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on March 10, 2014
This volume of Nabokov's complete stories has been put together by the man's son, who also did most of the translations of the older, Russian ones. Most of these stories were previously published in volumes of 'dozens', except the earliest ones, which are new to the light of day.
I have previously read most, if not all of them in the excellent German edition by Dieter Zimmer with Rowohlt. Coming back to the stories after many years, and in a new, English shape, gives me the same great pleasure that hooked me on Nabokov long ago.
(Long ago I made the frivolous pledge to learn Russian at age 60, so that I could read Nabokov and others in the original. Alas.)

I enjoy VN's prose sentence by sentence. The short story was a form that suited him well. While he over-constructed at times in his longer works (think of Ada!), few of the short stories deserve any blame. They are perfect. The time span of their writing is 1921 to 1958, if I am not mistaken. The very first story is a gem of the genre: a forest ghost, a wood-sprite, presumably something like a leprechaun, tells our narrator, a student in English exile, late at night, how he ran from the Bolshevist revolution... Don't even think of assuming that hints at Poe's Raven are accidental. Even Lolita is essentially a Poe reference.

The stories have many subjects, but many are in some way related to the experience of exile. Even when they go back to memories of the old days, the political context is always there, under the surface. Example: 'Sounds' deals with a nostalgic memory of an adulterous summer love. Our narrator addresses his lover, a married neighbor, as if he were telling her the story how all was perfect until it broke. If you are an inattentive reader, you might even miss the reason. World War 1 has started (we get just one hint at this, when she asks him, while she reads the newspaper: where is Sarajewo? The also present schoolmaster says: in Serbia.)
In consequence of the unspoken, her officer husband sends her a message that he must come home earlier because plans have changed...

Teju Cole just said in a New York Times interview, that the novel is much overrated as a literary form. Right he is.
Short stories never get better than this.
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on November 29, 2011
About halfway through this collection, you will encounter a story called "Perfection." Read it carefully. It introduces the mature writing of this master craftsman of poetic imagery and what can only be called shimmering, gorgeous nightmares. Nabokov does not build stories or plots. He wills them into existence with a playful murderousness. He examines his creations -- and the processes with which he creates them -- from a variety of perspectives, seemingly holding back nothing, disclosing all, yet finally disclosing nothing but the fact that the story is over and the reader is left with the very real responsiblity to examine his own psyche for signs of damage or inspiration.

