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Invitation to a Beheading - Vladimir Nabokov

Invitation to a Beheading

By: Vladimir Nabokov, Dmitri Nabokov (Translator)


Published: June 2001
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RRP $24.95

Written in Berlin in 1934, Invitation to a Beheading contains all the surprise, excitement and magical intensity of a work created in two brief weeks of sustained inspiration. It takes us into the fantastic prison-world of Cincinnatus, a man condemned to death and spending his last days in prison not quite knowing when the end will come. Nabokov described the book as 'a violin in a void. The worldling will deem it a trick. Old men will hurriedly turn from it to regional romances and the lives of public figures … The evil-minded will perceive in little Emmie a sister of little Lolita … But I know a few readers who will jump up, ruffling their hair'.

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.

Written long before Lolita, twenty five years ago, this is both a specific study in terrorism- and an allegory of Man in prison (Life) awaiting his own execution for the vague crime of being Different (Alive). As Nabokov says in his preface, he has been compared to Kafka, and there is a resemblance to Kafka, to many others, in the mysterious imprisonment, the impotent seeking, in the confused dream of officialdom. But the long, nightmare, hopeless quality of Kafka is actually quite different from this brilliant, fractured reality in which all ugly, ordinary things are present but displaced; all friends, foes; all escapes,- carefully planned delusions, in an incredibly detailed and propped stage set which the hero demolishes at the last possible moment by refusing to believe, any more, in the necessity of his own destruction. The evolution of betrayals, of private pleas for understanding, freedom and/or acceptance, makes this frequently an agonizing book to read, as is life itself for certain people. There is as well a desperate, farcical humor. As the author himself says of this book- "Most may not see it but I know a few readers who will jump up, ruffling their hair"... Obviously not for the market of Lolita- but critical attention should help to bring this to the attention of an intellectually fastidious audience. (Kirkus Reviews)

ISBN: 9780141185606
ISBN-10: 0141185600
Series: Penguin Classics Ser.
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 192
Published: June 2001
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.8  x 1.2
Weight (kg): 0.15