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Vladimir Nabokov : Novels and Memoirs 1941-1951 : The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Bend Sinister, Speak, Memory (Library of America) Hardcover – October 1, 1996

5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The publication of this unprecedented three-volume set marks the first time the Library of America has offered works by a foreign-born author. Though a native of Russia, Nabokov easily could be considered an American by osmosis, since he wrote many of his major works while living on U.S. soil. This trilogy contains all his American fiction and nonfiction writings and incorporates the corrections the author added to his personal editions. This also contains scholarly notes and a chronology by leading Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Language Notes

Text: English, Russian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America (Book 1941)
  • Hardcover: 710 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883011183
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883011185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
It's a sad fact that Vladimir Nabokov is still thought primarily as the guy who wrote a book about a middle-aged man's crush on a preteen girl. What that fails to note is that Nabokov, a Russian expatriate who spent many years in America, also wrote many other novels that were often even more groundbreaking than "Lolita."

Three of them were compiled into "Novels and Memoirs 1941-1951": the horrifying political satire "Bend Sinister," the entertainingly offbeat "Real Life of Sebastian Knight," and the unique memoir "Speak Memory." These three each demonstrate why Vladimir Nabokov was one of the best writers of the 20th century.

"Bend Sinister" is the most obviously political of all the novels Nabokov wrote.

It tells the story of Krug, a philosopher in the land of Padukgrad, who is dealing with the death of his wife, and having to raise his young son alone. To make things worse, an inept inventor's son named Paduk, has become the dictator. Worse, Krug is somehow in Paduk's way -- and Paduk will do anything to get Krug to endorse him. Literally, anything.

"The Real Life of Sebastian Knight" has a lighter tone than "Bend Sinister," with an unnamed narrator searching for clues about the true persona of his brother, Sebastian Knight, a famed writer. It ends up becoming a superb satire/detective story, looking at the faint traces that biographers snatch at, but which can only give a tiny look at the whole.

"Speak Memory" is an entirely different kind of book -- it's all about Nabokov himself. He reexamines his colorful life, but not so much through basic experiences and facts. Instead, he looks at how he made sense of the world, whether as a privileged child, a man torn up by the Russian Revolution, and finally finding sanctuary in another land.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The two novels and autobiography in this volume are quirky, brilliant, and written in incomparable prose. One of the things not often mentioned about Nabokov is how hilarious he can be. Enjoy!--but not if you like meat-and-potatoes realism or mainstream tales of self-pity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One must celebrate those plural minds who decided that a Russian exile and cosmopolitan writer could have a home among American classics. Navokob's elegant prose and humanistic sensitivity enhances the scope of The Library of America, and more than deserves these beautiful tomes.
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Format: Hardcover
Picture Vladimir Nabokov. In the hall of mirrors that is popular culture, he is the dirty man who wrote the dirty book "Lolita," about a 12-year-old "nymphet" -- he invented the term, by the way -- and her affair with an older man.
Angle the mirror another way, and he is one of the founders of the modernist novel, which to some people -- myself included -- that's a damning phrase. "Modernist" and "post-modernist" literature seems a) self-referencing to the point of egotism; b) dedicated to the advancement of decedent themes, and to score big points as a writer, pile it on, brother; and c) obsessed with the discovery that the "arts" -- whether books, pictures or movies -- are artificial, and that we use them to create, well, books, pictures and movies.
Unless you think I am making it up, here's an example drawn from real life: a few years back, a Charlotte museum mounted an exhibition of a painter's work, one of which was a canvas whose front side was turned toward the wall, exposing a paint-stained frame. A newspaper reviewer breathlessly informed the reading public that the artist did this "to inform the viewer that most paintings are recetangular."
Now, a reasonably intelligent person could probably reach that conclusion without much effort, but discoveries like these seem to drive those who tread into the "modern" era of art.
So Vlaidmir Nabokov's reputation is caught between two very opposing poles. He either panders to the worst tastes of man, or the worst tastes of art.
Fortunately, he is neither, and the Library of America agrees.
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