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Bend Sinister Paperback – April 14, 1990
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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.Read more ›
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.
`Nothing can happen to Krug the Rock.'
But those who oppose Paduk's Ekwilist philosophy are being arrested, and this includes many of Krug's friends. Paduk attempts to persuade Krug to promote the state philosophy, but Krug refuses. When Krug's young son David is kidnapped, he capitulates and is prepared to promote Ekwilism in order to have David returned. Alas, there has been a mix-up, and the child returned to Adam Krug is not his son David. David has been accidentally tortured and killed. Krug is also killed, after being driven to madness by the realization that freedom of thought is no longer his once the person he cares for most in the world is killed.
`Individual lives are insecure; but we guarantee the immortality of the State.'
And the title, `Bend Sinister'? Nabokov wrote that: `This choice of title was an attempt to suggest an outline broken by refraction, a distortion in the mirror of being, a wrong turn taken by life, a sinistral and sinister world.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book belongs on the same reading list with Orwell's "1984" and Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" --particularly for those who... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Fred M. Jeffers
A great book recommended by a friend. Would continue the legacy and recommend this book to any of my book loving friends. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Courtney Whitmire
No doubt what many reviewers have noted -- this is a complex book, working on different levels, from different perspectives (I think the 1st person pronoun starts showing up toward... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Tiro
I read Bend Sinister at the insistence of a friend. I mentioned that I was thinking about reading Lolita – NO! Don’t waste your time, he says. You MUST read Bend Sinister! Read morePublished on January 4, 2014 by Bob Gomez
Written just as World War II was ending and published in 1947, Bend Sinister is perhaps the first dystopian novel of the Cold War era written by a major English language author... Read morePublished on October 25, 2013 by M. Buzalka