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Pnin Paperback – June 18, 1989
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From Publishers Weekly
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In the writing of this work, Nabokov breaks all the rules. His shifts in points-of-view, his sometimes favoring of lengthy exposition over scene, his dropping of plots and subplots just as they get going all work precisely because he is such a skilled novelist and knows the effect of abandoning conventions. In dashing the reader's hopes, his style takes tenacious hold of the reader's imagination; we learn to trust the voice - even if we shouldn't. This last is what is truly brilliant about the novel: we allow ourselves to be swept into a story of non-events and pathos, laughing along the way and becoming in essence yet another of Pnin's mocking colleagues.
Students of literature and book discussion groups can discover a wealth of topics here: Is the narrator reliable?Read more ›
It is the account of a Timofey Pnin, professor of Classical Russian Literature at Waindell College, a course failing year after year to garner deserved interest. The novel is a succession of carefully blended time morphs, the beginning and end forming a kind of cycle, wherein the reader is made privy to various comical blunders of Pnin's academic life, as well as his painful memories of an exiled Russian past, bloody revolutions and a war-torn Europe. Pnin is proud to have adopted America as a new home, being largely oblivious of his total incompetence in the English language and his role as the butt of many cruel and childish jokes, perpetrated by the rest of Waindell staff. He lives alone, with the pangs of unrequited love and a son whom he barely has the chance to see. Pnin is a charming character, capable of inspiring a spectrum of different emotions.
Such is the plot on surface, deceptively simplistic, though having a complex clockwork running behind scenes. Things take a surprising turn when the narrator is revealed, and Nabokov himself (Mr.N) makes a bewildering appearance in his own book, inviting a complete re-interpretation of many key events. The careful reader will be left pondering the motifs of the squirrel, the identity of the novel's `Evil Maker' and the significance of Pnin's flashbacks. Some logical paradoxes are posed by the novel: there are puzzles to be worked out.
The work is slender and as such is considered one of Nabokov's more accessible novels, which can be enjoyed on a few different levels.Read more ›
In this one slim volume, readers will, on occasion, find a wry, sardonic grin spread across their faces at the description of the ubiquitous college campus, its students, its not-too-illustrious faculty and their pretensions, its too-efficient librarian, and the machinations of campus politics. They will smile with compassion at Timofey Pnin's efforts, never quite successful, to master the peculiarities of English, one chapter, for example, being devoted to his hosting a "house-heating" party. They will feel their protectiveness rise for this essentially good man who continually suffers the slings and arrows of cruel fortune.
Analyses of PNIN speak of the instances of bathos in the book, but that word, to me, suggests an exaggeration of pathos so great that the reader is repulsed by its artificiality. I do not find Nabokov's writing to be that crude or "over the top." Rather, the pathos is almost understated.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When i received the book, it had such tobacco smell i had to put it out on the table outside but to no avail it still smells really awful. I'v got no choice but to use it.Published 4 months ago by Lynn Shin
This book has left me with a lingering melancholy. With its shifting perspectives and unreliable narrator, combined with that narrator's masterful prose, I could not help but fall... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
It's a series of short stories compiled into a novel, and shows it. But the writing is beautiful, and it's nice to read something by Nabokov that isn't dark.Published 7 months ago by Leslie S
If you've known me for a while - or were curious and took a gander at the "About" page - you might know that one of my... Read more
I read other of his books, but I didn't finish this one. Just did not engage me.Published 9 months ago by Barbara Turner