One sentence of Nabokov is worth a library of DeLillos or Murakamis...
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on March 18, 2016
Along with a great many of my favorite writers, including John Updike and Jeffrey Eugenides, I am a lover of Nabokov's work, especially his later novels -The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Pnin, Lolita, Pale Fire - and perhaps best of all his superb autobiography, Speak Memory. This makes it hard to understand why his collected stories stood on my shelf practically unread for many years, until I bought the Audible version and started listening to them, while consulting the print version from time to time. But now I know why I didn't read them: it's because I don't like most of them. First off, the collection is complete, or nearly so, and arranged chronologically, so that his early efforts - from his mid-twenties on - are encountered first. These were of course written in Russian, and though they have been carefully translated by Nabokov himself in some instances, and by his son Dmitri in others, they lose some of the stylistic brilliance they probably had in the original. A stylist plays delightfully with words, and such wordplay is often untranslatable, as puns and other verbal effects are lost when translated into a different language with different homonyms, etc.
Secondly, they were written in a depressed period of Nabokov's life, when he was a poor refugee living in a Berlin that was itself struggling to regain its prosperity after the loss of WW I, and was preparing for Hitler's takeover. A dispossessed, homesick stateless person, he saw the sorry state of Berlin, and the sorrier state of the Russian emigres, in whose circle he moved, and recorded them accurately, at least in some of his stories. Joyce's Dubliners takes a similar view of sad existences, but Joyce was steeped in the history of his unhappy land, while Nabokov was merely a visitor. He sees many kinds of failure and discouragement in his fellow Russians, but is rarely compassionate. Rather, in the tradition, perhaps, of Gogol, a writer Nabokov greatly admired, he satirizes them. But satire works best when its targets are the well-fed and complacent. These characters of Nabokov's are more down-and-out than he himself was, and his ridicule of them is unkind and unnecessary. Even when his protagonist is not Russian, as in "The Potato Elf," he can't resist making fun of deformity - always a weakness in his fiction (Laughter In The Dark, for instance, recounts the sexual humiliation of a blind man).
This leads us to my final and greatest criticism.: Nabokov is cruel. Strikingly, his son in an introduction goes out of his way to argue that his father was inveterately compassionate, and never cruel. This I think must be in anticipation of the kind of criticism I am making, for Nabokov may have been kind as a person, but his imagination was invariably cruel. Time after time these stories create a character in order to steer him or her to some sort of failure or comeuppance, sometimes with a shrug of the shoulders - "what did you expect?" - sometimes with a surprise ending like those in de Maupassant and O. Henry - The Potato Elf ends with a heart attack that is merciful compared to the shock of further discoveries that awaited the midget had he lived.
There are brilliant passages of descriptive writing, in these stories, as one would expect of someone who at this time in his life was principally a lyric poet, but fiction depends on plot and character, not on lovely description. Eventually, after he came to America and started writing in English (his first English novel was Sebastian Knight in 1940) his stories take on more of the manner of his American novels, which are better than the Russian ones, if only because Nabokov continued to grow and get better as a writer of fiction. Also he became happier, and more secure. A late story, "The Vane Sisters" is a puzzle-story with a hidden meaning that the reader will probably miss unless he works over it like the Sunday crossword, but has a consoling message when solved. Nabokov eventually discovered how to create and mock unreliable narrators who embody his own flaws of cruelty, superiority, and detachment. He started satirizing himself, in other words, and this was a more fitting object of satire than the sad sacks who inhabit his earlier fiction. But then he gave up writing short stories, except as memoir pieces that he gathered together as Speak, Memory, which may come to seem, even more than Lolita or Pale Fire, his masterpiece. One of these pieces, a portrait of his French governess back in Russia, is probably the best story in this entire collection, though it is not properly speaking a story at all, and is even better when read as a chapter of his autobiography.
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on July 7, 2015
I think Nabokov is a much better writer of books than stories. But others may disagree.
The stories were written earlier than his more famous work, and are not in the detailed type of very visual language readers might be familiar with. Translations are fine. Good introduction.
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on August 31, 2003
After I first read, Lolita, I was quite eager to find more stories by this amazing author. The only other Nabokov book sold by my local bookstore was The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. I had no idea how *fantastic* each of these stories would be. He has taken a form of writing and completely made it his own. Every single one of them is superbly written. Even the less plot-driven ones stand out for their wonderful descriptions. Nabokov has a way of somehow bringing all of his subjects to life.
So, in short, this is a great book for *anyone*. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
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on February 4, 2016
As to the stories, Nabokov is interesting, and I think many of them are very good. Generally he is not my favorite author, but I have enjoyed these stories for the most part. He is not Pushkin, Gogol or Chekhov, nor a very long list of great writers of stories in English. I always must give a little qualification that the stories may be better in the native language. I believe most of the stories were not written in languages other than Russian, but I believe he had some supervision over the translations, which is more than the aforementioned did. I am writing about my pet peeve however, which is the mispronunciation of certain words, particularly memento, which we find here another replacement with the non-word momento, or at least it certainly sounds like that is what Mr. Morey says. Mr. Morey is not my favorite reader, but I don't put him in the class of bad readers, and he is not a great reader. He has a distinctive voice which is not all that pleasant, but he is good. Generally he reads well, without the overemphasis of readers for whom I simply toss out the audio. I know most of the tossers, so I don't rent them. Taste in readers varies among listeners. My least favorite living reader, not Mr. Morey, for my least favorite has unfortunately passed, has received more awards for great reading than most, and is probably in the top 3 British readers with Vance and May (or her 20 other names), and Neville I suppose is in a class by himself for the material he reads. For Americans, no one comes close to Will Patton, the voice of America. Listen to Train Dreams and you'll never forget Will Patton. The reader is critical in an audiobook...I suppose you know. That's the reason one pays and forgoes the free.

I have nearly finished the stories now. I read many books at one time, going from one to another obviously. I think this is the collected stories of Nabokov, so it includes all stories, essentially in the order of the publishing date of the separate collections. The stories beginning with the last stories in Russian are much better than most of the earlier stories, and I must categorize them in the great stories of any writer. Therefore, since he was relatively young at the beginning, and actually young at the end as well, I must raise this from 4 to 5 stars. I suppose that the more one reads of an author, the fonder he becomes of the author. Nabokov is original and inventive, a genius I would say.
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on December 25, 2014
This book is a must-have for anyone who enjoys Nabokov. A comprehensive collection of short stories, this hefty compilation contains stories that range greatly in length and topic -- with anywhere from a few lines to a few paragraphs of notes on each story at the back of the book to provide context. Arranged from earliest to most recent story, it's riveting to experience his evolution in writing.
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on July 24, 2015
Nabokov's son Dimitri, compiled this book of short stories. Unfortunately he included every story he could find form juvenile efforts to works of the master. If you read this book, I recommend that you start at the last story and work towards to front of the book until you become bored with the efforts of a mere learner of his trade.
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on January 22, 2015
Important read for those who only know of Lolita and think it was Nabakov's only important book. A superb writer who captures essences, details, and paints word pictures that are on a par with the best Russian and French writers of any era. Beautiful, beautiful writing.
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on November 25, 1995
Actually, this book came out in October 1995, translated by Dmitri Nabokov (the author's son)and priced at US$35. It's a thick volume of Nabokov's stories, some translated from Russianand others in their naked English. Fans of Nabokov (who is best known for having authored Lolita, which may rank as the best work of fiction ever written in English and is at this moment (11/24/95) being made into yet another movie) have been awaiting these stories for a long time. Reading these stories makes it seem incredible that Nabokov did not receive a Nobel prize for literature while other, lesser authors enjoyed that distinction. Then again, considering the recent recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps it is not such a great distinction after all. In any case, the stories are mostly brilliant and deserve much more fanfare than they have received. "A Dashing Fellow" exemplifies his flashes of genius, precision, and as the title of that story suggests, punniness. Nabokov is a superb linguistic and literary magician, an exemplary storyteller, and at times a teacher. What he teaches best is that both God and the Devil are in the details.
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