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Transparent Things Reissue Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679725411
ISBN-10: 0679725415
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Transparent Things revolves around the four visits of the hero--sullen, gawky Hugh Person--to Switzerland . . . As a young publisher, Hugh is sent to interview R., falls in love with Armande on the way, wrests her, after multiple humiliations, from a grinning Scandinavian and returns to NY with his bride. . . . Eight years later--following a murder, a period of madness and a brief imprisonment--Hugh makes a lone sentimental journey to wheedle out his past. . . . The several strands of dream, memory, and time [are] set off against the literary theorizing of R. and, more centrally, against the world of observable objects." --Martin Amis

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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (October 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679725415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679725411
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on May 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is typical brilliant Nabokov, with plenty of detail and mysterious threads laid down throughout that the imaginative can choose to follow or ignore. Because it was written in English rather than translated, Nabokov's prose is at its most powerful and organic - by far. The stories in this are extremely haunting, at least for me, musing on the nature of life after death, among many other themes. It is true genius and you can read it in a single sitting. Get it. You won't be disappointed.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tom Helleberg on June 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
nor a good starting point. While stylistically very much in keeping with works such as Lolita and Pale Fire (lyrical, smooth, entertaining, moving. A passage describing a pencil stub found in a hotel desk sticks in my memory. Nabokov gives it more life in a long paragraph than other authors can bestow upon a human character in a hundred pages), Transparent Things seems to trade the clever warmth of the earlier novels for a more experimental cleverness which gives the book the cooler feel of a puzzle box or jigsaw puzzle.
While its comparatively inaccessible structure is off-putting, what I found most bothersome about Transparent Things was my inability to relate Nabokov's fragmented narration to the story being told. The text feels like a camera with a macro lens following Person through his life, picking up this object here, this scene there, all in magnified detail, but to an end that escapes me.
One of Nabokov's greatest strengths is the multilayered nature of his novels. He is one of the exceptionally rare authors who allows a reader to take away exactly what they bring in. But this is not a one-sided trait, by which he crafts a text that runs infinitely deep and from which only the exceptionally scholarly are able to extract every last allusion and nuance from the text. It also means that over this depth there is a simple story that any reader can follow. In Transparent Things, this gift of Nabokov's seems employed in reverse, in that what is in essence a very simple story lies not on the surface, but is occluded by a layer of decidedly opaque murk.
Perhaps this is the point of the novel--that things are not transparent, that every object does not present its story as simply as a novel does, but rather gives us hard, solid surfaces.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Robinson on September 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read that book and was a bit baffled.

After reading the book, it was clear to me that one would need some help in trying to sort out exactly what the book means. Many other people such as John Updike have been baffled by the book. According to professional analysis found elsewhere, Transparent Things was first published in December 1971 in Esquire. And, from what Nabokov said, he finished the slim novella on April fool's day, of that same year. Is that the first tip? Is this book a bit of a sophisticated joke?

Most people have a hard time understanding what it means, and it takes at least two reads to get any sort of an understanding. Nabokov himself was amused by the critics and probably would continue to be amused today if he was still alive, and he said: "Amongst the reviewers several careful readers have published some beautiful stuff about it. Yet neither they nor, of course, the common criticule discerned the structural knot of the story."

And his biographer is quoted:

Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd's analysis attempts to untie that "knot" with a more specific elucidation: "Within the small compass of Transparent Things and the bleak life of Hugh Person, Nabokov ruptures the relationship of reader, character, and author more radically than he has ever done, in order to explore some of his oldest themes: the nature of time; the mystery and privacy of the human soul, and its simultaneous need to breach its solitude; the scope of consciousness beyond death; the possibility of design in the universe."

So where does that leave us average reader? What are we to make of it all? What is Nabokov's "knot.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper VINE VOICE on December 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
Some writers--early Ian McEwan comes to mind--seem to be less interested in plot and character than they are in the power of their prose to capture a scene, a moment, or an experience. In TRANSPARENT THINGS, Nabokov performs his variation on such magic, creating a story that, in summary, is very dark and tragic but that is also secondary to its playful and droll tone. Undeniably, Nabokov's protagonist, Hugh Person, is both the agent and victim of tragedy. But the Nab's writing is so precise and masterfully amused that this novella's sad story seems almost incidental. For this reader, TRANSPARENT THINGS was primarily a wry comedy as Nabokov leads the goofy Hugh from scene to scene. Then, inexplicable anger, and perhaps madness, erupts.

Nabokov's writing in this novella is superb, especially near the end. Here's just one example, which only he could write:

"Earth and sky were drained of all color. It was either raining or pretending to rain or not raining at all, yet still appearing to rain in a sense that only certain old Northern dialects can either express verbally or not express, but versionize, as it were, through the ghost of a sound produced by drizzle in a haze of grateful rose shrubs. 'Raining in Wittenberg, but not in Wittgenstein.' An obscure joke..."

Highly recommended.
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