Novelist Vladimir Nabokov witnessed the horrors of his century, escaping Revolutionary Russia then Germany under Hitler, and fleeing France with his Jewish wife and son just weeks before Paris fell to the Nazis. He repeatedly faced accusations of turning a blind eye to human suffering to write artful tales of depravity. But does one of the greatest writers in the English language really deserve the label of amoral aesthete bestowed on him by so many critics?
Using information from newly-declassified intelligence files and recovered military history, journalist Andrea Pitzer argues that far from being a proponent of art for art’s sake, Vladimir Nabokov managed to hide disturbing history in his fiction—history that has gone unnoticed for decades. Nabokov emerges as a kind of documentary conjurer, spending the most productive decades of his career recording a saga of forgotten concentration camps and searing bigotry, from World War I to the Gulag and the Holocaust. Lolita surrenders Humbert Humbert’s secret identity, and reveals a Nabokov appalled by American anti-Semitism. The lunatic narrator of Pale Fire recalls Russian tragedies that once haunted the world. From Tsarist courts to Nazi film sets, from CIA front organizations to wartime Casablanca, the story of Nabokov’s family is the story of his century—and both are woven inextricably into his fiction.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jason Lewis on 16-10-17
Though the focus is obviously Nabokov and his family, I found the copious historical context to be fascinating. I would recommend to either a Nabokov fan or history buff.
By Nancy C. on 13-01-17
Great book, unfortunate Russian pronunciations
I'm only about 1/3 through and already love the book. I studied Nabokov in depth in college, and it's a pleasure to return to his life and literature with new insights. That being said, the narrator's incorrect pronunciation of Russian words and names is quite jarring and detracts from the quality of the audiobook. One would think that being able to pronounce Ivan Denisovich and Eugene Onegin would be important enough to the editors to merit coaching for Ms. Boyce. Big miss by the audiobook publisher.