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The Luzhin Defense (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jun 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (29 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141185988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141185989
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri. Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.


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What struck him most was the fact that from Monday on he would be Luzhin. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By benjamin.dodds@durham.ac.uk on 21 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
The Luzhin Defense is Nabokov's first masterpiece, written in Russian when he lived as an emigre in Berlin. Luzhin is a brilliant and all absorbed chess player, unable to relate to life outside his passion. Following a brief pre-chess childhood, the memories of which are crisply and beautifully described, he avoids confrontation with the world through a successful chess career. Until, that is, he meets the unnamed woman who will become his wife. Following a nervous breakdown, Luzhin fails to reconcile his wife's loving tenderness and chess. Whilst the first half is consummately written, the second half of the book is less successful. Luzhin is both unworldly and yet strangely sensitive to the world around him. His absorption in his chess does not combine faithfully with his obsession with his own past. Recently married, Nabokov thought he could see the operations of fate working to bring about his happiness with Vera. In the 'Luzhin Defense' he attempts to invert the machinations of benign fate; Luzhin can only see its forces ganging up and working against him. This is a brilliant theme which Nabokov went on to push much further. In this novel, however, he failed to marry his literary creation and metaphysical subtext.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Jun 2001
Format: Paperback
The Luzhin Defence is the story of a little boy who loses his first name, and becomes a great genius who ultimately loses everything. It is a biography, spanning A. Luzhin's early childhood recollections; his isolation from society and the love affair that breaks temporarily through that; and his development to a Grandmaster inexorably moving towards the most crucial confrontation of his career.

Nabokov skilfully portrays Luzhin's life becoming like a reflection trapped between two mirrors, finally coming to an inevitable vanishing point. The moments in his life begin to echo and re-echo previous moments, like some recurring melody in the violin music that is a motif in the novel. His actions are like moves in a chess game, particularly in the first half of the novel, where the moments Nabokov castles, then brings out his queen, can be pinpointed.

Nabokov writes about his characters with such elusive, unsentimental humanity, that the reader is infused with warmth or compassion for them all.

And of course, as ever, the real reason for reading Nabokov is the exquisite rapture of his language. He realises worlds so deeply and so richly through the fullness of his language that sometimes I have even felt that the 'real' world could risk seeming like a faded facsimile in comparison.

Though completely different in style - completely - this book at times reminded me of Samuel Beckett's work, in that in flashes it circumscribes the outer reaches of existential loneliness.

I did not give this novel 5 stars because the endgame of the novel is not so skilfully realised as the first two thirds, and slightly loses pace.

It isn't as scintillatingly brilliant as Lolita, or Pale Fire....but still - a superb novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
This is my first encounter with Nabakov, and it will certainly not be my last. It is doubtless a masterpiece, albeit a brief and extremely quirky one. We follow the life of Luzhin, beginning with him as a strange boy who would probably be diagnosed as autistic today, who has the dubious good fortune to discover the only thing he can do well, and at which he truly excels, namely chess. The portrayal of his boyhood is quite marvellous, capturing both the oppressiveness of his utter failure to connect with others, and the sparkling vividness of a world of wonders as seen through an odd child's eyes. From thence we jump to his adulthood where we find him bumbling through the detached world of the international grandmaster, playing at the very highest level. The events surrounding his world championship match with the flamboyant Turati, and the working out of its terrifying consequences, forms the bulk of the tale. This coincides with his being taken under the wing of a wonderfully selfless young woman, which makes the book among other things, an odd but moving love story. Throughout the book Luzhin's awkwardness lends an atmosphere of relentless oppression, and while barely having a character himself, it is the effect he has on those around him, so minutely observed, that marks the it out as literature of the highest level. The love affair, with its clumsy proposal and ill-starred marriage, is very touching, but skewed, as though everyone but she can see what a hopeless, shambling monster she has devoted her life to. But the real pith of the book is its study of the relation between chess and madness. You will not have to be a chess player to get something out of this book.Read more ›
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