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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vladimir Nabokov - Laughter in the Dark
When I read in the afterword that Nabokov once claimed this his "worst novel", I was amazed. I admit I've only read Pale Fire and Lolita (both superb, the first a fab intellectual piece of fictonal ambiguous jigsaw-puzzling, the second just flat-out superb), but this I enjoyed just as much. It's certainly doesn't strike one as being quite as zestily written as Lolita, or...
Published on 13 Jan 2009 by RachelWalker

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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great
This was the first Nabokov that I have read, and there was certainly enough here to make me interested in reading more. That said, I found this book strangely unsatisfying. I came to it because Joseph Heller frequently cited its style as being very influential in the writing of 'Catch-22'. This perhaps gave me lofty expectations, and I could see the connections, but I...
Published on 27 July 2004 by Depressaholic


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vladimir Nabokov - Laughter in the Dark, 13 Jan 2009
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
When I read in the afterword that Nabokov once claimed this his "worst novel", I was amazed. I admit I've only read Pale Fire and Lolita (both superb, the first a fab intellectual piece of fictonal ambiguous jigsaw-puzzling, the second just flat-out superb), but this I enjoyed just as much. It's certainly doesn't strike one as being quite as zestily written as Lolita, or as devilish as Pale Fire, it is certainly a fine novel. I can only say this: Nabokov's worst novel stands head and shoulders above many other novelist's best. Laughter in the Dark is a clever, sprly written (Nabokov's sentences are, even if not the finest he would come to write, still remarkable, and sparkle with pixie-like intelligence) novel of one man's destruction at the hands of a young female mistress. It's melodramatic to say it, but the novel is worth reading almost for it's first paragraph alone.

It's sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes shocking, and there are certain bits which make you loath certain characters. There are times when it's chattery like a movie, times (the remarkable final scene), when it's the sightless equivalent of a silent film. I loved every page. It reads quickly, and he packs a lot into a very small space. He might have thought it his least accomplished novel, but it's also the most accesible of his I've read so far, and an ideal starting place. He's one of the centuries very finest writers, no question.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem: not one wasted word, not one woolly idea, 18 Jan 2004
By A Customer
Put aside a couple of days to read this mini-masterpiece about an ordinary man whose life falls apart because he has an affair with a deceitful hussy. The brilliance of the book lies in the fact that, while you know the anti-hero has brought about his own downfall, you still feel sorry for him by the end. Some scenes are comical, others are creepy. It's a must!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany a man called Albinus.', 6 Nov 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
'He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.
This is the whole of the story and we might have left it at that had there not been profit and pleasure in the telling; and although there is plenty of space on a gravestone to contain, bound in moss, the abridged version of a man's life, detail is always welcome. '

And, as Nabokov has summarised the story and told us the ending in the first paragraph, what's to be gained by reading the detail? Why read about Albert Albinus and his doomed relationship with Margot, and the failure of his marriage to Elisabeth? This is hardly a new plot: novels are filled with fools and failures; villains and vixens; and tears and tragedy. Albinus is tragically nave; Axel Rex is a heartless opportunist and Margot is cruelly manipulative. In fewer than two hundred pages we follow Albinus from comparative light into absolute darkness, through a series of choices (often associated with windows and doors) to a disastrous conclusion. Can there possibly be enjoyment in reading that? Yes, because of the way Nabokov provides the detail and uses humour.

`The door leading from the hall to the landing is wide open, too.'

This is the fourth Nabokov novel I've read, and I've enjoyed them all. In addition to `Laughter in the Dark', I've read `Lolita', `Bend Sinister' and `Pale Fire'. I'm not sure which to tackle next.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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5.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing tale, 26 Feb 2014
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This book was selected as book of the month by a book club I attend. Having not previously heard of Vladimir Nabokov I was slightly dubious about reading an 80 year old book originally written in Russian. I need not have had any concerned, this is engrossing from start to finish, and the author himself translated the book into English. I recommend this book to all who enjoy a morale tale told which is brisk in style with some excellent surprises as the story evolves.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laughter in the Dark, 14 April 2010
By 
TomCat (Cardiff, Wales.) - See all my reviews
`Laughter in the Dark' (originally; `Camera Obscura') is a very early novel by Nabokov and somewhat of a precursor to his later magnum opus `Lolita'. The book establishes Nabokov's interest in the theme of inapt infatuation and the ostensibly inevitable self-destruction that follows. Although later in his life the writer came to despise this work, I believe that it offers an excellent window on the mind of a genius in the making, as well as a darkly comic reading experience.

