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The Gift (Penguin Modern Classics)
 
 

The Gift (Penguin Modern Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Vladimir Nabokov , Michael Scammell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

Product Description

The Gift is the phantasmal autobiography of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdynstev, a writer living in the closed world of Russian intellectuals in Berlin shortly after the First World War. This gorgeous tapestry of literature and butterflies tells the story of Fyodor's pursuits as a writer. Its heroine is not Fyodor's elusive and beloved Zina, however, but Russian prose and poetry themselves.

About the Author

Vladimir Nabokov was born in 1899 in St Petersburg. He wrote his first literary works in Russian, but rose to international prominence as a masterly prose stylist for the novels he composed in English, most famously, Lolita. Between 1923 and 1940 he published novels, short stories, plays, poems and translations in the Russian language and established himself as one of the most outstanding Russian émigré writers. He died in 1977.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 739 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0141185872
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (1 Mar 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0071MZFYG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #219,853 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is the last book Vladimir Nabokov wrote in what he called his `untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue'. The story of Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, a young Russian émigré aristocrat in Berlin, told in this novel is both a personal journey and a reflection of Russia's past. Nabokov provides a brief synopsis in his foreword:

`The plot of Chapter One centers in Fyodor's poems. Chapter Two is a surge toward Pushkin in Fyodor's literary progress and contains his attempt to describe his father's zoological explorations. Chapter Three shifts to Gogol, but its real hub is the love poem dedicated to Zina. Fyodor's book on Chernyshevsky, a spiral within a sonnet, takes care of Chapter Four. The last chapter combines all the preceding themes and adumbrates the book Fyodor dreams of writing someday: The Gift.'

I would need to read this book at least two more times to fully appreciate it. It is not a novel to be devoured quickly, it deserves to be savoured slowly. On this, my first read, I simply enjoyed Nabokov's use of language both as he describes Fyodor's progress and as he lampoons Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) in the `spiral within a sonnet'. It's beautifully done, the way that Nabokov works a biography of Chernyshevsky into his novel, contrasting two quite different Russias but with some shared shortcomings.

`Existence is thus an eternal transformation of the future into the past - an essentially phantom process - a mere reflection of the material metamorphosis taking place within us.'
And when the novel ends, will Fyodor's success continue? Will he and Zina be happy? Or will his (and their) moment be brief, like the butterflies? We have seen Fyodor evolve for self-indulgent idleness to focussed observer: one of his roles in the book is complete; the other is neatly transferred to the reader. Or so I think, on this reading.

`Good-bye, my book!'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age in Exile 13 Dec 1999
By David Engle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this "coming of age in exile" novel of VN's to be an exhilirating, long read. The sensibilities developed in this final Russian novel of VN's are multi-layered and alternately opaque and transparent. Oftentimes this book appears to be going nowhere and then a passage appears that transports you into another of Nabokov's magical perspectives where human imagination informs the universe! I've enjoyed the pace of the text and found it to be a book worth savoring over an extended reading. Criticisms about the books apparent "plotlessness" are not based in any Nabokovian context. Careful reading, sirs and ladies, is the way to proceed. The reading is the thing! Take the gift as just that.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hail Colorfully Winged Muse! 24 Oct 2001
By Doug Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Nabokov is very funny(in case you didn't already know that) and no matter what his subject matter the humor comes through. That is one of the gifts here, the other more obvious one is literature, specifically Russian literature, the tradition of which is a gift the Russian born Nabokov received and in this book he gives you his version of that tradition in brief and since this book would be the last book he wrote in Russian one assumes he is paying a quite deliberate homage to his homelands men of letters. But Nabokov is never serious for long and the laughs are always right around the corner or on the next page. This book is also about lead character Fyodor's gift which is his talent and that talent appears in wonderful ways all through the narrative. This was written in Nabokov's middle period while he lived in Berlin,Germany writing in a small hotel room with family and those circumstances just makes this all the more incredible because it is a very beautiful book. Perhaps Nabokov was wondering what he would do with his gift at this most uncertain pre-WWII moment in his life. His great books were still to come but this book is his first to show that he is no ordinary artist and it at least equals if not surpasses the later books in regards to appeal because it is so personal, or at least as personal as Nabokov gets. You know you are in the hands of a master when you suddenly realize the chapter you are reading is a dream even though it is written in a way that does not immediately give that away and so you share the dreamers belief that the dreamed moment is real(what is a Russian novel without a dream). But again Nabokovs humor comes into play as the clue that this is in fact a dream is only subtley inserted into the chapter. After early disruptions and tragedy(his father was assasinated by Russian police)Nabokov led a charmed life, perhaps willed it to be so, and this book is marked with that charm and his word magicians wit which were to be his life sustaining strengths and his father from whom he received the precious gift seems to benevolently haunt the margins of these farewell to Russia pages. And butterfly hunting is one of the more beautiful ways to describe the artists pursuit.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VN's best Russian-language novel 18 Mar 1999
By Alex Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an intense, nostalgic, non-linear novel. It's a rich treat for Nabokov fans. The first time I read it, I recall getting frustrated at the seeming plotlessness, yet there were certain scenes and passsages that I could never forget. I picked it up again a couple of years later, and absolutely fell in love with it. The Gift is, in some ways, Nabokov's take on Joyce-- a roaming perspective, an intellectual humor, an overall sense of character development. The end of the novel is ecstatic with the potential of life.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Give me your hand, dear reader, and let's go into the forest together.' 21 Dec 2011
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the last book Vladimir Nabokov wrote in what he called his `untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue'. The story of Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, a young Russian émigré aristocrat in Berlin, told in this novel is both a personal journey and a reflection of Russia's past. Nabokov provides a brief synopsis in his foreword:

