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Pnin (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 7 Dec 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (7 Dec. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141183756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141183756
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,765 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.

Product Description

Review

"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"

Book Description

One of the best-loved of Nabokov's novels, PNIN features his funniest and most heartrending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian émigré precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations of a deliberately unreliable narrator. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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First Sentence
The elderly passenger sitting on the north-window side of that inexorably moving railway coach, next to an empty seat and facing two empty ones, was none other than Professor Timofey Pnin. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 12 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nabokov's writing can make me grin in the same way as when I watch Lionel Messi or Johan Cruijf play football - the exhilaration of seeing a master in action, in complete control of his medium.

Pnin is endearing and lovable, while at the same time being consistently cringeworthy or absurd. He exploits are painted vividly on a meticulously realised backdrop of Nabokovian Americana. Familiar settings like universities and diners are embued with fresh life - descriptions I may have been tempted to skim in another book bear repeated re-readings.

Beauty is to be expected from Nabokov, but the strength of the humour may surprise you. The physical imagery of Pnin, with his strange, top heavy body and bald head combines with verbal humour ( "I never go in a hat even in winter") very effectively.

An undercurrent to the humour is that Pnin is frequently at the wrong end of it - the reader snickers at some gaffe poor Pnin has made, but in the next passage frowns at other characters laughing at him too.

It's short, but its images and scenes will leave a stronger imprint on your memory than most longer novels. I can definitely see myself rereading this in years to come.

Wonderful.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Room for a View VINE VOICE on 12 July 2006
Format: Paperback
Pnin is a wonderful exploration of 1950s America set against a backdrop of `corporate' academia in leafy, prosperous suburbia. The hero of the title is a Russian émigré, balding, middle aged, single and quirky. His life is dominated by an inability to settle into his lodgings, domestic traumas involving various gadgets (particularly heating systems) and a thick accent. I found Nabokov's sympathy for the character and his cynicism towards the establishment highly entertaining. Pnin bumbles along, worrying about a possible heart condition and interacting in an almost perpetually perplexed manner with fellow academics and fellow Russian émigrés. Pnin however has a history and Nabokov provides enlightening and sensitive accounts of his life prior to arriving in the US and past loves. I felt far more sympathy with Pnin than the deep wound of consumerism and personal ambition that scars the benevolent society that Pnin pursues.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
Nabokov is one of those authors you either connect with or don't, which is perhaps more a matter of taste than we would like to admit. His characters are bizarre, usually neurotic if not truly insane, yet almost always funny.

Pnin is one of his finer creations: an inhibited academic, whose past is laced with pain and betrayals, he lives a little life from all appearences. Yet within him is a being of extraordinary sympathy and quirky intelligence, which floursihes under Nabokov's comic and tragic gaze. Only those who come to love him experience the treasure that lies within him, and as he is revealed to the reader, who can fall in love with him or not. Though very little occurs in this book in terms of plot, Pnin's existence takes on a kind of significance. THe reader comes to acccept his limitations while feeling such an acute ache of sympathy for him.

Warmly recommended, but it isn't for everybody.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Manchester Manual on 12 May 2007
Format: Paperback
With Pnin we are introduced to Russian émigré, Timofey Pnin. Tenuously untenured at a New England college, he muddles through 1950s America with a unique variety of English of his own. Mocked and loved on campus in equal measure, he has an acute sense of the ridiculous of the world and of himself. For Pnin sorrow is "the only thing in the world people really possess" and his planned courses will show that "the history of man is the history of pain". Alongside these bleak courseplans, we are treated two parties, a former wife convinced of her own glamour, the visit of her insular, wunderkind son, and Pnin's wonderful driving. As with much of Nabokov, there are dopelgangers aplenty causing Pnin (and us) to ask which is the genuine article. Anyone who knows himself to be fallible and slightly absurd will love Pnin, and will be grateful to Nabokov for making this invention a reality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lucaslavia on 18 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Pnin as a novel is haunted by what it could be. There parts of this book which are simply brilliant (end of Ch. 5 in particular), but they are islands amongst the merely mediocre. That is not to say the book is bad, anything but in fact, I just seem to be holding it to higher standard on account of it being a Nabokov.

Pnin as a character is one of the most likeable men in fiction, I dare you not to get completely taken in by his clumsiness, awkwardness and eccentricities. Evidently intelligent but marred by his complete lack of social skill, Nabokov creates all manner of hilarious situations for Pnin to navigate, simple non-issues are converted by Pnin into chaos and of course the most complex of problems are handled efficiently with little alarm. Pnin's turbulent backstory is revealed slowly and in some cases, darkly, but always ends up endearing Pnin further to the reader.

The prose is nowhere near as fantastical as Nabokov's other work but infrequently there is the little explosion of alliteration and assonance. Pnin's particular dialect is handled extremely well and never short on comedy. The odd flirtation with French is not taken to the extremes as with H.H's fancy prose but seems only for the embellishment of more comedy.

In a similar vein there is little narrative experimentation, you won't have to sit there with a notebook trying to unravel meta-narratives but you will have to contend with a particularly unreliable narrator. The narrator's voice imposes sporadically to repeatedly express disappointment, disdain and occasionally, disgust, with Pnin. All just to make you doubt the level of bias in Pnin's presentation every time the narrator intervenes. Then again it wouldn't be Nabokov without a little head-scratcher.
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