Read Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov Online

bend-sinister

The first novel Nabokov wrote while living in America and the most overtly political novel he ever wrote, Bend Sinister is a modern classic.  While it is filled with veiled puns and characteristically delightful wordplay, it is, first and foremost, a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught in the tyranny of a police state. It is first and foremost aThe first novel Nabokov wrote while living in America and the most overtly political novel he ever wrote, Bend Sinister is a modern classic.  While it is filled with veiled puns and characteristically delightful wordplay, it is, first and foremost, a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught in the tyranny of a police state. It is first and foremost a compelling narrative about a civilized man and his child caught up in the tyranny of a police state.  Professor Adam Krug, the country's foremost philosopher, offers the only hope of resistance to Paduk, dictator and leader of the Party of the Average Man.  In a folly of bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude, the government attempts to co-opt Krug's support in order to validate the new regime....

Title : Bend Sinister
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780809436231
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 217 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Bend Sinister Reviews

  • Jim Fonseca
    2019-04-26 15:13

    This novel is an early work by Nabokov, published in 1947, eight years before Lolita. It was published at a time when, the Editor’s Preface tells us, Nabokov was acquiring a reputation among “discerning readers.” The title comes from heraldry meaning a leftward tilting band on a coat of arms (tilted like the backslash in an http address).The action takes place in a vaguely East European country that has elected a dictator. Twice the author uses the analogy of a snowball rolling downhill without anyone really noticing as a metaphor for how the dictator came to power. Hmmm…There is not a lot of plot. The main character is a celebrity philosophy professor with a worldwide reputation; apparently the most renowned professor in this small nation. He has just lost his wife and he chooses not to tell his eight-year-son that she has died. The dictator comes to power and his university colleagues learn that the professor and the dictator were chums in school. They want to persuade the professor to use his influence to gain access to the dictator and bring them benefits. The professor will have none of it of course. He tells them his only recollection is that he used to sit on the dictator’s face at recess. “1,000 sittings” he recalls. As the evil begins, and “The Party of the Average Man” turns out to be a combination of Orwell and Kafka, good friends tell the professor that he needs to leave the county with his son while he still can. The good philosophy professor is clueless at even imagining the evil that the dictator will bring to him and to the country. The author wrote a detailed introduction to the work, post-Lolita, in 1963. But the editor warns us in the preface, don’t take it seriously. Nabokov loved to spoof. The author tells us it’s not about politics or dictatorship but about the relationship between the father and the son. That reminds me of Bob Dylan talking about the symbology of “Like a Rolling Stone” and saying, “well, you know, it’s a song about a stone rolling downhill…”As always with Nabokov, you need your dictionary at hand. For example, a few I needed to look up were spatulate, triskelions, aquarelle, ope, gammadion, gaberloon, amorandola, anapaestic, scansion, mnemogenic. There are others. We have great writing, of course. A few samples: “On other nights it used to be a line of lights with a certain lilt, a metrical incandescence with every foot rescanned and prolonged by reflections in the black snaky water.”“Old Azureus’s manner of welcoming people was a silent rhapsody. Ecstatically beaming, slowly, tenderly, he would take your hand between his soft palms, hold it thus as if it were a long sought treasure or a sparrow all fluff and heart, in moist silence, peering at you the while with his beaming wrinkles rather than with his eyes, and then, very slowly, the silvery smile would start to dissolve, the tender old hands would gradually release their hold, a blank expression replace the fervent light of his pale fragile face, and he would leave you as if he had made a mistake…”“O yes – the lighting is poor and one’s field of vision is oddly narrowed as if the memory of closed eyelids persisted intrinsically within the sepia shading of the dream, and the orchestra of the senses is limited to a few native instruments…”We see samples of Nabokov’s synesthesia: “…Krug mentioned once that the word ‘loyalty’ phonetically and visually reminded him of a golden fork lying in the sun on a smooth spread of pale yellow silk…”It’s a good read; thought provoking, but not up to Lolita. Photo of the Berlin Wall from formerdays.com

  • Manny
    2019-04-12 14:11

    It's interesting to compare Bend Sinister with 1984. (Nabokov didn't much like Orwell, and thought he was a hack). Orwell's take on totalitarianism, is, roughly, that it's evil. Nabokov's is more that it's terminally stupid. Even when the rulers of the State would actually prefer to get things right, they've fucked up their minds with nonsensical ideology to the point where they're no longer capable of coherent thought. I wonder whether Nabokov wasn't closer to the truth. In the end, the Soviet Union's collapse seems to be have been, more than anything, due to the simple fact that nothing worked any more. Nabokov suggests that the process starts with dishonesty about artistic choices. There's a very funny passage near the beginning of this book, describing a politically correct version of Hamlet in which things have been reorganized so that Fortinbras is the hero. It's a nice metaphor for what's wrong with the whole system. The scene where Adam is trying to cross the bridge is also a fine piece of black humor. But things rapidly stop being so amusing, and the ending is very tragic indeed.I recall a quote from Viktor Korchnoi that I've always liked. He's trying to explain why chess was so popular in the Soviet Union, and says it's because, try as they would, no one was ever able to define what a bourgeois chess move might be. Think about that for a moment.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2019-03-30 18:07

    Beautiful, then grueling. The first half is stellar, the second half simultaneously disturbingly fascinating and immensely frustrating. Jogging the last lap of the book feels like running with a ferocious wind beating against you, largely due to the otherwise elegant prose getting a but clunky. Despite what is unarguably a beautiful stretch of text, I found myself wanting to slug it down like ice cold water at 4 am after a bender. I felt immense guilt in doing so, as I know from various quotes and the preface to this novel that Nabokov was quite the priss about paying attention to every last detail of anything worth reading, of slowly and meditatively taking the words in as if every last one of them was a rare, pricey truffle. Unfortunately, he made the entrance to his world so coated in thorny vines that only the most patient of individuals could truly give it the attention it demands in order to sufficiently work through it. To clarify a potential offense, I initially said that the prose gets "clunky," but by that I did not mean "poorly written." Rather, I mean so self-aware, so thickly descriptive that it seems less concerned with conveying a story than with just looking purdy. It's sort of like a show poodle: you don't own that sort of dog and groom it that way because it's going to take care of your mouse problem. Terrible analogy, and I apologize to you and your memory, Mr. Nabokov, but you haven't left me with a lot of outs here. In short, it feels like I experienced-didn't-experience this novel. However, the first chapter in particular is one of the more gorgeous parallels I have seen drawn between the circle of human life and the cycle of nature to cityscape to urban decay; of the birth of romance, the flowering of a family, of death, and of the pain of inevitable loss such devotion begs of the devotee, and of the tiny shoots of life that rise from and are fertilized by the ashes. There are dozens of other instances of such fantastic stretches of text sprinkled throughout, making it an absolutely worthwhile, albeit ultimately somewhat disappointing novel. Reading it felt like, I don't know, attempting to court a cold and distant lover? Trying to teach algebra to a 6 year old? I am having trouble getting my point across here, so my apologies if this review just reads like a ramble. I'm in review-block-mode, but I'm trying to shake it off. Anyway, it's a great book, but it ain't no beach read. That's all I'm saying.Upside: this made me really want to re-watch Brazil, so I think I'm going to try and do that today. I'm absolutely certain that you all wanted to know that.

