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Bend Sinister Paperback – April 14, 1990

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Editorial Reviews


Novel by Vladimir Nabokov, published in 1947. It is the second novel the Russian-born author wrote in English. It tells the story of Adam Krug, a philosopher who disregards his country's totalitarian regime until his son David is killed by the forces he has attempted to ignore. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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The first novel Nabokov wrote while living in America and the most overtly political novel he ever wrote, Bend Sinister is a modern classic.  While it is filled with veiled puns and characteristically delightful wordplay, it is, first and foremost, a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught in the tyranny of a police state. It is first and foremost a compelling narrative about a civilized man and his child caught up in the tyranny of a police state.  Professor Adam Krug, the country's foremost philosopher, offers the only hope of resistance to Paduk, dictator and leader of the Party of the Average Man.  In a folly of bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude, the government attempts to co-opt Krug's support in order to validate the new regime.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (April 14, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679727272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679727279
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri. Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing ficticvbn ral books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 70 people found the following review helpful By TUCO H. on September 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Bend Sinister" is one of Nabokov's supreme masterpieces and like all great works of art it operates on many levels simultaneously. Not the least of these levels is that of the `black comedy,' one of the most savage and sophisticated ever written.
Krug is a world famous philosopher who in his youth was schooled alongside an annoying lad named Paduk whom he used to, almost felt compelled to, bully. Through some grotesque trick of fate Paduk has become dictator---of the whole country that is--- and most of the citizens are busy worshipping his calls to `duty.' Krug's wife has just died and he is deeply attached to his 8 year old son David. Paduk and his cronies are trying to get Krug to endorse the new regime--put his prestige behind it and give it more legitimacy. Krug's friends try to warn him to leave the god-forsaken country while he's still able, but he's a conceited and stubborn bastard with way too much faith in his own powers and the `goodness' of humanity. So he acts the wise-guy, sticks around and gets gradually pulled into a nightmare he can't wake up from.
By creating the Twilight-Zone-like imaginary land of Padukgrad, Nabokov frees himself from any specific locale and is able to incorporate multiple totalitarian state caricatures of the German, Italian and Russian variety all at once. Bits and pieces of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin all collide and overlap in the Paduk character.
Nabakov goes into flashback, and dream and `thinking' states quite often without warning, and without clearly indicating where one state ends and the other begins. It all flows together like reality. This is good because it forces readers to constantly stay on the alert or be baffled.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Gobsmacked. Speechless. I don't know what to say about this book. I finished reading it last night, and am still reeling in disgust. Bend Sinister is one of the few novels in which you can tangibly feel pain.
Ostensibly a dystopian fantasy, the novel couldn't be further from a well-meaning but cold-hopping diatribe like 1984. The problem with Orwell's novel, besides its naive sexual politics, is that its mode is as totalitarian as the events it describes. The 'reality' (i.e. its form, not contents) of the world of the book is total and unquestioned, as are Winston's responses. The reader must submit completely to the illusion. We are either on Winston/Orwell's side, or we are fascists.
Bend Sinister is 1984's polar opposite, profoundly distrustful of reality and illusion. Like 1984, the events take place through a single protagonist, Adam Krug, but this viewpoint is never textually stable: constantly ironised, undermined, splintered by other viewpoints, other texts, by the author himself.
The tone veers wildly between subjective contemplation, cool pastiche, terrifying farce and unspeakable horrors. Like all Nabokov's works, the most sublime linguistic, figurative and formal beauty is utilised to relate the ugliest terror and pain (I'm not sure about the novel's misogyny, though).
This textual unrest is appropriate to a world in which all norms and values are thrown out of kilter, and stamped on by jack-boots. Passages of delicate Proustian lyricism asset the primacy of the individual consciousness and aesthetic sense over the tyrannies that attempt to crush them; but if this consciousness cannot defeat tyranny, it can only go mad.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 1997
Format: Paperback
In the first novel he wrote in America, Nabokov explores the troubles intellectuals face under authoritarian regimes. Adam Krug is an "eminent philosopher" living in a fictitional dictatorship ruled by a former schoolmate of his, Paduk, whom he once bullied. Krug has to deal with the death of his wife, the closing of the university, and the arrests of all of his friends, all while trying desperately to shelter his son from the turmoil that surrounds them. Ultimately, this book is about a man trying to retain his sanity in an irrational world. This novel is not an easy read but careful attention is richly rewarded. Like all of Nabokov's writings, it has an abundance of pregnant images and word play. A changing perspective and narrative voice add a surrealistic tone. Nabokov's mastery of English has not yet reached the level it does in such works as Lolita and Pale Fire, but those who love his style will not be dissapointed
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on August 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Bend Sinister (1947) was the first novel Vladimir Nabokov wrote in the United States, and his second novel in English. Like one of his later Russian-language novels, Invitation to a Beheading, it is explicitly political, in a way generally foreign to Nabokov. (Indeed, to write a "political" novel was rather against Nabokov's usual artistic philosophy, and in his 1963 Introduction to this novel, he takes pains to point out that the focus of the novel is the main character's relationship with his son, not the repressive political conditions which drive the novel's plot.) Bend Sinister opens with the death of Olga Krug, beloved wife of philosopher Adam Krug. Krug is left with an 8-year old boy, David, in a country torn by a revolution led by an oafish schoolmate of Krug's, Paduk, called the Toad by his fellows at school. The new regime attempts to gain Krug's support, offering both the carrot of a University presidentship and the stick of veiled threats conveyed by the arrest, over time, of many of Krug's friends. The brutal climax comes when the new regime, almost by accident, realizes that the only lever that will work on Krug is threats to his son, then, due, apparently, to grotesque incompetence, manages to fumble away that lever.
The novel is (one is tempted to say "of course") beautifully written. Passage after passage is lushly quotable, featuring VN's elegant long sentences, lovely imagery, and complexly constructed metaphors; as well as his love of puns, repeated symbols, and humour. The characters are well-portrayed also -- Krug, of course, and his friends such as Ember and Maximov, as well as villains such as the Widmerpoolish dictator Paduk and the sluttish maid Mariette.
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