Sunday, 17 August 2014

NotesfromZembla on Pnin

Here is an excellent essay on Pnin

"Nabokov is commonly regarded merely as an aesthete; a writer who regarded art as a plaything, a wordsmith so obsessed with his verbosity that he disregarded any political, philosophical or human themes in his works, a writer who eschewed the idea that art had any purpose except to satisfy his own whims, a writer with a jejunish obsession with artifice and deception; “The most enchanting things in nature and art are based on deception.” (The Gift) Nabokov’s books are notoriously dense, full of unreliable narrators and elaborate games, yet the writer who once stated that he had no moral to teach, actually had a strong moral underpinning for each of his works of literature. It is not for nothing that Nabokov stated that great art is based on deception, as he was able to deceive readers into thinking him a mere aesthete, rather than as one of the most morally astute artists of the 20th century, who chose to hide his plain and simple morals behind a dazzling array of beautiful words and images, a writer whose works are resplendent with philosophy and exploration of the human condition. Of all Nabokov’s works, Pnin is amongst the strongest moral ones, one whose protagonist, despite being a kind, erudite and intelligent man, is constantly though of and treated as a bumbling idiot by those around him. Pnin acts as a kind of rejoinder to Don Quixote, a book which Nabokov had lectured on before writing Pnin, a book which invited the reader to delight in the miseries of another person." 

Not only that. I should add, he's also a great psychologist. Every time I see a philistine somewhere on the internet say (very often, with conviction) that he must have been a paedophile, I laugh, for it is proof of his genius (though I do wish many people could like him as I do, it doesn't bother much that he's not as popular as my other favourite writers from Russia). 
I should read more of Nabokov's novels. 

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