  • nostalgebraist
    2019-03-26 15:11

    The more Nabokov I read, the more I feel that he wrote a set of three very good novels that make sense as novels -- Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada -- and that everything outside that central trilogy consists of more unformed, less intelligible versions of the same material he used in the trilogy, awaiting a context that would make sense of it.If you read the trilogy first, then reading more Nabokov is a very strange experience. The trilogy flaunts its unreliable narrators and appears, transparently, to be "about" things like bad taste, or the interaction between aesthetics and ethics, or self-absorption. This allows many of Nabokov's typical quirks to be pinned on the narrators or the "themes," which makes sense of them in a normal literary context and allows one to imagine that Nabokov is behaving something like a ordinary author, deliberately choosing his material for effect. But in his other fiction the very same quirks simply float freely about, with no justifying pretext and no illuminating context.Bend Sinister is a particularly prickly example of this phenomenon. Most of Nabokov's quirks are here. The extraordinarily fussy selection of details, which in the trilogy often seems to be intended ironically (self-absorbed narrators writing encomia to the curvature of their fiddles as Rome burns), is given free rein in Bend Sinister without any apparent thematic weight. To me it was often pretty annoying, as was the way he compulsively, as if scratching an itch, disrupts the natural flow of novelistic narration, not really for any purpose except a general sense that banality must be avoided at all costs. There are sentences in here that are mature works of art, and then there are sentences that feel like they've just gotten crazy haircuts to shock their moms.In other words, it's a very mixed bag. And a bag where it's hard to see how the particular mixture we're getting has any artistic intent behind it. There are emotionally resonant passages here right next to sneering and coldly distant ones; there are spot-on parodies of bureaucracy alongside episodes that make it seem like Nabokov's problem with totalitarianism is that it is the brainchild of men who were once weird scrawny little playground victims, and not healthy virile bullies like our protagonist.There are passages of hazy, metaphor-clogged philosophizing about time and space and death, just like in Speak, Memory and Ada. There are, as in virtually everything by Nabokov, screeds against the idea of "social relevance" in art that take the stage unexpectedly and without any apparent connection to the surrounding action. There is -- did you really think there wouldn't be? -- a seemingly pointless subplot involving sexual tension between the adult protagonist and an underage girl. I don't know why Nabokov insisted on putting that kind of thing in so many of his stories, but the more I read the less comfortable I am with theories that it all somehow makes sense in context, that the creepiness can be beaten back into the darkness with the sword of interpretation. None of these weird fixations make sense in every context N puts them in. He just puts them wherever he feels like. Sometimes it works, for a non-Nabokovian value of the word "works," and sometimes it doesn't. His worst moments feel like parodies of his best moments; the level of quality is inverted yet the subject matter remains the same.I can't resist one example. Coming home on the subway while drunk, I pulled out Bend Sinister and, after a few rocky but essentially manageable paragraphs, was confronted with the following sentence:They separated and he caught a glimpse of her pale, dark-eyed, not very pretty face with its glistening lips as she slipped under his door-holding arm and after one backward glance from the first landing ran upstairs trailing her wrap with all its constellation — Cepheus and Cassiopeia in their eternal bliss, and the dazzling tear of Capella, and Polaris the snowflake on the grizzly fur of the Cub, and the swooning galaxies — those mirrors of infinite space qui m’effrayent, Blaise, as they did you, and where Olga is not, but where mythology stretches strong circus nets, lest thought, in its ill-fitting tights, should break its old neck instead of rebouncing with a hep and a hop — hopping down again into this urine-soaked dust to take that short run with the half pirouette in the middle and display the extreme simplicity of heaven in the acrobat’s amphiphorical gesture, the candidly open hands that start a brief shower of applause while he walks backwards and then, reverting to virile manners, catches the little blue handkerchief, which his muscular flying mate, after her own exertions, takes from her heaving hot bosom — heaving more than her smile suggests — and tosses to him, so that he may wipe the palms of his aching weakening hands."This must just seem this way because I'm drunk," I thought, and closed the book. But the next morning the sentence was still there, just as baffling. It's not just that it's long and tangled and difficult to make sense of -- there are writers who write that way all the time, and at least with them you know what you're getting. Nabokov, on the other hand, just throws something like this at you with no warning, in the midst of much more intelligible stuff.One often hears Nabokov described as some sort of master or virtuoso. But to me, reading books like this, what stands out is an apparent lack of control. You never know what you'll get in the next page or paragraph, and ultimately the book has to be taken as a set of individual moments, varying greatly in quality, rather than a unified whole. (The question that remains is: when Nabokov does come together, as he does in the trilogy, is that deliberate, or is it just the blindly thrown dart hitting the bullseye a few times by sheer chance?)This has been a much more negative review than I set out to write, because ultimately this is a very enjoyable book, full of beautiful and hilarious moments, albeit also full of creepy or irritating or just plain ineffectual ones. As a story it is striving for dreamlike horror and the diversity of its contents does feel, in a funny way, much like a dream, and in the end I guess that makes the book work more than it feels like it should.

