Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark: A Dark, Dangerous Tale of Affairs

"Albinus was rich, respectable, happy...he loved, was not loved, and his life ended in disaster".(Nabokov 1)

Nabokov, Russian author and playwright, the genius behind the famous Lolita, has a definite art in storytelling, and Laughter in the Dark (1936) is no exception. Thirty nine short chapters detail the devastating impact of one loyal man's slip into the world of an affair, leaving his loyal, caring wife and daughter for a scheming, money-hungry, gorgeous woman that can give him the one attribute his wife lacks - passion. 

Deceit. Loyalty.Reality. Illusion. Nabokov takes the simplest, overdone themes and turns them into a page-turning, gripping novel.  Albinus, a film maker, meets Margot in the theatre; Margot re-encounters her ex-lover, Axel Rex in the cinema as well. Albinus, blind with passionate love, (and later literally blind) fails to see Margot's deceit; Margot seeks his hand in marriage and his wealth, both of which she deceives herself into believing she will have. Enveloped in realism, this novel destroys the notion of a "perfect family" and reveals perverse secrets in a dark, dark,violent tale. 

Nabokov (
 Fluent in Russian, French and English, and from an aristocratic family in St. Petersburg, Nabokov became  a professor of literature at Cornell, Harvard and Wellesley, moving to American after leaving Russia and then Germany during the First World War. The verisimilitude he creates in his characters is stunning - and each chapter will leave you breathless, waiting for more, anticipating twists and turns and yet still reeling with shock when they occur. Definitely worth the three to four hours it will take to immerse yourself in this adventure.

We're already three months into the year and I realize this is my first book review of 2012! The others I've read in pieces, admittedly most so I can better help my students and edit their papers, but once I finish them, there'll be full reviews on L'etranger by Albert Camus (French philosopher),  Perfume by Patrick Suskind (German author), Linda Barry's illustrated novel about a drug-addicted teen, Cruddy and hopefully, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Every book I read this year leads me towards dedicating a few weeks this summer to starting my own creative creation. Stay tuned for upcoming novel reviews!

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