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The Stories Of Vladimir Nabokov [Hardcover]

Vladimir Nabokov
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 July 1996
From one of the greatest prose stylists of our time,his complete short stories, including 13 hitherto unpublished,brought toghether for the first time.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (29 July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297817221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297817222
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 973,672 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Vladimir Nabokov uses words like an artist uses paint on canvas ... you can see, feel, touch, and sense the stories on many levels. He uses words to control images, emotions, and the level of impact on the reader. "The written word" is his media. His stories provide gripping emotions, startling revelations, depths of experience, creative twists and turns of the plot ... leaving the reader flipping pages as fast as the mind can grasp the meaning what is read. Whether Nabokov is describing the deep, dark Russian soul or the generous, warm Russian heart, or mundane everyday experiences and scenes - he is a master psychologist who understands human behavior. While his subjects are primarily Russians or Russian emigres, he confines his writing to a unique time in history, about 75 - 80 years ago. Often, the settings are Russia, Germany, or other parts of Europe. The characters come from all walks of life: the aristocracy, the educated, rich landowners, students, ordinairy workers, shopkeepers, writers, and poor peasants. He sometimes contrasts their persona with a deep dark secret or desire.. He seldom leaves a stone unturned when describing the particular path they trod in life. The stories are so engaging and captivating, the characters, plot, settings are so realistic ... this reader wishes some of the stories would never end. You just know there is something yet remaining ... to reveal.
Favorite stories, are "A Matter of Chance", in which a Russian waiter working in the dining car of a German fast train, narrowly misses meeting his wife whom he has not seen in five years. Ironically, she loses her gold wedding ring, later found by a German waiter. The waiter reads the inscription but makes no connection to his co-worker. The Russian waiter unexpectedly gets off at the next stop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nabokov in Paradise 5 Aug 2012
By GlynLuke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
If you want the most lavishly presented paperback of the complete short stories of Vladimir Nabokov, one of the twentieth century`s masters of the form, then do seek out this 1997 American edition, its cover adorned with - appropriately, given Nabokov`s hobby - a depiction in silver and black of a butterfly. American books look and feel superior, with bindings that last (they have more money than we do in the UK to spend on such things).
An extract - from an endlessly quotable 600-page book of wonders - taken from a story midway through this volume, the ironically titled A Busy Man. Said man is attempting to recall a long-ago dream. Its opening lines read as follows:

The man who busies himself overmuch with the workings of his own soul cannot help being confronted by a common, melancholy, but rather curious phenomenon: namely, he witnesses the sudden death of an insignificant memory that a chance occasion causes to be brought back from the humble and remote almshouse where it had been completing quietly its obscure existence. It blinks, it is still pulsating and reflecting light - but the next moment, under your very eyes, it breathes one last time and turns up its poor toes, having not withstood the too abrupt transit into the harsh glare of the present.

