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The Gift  : Penguin Modern Classics - Vladimir Nabokov

The Gift

Penguin Modern Classics

By: Vladimir Nabokov, Dmitri Nabokov (Translator)


Published: June 2001
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RRP $24.95

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Published: 1st March 2012
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The Gift is the phantasmal autobiography of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdynstev, a writer living in the closed world of Russian emigre intellectuals in Berlin shortly after the First World War. In this his last, and to many his greatest, Russian novel, Nabokov unfolds the story of a writer's pursuit; a gorgeous tapestry of literature and Lepidoptera whose true hero is not Fydor's elusive, beloved Zina, but Russian prose and poetry itself.

Included for the first time in paperback is Nabokov's fascinating Addendum to The Gift, translated by Dmitri Nabokov.

About the Author

Vladimir Nabokov was born in 1899 in St Petersburg. He wrote his first literary works in Russian, but rose to international prominence as a masterly prose stylist for the novels he composed in English, most famously, Lolita. Between 1923 and 1940 he published novels, short stories, plays, poems and translations in the Russian language and established himself as one of the most outstanding Russian emigre writers. He died in 1977.

This early novel was written in 1935-37, mostly in Berlin. Despite Nabokov's brief disclaiming preface (not about himself, but about Russian literature), the book is about a Russian emigre in Berlin, learning about writing and the writer's world and it is perhaps closer to autobiography than any of the later novels. Young Fyodor, in Berlin, examines his first published book of verse (his side-memories are more brilliant); he meets other hopeful emigre authors; he remembers his vanished father (a brilliant section); and after experimenting with the styles of Gogol and Pushkin, he finally publishes a brilliant, elliptic biography of another writer (given in full) which receives mixed reviews. Meanwhile, in real life, he is involved with eccentric people and in a halfhearted affair. There are also his dreams and memories and this complex mirror-relation between reality and the writer's read-thought-borrowed world is so densely detailed and privately seen that it is sometimes almost unreadable- a technical difficulty Nabokov also solves in due course. The book is demanding, in its private questioning and brilliant problem-solving and it is a fascinating lesson in the truly staggering number of possible ways of writing and seeing. (Kirkus Reviews)

Vladimir Nabokov

Born in St. Petersburg in 1899, Vladimir Nabokov was the eldest son of an aristocratic and culturally educated family. Russian, French and English were spoken in the Nabokov household and as a child, Nabokov read authors such as Poe, Melville and Flaubert. Following the Bolshevik revolution, the Nabokovs moved to London before settling in Berlin. Nabokov stayed in England to study at Trinity College Cambridge where he completed his studies. He was married to his wife Vera in 1925. In the first twenty years of writing, Nabokov's writings were in Russian and it was not until later that his works were translated; many by his son Dimitri . In 1940 he moved with his wife and son to America where he lectured at Wellesley College from 1941 to 1948 before filling the post of professor of Russian literature at Cornell until 1959. His first novel written in English was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight written in 1941. Nabokov is arguably most famous for his 1955 novel Lolita. As well as writing novels, Nabokov wrote works of non-fiction; notably on Nikolai Gogol (1944) and Eugene Onegin (1964).

In an interview with Alfred Appel, Nabokov stated that 'the writer's art is his real passport and not his nationality' and that he was 'an American writer who has once been a Russian.' This reflects Nabokov as a writer of great linguistic flexibility and suggests that the early influence of foreign literature perpetuated throughout his life, giving him the tools to portray ideas in different languages. The ideas are the speakers in his work, not the language. This ability to disorganise space is also reflected in Nabokov's own compositional style where he purports in his early years as a writer to have constructed paragraphs in his mind to be re-written later and, later on in his career, to write sections on note cards to be later re-arranged and re-written; the final work appearing as a sequence of mental spaces materialised on paper.

Writers such as Martin Amis and Brian Boyd have positioned Nabokov as one of the greatest writers of the century. Amis has commented that 'to read him in full flight is to experience stimulation that is at once intellectual, imaginative and aesthetic, the nearest thing to pure sensual pleasure that prose can offer.'

Visit Vladimir Nabokov's Booktopia Author Page

ISBN: 9780141185873
ISBN-10: 0141185872
Series: Penguin Modern Classics
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 416
Published: June 2001
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 13.0  x 1.7
Weight (kg): 0.24
Edition Number: 1