  • Ian
    2019-04-23 12:10

    Sinistral JestSeveral GR reviews call this novel a mess. I think this is an understatement: I’d go as far as to call it a quagmire. It takes just 200 pages to bog the reader down, although the process starts and succeeds much earlier than that. As Nabokov said of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake”, it’s “formless and dull”, “a frightful bore”, “a cold pudding of a book”, and “a tragic failure”. This is second rate Nabokov. Even masters have their off days.Paradoxically, Nabokov alludes to “Finnegan’s Wake”, both in the novel (as “Winnepeg Lake”) and in the Introduction he published in the 1964 edition, where he describes Joyce as the “other rivermaid’s father”.The Introduction seems to be a vain attempt to resurrect the status of Nabokov’s novel, which in his words made “a dull thud” on its original publication in 1947. Yet, even Nabokov questions whether it’s worth drawing attention to his own (post-) modernist gimmicks and sophistication:“It may be asked if it is really worth an author’s while to devise and distribute these delicate markers whose very nature requires that they be not too conspicuous.”The Anthropomorphic Deity of Post-ModernismYou could ask whether Nabokov needed to expressly alert us to his metafiction in chapter 5, where the self-conscious narrator says:“But among the producers or stagehands responsible for the setting there has been one...it is hard to express it...a nameless, mysterious genius who took advantage of the dream to convey his own peculiar code message.”In the Introduction, Nabokov confesses that the genius is “an anthropomorphic deity impersonated by me.” Ah! The wonders of metafiction!ParonomasiaStrangely, Nabokov also attacks his own punning and wordplay, one of the features the novel shares with “Finnegan’s Wake”:“Paronomasia is a kind of verbal plague, a contagious sickness in the world of words…”A Discussion of General IdeasOf course, to the extent that the novel is regarded as dystopian fiction about totalitarian states like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Nabokov questions how it might be achieved aesthetically:“There exist few things more tedious than a discussion of general ideas inflicted by author or reader upon a work of fiction.”He then asserts:“The story in ’Bend Sinister’ is not really about life and death in a grotesque police state”, even if someone uses this classic line:“You are not the police and so cannot bribe me.”The opponents of the protagonist, Adam Krug, are “only absurd mirages, illusions oppressive to Krug during his brief spell of being, but harmlessly fading away when I dismiss the cast.”The novel (and the imagination in general) are, nevertheless, perhaps a defence against totalitarianism, against “letting your person dissolve in the virile oneness of the State.”The Allusions of a Pottering DotardSo let’s have a quick squizling at the role of allusion and appropriation in the novel.Nabokov doesn’t just allude to “Finnegan’s Wake”, but he reveals that he alludes to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (he turns Polonius into “a pottering dotard in a padded robe”) and Mallarme’s poem “The Afternoon of a Faun”.The Hamlet allusions seem to be disingenuous. Nabokov himself says:“In this crazy-mirror of terror and art a pseudo-quotation made up of obscure Shakespeareanisms somehow produces, despite its lack of literal meaning, the blurred diminutive image of the acrobatic performance that so gloriously supplies the bravura ending for the next chapter.”Is this Nabokov damning himself with faint praise? The influence of Mallarme can be found in the references to shade and shadows in the first page and chapter 17 (and elsewhere):“I wait the shade that you became.”Nabokov tells us that Adam Krug is “haunted” by the poem, and who are we to doubt it!The Sinistral Detail of a Monstrous JokeNo doubt, the alert reader will find many such “delicate markers” in the novel, if they’re prepared to search. Though Nabokov warns us against the waste of effort:“My own tribulations, all those petty theatrical intrigues I have just described, will, I am afraid, seem as trivial to you as they now seem to me.”And later:“Note the sinistral detail (Why? Ah, that is the question!)”And earlier:“The good doctors distributed the sheets with the celerity that a conjuror and his assistant display when passing around for inspection articles which should not be examined too closely...”“It bristled with farcical anachronisms.”Too right!Some Leisurely BookNabokov writes in the body of the novel:“...the greatest masterpiece of imitation presupposed a voluntary limitation of thought, in submission to another man’s genius. Could this suicidal limitation and submission be compensated by...the keen pleasure that the weaver of words and their witness experienced at every new wile in the warp…?”For the moment, I can only respond "No!" and, as Nabokov said of Krug:“A rush of second-rate inspiration and somewhat precious imagery kept him going nicely.”Him, but not necessarily the novel. (“In due time what intelligence I have left will be dovetailed into some leisurely book.”)Some Fatuous HoaxKrug himself at one point asks ”if this is not some fatuous hoax?” And readers might well join him.In the tradition of “Finnegan’s Wake”, the novel begins and ends in the same (oblong) puddle. (Or did he mean “muddle”?) (Krug, after all, being the Russian word for “circle”.) So the novel is, apparently, structured as a Vico-esque never-ending circle surrounding an oblong puddle/muddle, a circumference built around a rectangle.SOUNDTRACK:(view spoiler)[The Flaming Lips - "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVsyJ...The Flaming Lips - "Free Radicals"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwlC0...The Flaming Lips - "In the Morning of the Magicians"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jTuK...The Fall - "Living Too Late" (from the album "Bend Sinister")https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLTE...Adult Net - "Tiffany Tuesday"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJOnB...Gaslight Radio - "Tarmac & Line"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miiRE...CHVRCHES - "Never Ending Circles"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU9_0... (hide spoiler)]

  • Szplug
    2019-03-31 16:55

    Yeah, I don't have any idea what to say here. So much beautiful writing that time and again I wanted to freeze the moment and savor against the lengthening shadows the sublime and playful wit that infuses this silky, slinky prose, the arch elegance drawn taut and set to run with the wind. The man had a gift, an effortless, supple skill with the pen that is a pleasure to behold; too pleasurable perhaps—for as another reviewer astutely points out, it is written so beautifully as to be distracting. The tragicomedy unfolding within the words is a polished pearl—but the way that the words themselves continually dance and entwine with and about each other, explode in frisky chase or shiver and leap in gay abandon across a prismatic play of light, tend to draw the reader away from the story and hold him in thrall to the magic of the moment; thus one star slips away into evanescence, leaving four to proclaim its exceptionality.One thing: Krug is Gurk spelled backwards; hence do I posit that the bridge truly sets the stage—idealogue Hamlet aside—for this voyage of the Ship of Fools.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-03-28 17:09

    “Nothing on earth really matters, there is nothing to fear, and death is but a question of style, a mere literary device, a musical resolution.” ― Vladimir Nabokov, Bend SinisterMy bookshelf is growing bigger every day with new fantastic fairytales of fascism, dynamic doggerels of dystopia. Of course there is Orwell's seminal 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. There are also (move aside high-school dystopias) Koestler's Darkness at Noon, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and almost all of Kafka's well-kooked, absurd oeuvre (The Trial, The Castle, etc). Keep looking, yes right there, you almost missed another fantastic novel by Nabokov - Invitation to a Beheading. I love them all. They all hurt. They all confuse. They are belligerent in their sadness and show exactly how absurd bureaucracy and government and modernity are. Oh, and they all owe a helluva lot of DNA (at least from the angle I'm sitting and the mirror I'm looking at) to their slanted father Dostoevsky. There is madness in all the punished and stupidity in all the enforcers. Bureaucracy's worst enemy is itself, but we are all its casualties. All of these books are works of genius and all capture a part of the dark river. Taken together, however, they seem to contain much of the anger, fear and reality of the modern state. So, it isn't just Orwell that nailed our dystopian reality, our reality seems to weep out of all these works into pools that really do reflect the closed, confused and soul-tearing aspect of modern government.I can't stop thinking of Krug walking back and forth on a bridge, trapped between the guards on both sides of the bridge. One side can't read, and refuses to sign his travel documents. The other side won't accept his documents without signatures. There exists a banality of evil, like Hannah Arendt pointed out years ago in Eichmann in Jerusalem , but there is more often just an incompetence of evil, a stupidity of power that seems to baffle me every day as I read the news about police in NM doing anal probes because a man appeared to clench his butt or a man being arrested in OH for having a secret compartment in his car (nothing illegal in it, just something that could contain something bad. A blank page that could have Slander written on it, or could be set on fire). Left unchecked, there is nothing stupidity+power can't F-up. Good morning AmeriKa!