Nobody else writes like that. Nabokov (1899-1977) was an enchanter of the word. English was his second - or possibly third? - language, which he not only mastered but of which he was a master in prose. Not for this Russian emigre (who loathed the vulgarities and cultural vandalisms of Soviet Communism with all his being) the pared prose of a Hemingway or his acolytes.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  39 reviews
92 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A inspiring look at the evolution of a master prose stylist 6 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Keep in mind as you read anything that Nabokov wrote that English is this man's second language. Many people only know Vladimir Nabokov as the author of the controversial classic, Lolita. That's a shame. Not to say that Lolita isn't one of the finest books ever written. It is, but the duststorm of strong emotions that the book whipped up created a cloud of obscurity that blurred his many other contributions the history of literature. It lead to many blinded generalities of Nabokov as an "immoral" or "obscene" writer. Those under the mis-guided impression that all Nabokov was about, like so many mediocre artists today, is shock and controversy are in for a shock of an entirely different sort if they read this delicious collection of 65 short stories. His short stories offer conclusive evidence that Nabokov had a gift for storytelling that went far beyond simply lifting the rocks off wet ground and showing us the slimy creatures underneath--he could also show us why those too are beautiful. His collection is edited by his son Dmitri Nabokov who also acted the role of translator, in close collaboration with the man himself, on most of his Russian works. Translations, of course, always offer a delicate problem of who to credit or critisize for particular stylistic choices, but in this family project it's clear that these versions at least received the approval of the author. Beginning writers who stand over-awed and intimidated by the prose master of Nabokov's later, familiar works might find some relief in examples taken from his early stories. They prove that Nabokov was not simply born with the ability to jot down genius, but that his style of storytelling is a craft he worked on and fiddled with for years before he could perfect it. Not that any of them fall completely flat (I'm sure he wrote bad stories in his life, but I'm also sure he would never have allowed their inclusion), but some stumble a bit as the young writer gropes for style, theme and a defintion of art he wanted his stories to exemplify. For example, early efforts like "A matter of Chance," or "Revenge" attempt the clever twist-ending so tempting to young authors. These stories are fun, they may make you smile, but they won't leave you in a state of awe. On the other side in his early repetoire, stories like "A guide to Berlin," "Sounds," and "Terror" seem almost more like excercises in description or experiments in creating a single mood than fully formed stories on their own. It is in the alchemic combination of those two aspects of storytelling when Nabokov reached his stride and began his favorite game of blending Art and "reality" together as fiction (early works like "La Veneziana" point to this potential and direction). Later efforts, mostly written in English, show why it is not the controversy that makes him an artist, but instead his control of the language, his understanding of the human heart, his mastery of dense imagery and detail, and most of all, his insistence that literature ought to be a game, to be fun. "Spring in Fialta," "A Forgotten Poet," and the autobiographical "Mademoiselle O" are but three that come to mind that show a complexity of emotion that do not make you laugh and then cry but instead (something far more brilliant) laugh and cry at the same time. "The Vane Sisters" may just be the most clever, beautiful and maddening story in the English language (do NOT read Nabokov's note at the end until you've read it at least twice). Anyone familiar with Nabokov's style will understand when I call it "dense." His prose is indeed delicious but as rich as the finest banquet. Don't rush through it. Savor the talent and the language. Don't read more than a couple stories at a time, even though most are short (10 pages). Let them sink in and digest. These 65 stories run the gambit from main course to dessert, and I guarentee you won't leave this book unsatisfied.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wondrous 16 Jan 2006
By Paul McGrath - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although I had read various Nabokov stories over the years I had never done so in a comprehensive manner, and finally decided to do so. I anticipated that this would be a wonderful read, and of course, I was right.

I was well aware as to how gifted Nabokov is with the language; what surprised me is his versatility. It seems like there is nothing he can't do. Contained in this collection is every kind of character imaginable: rich, poor, simple, smart; there is even an entirely credible portrait of a Siamese twin. There is straight drama, fantasy, adventure, horror and intrigue. There are all the elements of what our English teachers told us make good writing: symbolism, allegory, descriptive power, observation, wit, cleverness, heart, and an enormous store of knowledge, performed in a style that can only be described as poetic. And woven through it are the themes that make up the web of humanity: beauty, truth, and love. It is an utterly splendid collection, as good a collection of short stories as any I have ever read.

One of the things that sets him apart is restraint, or perhaps subtlety is a better word. In, "The Reunion," for example, two brothers meet after not seeing each other for ten years. One escaped the Soviet Union and is living a poor, almost wretched existence in Berlin. His brother stayed, and was able to achieve some success as a Soviet functionary. They finally meet each other in the Berliner's shabby apartment. Most authors would not be able to resist the urge to let this to sink into melodrama. There would be arguments, tears, and recriminations. But not for Nabokov. In his story the brothers simply find that they are uncomfortable with one another, and when they go their separate ways the seeming lack of drama beforehand makes their parting all the more poignant.

Humor and sadness are evident in all of this collection, sometimes in succeeding stories, sometimes in succeeding pages. "A Bad Day," is the touching and amusing story of a little boy's visit to his cousins in the Russian countryside, a visit he dreads because he doesn't get along and because he will be teased. The last line of the story--which in the hands of somebody like Updike would be a devastating condemnation of humanity--is here bittersweet, bringing both a tear to the eye and a smile to the face in self-recognition. It is, after all, nothing more than a "bad day."

But if there is whimsy here there is also great power. In, "Signs and Symbols," an old man and woman make a trip to the sanatorium to visit their deranged adult son on his birthday. Such a simple exercise is made terribly complicated by their age, their lack of means, the unpredictable nature of their son, and the indifference of the hospital staff. Nothing is really resolved by story's end; we are simply given an indelible portrait of the difficult, arduous journey that life has been for these uncomplicated, decent people. It is very moving and also an excellent example of Nabokov's worldly or otherworldly knowledge.

Many of the stories here have to do with, as you would expect, Russians and Russian expatriates. ("Write about what you know!" the English teachers say.) Nabokov unfortunately knew about the horrible experience of being exiled from his country, a country that his stories make clear he deeply loved, and to which he never returned. He doesn't spend a lot of time condemning the evil system that drove him and millions like him away, (although he does, briefly, in two of his earlier, weaker stories), he instead concentrates on those that it drove away. There are many excellent examples of this, but perhaps my favorite is entitled, "Cloud, Castle, Lake." In it, an older fellow is taken on a holiday train excursion he tries to get out of, is coerced into taking part in activities he doesn't wish to engage, and told to forsake the simple pleasures he has come to enjoy; all for--he is told--his own good. The train eventually stops at a perfect little inn, which overlooks a perfect lake in which is reflected a lovely cloud and castle. He wants to stay. Of course, he can't. Sad as it is, the story is also very amusing, and, typical of Nabokov at his best, works on several different levels.

The story also contains examples of Nabokov's splendid use of the language at the height of his power. Our friend observes the countryside from his hurtling train: "The badly pressed shadow of the car sped madly along the grassy bank, where flowers blended into colored streaks. A crossing: a cyclist was waiting, resting one foot upon the ground. Trees appeared in groups and singly, revolving coolly and blandly, displaying the latest fashions. The blue dampness of a ravine. A memory of love, disguised as a meadow. Wispy clouds--greyhounds of heaven." How marvelously descriptive this, and so beautiful that one finds oneself emotionally engaged.

The book is loaded with this stuff. You can barely turn a page without some surprise or delight awaiting you. A twenty-eight year old son returns unexpectedly after many years to visit his mother in, "The Doorbell." In the dimly lit room, he is taken aback by the fact that she is clearly preoccupied with something. Suddenly, "like a stupid sun issuing from a stupid cloud, the electric light burst forth from the ceiling." This, by the way, is another great story. In, "Ultima Thule," as a character is walking on the beach, "a wave would arrive, all out of breath, but, as it had nothing to report, it would disperse in apologetic salaams."

I could go on and on. After picking up the book I decided to read it cover to cover, but after about a hundred and fifty pages, I simply opened it and read the stories randomly. After a time I began to open the book onto stories I had already read, and found that I couldn't help but to reread them. Finally, I became apprehensive in fear that I might have missed something.

But no matter. If I haven't gotten to one yet, I will eventually. The book has already become an old friend, and like an old friend I will return to its comfort and joys for many years to come.
47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic, Imaginative, Creative Stories Written by A Genius 27 April 2004
By Erika Borsos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Vladimir Nabokov uses words like an artist uses paint on canvas ... you can see, feel, touch, and sense the stories on many levels. He uses words to control images, emotions, and the level of impact on the reader. "The written word" is his media. His stories provide gripping emotions, startling revelations, depths of experience, creative twists and turns of the plot ... leaving the reader flipping pages as fast as the mind can grasp the meaning what is read. Whether Nabokov is describing the deep, dark Russian soul or the generous, warm Russian heart, or mundane everyday experiences and scenes - he is a master psychologist who understands human behavior. While his subjects are primarily Russians or Russian emigres, he confines his writing to a unique time in history, about 75 - 80 years ago. Often, the settings are Russia, Germany, or other parts of Europe. The characters come from all walks of life: the aristocracy, the educated, rich landowners, students, ordinairy workers, shopkeepers, writers, and poor peasants. He sometimes contrasts their persona with a deep dark secret or desire.. He seldom leaves a stone unturned when describing the particular path they trod in life. The stories are so engaging and captivating, the characters, plot, settings are so realistic ... this reader wishes some of the stories would never end. You just know there is something yet remaining ... to reveal.

Favorite stories, are "A Matter of Chance", in which a Russian waiter working in the dining car of a German fast train, narrowly misses meeting his wife whom he has not seen in five years. Ironically, she loses her gold wedding ring, later found by a German waiter. The waiter reads the inscription but makes no connection to his co-worker. The Russian waiter unexpectedly gets off at the next stop. Read the story to find out ... the unexpected ending. Another favorite is, "Wingstroke", the most creative and imaginative story in the book. Kern is a young skier who falls in love with a mysterious young woman, Isabel. She is staying on the same floor of his hotel. One night Kern can not sleep, he tosses and turns due to thinking of her. He goes out into the corridor and sees the key in her door. He gingerly opens it and startles Isabel, who lunges toward the window and leaps ... As Kern is pondering this turn of events, in flies something huge, with wings. He wrestles with the creature and stuffs it in the wardrobe. Isabel returns and asks about it, knowing it flew in. Kern tells her where it is and returns to his room.. The next day, Isabel is expected to make a difficult jump. To discover what happened to "the creature", Isabel, and Kern ... you have to read the story. Another most appealing story is, "La Veneziana". The McGores are a wealthy couple who collect art. They acquired a beautiful portrait of a young woman which captured everyone's attention. After the guests play a game of croquet, they come inside to admire the portrait. It dawns on Simpson, a student, who was a friend of the family's son, that the portrait resembles Mr. McGore's wife. Yet, the painter was said to be Sebastiano Luciano, from the fifteenth century. To discover how and why this painting could resemble Mrs. McGore... one needs to read the story.

In summary, the author writes stories with imagination, creativity, substance, depth, unique perspective, and deep emotion. He explores human experiences from many angles. His stories are entertaining, educational, and deeply satisfying to read. Most highly recommended. Erika Borsos (erikab93)
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a perfect book. 19 Dec 2002
By Megan Cooney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The stories in this book (there are about 65 of them) are for the most part very short. Some of my favorite are his earliest ones, they have been translated from the Russian by Nabokov's son, Dmitri, and they are semi-autobiographical, sweet and so beautiful. Included in this book are a few chapters from Nabokov's autobiography, "Speak, Memory" which were published independently as stories. I would also recommend "Speak, Memory" without reservations. It would be a good book to read after or before this one. They are both so wonderful.
I can't imagine anyone not liking at least some of these stories, especially if you like the genre of short stories and if you are familiar with Nabokov's lucid, detailed prose. Some of them are briefer and sketchier, and some are more like small novels, some are auto-biographical, and some are like fairy-tales. All of the different kinds are good, even my least favorite stories in this vast collection have stuck in my mind. They are lovely. Everyone should own this book.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just chips from the Master's workbench 25 Nov 2001
By Scott Spires - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This collection proves that Nabokov was as great a short-storyist as he was a novelist. In some ways, his short works might be even greater; the concentration of the story form pushed him to achieve some startling feats of linguistic and narrative dexterity.
Some of the early stories are unambitious sketches or modest experiments that don't quite work, but gradually mature masterpieces start to appear, and it continues that way right to the end. Among my favorites: "The Visit to the Museum," "Cloud, Castle, Lake," "Time and Ebb," "Signs and Symbols," "Lance," and of course "The Vane Sisters," with its famous ending of which the author himself says "this particular trick can be tried only once in a thousand years of fiction." And that list is only partial; there's still a lot of this book that I haven't yet read. (As with a box of really good chocolates, I'm trying to make it last.)
Given his super-highbrow reputation, it's easy to overlook the fact that when he's at the top of his game, Nabokov is fun. Many of his best stories take the kind of imaginative leaps you expect from high-grade fantasy or science fiction; and the complexity of his style is necessary to his conceptions rather than vain showing-off. Coming upon this book after reading the normal run of fiction ("literary" or otherwise) was like feasting on rich, multi-layered Indian or French food after eating every day in the local pub.
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