*spoilers* Albert Albinus (fans of `Lolita' will recognise the para-rhyming, double-name technique) is an aging art critic of mediocre talent who becomes besotted with the sexually precocious Margot; a sixteen-year-old wannabe actress. Margot feigns love for Albinus and takes everything he offers her while actually engaging in an illicit relationship with a man named Rex. Margot's affair with Rex is arrestingly obvious, but the nave Albinus fails to recognise what's going on right under his nose. As an ironic literary punishment for this metaphoric blindness, Albinus loses his sight in an horrific car accident and turns to Margot for care. The convergence of Albinus' emotional blindness and actual loss of vision results in a pitiful, brilliantly bathetic narrative for this protagonist. Albinus becomes consumed with his own romantic and intellectual short-comings as he is thrown into a black world of fear, paranoia and noises in the darkness.

`Laughter in the Dark' is a story of imprudent obsession, misplaced self-opinion and unavoidable tragedy. The novel storms towards its heart-rending denouement with the inevitability of a train speeding down its only route to its only destination. Nabokov's prose is beautiful and shocking, with frequently hilarious parenthetic digressions used to comment on the characters and their decisions. Though the novel's ending, as Albinus realises that his true blindness is towards himself, is flawed in its slapdash form and suddenness, the gloomy charm of this early work shouldn't be overlooked. Lovers of `Lolita' may find this a tame, un-poetic work by comparison, and it is true that `Lolita' explores very similar themes with much greater poetry and success. But ultimately this is a fascinating stylistic and thematic precursor to Nabokov's masterwork of literature and should provide interest to anybody with a taste for the tragic in modern writing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless prose, 14 April 2008
Effortless prose that flows easily on the page. It shows how a masterpiece can also be a page turning thriller. One hopes for some kind of redemption or happy ending but, of course, it never happens.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, 27 July 2004
This review is from: Laughter in the Dark (Paperback)
This was the first Nabokov that I have read, and there was certainly enough here to make me interested in reading more. That said, I found this book strangely unsatisfying. I came to it because Joseph Heller frequently cited its style as being very influential in the writing of 'Catch-22'. This perhaps gave me lofty expectations, and I could see the connections, but I couldn't in really bracket the two together. What they do share, is very black humour running through what are, ultimately, unpleasant events.
The story centres round a middle-aged man (Albinus) who falls for the coquettish charms of Margot, an ambitious child/woman who strings him along in order to squeeze cash and career opportunities out of their liaison. Albinus convinces himself that she loves him, a belief which causes his life to disintegrate around him. Margot turns out to be a pretty nasty piece of work, but his fascination has no limits, and the Albinus we see by the end of the book is a hideous, unrecognisable creature compared to the respectable gent we see at the start. 'Laughter...' contains all the themes that would later be incorporated into 'Lolita', so this can perhaps be seen as the prototype for that book.
Although I did enjoy it, and would recommend it as a reasonably quick and not too involved read, the tone of the book made it difficult for me to get into. The jaunty humour coupled with the dark events contributed to a slightly unreal, cartoonish feeling. This is reinforced by a fairly simplistic writing style. Perhaps this is part of the point, to confuse the reader's reaction to important events by making them seem somehow inconsequential or silly. The title of the book itself suggests this contrast. I was definitely sufficiently intrigued to want to read more of Nabokov's books, but I'm hoping that this one isn't his best.
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An underated masterpiece of personal ruin, 26 Jan 2002
By A Customer
The undisputed master of the opening lines of a novel, Nabokov does not fail to dent his reputation with Laughter in the Dark. Whether is be the intense beauty of the opening to Lolita, or the macabre tale that ushers into this offering, he stretches his reader's imagination and heart to level beyond utterance.
This is quite simply one of greatest tales to envoke despair in both the reader and the protagonist, Albinus. A life lost. Ruined. The betrayal of a wife, and the complex results that lay seige to the rest of his days.
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Painfully dull, 14 Nov 2010
This was my first Nabokov novel and one that I had to read for a module on my university degree.

I had heard many good things about Nabokov and was very excited to read a novel by someone who is so highly thought of. I even volunteered to present it to my class.

Big mistake.

I am around 120 pages in and I have never been so painfully bored in my entire life.

The story of a silly old perv and his stupid whore is just not interesting in the slightest, I simply could not care less. Yes it is nicely written, with some great images and language etc, but unfortunately nothing of any interest has happened, so now even these lovely images are just completely lost on me.

If I didnt have to read and present the book for my degree next week I would have stopped a long time ago but unfortunately for me this is not an option.

Let's just hope I don't die of boredom in the next 60 pages because I feel I am getting dangerously close to being the first ever person to perish in such a way.

I'm 22 years old so maybe the subject matter is more interesting for an older generation but for me, very dissapointing.

The only reason I gave it two stars is because it is well written and I do understand that I am perhaps not of the age to enjoy this type of narrative, otherwise deffinately would have been a one star.
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Laughter in the Dark (Twentieth Century Classics)
Laughter in the Dark (Twentieth Century Classics) by Vladimir Nabokov (Paperback - 26 July 1990)
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