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Invitation til skafottet (1959)

af Vladimir Nabokov

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"In an unnamed dream country, the young man Cincinnatus C. is condemned to death by beheading for "gnostical turpitude," an imaginary crime that defies definition. Cincinnatus spends his last days in an absurd jail, where he is visited by chimerical jailers, an executioner who masquerades as a fellow prisoner, and by his in-laws, who lug their furniture with them into his cell. When Cincinnatus is led out to be executed, he simply wills his executioners out of existence: they disappear, along with the whole world they inhabit" -- p. [4] of cover.… (mere)
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56. Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Vladimirovich
translation: 1959 from Russian by Dmitri Nabokov with the author
published: 1936
format: 223-page Vintage paperback
acquired: June
read: Nov 14-19
time reading: 6 hr 41 min, 1.8 min/page
rating: 5
locations: unspecified prison
about the author: 1899 – 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922. Lived in Berlin (1922-1937), Paris, the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977).

We open as Cincinnatus is condemned to death and brought weak-kneed to his prison cell where he looks around. It took me a moment to realize that when he went waltzing with the guard I wasn't supposed to accept this at face value as actually happening. Cincinnatus, both respected and criticized by this guards, spends his last days in and out of reality, craning to see outside his prison fortress, desperate to see and embrace his comically unfaithful wife, reading voraciously but unable to write as he doesn't know his execution date and doesn't know how long he has. Alas, how to manage? Is there a Soviet commentary here?

I‘m really enjoying working through Nabokov‘s novels, even if I‘m behind my planned schedule. This goes down as the best and most beautiful so far and one of my favorite books of the year. Nabokov plays with fabric of reality while barely leaving a prison cell inside a fortress, and it works wonderfully.

2020
https://www.librarything.com/topic/322920#7326628 ( )
1 stem dchaikin | Nov 27, 2020 |
Cincinnatus C, what a shameful disappointment you are!

The full pencil length of all our lives, inevitably, ends in a nub... and a last chapter. ( )
1 stem runningbeardbooks | Sep 29, 2020 |
Fifty pages in, I feel like I've given this a good shake and I can move on. You have to care about something when you read a book: the story, a character, maybe even the technique. Something, at any rate. Nothing comes to mind for this one. While Nabokov stated in an interview that of all his novels he held the greatest affection for Lolita, it was Invitation to a Beheading that he held in the greatest esteem, he said at the same time:
My advice to a budding literary critic would be as follows. Learn to distinguish banality. Remember that mediocrity thrives on "ideas." Beware of the modish message. Ask yourself if the symbol you have detected is not your own footprint. Ignore allegories. By all means place the "how" above the "what" but do not let it be confused with the "so what." Rely on the sudden erection of your small dorsal hairs. Do not drag in Freud at this point. All the rest depends on personal talent.
What a wanker.

I know I'm in the wild here, not kowtowing to the idea of Nabokov, but the time will come where he is reassessed and found wanting. As far as I can see, he is too clever by half. One needs more than intellect to make writing work, to make it other than banal. He's not only a wanker, but a darn smug one and one wonders why. It isn't enough to pepper everything you write with corny sexual metaphor. Speaking of which, I feel like, as a consequence of reading the first pages of this, my dorsal hairs couldn't get it up with a dose of viagra now.

Tim Winton, get me over this unhappy affair. Cloudstreet is my recovery play.

( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Incredible. Reaches out to touch at something numinous and hidden. For a while, reading it, the boundaries and outlines and background became clear. ( )
1 stem Alex_JN | Jan 24, 2020 |
3.5 ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 5, 2019 |
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"In an unnamed dream country, the young man Cincinnatus C. is condemned to death by beheading for "gnostical turpitude," an imaginary crime that defies definition. Cincinnatus spends his last days in an absurd jail, where he is visited by chimerical jailers, an executioner who masquerades as a fellow prisoner, and by his in-laws, who lug their furniture with them into his cell. When Cincinnatus is led out to be executed, he simply wills his executioners out of existence: they disappear, along with the whole world they inhabit" -- p. [4] of cover.

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