Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Fitbit



There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Nabokov surreal romp is the story of Cincinnatus C., somewhere out there in the faceless depths of Middle Europe, who has just been sentenced to a beheading for the crime of "Gnostic turpitude," which must be the legal equivalent of a "Universal Fudge Factor"; a mental construction to give you the "right answer." And the right answer in this case is that Cincinnatus does not fit into society, at least properly, and Nabokov does not dwell on the reason, only that he must leave it for his "crime." Nabokov's style is Fellini meets Kafka.

Almost the entire novel is set in Cincinnatus' jail cell, as he awaits execution. Yes, he is allowed to leave the cell from time to time, and the reader must ponder if the departures are imaginary trips or aspects of Nabokov's surrealism. The director of the jail, Rodion, is often solicitous of his only inmate, and plays psychological games both for his own edification as well as to have Cincinnatus develop complicity in his own fate. Cincinnatus wife, Marthe, has had a long habit of playing him for the cuckold, as she consummates numerous affairs, some quite openly. Cincinnatus' mother, whom he has met only one time before, also pays him a visit... or, as Nabokov injects the possibility, was she just someone sent from "central casting" to play the role? There is also Cincinnatus' lawyer, of the missing cufflinks. Nabokov does manage to establish dramatic tension between the utter pettiness of the other characters' daily concerns (like life writ large?) and the fate of Cincinnatus, who desires to know the date of the execution, and that information is knowingly withheld (again, a parallel with life for all of us.)

No question, Nabokov is a great writer, and the reader experiences his droll wit, for example: "You are very kind," said an additional Cincinnatus, having cleared his throat. "Mercy," exclaimed the director, unmindful of the tactlessness of that word. Or how about rich, evocative metaphors: "...ne dolzhno bilo bi bit - only on the bark of the Russian language could such a fungus bunch of verbs have sprouted."

There is much else in this rather short novel to enjoy, including Cincinnatus reading a 3000 page novel, "Quercus," on an oak tree, that he will never be able to finish. The director's young daughter, Emmie, has to be a precursor of Lolita. In one scene I was reminded of General Jack Ripper, in Doctor Strangelove (Collectors Edition) [DVD] [1963]. There are visits from "M'sieur Pierre, the prison's second inmate, but to discuss further would give the game away. And the reader is invited to his own reflections when Nabokov describes the last things that I dying man will think about.

Despite what at least one other reviewer says, I do believe that this book is highly derivative of Franz Kafka. And it is not up to Nabokov's best writing either, like Pale Fire (Penguin Modern Classics) or even his own autobiography Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (Everyman's Library Classics) For me, far too many of the scenes were too "cute," without broader social or literary purpose. In other words, perhaps the novel was half again too long. Thus, in parts I found it enjoyable, and even informative, but only up to 3-stars.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on July 30, 2010)
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 February 2014
This was a good book but the low rating is because I am comparing it to his others. Good but nowhere near his best
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 March 2003
With the possible exception of juvenilia such as _Glory_, this is the least important and least compelling of Nabokov's works. The dream-like frustration it portrays does not seem to have any emotional impact for the author (in stark contrast to the handling of such situations by Kafka, to whose work this one is inevitably compared). The language is loose and diffuse: the Nabokov of _Lolita_ or _Pnin_ would have told the same story, with more zest and intelligence, in half the words. This (together with _Bend Sinister_) should be at the bottom of your Nabokov list.
0Comment| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 23 July 2016
Arrived safe and sound, thank you.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 February 2016
quick delivery - all good
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 August 2008
A clever enough little tale. Nabokov's renowned way with words is not heavily in evidence here as he opts for a disorientating and broken style, reflecting (presumably) the insubstantial nature of the protagonists. Characters, objects, plotlines, dream sequences - all merge and confound. Like a Francis Bacon painting without the visceral horror. The echoes of Lolita and Kafka, intended or not, are present but Invitation To A Beheading can't really touch either for quality.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 January 2015
Lovely book & arrived quickly & in time for xmas, very happy indeed.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 February 2016
yes
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 January 2011
I don't understand this book.Whenever I don't see the point , I always consider that maybe I'm a stupid fellow. Well I found this book incomprehensibly dense and opaque. Which means that the other critics whose reviews appear above are either clever and perceptive, or outright phonies.
55 Comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse