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Look at the Harlequins! Hardcover – 1974


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 253 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Book Company; First Edition edition (1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070457387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070457386
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,129,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'He did us all an honour by electing to use, and transform, our language' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

One of the twentieth century’s master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic and translator. He taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It is an entertaining read but not his best work.
J. Robinson
Of course all fiction has an element of the auto-biographical in it, but making this trend much stronger can cause some interesting breakdown.
Jacob Glicklich
HARLEQUINS is an exercise in (no--better make that "an excretion of") self-congratulatory lit-chat.
Gooch McCracken

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2x" on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Assuming that you haven't read LATH, how to describe it? It's a fake sort-of memoir by the Russian emigre writer Vadim Vadimovich, the general shape of whose career bears more than a slight resemblance to that of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, with one important caveat; Nabokov was a famously happy and contented man (at least according to official versions of his life story), but Vadim is a cranky, impatient, cantankerous whinger. He thrashes his way through his basically unhappy life, turning out the odd book now and again and suffering rather than enjoying the occasional love affair, before finally finding peace with a radiant angel referred to simply as You - the book is cast as a long love letter to the supposed author's last love. Nabokov has good fun with the kind of critic who assumed in the wake of Lolita that he himself lusted after young girls (Vadim has a thing going with his own daughter, at one point); literary in-jokes aside, it's a remarkable study of a bitter and thwarted man from an author who was so supremely good at rendering happiness. Clearly, however free from demons Nabokov was, he was able to imagine what it would be like to be in their clutches. Not many writers do so well in their seventies.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 1997
Format: Paperback
Readers of much Nabokov should save this treat for last; this supposed autobiography by one "Vadim Vadimovich N." is a house of mirrors--is the main character really Nabokov? Or is he just someone with whom Nabokov is constantly embodied or misrepresented? Funny, witty, amazing--Look at the Harlequins! is material that plays with the jokes of Nabokov novels past, and rewards Nabokov fans with cameos by Lolita, Sebastian Knight, and many more. A must-read
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve on July 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
LATH will not go down as Nabokov's most memorable or widely-read work. In fact, if it weren't for the novels that preceded it, it would probably be forgotten. And it's not a work I would recommend to anyone who hasn't already read most of N's other fiction. But to a diehard Nabokovian, LATH offers enough pleasures to make the read (and the wait) worthwhile.

Yes, it appears to be a "fictionalized" autobiography of Nabokov, with some key changes (Nabokov professed to be most content with life, while the same could not be said for LATH's protagonist-cum-"author", Vadim Vadimovich). Thus, one will not get much out of the book unless one has read N's other work and knows a bit about his life.

What make this novel truly enjoyable are (a) N's trademark wordplay (not as great as in "Lolita" and "Ada", but still magnificent); (b) small moments of genuine joy (as in the coy but cute resolution of Vadim's psychological conundrum); and (c) some excellent Nabokovian narrative tricks: Vadim feels he is living someone else's life and at one point appears to be on the verge of realizing that he is, in fact, Vladimir Nabokov (try wrapping your mind around that!)--only to have the epiphany slip away.

LATH should (as another reviewer recommended) be saved for last. Those who do get around to reading it, though, will almost surely enjoy it. I get a kick just thinking of the old guy--pushing 75, but still as vibrant and full of tricks as ever. That he never won a Nobel Prize is an terrible shame.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Randall Froeschle on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nabokov can tear your brain apart with narrative. In nearly all of his works, and especially in Lolita and Pale Fire, he invites the reader to examine every word as a piece of the narrator, always insisting, "This is not me, and if you think it is, you're a dolt." What, then, are his determined doters supposed to think when finally confronted with Vadim Vadimovich, emigre-novelist, almost self-aware deranged fictional character, and butterfly-hater? God only knows.
Obviously, he's not Vladimir Vladimirovich. He's something else. Maybe he is meant to be an inevitable distortion of Nabokov, but even that's questionable, as is everything in Nabokov's fiction.
Here's a thought. Perhaps, as is (almost) evident in Transparent Things, Nabokov eventually became so intrigued by the idea of networks of perspectives in fiction (the perspective of the narrator interacting with that of the reader, and maybe just a tittle of his own), that he couldn't resist the idea of writing a novel from the perspective of a fictional fictional Nabokov.
All fiction can be compared to the reflection of a painting in a puddle. Nabokov teaches us that the aesthetics of the puddle's ripples, manipulated by the right hands, can be as (nay, more!) breathtaking than those of the picture itself.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Beginning with a list of the author's "other" books, which don't exist outside the distorted mirror world of what Nabakov calls "LATH" (as he acronymically pegs Look At The Harlequins! within that book's own text) is a wildly inventive metafiction in the bilingually verbose hyper-alliterative Nabokovian mold. We get splendid sentences here on the jeweled gift of selfhood giving reason to resist suicide from whatever facet, cranky meditations on the author's pederastic proclivities and ego, and, most brilliantly, strange slips down the semiotic slope into madness. In two or three places in this book we find ourselves in a meticulously rendered literary reality and then, through a process of what one might call overdescription as exquisite as it is subtle, we find that our narrator has lost contact with the very rich world he has created for us; there is also a (to me) fascinating motif of the author's self-analysis of a strange spatial or geographical malady: he cannot mentally reverse himself and return after picturing a scene in his mind's eye. (This perhaps is meant as a sly parallel to time's one-way flow: time, which via the magic of the book, as opposed to the temporal incarceration of life, can be reversed--a hint of a kind of "law of nature" that might apply to a "real" metafictional character.) And despite the hefty overlap of the life of the protagonist with that of Nabokov (e.g., he has English tutors, Russian aristocratic blood, contempt for psychoanalysts, and the like), this book is clearly metafiction. The protagonist here, as with the protagonists in Transparent Things and Lolita, is fascinated by butterflies but not an entomologist of Nabokov's caliber.Read more ›
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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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