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Laughter in the Dark (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Vladimir Nabokov
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.50
You Save: $5.50 (37%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Albinus, a respectable, middle-aged man and aspiring filmmaker, abandons his wife for a lover half his age: Margot, who wants to become a movie star herself. When Albinus introduces her to Rex, an American movie producer, disaster ensues. What emerges is an elegantly sardonic and irresistibly ironic novel of desire, deceit, and deception, a curious romance set in the film world of Berlin in the 1930s.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written that is, a ecstatically." -- John Updike

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English, Russian (translation)

Product Details

  • File Size: 324 KB
  • Print Length: 308 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0811216748
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage international ed edition (February 16, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KABE1K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,295 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster."

This is the first paragraph of Laughter in the Dark. Nabokov gives us the synopsis, even the end of the book, right at the beginning. Then starts the simple, yet beautiful narration of a lethal obsession. The sad story of a man who can be very reasonable about every aspect of life unless it has got anything to do with his youthful mistress. When it comes to the 18-year-old femme fatale, he is void of all logic and sense, and cruel to those whom he once loved.

It is impossible to give a summary of the book without giving away its twists and turns, and there are quite a few of them. Here is how one of the main characters react to a divergence in the story:

"A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish - but there was no diamond inside. That's what I like about coincidence."

Nabokov's writing is uncomplicated, sincere and very engrossing. Once started, I couldn't put it down. When I finished the book late last night, I was so shaken that I couldn't go to sleep. I was at once entranced and disturbed by the book. Entranced by Nabokov's ability to sustain the suspense of a story he so shrewdly summarizes at the very beginning. Disturbed by the fact that such obsessions are real and in existence.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wicked Little Nabokov Gem August 9, 2000
This is a nasty little gem of a novel written fairly early in Nabokov's career, when he was still writing in Russian. The copy I just read does not indicate who translated it, although I suspect it may have been his brother, who translated many of his earlier works. It also may have been Nabokov himself. Either way it doesn't matter.

It is the story of a well-to-do German, Albinus, with an inheritance, wife, child and sedate, happy life. I am still not clear on what he does; he is apparently some kind of an art critic. He becomes infatuated with the beautiful but deceitful and manipulative Margot, a woman far too young for him. He leaves his wife and child for her, and as time slowly crawls by, loses everything else: his money, his happiness and his health. The young woman is assisted in her deceit by her lover, Rex, who pretends to be the protagonist's friend.

Yes, we've heard this tale before, and will hear it many, many more times, but in the skilled hands of the great Nabokov, all of this is fresh, and very, very original. Rex is an astonishing character; completely, wickedly drawn: "He [Rex] watched with interest the sufferings of Albinus (in his opinion an oaf with simple passions and a solid, too solid, knowledge of painting), who thought, poor man, that he had touched the very depths of human distress; whereas Rex reflected--with a sense of pleasant anticipation--that, far from being the limit, it was merely the first item in the program of a roaring comedy at which he, Rex, had been reserved a place in the stage manager's private box." This little commentary follows shortly after the death of Albinus' only child. Yike! How lusciously, viciously evil!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Despicably delicious. September 27, 2002
This novel is noteworthy for two reasons: (1) This was the first novel of Nabokov's to be published in the United States, and (2) It marked the first occasion in which Nabokov used the English language in his published writings (he re-translated the novel for its American publication). But aside from these two points of technical importance the novel does not match up to the majority of the author's other works. The story of a middle aged man being duped, betrayed, and eventually ruined by a teenage seductress is handled much more convincingly in Nabokov's later work, Lolita.
But still there are some redeeming features. The creation of the characters of Margot Peters and Axel Rex is a stroke of brilliance. Rarely have two more despicable (yet enjoyable) characters been given full reign to do their dastardly deeds: making a shamble of a man's life and thumbing their noses at social and moral conventions. The later scenes in the book, after Albinus is blinded in an accident, read like a Hitchcock movie screenplay as Margot and her lover, Axel, frolic openly in front of the now blind Albinus, who still thinks (now physically as well as emotionally) that Margot is still in love with him. And although these later scenes are the strongest part of the novel they also reveal its major fault. The book often reads like a screenplay, something that was intentionally written to appeal to Hollywood. Because of this, Nabokov's style suffers and the wonderful maniuplation of language that is so characteristic of this author is, for the most part, absent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Nabokov April 12, 2003
Having read many of his books, this is by far my favorite.
Nabokov does not hide from the reader that his main character will have a bad ending, even though at some point in the novel one feels he might have a chance.
This book is delicious. Nabokov's cynicism and his choice of words make this book near perfect. For those who are cynics, this book is very funny and enjoyable. Nabokov is very straight forward and this book is not hard to understand at all, and it is also not psychologically opressive.
For some strange reason, it reminded me of Balzac's Eugene Grandet, another one of my favorite books
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the book enormously even though in the middle I ...
The language the similies the descriptions and emotional passions that nabokov describes are unsurpassable. Read more
Published 2 months ago by lydia carmi
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark but wonderful
This shorter story by Vladimir Nabokov is a delightfully dark comedy. The character development is perfect, and the story line is nothing short of what an intriguing short story... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Celine Villongco
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling it brilliant would be an understatement.
Laughter in the Dark is a beautifully crafted novel about a man who lives a fairly normal, married life and happens to meet a young girl during a boring time in both of their... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Cheryl Lyon
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly wicked piece set in the movie world of Berlin during the...
"Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Cynthia S. Haggard
5.0 out of 5 stars V. Nabokov- Laughter in the Dark
The book is exquisite.
I like everything about it, and I recommend it heartily to everybody. Having it on the SD card of my Motorola Razr is an achievement, however modest,... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Thomas Lewin
5.0 out of 5 stars Nasty hilarity
This little novel will not restore your faith in humanity but it will make you laugh out loud, and maybe even in the dark.
Published 23 months ago by Christopher
5.0 out of 5 stars Profit in considering tragedy.
"Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he... Read more
Published on May 13, 2007 by C. Matthew Curtin
4.0 out of 5 stars Similar themes
As usual, very compelling writing, and glimmerings of his playfulness with language that would

become more developed in Lolita. Read more
Published on January 14, 2007 by Xiaan
4.0 out of 5 stars middle of a trio of black farces
Laughter in the Dark forms the middle point of a loose trilogy of black farces that were written early in Nabokov's career during his European residence period. Read more
Published on June 28, 2006 by Sirin
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Nabokov's most readable books
Nabakov called 'Laughter in the Dark' one of his worst books. Although there are some signs pointing to the uncertain youthfulness of the author at the time this was written, this... Read more
Published on January 29, 2006 by Mode Books
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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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