  • Anthony Vacca
    2019-04-13 16:16

    And here's Nabokov's stab at the dystopian novel. Not a fan of Orwell's portrayal of oppressive regimes (although this could be some eventual jealousy on Vlad's part since his book came out two years prior and was not instantly hailed a prophetic classic like 1984), Nabokov goes for broke showing these tinkertoy political powers as nothing more than bilious mixtures of pettiness, stupidity and brute nature. Nabokov swears (lies) in the amusingly/annoyingly arrogant forward of the 1961 edition that this, his second novel written in English, has nothing to do with actual human experience or political allegory, but instead exists as a blank slate for the writer (Nabokov himself, natch) to masterfully masturbate to his own prowess. The novel concerns Dr. Adam Krug –an important and world renown philosopher—and his stance against his country’s brand-spanking-new fascist regime which is lorded over by Paduk a.k.a. The Toad, a nasty and effeminate bully who Krug himself bullied back in their schoolmate youths. Krug has little interest in playing the role of subversive freedom fighter as most of his thoughts are troubled with the recent and tragic loss of his wife and also with his responsibilities to his only son, a young, sweet-hearted boy named David. Bend Sinister is a wonderfully snarky farce, full of language games, self-referential hijinks, and inventive narrative tricks. Nabokov plays mean-spirited god over his characters, pushing them about the page towards their awful fates; but in spite of all of his authorial bravado, a fraying blanket of tenderness swaddles the narrative, adding extra heft to the banal madness of the truly terrible final fifty pages.

  • Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside)
    2019-04-02 17:20

    Let me get this out of the way first: I have a lot of respect for 1984. It's a good book. It's a great book, in fact. George Orwell was a master at his craft.But Bend Sinister is so amazing, so delicious and so emotionally deep that as good as 1984 is, Bend Sinister still manages to feel like "1984 done right." Nabokov uses the full force of his incredibly nuanced, unique command of language to paint a picture of a totalitarian regime. His images are beautiful and stunning, and the story at the book's heart is disturbing and relevant to our time.I think this is one of his best works, right up there with Lolita, and it deserves to be read, particularly by fans of dystopian fiction and by aspiring writers. There is no one better to study than Vladimir Nabokov, who could pack so much imagery and complexity of emotion and character into a slim little novel like Bend Sinister. This one has a rare permanent place on my book shelf.

  • Edward
    2019-03-31 12:55

    Another reviewer here has described Bend Sinister as “a hot mess”, which so perfectly and economically encapsulates the matter that I am tempted to just leave it there. What follows is largely an attempt to restate this in somewhat more refined terms, and to shroud myself in protective caveats and disclaimers, so as to guard against accusations of boorishness for failing to award at least four stars to a work of the great master.Therefore I present the following as evidence in my defense: I am a lover of the works of Nabokov - Lolita and Pale Fire are among my favorite books (Exhibit A), and all other of his works which I have read, I have enjoyed. While some people dislike his style, I am generally a fan. Bend Sinister, however, is not a very good book. There is a fractal nature to the problems of this book: the closer one looks, the more of them are revealed.Firstly, the writing. The language in Lolita is wonderful - the words burst forth, smooth and pure, sonorous and elegant and frictionless as water cascading gently over smooth pebbles. I will concede that there are times in Bend Sinister where Nabokov does demonstrate a similar mastery - in fact these occasions are not infrequent- but just so much of the book is characterized by what can only be described as clunky and unwieldy writing - overwrought description, unbelievable dialogue, entire paragraphs poorly and clumsily phrased. At times I felt like I was reading an early draft.The biggest problem with the writing - more so than the style itself - is the fact that at every opportunity it simply gets in the way. It's often said that a great writer can make himself disappear; to become transparent and immerse the reader in the narrative. Instead, here, Nabokov's presence is felt on every page, at every turn. The flow is constantly interrupted for some whim or other. There is the sensation that Nabokov himself is right there, bodily, in the room with the other characters, interjecting, making silly faces, and competing with them for your attention. In the rare moments when the author deigns to step aside and allow the narrative to flow, the actual story is good! It's interesting and compelling, but you can be assured that it will only be a matter of moments before Mr Nabokov has reinserted himself into the frame, sporting a self-important grin, like a bonehead in a news broadcast.But above all, Bend Sinister is a hot mess because it completely lacks any sort of artistic unity of vision. It feels like a hodgepodge of partial anecdotes, half fleshed-out ideas, hasty plot machinations and poor characterization. I am convinced that Nabokov had a notebook filled with assorted unfinished ideas and simply tried to stitch them together into a single novel. And while there are many outstanding and worthwhile moments (of course there are - I don't mean to give the impression that this book is completely without merit), as a singular work of literature it simply falls apart.

  • Meriam Kharbat
    2019-04-21 12:07

    One would think that after the horror of the war had ended, people would have an optimistic vision of the future, that artists would see la vie en rose. However, when you read the books published in the same year the song came out 1947, they all seem to share this horrible idea of what is to come. Bend Sinister isn't any different.As Nabokov puts it: “People are made to live together, to do business with one another, to talk, to sing songs together, to meet in clubs and stores, and street corners […] and not to sit alone thinking dangerous thoughts.”When you start thinking dangerous thoughts, you find yourself suspended in the abyss that stands in between a glorious future and a horrifying past. Maybe that was the case for authors such as Hemmingway, Orwell and even Nabokov who marked the decade with their inspirational work on the brutality of war and its aftermath. Bend sinister is about the bad turns of events in a man’s life. How a peaceful and a respectful philosophy professor descents into sheer madness, step by step, after losing his wife, his closest friends and finally his son. My favorite passage from the book has little to do with the plot and a lot more with the essence of Krug’s philosophy: “He had never indulged in the search for the True Substance, the One, the Absolute, the Diamond suspended from the Christmas Tree of the Cosmos. He had always felt the faint ridicule of a finite mind peering at the iridescence of the invisible through the prison bars of integers. And even if the Thing could be caught, why should he, or anybody else for that matter, wish the phenomenon to lose its curls, its mask, its mirror, and become the bald noumenon? On the other hand, if (as some of the wiser neo-mathematicians thought) the physical world could be said to consist of measure groups (tangles of stresses, sunset swarms of electric midgets) moving like mouches volantes on a shadowy background that lay outside the scope of physics, then, surely, the meek restriction of one's interest to measuring the measurable smacked of the most humiliating futility. Take yourself away, you, with your ruler and scales! For without your rules, in an Unscheduled event other than the paper chase of science, barefooted Matter does overtake Light.…Now let us have this quite clear. What is more important to solve: the 'outer' problem (space, time, matter, the unknown without) or the 'inner' one (life, thought, love, the unknown within) or again their point of contact (death)? For we agree, do we not, that problems as problems do exist even if the world be something made of nothing within nothing made of something. Or is outer' and 'inner' an illusion too, so that a great' mountain may be said to stand a thousand dreams high and hope and terror can be as easily charted as the capes and bays they helped to name? Answer! Oh, that exquisite sight: a wary logician picking his way among the thorn bushes and pitfalls of thought, marking a tree or a cliff (this I have passed, this Nile is settled), looking back ('in other words') and cautiously testing some quaggy ground (now let us proceed —); having his carload of tourists stop at the base of a metaphor or Simple Example (let us suppose that an elevator —); pressing on, surmounting all difficulties and finally arriving in triumph at the very first tree he had marked! And then, thought Krug, on top of everything, I am a slave of images. We speak of one thing being like some other thing when what we are really craving to do is to describe something that is like nothing on earth. Certain mind pictures had become so adulterated by the concept of 'time' that we have come to believe in the actual existence of a permanently moving bright fissure (the point of perception) between our retrospective eternity which we cannot recall and the prospective one which we cannot know. We are not really able to measure time because no gold second is kept in a case in Paris but, quite frankly, do you not imagine a length of several hours more exactly than a length of several miles? And now, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the problem of death. It may be said with as fair an amount of truth as is practically available that to seek perfect knowledge is the attempt of a point in space and time to identify itself with every other point; death is either the instantaneous gaining of perfect knowledge (similar say to the instantaneous disintegration of stone and ivy composing the circular dungeon where formerly the prisoner had to content himself with only two small apertures optically fusing into one; whilst now, with the disappearance of all walls, he can survey the entire circular landscape), or absolute nothingness, nichto.” I’m starting to appreciate this fluent and beautiful style of Nabokov writing (Although to be honest, he confuses me a lot with his excessive usage of brackets).Surprisingly I didn't appreciate not one female character depicted in the book.