`The plot of Chapter One centers in Fyodor's poems. Chapter Two is a surge toward Pushkin in Fyodor's literary progress and contains his attempt to describe his father's zoological explorations. Chapter Three shifts to Gogol, but its real hub is the love poem dedicated to Zina. Fyodor's book on Chernyshevsky, a spiral within a sonnet, takes care of Chapter Four. The last chapter combines all the preceding themes and adumbrates the book Fyodor dreams of writing someday: The Gift.'

I would need to read this book at least two more times to fully appreciate it. It is not a novel to be devoured quickly, it deserves to be savoured slowly. On this, my first read, I simply enjoyed Nabokov's use of language both as he describes Fyodor's progress and as he lampoons Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) in the `spiral within a sonnet'. It's beautifully done, the way that Nabokov works a biography of Chernyshevsky into his novel, contrasting two quite different Russias but with some shared shortcomings.

`Existence is thus an eternal transformation of the future into the past - an essentially phantom process - a mere reflection of the material metamorphosis taking place within us.'
And when the novel ends, will Fyodor's success continue? Will he and Zina be happy? Or will his (and their) moment be brief, like the butterflies? We have seen Fyodor evolve for self-indulgent idleness to focussed observer: one of his roles in the book is complete; the other is neatly transferred to the reader. Or so I think, on this reading.

`Good-bye, my book!'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And then a miracle occurred 6 Oct 2010
By S. Smith-Peter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There an old cartoon that shows two scientists at a chalkboard filled with equations and in the middle is written "and then a miracle occurred," whereupon the other one says "I think this section in the middle needs work." I thought of this cartoon when reading The Gift because Fyodor/ Nabokov (this really is the most autobiographical of his novels) was incredibly alone in Berlin in the mid-1920s and then he meets Zina/ Vera and the miracle occurs. Not only is he no longer alone, but he has found someone who understands and accepts him absolutely and without reservation. The novel is a love letter to Zina/ Vera, among many other things.

The other reviews have objected to the inclusion of the Chernyshevsky biography. I would recommend reading up a bit on Chernyshevsky before starting the book. Even the Wikipedia entry should be enough. The point of the Chernyshevsky section is to contrast the lack of knowledge of the materialists (including Lenin, who was deeply influenced by Chernyshevsky, and the Bolsheviks) with the gentry tradition of Fyodor's father, who was a great naturalist. While Chernyshevsky said he was interested in the material world, he actually knew nothing about it and only managed to destroy and befoul what was around him. This indictment of Chernyshevsky is of course also an indictment of the Bolsheviks, which is noted in the novel, as the "work" was published by an anti-Soviet publisher. The part on Chernyshevsky says that he knew nothing of actual things and could only write about the relationship between things. This is quite insightful, actually. Once you understand this part, you can see why even such small things as Fyodor's naming of all the butterflies and other objects in the Grunewald forest is an important part of the novel. This section is actually funny if you've read a bit of Soviet writing on Chernyshevsky or even on Lenin, as Nabokov skewers it mercilessly.

In addition, this is a love story and the parts between Fyodor and Zina are really wonderful. This also contrasts to the total disarray of Chernyshevsky's relationships with women yet parallels the relationship between Fyodor's parents. The book is thus an argument for the demands and rewards of high culture and it makes no concessions to popular culture or demands for accessibility. If you have any interest at all in Nabokov, Russian literature, Russian emigres or Berlin, you really should read this book.
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