokov was famously dismissive of fiction rooted in sociology, history and biography, and many of his novels contain parodies of these forms. For those enjoying a happy lifelong obsession with an author, it's always interesting to see how his life and times manage to work themselves into the warp and woof of his art, but to find some sort of deliberate intent by Nabokov to hide important themes that only dedicated literary detectives can unearth is not (to use a charitable word) credible. Much has been made of Nabokov's love of games, but this one is a game too far. What's next--acrostics?

Those familiar with Nabokov's biography will know everything there is to know about his relationship with Solzhenitsyn and their famous nonmeeting. I found myself paging quickly though the parts covering Solzhenitsyn because they seemed to add very little to the overall thesis of the book, and the treatment of the meeting that never happened struck me as a clumsy stunt. Much more intriguing was Nabokov's fractured friendship with Edmund Wilson, and I wished that Pitzer had covered this more thoroughly.

Nabokov's life was one of the most fascinating of the twentieth century, not only because he was such a complex mix of genius and lucky, but because it bestrode such a wide swath of history. Nabokov rode the tiger, and not only lived to tell about it, but tell it brilliantly in highly refined stories that deal not with who did what to whom but with human nature and the nature of reality.

In her book, Pitzer makes an attempt at giving us a clearer sense of this, but unfortunately gets knocked off track with her "hidden history" conceit and Solzhenitsyn excursions. Somebody will eventually do it, and then it will be made into a movie, and Nabokov will suddenly be famous all over again.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Must Read This Book 1. Mai 2013
Von Meir F. Glide - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I've been reading (and re-reading) Nabokov for more than 30 years. I love his books.
As a former prosecutor and a cynical, and practical, lawyer, I thought that I paid close attention to language and details.

Reading The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov has been a truly humbling, and exhilarating, experience in which I am reminded how risky it is to take anything for granted when I read. I marvel at the insights, historical and other, that Pitzer illuminates in Nabokov's work. It is humbling to realize how much I uncritically skimmed over that was right before my eyes.

Charles Kinbote's journey, and his relationship with John Shade, take on new dimensions if Kinbote's escape was not from some fictitious kingdom, but from a place of horror. If you know about Humbert Humbert's teenage romance, his obsession with Lolita years later is placed in a different context when you realize in full the fate of her "precursor." I can never again lazily assume that what I failed to grasp in some sentence can be safely ignored as some detached, apolitical, literary indulgence.

This book is a must-read -- and a complete joy -- for anyone who appreciates the majesty of Nabokov's writing and his contribution to literature. I picked it up and couldn't put it down until 3:30 a.m., when I turned the last page and wanted to start all over, this time with the corresponding Nabokov novel in my lap. Ms. Pitzer's work is a real treasure - I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen An Excellent Introduction to Nabokov 16. Mai 2013
Von Douglas N. Arvidson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
For those of us who had, for whatever reason, kept Nabokov on the periphery of our reading lives, this was an excellent introduction--a great place to start an investigation of who he was and what events shaped his life and his work. Pitzer gives us a feel for the man and his milieu and an informative review of the tremendous 20th century social/political forces that impacted his development as a writer and a man. For readers who are familiar with Nabokov, Pitzer's comparison of him with Solzhenitsyn will be of interest as will her thesis that, while Nabokov was accused of betraying Mother Russia by not addressing her struggle for a just society directly, the violent and bloody revolutions he escaped profoundly informed the motivations of his characters.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Nabokov revealed 8. März 2013
Von bsnyder - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Part history, part lit crit, this wonderfully readable book expands the understanding of Nabokov's writings; especially his most important works: Pale Fire and Lolita. At first decried as the musings of a pedophile, Lolita becomes an explosive condemnation of an entrenched bigotry. Pale Fire, more than a study of insanity, brings to light a hidden history of coercion. Along the way we are witnesses to political assassination, escape a revolution and World War and run with Communists, Nazis and double agents. Pitzer shows how Nabokov, oftentimes criticized for a lack of political engagement, through his writings hides a horrible, forgotten history of the 20th century in order to subversively reveal it.
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