Extensively revised by Nabokov in 1965 — thirty years after its original publication — Despair is the wickedly inventive and richly derisive story of Hermann, a man who undertakes the perfect crime: his own murder.
“A beautiful mystery plot, not to be revealed.” - Newsweek
One of the twentieth century’s master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator. He taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977.
“Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” — John Updike
The protagonist, a neurotic scoundrel, undertakes the perfect crime: his own murder.
About the Author
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) was one of the great writers of the twentieth century, as well as a translator and lepidopterist. His works include, from the Russian novels, The Luzhin Defense and The Gift; from the English novels, Lolita, Pnin, Pale Fire and Ada; the autobiographical Speak, Memory; translations of Alice in Wonderland into Russian and Eugene Onegin into English; and lectures on literature. All of the fiction and Speak, Memory are published in Penguin.
Despair is one of Nabokov's Russian language novels now appearing here thirty years after At was written in the Germany of the '30's - of which The Gift has been isolated by many critics as the connoisseur's choice. This perhaps as a story per se will make a stronger appeal to the general reader, even though it lacks the brilliant imaginative effects of which Nabokov is capable, or even the architectural perfection of The Defense. It's the story of a man who plans and executes his own murder - and once again obsession is as engrained here as it is in many of his stronger books. Hermann is, when first self-introduced, an inspired liar, aimless to begin with, addictive as he proceeds. He is also a dilettante perfectionist with pretensions of genius which he will achieve through his crime or perhaps its account thereof, this story. In "silly" stage asides, droll fatuities, wordplay, he records his meeting with the man who As his exact likeness and whom he eventually will kill. He gets rid of the artist, his "bird-witted" wife Lydia's housepet, persuades Lydia and then the victim to go along with him. The despair - that is the supreme irony. But before the story ends on that note, there have been a great many sardonic subtleties along with the interior echoes, vagaries, illusions of a mind precariously poised between reality and disassociation. Occasionally there is a matchless line - "A cloud every now and then palmed the sun which reappeared like a conjurer's coin." But on the whole, the tone As more playful than any of Nabokov's books, classing it as an entertainment. Nonetheless, Nabokov is one of the incomparable storytellers and stylists of our time who may outlive it. (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: Penguin Modern Classics
Number Of Pages: 176
Published: January 2001
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.3
Weight (kg): 0.17
Edition Number: 1