  • AC
    2019-04-07 15:10

    I have not finished yet -- and I don't know if I will then actually write a review when I do. After all, what can I say or add or... why should I comment... on works of art? Pieces of crap deserve comment. It's obligatory. Works on objective material -- books on history or sociology or entomology or prosody -- can be commented upon or corrected or endorsed...; but ...?-- well, that's just me, maybe.Anyway -- this is a truly magnificent book. Don't be mislead by some of the less than enthusiastic ratings offered on goodreads. I can't say whether it is nearly as good as the books I haven't read yet..., obviously -- but that's neither there nor here.One point, though.Nabokov, of course, had a son -- and the emotional power of this book is inseparable from that fact.

  • Inderjit Sanghera
    2019-04-24 19:15

    On the face of it, Bend Sinister is an unusual novel. Nabokov, a self-proclaimed politically apathetic writer, writes a novel about the rise of newly formed dictatorship in a fictitious country. Yet, despite this, Bend Sinister is fundamentally not a political book, or even a book about politics per se, but is more a book about love, or in this case, paternal love, and just as the object of that paternal love dies and is removed from the novel, so the narrator himself, in a miracle of involution, realises that the real tyrant is not the petty tyrant Paduk, but the author of the novel which Adam is trapped in, the unseen narrator who follows Adam wherever he goes, who Adam constantly catches brief glimpses of in various parts of the novel, such as on the bridge, the author who famously referred to his characters as "galley slaves" and who controls all of the characters in the novel. Adam's realisation of his own fictionality spirals into a descent into insanity and the end of the novel.What are the other themes of the Bend Sinister, aside from Adam's relationship and love for his son? Namely, the miracle of conciousness and of each individual persons contemplation and experience of life. The novel is set just after the a coup d'etat in which a political party 'The Party of the Average Man' influenced by a philosophy called Ekwilism, which disparages individuality and seeks to convert all of its citizens into parts of the all encompassing "state". However, in seeking to deny us our individuality, the state also denies to us all that makes us human, and our appreciation of the world around us vanishes as it rests purely on each individuals observations of the world around them.Unlike certain political novels about totalitarian regimes, Nabokov does not seek to make the state in his novel all powerful, or even half competent. The leader is a grotesque figure who was bullied by Adam at school and whose party leaders are leftovers of the freaks and grotesques of society. The petty bureaucrats and party members who were encounter in the novel are constantly seen as being incompetent, consistently bumbling or engaging in bawdy jokes or mindless fawning, indeed so idiotic is the state that it fails to realise that the key to gaining Adam's cooperation is not via capturing his friends, but by capturing his son, the sole thing Adam loves in the world, though, paradoxically the states inability to process emotions such as love mean it is unable to grasp this until Adam informs a secret agent of it. The novel is full of dark humour, there is a scene when secret agents of the state are attempting to capture a friend of Adam's and decide to send two organ grinders incognito to spy on them, unaware of the ridiculousness of having two such conspicuous individual in a covert mission or the nanny sent to spy on Adam and his son who makes it so obvious that she is a secret agent that is borders to the point of parody. Indeed, parody is a key element of the novel, as Nabokov himself stated "parody is a game, satire a lesson", the state itself is a parody of the many Soviet-esque autocracies that were springing about the world (and also a parody of any autocracy of any sort) and the ridiculous nature of the dialogue between the state officials, including several ribaldrous conversations between lustful (which also functions as an anagram of slutful, an apt description of certain characters) point to the black humour which dominates the novel, a black humour which is soon undermined by the tragic death of Adam's son, who is tortured the death due to a bureaucratic mix up. It is only then that we see that the incompetent members of the state, whose action perpetually descend into farce, are also people who wield power and the cruelty and tyranny behind their power.

  • Cody
    2019-04-02 16:11

    (Lightning Review)The best is the unravel. You'll know it when you get to it. Hi-five to Vacca, he'll get this when he reads it. Revelation: all is not what it seems.Lightning review grade: sourdough

  • Madison Santos
    2019-03-28 16:11

    Looks like I might be getting my first publishing credit from the MLA this winter for a new set of annotations for Bend Sinister. Will update accordingly!

  • William Herschel
    2019-04-02 12:50

    oh, Nabokov.Your prose is extremely sexy. And I don't mean you're always describing Lolitas and Adas and the like, but the way you describe and isolate the little every-days and play them every-which-way and turn them inside-out and make them oh-so-clever. You have written the most sensual things I've ever had the pleasure of reading often without the shedding of a single garment.And this, a novel of governing gone terribly wrong in the form of political dystopia wherein to achieve true human enlightenment everyone must be the same. Disharmony in individuality. I read Nabokov's own words on his novels with great caution. He dismisses and scorns all comparisons (1984? Awful! Kafkaesque? Absurd! (ha)) and comes across as so pretentious but in this regard I could not agree more to drop any comparison to 1984 whatsoever. This isn't a novel highlighting how evil and grotesque such a governmental form is but really a focus on a widower and his son, and he coping with his own philosophies and ever more absurd surroundings, that go from a comical nightmare to a horrifying night-terror -- and one also sees the toying with one's own characters, from prodding to the melting point of author and protagonist.I am just totally disappointed I felt left out of an entire chapter for not knowing Hamlet or Shakespeare, which is something I hope I take the time to correct and then reread.

