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The Enchanter Paperback – July 20, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 20, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679728864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679728863
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A novella written in Russian when Nabokov lived in Paris in 1939, The Enchanter resurfaced among his papers 20 years later. Nabokov described it then as "the first little throb of Lolita " and said its title anticipated the "enchanted hunter" motif in the later novel. Here it refers to the lecherous, ironic, middle-aged protagonist who woos an unappetizing widow to get access to her nymphet daughter. But his phallic "magic wand" (paralleled by his antique coral-headed walking stick) transforms wolfish lust into the dream of a fairy idyll, with overtones of Lear/Cordelia and Little Red Riding Hood, to produce an unexpectedly surreal effectand a denouement strikingly different from that of Lolita. Narrated in the third person, the novella has the remoteness of a tale, with its nameless characters and vaguely foreign ambienceunlike the novelistically specific Lolita, rooted in Americanness and told by its main character, Humbert Humbert. The Enchanter is entertaining independent of its Lolita connection. It is arch, delicious and beautifully written. As translator, the author's son writes an endearingly fussy afterword thatrecalls Nabokov's own self-parodying penchant for the long footnote.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Enchanter is a real findthe "pre- Lolita novella" Nabokov wrote in Paris in 1939 and subsequently lost. Rediscovered two decades later, it has only now been translated by the author's son. Just as in the later masterpiece, a pedophile marries a widow to be near her daughter; when the mother dies, the way is clear. Yet The Enchanter stands on its own as a bright, brief (some would say heartless) excursion into the mind of a madman, a marvel of potent imagery and taut storytelling. More's the pity then that Dmitri Nabokov has used the occasion to write an off-putting afterword aimed as much at settling literary scores as elucidating the text. Otherwise, highly recommended. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gary C. Marfin on August 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
That insight, about introspection itself constituting the story, is made by Dmitri Nabokov in an essay appended to The Enchanter. As many have noted in so many words, "The Enchanter" lacks Humbert Humbert's appeal. Still, Nabokov permits us to see in the enchanter, perhaps more succintly than in Lolita, the introspective anxiety of an outwardly ordinary man driven mad by his single-minded obsession with an eternally adolescent female, at least eternal younth "was the carnal postulate." He can neither ignore her as as an object of his desire, nor bring himself to rationalize adequately her hold on him. Indeed, he can empathize with her disgust as he envisions himself through her eyes, a "monstrosity, some ghastly disease." The book's opening sentence, a question, signals the ordeal that is about to unfold, "How can I come to terms with myself?" And, the answer is that he cannot; he cannot gain the distance he needs from his moral framework. He is both sinner and judge; without control,insane and yet damned as a morally responsible soul.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alejandro E. Moreno on May 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
After nearly completing my first year in Law School, I decided that I needed a break from case reading. Thankfully, Nabokov was there to provide a welcome respite from the tedium of my case books.

The Enchanter is a short book, almost not worthy of publication independently, nevertheless it provided me with a brief repose of a perfect magnitude. In this short novella the protagonist is a proto-Humbert who is embryonic in almost every respect. We do not know his name, his history, profession, origin or the raison d'etre for his fatal obsession. For this reason the reader will find it harder to humanize the attrocious acts that he engages in. Similarly, the object of the unnamed protagonist's desire is no Lolita; rather then present us with the beguiling temptress, or the iconic nymphet of Nabokov's latter novel, we are left with a somewhat fungible, inchoate and forgettable young girl. The story follows a somewhat predictable path towards the eventual destruction (is it what he was seeking?) of the protagonist.

There are a few reasons why this novella is worth four stars. First, the brief size of the novella allows the busy or casual reader a little taste of Nabokoviana without the conmesurate investment in time by the reader. Secondly, all of our favorate Nabokov traits are present to some extent in the text. The word play, the beautiful imagery, and the defectless prose-poem quality of his writing are given expression in the pages. Finally, the climax and denoument of the novella executed prefectly. Each scene inevitably leads to the next and appears to offer only one conclusion. The end of our anti-hero is satisfiyingly conveighed.

In conclusion, the serious reader can (almost) never go wrong with Nabokov and The Enchanter does not disappoint. If you have a spare hour and desire some beautiful writing pick up this short volume.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rigoberto Rodriguez on February 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Definitivamente, si un autor decide no publicar una obra en vida, sus herederos (por más dinero que quieran o necesiten, por más avaros que puedan ser) deberían abstenerse de hacerlo. Se deben respetar las decisiones del autor, que es el único que tiene derecho a tomarlas. Esta obra (genial, como todo lo que escribió el autor) es una especie de ejercicio inicial que luego daría origen a uno de los libros más hermosos que se han escrito en la historia: "Lolita". Pero, siendo una especie de experimento, carece de la calidad de este último. En todo caso es un documento importante para estudiosos de la literatura, pero en si mismo, empobrece un poco la totalidad de la obra de Vladimir Nabokov. Cero (0) estrellas para Dmitri (su osado hijo).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Linda A. Lavid on May 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Interesting book. Yes, this a precursor to Lolita but only in glimpses. The nameless girl did not have the edge of the later Lolita; the man did not have the dark comedic personality of Humbert Humbert. Also the writing style, for me, was somewhat indulgent, obtuse unlike the accessible prose of the novel. This story stayed with Nabokov for years, later "growing claws." The incubation period was worth it. Another observation: a sleeping young girl appears to be fodder for many, i.e. Nabokov, Garcia Marquez.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
In a sense, "The Enchanter" was not meant to be published. Author Vladimir Nabokov unearthed the extremely brief novel in his papers, 20 years after he dashed it off (and thought it was gone forever). It's "Lolita" before there was "Lolita"... but not quite as interesting.
The main character is a middle-aged, respectable, well-off man, living alone and lonely. He also has a distinct "liking" for teenage girls who are just hitting adolescence, but doesn't dare to try anything. One in particular catches his notice, a coltish girl on roller skates who talks to him at times and gains his affection and lust.
He proposes to the girl's widowed mother, who is terminally ill and pretty crabby; he has no interest in his "monstrous bride" but it's the only way he can get to the girl. The wife's condition gets worse over the following months, and she dies. And the man choreographs his own downfall as he plots to seduce his new stepdaughter...
The mind of a pedophile is a disgusting thing, and Nabokov makes no excuses for it. "The Enchanter" is a pretty straightforward story in comparison, without a lot of twists or surprises. It's far from a bad book, but it's not a terribly good one either. It's fairly ordinary, especially when compared to modern classic "Lolita."
The high point of "The Enchanter" is the rambling thoughts of the lead character as the book opens. Then it dips down and proceeds more or less steadily. Nabokov's lush language and complex symbolism aren't really very present here. His writing is blander and more straightforward, with a lack of polish.
The characters are given no names -- they're just the man, the girl, the wife.
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