- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 9th printing edition (June 18, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679723412
- ISBN-13: 978-0679723417
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 103 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pnin Paperback – June 18, 1989
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"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically." -- John Updike
From the Inside Flap
ofessor of Russian at an American college who takes the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he cannot master. Pnin is a tireless lover who writes to his treacherous Liza: "A genius needs to keep so much in store, and thus cannot offer you the whole of himself as I do." Pnin is the focal point of subtle academic conspiracies he cannot begin to comprehend, yet he stages a faculty party to end all faculty parties forever.
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Although this is a less known novel of Nabokov, it is, in my opinion, just as great as LOLITA and PALE FIRE: although, it is a different type of greatness. Whereas PALE FIRE is a Rubin vase of absolute innovation, and LOLITA is masterfully allusive and erudite, PNIN is hilariously funny and pathetic. Pnin, the protagonist of PNIN, an emigre Russian living in the United States, is a likable, painfully oblivious professor at a college, where all of his coevals think him a hack. A veritable Don Quixote, the universe seems to conspire against Pnin, and everything he does ends in disaster-- such as try to take a train, or walk down some stairs, or wash some dishes. The sadness of the book comes from the fact that, like Don Quixote, Pnin is beautiful and pure and innocent in a uniquely "Pninian" way, which is not only admirable but lovable.
If one enjoyed LOLITA, then this book is a must. It was written at the same time as LOLITA, while Nabokov wrote at his most "American." Yet, clearly, it is very different than LOLITA. In comparing LOLITA to PNIN, one can see the skill of Nabokov. As PNIN is much more approachable than LOLITA, it should be a relatively easy task to read.
I do note, with a tinge of sadness, that the Kindle edition of this book has a few errors. For instance, on Kindle page 114, it reads, "...church at which one was supposed to turn left to reach Cooks Place." when it should read, as it does in my physical copy of PNIN, "...church at which one was supposed to turn left to reach Cook's Place" (114, First Vintage International Edition, June 1989). I found other solecisms within the Kindle text, which not detracting from the book on a serious level, were nonetheless unfortunate as they mar a great work.
I will read this book again and again, especially as the Kindle edition makes looking up the arcane and obscure words Nabokov revels in simple. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys literature.
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.
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