  • Lee Kofman
    2019-04-17 18:14

    Quite a few times as I read this novel I felt stupid; for the life of me I couldn’t understand what Nabokov was on about, particularly in the passages pertaining to the work of the main character, the philosopher Krug. Then at other times, particularly in the last quarter of the book, I was so engrossed by the narrative that I forgot where I was. This novel was a hard work but mostly in the good sense of this expression. As I read it I felt this was the right book at the right time to read politically but also to sharpen my brain. To be honest, I think I’ll be a better writer, and person, if I keep reading novels that occasionally make me feel like an idiot. This would put me right into the famous Socratic mode of wisdom where you are finally ready to admit how little you know. Back to Nabokov, while some passages were a bit trodden paths for me, possibly because of how much I already know about the daily absurdities of totalitarian regimes, I recognize this book as just another manifestation of its author’s genius. Plus, it’s damn funny.

  • Claudia Serbanescu
    2019-04-26 19:11

    ''Blazon de bastard'' ( sau ''Bend sinister'') conține o lume distopică, în care veți regăsi metodele prin care se instalează totalitarismul într-o societate. Veți afla (dacă nu ați trăit în România înainte de 1989) cum dictatura de inspirație sovietică și nazistă confiscă, modelează sau distruge individul liber-cugetător în scopul nivelării conștiințelor și al instaurării controlului total și definitiv asupra unei comunități. O lume în care viața este posibilă doar în absența iubirii, uscat sufletește. Sau dacă te lași purtat pe undele nebuniei în afara minții tale.O carte pe care am citit-o într-o stare de teribilă angoasă. Dramatismul din capitolul 17 este aproape imposibil de suportat.

  • Jenelle
    2019-04-16 18:11

    what'll happen to love, interior life, and the butterflies in a dystopian world??I'm always charmed by Nabokov's willingness to bore & lose his reader, and this one, his first American novel, is particularly full of tricks. partly they're there to suggest the confusion & bewilderment felt under an absurd totalitarian rule, but partly Nab's just playing. it's like writing in English is still so novel & thrilling for him! even thicker than normal with poetry, puns & reference, it's much too much for a single read but I don't exactly feel hurried to read it a second time. per usual: written so beautifully as to be distracting.

  • Jon Zelazny
    2019-04-26 15:15

    Gave up on page 40. Hideous writing, hopelessly repellant characters, no apparent story.

  • wally
    2019-04-21 13:56

    this here is...the second? third? from nabokov i will read...the previous some time ago. this one sounds like a hoot...there is an editor's preface that is short and sweet...and glowing...and there is an introduction by the author that is...well...either one, full of himself...or...like charlie brown's teacher....mwaw! mwaw mwaw! mwa maaa mwaw!nobokov...telling the reader about all of the rich detail he installed for our reading pleasure...all of it interesting, to be fair. adds to the temptation factor.beginsan oblong puddle inset in the coarse asphalt; like a fancy footprint filled to the brim with quicksilver; like a spatulate hole through which you can see the nether sky. surrounded, i note, by a diffuse tentacled black dampness where some dull dun dead leaves have stuck. drowned, i should say, before the puddle had shrunk to its present size.this image is repeated, nobokov tells the reader in his introduction, throughout the story, repeated in other forms...hmmmmm.onward and upward.updateplacesprinzin hospitalomigod lanethe bridgethe kur (river)peregolm lanethe universitya police stationthe maximov'slake malheurskotoma palacezud, court of justicecharacters or cariacatures, either waythis list is not completeadam krug...lives peregolm laneolga krug, his wife, the operation has not been successful and his wife will diedavid krug, their son, age 8dr. wollisonekwilist soldiersgurk, bervokthe pale grocer (bridge scene)claudina, servant of krug familythe toad, padukviola, sister of olgafradrik skotoma, whose work became "ekwilism"university president azureusdr. alexander, ass't lecturer in biodynamicshedron the mathematicianrufel, political scienceedmond beuret, prof of french literaturegleeman, the medievalistorlik the zoologistthe maximovs, anna and schimpffer, from krug's childhood, a schoolmateummmmreminds me of Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut...this idea of "ekwilism"...the philosophy of skotoma twisted by the toad,"at every given level of world-time there was...a certain computable amount of human consciousness distributed throughout the population of the world. this distribution was uneven and herein lay the root of all our woes. human beings...were so many vessels containing unequal portions of this essentially uniform consciousness. it was...quite possible...to regulate the capacity of human vessels.""he [skotoma] introduced the idea of balance as a basis for universal bliss and called his theory 'ekwilism'."and this is where the similarities w/vonnegut's story come into play, wherein after his death, skotoma's vague and benevolent theory "transformed (while retaining its name) into a violent and virulent political doctrine." spiritual uniformity will be enforced through the medium of the army...through the supervision of a bloated and dangerously divine state.young paduk instituted the party of the average man.and yet, when the scholars are gathered, called there [by azureus and alexander] to sign this paper to be sent to the toad/paduk, the ruler...krug, "given to understand...that this [the individual copies/signatures] would lend a dash of individuality to every copy....but krug thought he recognized in the apparent imbecility of the procedure the eerie ways of the toad."so...? ekwilism has been hard at work and is working? heh! throughout that scene, each professor is described/defined by his individual focus of study...specialists all...and so like this puddle at the start...i believe nabokov described that as a cell...and the other images that follow...an hour-glass for one...was there an ink-blot?...more to come? yes. there's this section that is a re-reading of hamlet..."the author of hamlet...has created the tragedy of the masses and thus had founded the sovereignty of society over the individual." the hero is fortinbras...it is not the ghost of old hamlet, but fortinbras's old man...heh.updatefinished, 10:04 p.m. e.s.t. 3 jul 12, tuesday evening, a full moon...sill light out, dusk, sun must have set ten fifteen minutes ago...another ten fifteen before dark...good story.nabokov's introduction, something that seemed written by someone full-of-himself...is...what? he pointed to all these images, symbols, whatnots...all clearly there in the story...yet the tone seemed condescending...patronizing....like, here it is, simple readers....blah blah blah.the ending is that...an ending...a good night for mothing. to say more is spoilage. so...this was nabokov's first in english? first something or other? in it, one can read traces of the...pedophilia present in what is it? lolita? yes? and more? i dunno. i haven't read them all.in this one, it is that, pedophilia, state-sanctioned.i like the idea that this dystopia is also a part and parcel of the academy...all those specialists, all signing off on the new utopia. there's a quaint scene w/some news-forken w/typewriters on their knees. nabokov wasn't into vision, hey? like some of the sci-fi writers? yeah, okay, typewriters here...time and all, give the poor hog a break.some phrasing i liked...from the editor and nabokov early on..." dim-brained brutality which thwarts its own purpose." and "the levers of love" two phrases that seem to apply to today as much as then, as to this talei found this idea odd, given our world: "one crime that can never, never be forgiven; and that is carelessness in the performance of one's official duty." yet today, when the fundacrats screw-up they are given a basic little chat...and then promoted to the field office in muncie, indiana. or i am reading it all wrong.another phrase that titillates: "a journalist called ballplayer." heh! priceless.effundated...evil allowed to escape...hmmmm...yeah, you betcha. permitted, watched, recorded, w/a scientist's detached madness. when was the last time...five minutes ago? you read an article by some ballplayer telling of some chump nigger released from prison, his list of crimes as long as one's arm, violating again...till some citizen shoots his ass dead? ah, we're not to denigrate the different, and we shall adjudicate hybridity in all its forms.additionalso, nabokov inserts himself as author several times...makes his presence known...tongue-in-cheek...trying to find an example in my notes, all scribbles...but there are times, say like when a characteristic is being described, and nabokov comes in to say why or why not something is relevant, or remembered...back again: yes, he writes, paraphrased: "this is my favorite character"...krug, one of about a half dozen times he jumps into the narrative.there's a time when nabokov uses the expression "politically incorrect"...thought that was curious...for this was published in 1947...paduk says at one point: :when a cell in an organism says "leave me alone," the result is cancer.krug, of course, saying all the while, leave me alone...all those images of cells, inkblots, etc...there's an interesting phrase on 153, interesting in light of reading The Tunnel from William H. Gass...krug is described, philosophers, their actions, the result, in metaphor....and krug's taking apart the systems of others "turned out to be the gradual digging of a pit to accommodate pure smiling madness." the phrase could be taken verbatim and inserted in gass's text...seems to me...as the song has it.another addition upon a start of Giles Goat-Boy from John Barth, this to-do w/the padograph, a device that paduk's inventor father created, the "only contraption which was destined to have some commercial success." a 'portable affair' like a typewriter, the padograph when provided numerous specimens of one's penmanship, the device would in-turn turn out your individual padograph. a kind of mimicry...whose potential should be obvious......this addition here because of the wescac in giles goat-boy, the computer that shares some of the same characteristics of the device paduk's old man invented. wescac is a computer, a kind of editor-machine...i've just started barth's story, but the linkages from one to the other are intriguing.

