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Pnin (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics Series) Hardcover – April 6, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Nabokov fans will be disappointed by narrator Stefan Rudnicki's stiff, staid performance in this audio version of the author's 13th novel. Told in a series of vignettes, the story follows Russian immigrant and professor Timofey Pavlovich Pnin as he boards the wrong train on his way to deliver a lecture, loses his luggage, struggles with the English language, hunts for living quarters, deals with his ex-wife, and throws a faculty party. Rudnicki's narration is clear and steady, but fails to capture the playfulness of Nabokov's prose and the humor of the text. Instead, Rudnicki's tone is variously stiff, needlessly booming, or monotone. He does, however, provide a wide range of voices for the cast of characters. His rendition of the title character-which sounds like a hybrid of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat and Soviet comedian Yakov Smirnoff-is dynamic and entertaining. Listeners will be left wishing Rudnicki had infused more of his narration with those qualities. (Nov.)
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“Hilariously funny and of a sadness.” –Graham Greene
“Pnin’s vita, though its essence is saintliness, is yet a work of brilliant magic and fabulous laughter.” –The New Republic
“Fun and satire are just the beginning of the rewards of this novel. Generous, bewildered Pnin, that most kindly and impractical of men, wins our affection and respect.” –Chicago Tribune
“Nabokov can move you to laughter in the way the masters can–to laughter that is near to tears.” –The Guardian
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As I am somewhat familiar with Russian culture of that generation, and have known several Russian immigrants, it was sort of nostalgic for me.
I enjoyed it very much. I gave it only 4 stars because I admit once in a while it got a little tedious.
Pnin himself is at once both a comic and tragic character - an emigre who does not wholly fit in his adopted country, but who has a passion for his subject (Russian language and literature); an academic who is unknowingly a laughingstock, but who also is a hopeless romantic, hoping a lost lover will return, trying to do right by her son from another man.
What struck me most powerfully, however, was Nabokov's brilliant way with words - not only the Russian and German (which was liberally sprinkled throughout the book) - but of English as well: "One had to forget - because one could not live with the thought that this graceful, fragile, tender youhng woman with those eyes, that smile, those gardens and snows in the background, had been brought in a cattle car to an extermination camp and killed by an injection ... into the heart, into the gentle heart one had heard beating under one's lips in the dusk of the past." (p 135)
Nabokov skewers academic politics, professors who take themselves entirely too seriously, and even students (the "typical American college student who does not know geography, is immune to noise, and thinks education is but a means to get eventually a remunerative job." (pp125 - 6). Yet this is done with such tenderness and gentleness through the character of Pnin, that one hardly notices the sharp edge beneath the words.
Pnin himself is loveable and sweet, largly because he is such a fish out of water, with such good intentions that are too often misunderstood. I thorougly enjoyed _Pnin_ in equal measure for Nabokov's way with words as for his satire of academic life, and I look forward to reading more by him. Highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
of his life in Russia, makes a new life for himself in the United States.Read more