REVIEW è Bend Sinister


REVIEW è Bend Sinister ☆ The state has been recently taken over and is being run by the tyrannical and philistine ‘Average Man’ party Under the slogans of euality and happiness for all it has done away with individualism and freedom of thought Only John Krug a brilliant philosopher stands up to the regime His antagonist the leader of the new party is hiGhtful wordplay it is first and foremost a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught 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 regi. 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 craftBut 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 uniue 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 timeI 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

Vladimir Nabokov ½ 1 REVIEW

Rug is at first dismissive of Paduk’s activities and sees no threat in them But the sinister machine which Paduk has set in motion may prove stronger than the individual stronger even than the grotesue ‘Toad’ himself 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 deli. The Nabokov I read the 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 unformed less intelligible versions of the same material he used in the trilogy awaiting a context that would make sense of itIf you read the trilogy first then reading 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 uirks 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 uirks simply float freely about with no justifying pretext and no illuminating contextBend Sinister is a particularly prickly example of this phenomenon Most of Nabokov's uirks 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 momsIn 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 protagonistThere 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 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 uality is inverted yet the subject matter remains the sameI 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 sentenceThey 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 ui 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 than her smile suggests — and tosses to him so that he may wipe the palms of his aching weakening handsThis 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 intelligible stuffOne 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'


Bend SinisterThe state has been recently taken over and is being run by the tyrannical and philistine ‘Average Man’ party Under the slogans of euality and happiness for all it has done away with individualism and freedom of thought Only John Krug a brilliant philosopher stands up to the regime His antagonist the leader of the new party is his old school enemy Paduk – known as the ‘Toad’ Grieving over his wife’s recent death K. 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 acuiring 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 addressThe 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 HmmmThere 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 “1000 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 auarelle 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 formerdayscom