  • Simon Hollway
    2019-04-26 17:06

    A mixed bag. Boyd claims that Nabokov would spend 6 months preparing a novel in his head and only after it had settled and formed metaphysically would he put pen to paper. Often during this transcription, the next cab would pull up to the rank and Vlad was already assimilating the following book. This is the only way I can explain Bend Sinister. Lolita had elbowed its brilliance into his head whilst he was pulling Bend Sinister together and he just had to get shot of it. The similarly themed Invitation to a Beheading is streets ahead. However, as Nabokov is the finest writer since God invented Jilly Cooper, there are still 6 star flashes here...just not enough. A bit of an oddity really.

  • K.A. Laity
    2019-04-05 16:57

    I was actually reading Pale Fire when I decided to switch to Bend Sinister, mostly because I decided I would probably have to buy my own copy of Pale Fire because I was making too many notes and it would be easier to just put them in the book and that wouldn't be good to do with the library's copy.I learn all my new words from Nabokov.I had already written down tons of new words from Pale Fire, but I found myself writing quotes from Bend Sinister instead. I alluded in my Hamlet review to Ember's theory about the play: fascinating and fun. The playfulness is what makes Nabokov's work attractive. Krug's observation of Ember's engravings sets the scene visually but also working toward the revelations. The legend on one: "Ink, a Drug." Followed by pencil marks which "numbered the letters so as to spell Grudinka which means 'bacon' in several Slavic languages." Ham-let, as he points out.Mmmm, bacon.Bend Sinister focuses on the dislocation of grief; initially it's Krug's grief for his wife, observed by the self-conscious "I" of the author who soon disappears, though reappearing in time for the end. Nabokov uses structure and authorial voice to explore the limits of empathy: "The square root of I is I" (7). All writers know the observer within us: "In every mask I tried on, there were slits for his eyes."I have a nub of an idea comparing Ekwilism (the philosophical movement of the new fascist regime in the book) and Vonnegut's world in "Harrison Bergeron" -- but that's too ambitious for here. You can read a summary anywhere. I'm going to give you some bon mots:"Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form" (46)."Devices which in some curious new way imitate nature are attractive to simple minds" (69) -- a key to phenomenal wealth if you know how to employ it, I suspect."We live in a stocking which is in the process of being turned inside out, without our ever knowing for sure to what phase of the process our moment of consciousness corresponds" (193)."To each, or about each, of his colleagues he had said at one time or other, something... something impossible to recall in this or that case and difficult to define in general terms -- some careless bright and harsh trifle that had grazed a stretch of raw flesh" (48)."I esteem my colleagues as I do my own self, I esteem them for two things: because they are able to find perfect felicity in specialized knowledge and because they are not apt to commit physical murder" (58).Yeah.

  • Adam
    2019-04-11 16:15

    This read much like a pretentious version of a dystopia, like Orwell if he were trying to please a collegiate, indie rock crowd. But, then again, Nabokov is never afraid to shy away from writing something that would prove exactly how brilliant he was. And he was smart; his capacity for learning and using language is impressive to say the least. He's a brilliant writer, too. There's just this semi-bearable attitude of condescension that works sometimes and really frustrates at others. There are some really funny moments, there are some startlingly great images, but it's not as pressing or important as it seems. Maybe that's just because I've never lived in Eastern Europe around World War Two. In fact, that's probably it. But, that said, the emotional relationships did provide enough to enjoy the book as a whole. One particular note: the revelation of the wife as a child walking back into the field with a moth in her hands was heart-breaking, brilliant, leaving the last paragraph that much more striking.

  • Lark Benobi
    2019-04-04 20:05

    Nabokov here writes in a post-modern, self-referential, metafictional style, using techniques that when used by other authors have made me feel detached from fictional outcomes.But with Nabokov these self-referential devices work to draw me in, rather than keep me detached. I don't know quite how he did that. I cared deeply for these characters, even as I was being constantly reminded they were nothing more than lines of words on a page. I had the same impression when reading Nabokov's short story masterpiece Symbols and Signs, which was able to mock fictional techniques while at the same time exploiting those techniques to move me. I'm very happy to know people still read this book. It's so extraordinary, and it requires a leap of faith to keep yourself reading. It's not like any other book and that can be disorienting. You have to surrender to it.And, I'm just glad there is a book in the world called "Bend Sinister."

  • Adam Floridia
    2019-03-26 12:11

    As he points out in his introduction, Nabokov fills his book with so many obscure allusions, subtle themes/motifs, and playfully linguistic choices. Most of these must be lost on most readers (myself included!), which is, perhaps, what promoted him to write the explanatory introduction. It was interesting to read because it really gives the reader the sense that Nabokov is upset that his readers aren't brilliant enough to discern everything he has embedded in the novel. He really is a genius.I loved the Hamlet allusions and wish there were more (at least more that I could pick up on...). Krug contemplates the philosophy of life in much the same manner as the pensive Dane, but Krug discovers answers.The second chapter alone could stand as one of the best short stories I've ever read.

  • Mark
    2019-04-21 16:17

    i can find in this book the particles that might have inspired pynchon and coover and others of that generation along the cusp of modern to post-modern american writing. big particles, smears of hilarity and chokes of sadness. what i can't feel is the balance of it all, though, to make it into a real story.

