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Look at the Harlequins! (Vintage International) by [Nabokov, Vladimir]
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Look at the Harlequins! (Vintage International) Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Length: 275 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'He did us all an honour by electing to use, and transform, our language'

From the Back Cover

Focusing on the central figures of his life--his four wives, his books, and his muse, Dementia--the book leads us to suspect that the fictions Vadim has created as an author have crossed the line between his life's work and his life itself, as the worlds of reality and literary invention grow increasingly indistinguishable.

Product Details

  • File Size: 542 KB
  • Print Length: 275 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0679727280
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (February 16, 2011)
  • Publication Date: February 16, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KPM1U8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,279,026 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Assuming that you haven't read LATH, how to describe it? It's a fake sort-of memoir by the Russian emigre writer Vadim Vadimovich, the general shape of whose career bears more than a slight resemblance to that of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, with one important caveat; Nabokov was a famously happy and contented man (at least according to official versions of his life story), but Vadim is a cranky, impatient, cantankerous whinger. He thrashes his way through his basically unhappy life, turning out the odd book now and again and suffering rather than enjoying the occasional love affair, before finally finding peace with a radiant angel referred to simply as You - the book is cast as a long love letter to the supposed author's last love. Nabokov has good fun with the kind of critic who assumed in the wake of Lolita that he himself lusted after young girls (Vadim has a thing going with his own daughter, at one point); literary in-jokes aside, it's a remarkable study of a bitter and thwarted man from an author who was so supremely good at rendering happiness. Clearly, however free from demons Nabokov was, he was able to imagine what it would be like to be in their clutches. Not many writers do so well in their seventies.
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Format: Paperback
Readers of much Nabokov should save this treat for last; this supposed autobiography by one "Vadim Vadimovich N." is a house of mirrors--is the main character really Nabokov? Or is he just someone with whom Nabokov is constantly embodied or misrepresented? Funny, witty, amazing--Look at the Harlequins! is material that plays with the jokes of Nabokov novels past, and rewards Nabokov fans with cameos by Lolita, Sebastian Knight, and many more. A must-read
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Format: Paperback
LATH will not go down as Nabokov's most memorable or widely-read work. In fact, if it weren't for the novels that preceded it, it would probably be forgotten. And it's not a work I would recommend to anyone who hasn't already read most of N's other fiction. But to a diehard Nabokovian, LATH offers enough pleasures to make the read (and the wait) worthwhile.

Yes, it appears to be a "fictionalized" autobiography of Nabokov, with some key changes (Nabokov professed to be most content with life, while the same could not be said for LATH's protagonist-cum-"author", Vadim Vadimovich). Thus, one will not get much out of the book unless one has read N's other work and knows a bit about his life.

What make this novel truly enjoyable are (a) N's trademark wordplay (not as great as in "Lolita" and "Ada", but still magnificent); (b) small moments of genuine joy (as in the coy but cute resolution of Vadim's psychological conundrum); and (c) some excellent Nabokovian narrative tricks: Vadim feels he is living someone else's life and at one point appears to be on the verge of realizing that he is, in fact, Vladimir Nabokov (try wrapping your mind around that!)--only to have the epiphany slip away.

LATH should (as another reviewer recommended) be saved for last. Those who do get around to reading it, though, will almost surely enjoy it. I get a kick just thinking of the old guy--pushing 75, but still as vibrant and full of tricks as ever. That he never won a Nobel Prize is an terrible shame.
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Format: Paperback
Nabokov can tear your brain apart with narrative. In nearly all of his works, and especially in Lolita and Pale Fire, he invites the reader to examine every word as a piece of the narrator, always insisting, "This is not me, and if you think it is, you're a dolt." What, then, are his determined doters supposed to think when finally confronted with Vadim Vadimovich, emigre-novelist, almost self-aware deranged fictional character, and butterfly-hater? God only knows.
Obviously, he's not Vladimir Vladimirovich. He's something else. Maybe he is meant to be an inevitable distortion of Nabokov, but even that's questionable, as is everything in Nabokov's fiction.
Here's a thought. Perhaps, as is (almost) evident in Transparent Things, Nabokov eventually became so intrigued by the idea of networks of perspectives in fiction (the perspective of the narrator interacting with that of the reader, and maybe just a tittle of his own), that he couldn't resist the idea of writing a novel from the perspective of a fictional fictional Nabokov.
All fiction can be compared to the reflection of a painting in a puddle. Nabokov teaches us that the aesthetics of the puddle's ripples, manipulated by the right hands, can be as (nay, more!) breathtaking than those of the picture itself.
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Format: Paperback
To get all the book's humor requires not only having read the collected works of Vladimir Nabokov, but all the idiotic things forgotten reviewers wrote about his work. Vadim, the Russian émigré narrator is a parody of misconceptions - at least what Nabokov considered misconceptions - of his character, in particular, that he must have been a pederast . Nabokov was playing with various imaginable pasts for someone with his general background, but his play seems to me to be as heavy-handed as his narrator is incapable of happiness in any of his relationships. Compared to its immediate predecessors (the seemingly endless Ada, and the brief but opaque Transparent Things) Look at the Harlequins is readable, but for me the last novels are a marked decline from his earlier masterpieces.

There are certainly pleasures in the text and flashes of wit, but overall the fictional memoir of a passive cloddish alter ego is a disappointment, a not-very-fun series of games and in-jokes. It seems to me that Vadim understood but cannot implement the title's command. At least he doesn't enjoy those he manages to see as harlequins there to amuse him.
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