  • Gabriel
    2019-04-21 13:08

    Dear Vladimir,"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." (Lolita, p. 9)With these words you drew me into a story of passion, obsession, and perversity. You had me at the first sentence. I was yours for the entirety of the book (even the bits towards the end that kind of dragged). You played with language, used it in such new and beautiful ways. It was a joy, an honor, to read such an intelligent and disturbing novel. I looked forward to reading more of your books, hoping to find them all so readable and engaging.Alas, it was not to be. When I discovered that you had written a dystopian novel, Bend Sinister, I was beyond excited to read it. What glorious prose would I discover between the aged covers of my library's copy? What depravity would I be witness to now?You let me down, Vladimir. The majority of this book is unreadable drivel. I'm not talking about the use of Russian words and phrases--those are translated. I'm not even talking about the frequent jumps you make from first person to third person (even to second person), although they were annoying. I'm talking about the fact that this book, though it gets better towards the end, is mostly a soup of incomprehensible nonsense that I cannot connect to the main thread of the story.To be fair to you, in your introduction to the edition that I borrowed, you discuss your silly plays on words that no one understands. You clearly state that this is not, as I was led to believe, really a dystopian novel. It is, instead, the story of a man, a personal story. I'm not quite sure how you arrived at this conclusion because I didn't see it as such. I saw it as being a string of undeveloped philosophical nonsense interrupted by the occasional hint of a plot with some wooden characters thrown in for good measure.And I must ask you this, dear Vladimir, because the question has been plaguing me for days. Was it really necessary to devote an entire chapter to having Krug and Ember discuss Hamlet? That entire scene was not only unnecessary, it was also, to be quite frank, boring. I enjoy Shakespeare as much as the next lad, but not at the expense of actual character development and a well-told story.As I said before, the book did pick up towards the end. It came to a definite conclusion, which I hesitate to call satisfying because of its disturbing nature. I feel that this book would have been better told had you not veered off down pointless avenues lined with inconsequential and hard-to-follow "imagery." It took me several days to read this slim volume and never did I find myself lost in its pages. I was always firmly grounded within reality, forcing myself to continue on the mostly arduous journey towards the end of this novel. If you had simply told the beginning of the story like you told the end of the story, I would have enjoyed it much more.There are, of course, people who will disagree with me. "Gabriel," they will say, "you're mad! This book is a work of genius!" I will not argue with them. Your words are beautiful, your sentences are uniquely formed. There is much of this novel that makes it worth reading. I wouldn't call it genius--nor would I utter its name in the same sentences as the brilliant Lolita--but I will call call it "interesting." Perhaps even "intriguing." But mostly because I was intrigued as to where the hell all of this was going and whether or not I should just give it up as a lost cause or press onward.As a dystopia, this novel was not nearly as terrifying as some of the others I have read. The end was definitely spine-tingling and nauseating, but as you had not really set out to create a deeply realistic world, there was little to make me feel for these characters or their struggles in a world gone mad.The overarching governmental theme of "community" at the expense of the individual was well-executed. I found myself making parallels to other novels, such as Brave New World, which touch on the same ideas found within these pages. This aspect of the totalitarian government was chilling:"...by letting your person dissolve in the virile oneness of the State; then, and only then, will the goal be reached. Your groping individualities will become interchangeable and, instead of crouching in the prison cell of an illegal ego, the naked soul will be in contact with that of every other man in this land; nay, more: each of you will be able to make his abode in the elastic inner self of any other citizen, and to flutter from one to another, until you know not whether you are Peter or John, so closely locked will you be in the embrace of the State... (p. 86)"Yet, so often during this book I found myself forgetting that this was a dystopia, mostly because the main character has no real convictions, making him a shade of a character. He lets himself be (mostly) carried along by events, never letting himself take in the severity of his situation until it's too late. I like my main characters to be active, not passive, and Adam Krug was far too passive for my liking.There were several funny moments, such as when one of the characters drops his accent halfway through a speech--"when the author gets bored by the process--or forgets"--and then manages to pick it up again at the end--"when the author remembers again" (p. 33). But these instances, and any other real enjoyment that could have been gained from reading this book, were marred by how much I disliked it.I'm sure that there were delicate intricacies that I missed, nuances that I didn't pick up on. And frankly, I couldn't care less. I was highly disappointed by this book and I'm not going to try to dress it up to be something that it's not. I adore the way you write, Vladimir. I enjoy the way you use the English language, a language you learned rather than into which you were born. I have said to many people before that as a writer you have a better command of English than most native speakers. This does not excuse you from writing poor quality literature. No matter how fancy you make your sentences, if they hold no substance they will get no admiration from me.You are, unfortunately, no longer with us and will never read this "letter". This is not written with you in mind, but with those people who may be lured into reading this novel by the lush beauty of your other works. I wish only to warn them of what they are getting themselves into if they attempt to tackle Bend Sinister.A novel of such brevity should not take the better part of a week to read; yet its muddled nature made it difficult to get through. I am giving it a three out of five stars. It would probably have been lower if not for the latter part of the book.Yours, unapologetically,Gabe

  • Ted Prokash
    2019-03-28 20:11

    Nabokov might be the best. No one else has ever been so unabashedly erudite yet so eminently readable. Entertaining. Such a pompous ass but so good. Professor Krug, here, as Kinbote in Pale Fire and the old lech in Lolita are characters no one else could have written. Bend is Vlad's most overtly political book, though the political situation here more provides the context for the story than leads to any political statement. Unless the statement is, whatever political construct man might conceive, it can never save us from ourselves. The action of the story is driven by the rise of the Everyman Party to a position of State control in Krug's fictional country - a Soviet-styled farce. But the central tragedy is harrowing and cutting, not a rosy assessment of the human condition, all told. Further proof that as much as we trumpet our propensity for progress, change, evolution, we are still the same animals we've always been.(I was tempted to subtract a star for the public self-stroking Vlad indulges in in the forward here, but oh hell, I suppose that's part of the old wanker's charm!)

  • Lee
    2019-04-02 13:50

    This is the second book by Nabokov that I have read (the first being Lolita) whilst I enjoyed Bend Sinister it doesn't hit the heights that Lolita did.Its quite strange because for what should be such a complex plot a lot of the time it seems to skirt over it, there was an underlying humour to the Ekwilists that I did appreciate and the scene at the start of the book when Krug was trying to cross the bridge was brilliant.The ending was a real shocker for me, I wasn't expecting that to happen at all, I won't say anything more on that due to it being a spoiler, that was the point that I realized that for however light hearted the book may appear that Nabokov wasn't fucking around, because for its serious subject matter up until that point I never felt as though Krug was ever in any real or serious danger.Chapter 7 will stick with me for a long long time...purely because I didn't have a sodding clue what it was going on about seeings as I've never read Hamlet.I'm looking forward to reading more of Nabokov.