The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My goodness-gracious, this book is one hell of a monster.
It is the ultimate Russian nesting doll of and about art, memory, satire, and "Art". If I wasn't already a huge fan of Nabokov, I probably would have thrown this book across the room.
Nabokov wrote this novel as a tribute to his native language and is the last, and undeniably brilliant, of that period. It is a prime example of a supremely self-satisfied intellectual engorgement. Beautiful turns of phrase, rich and belligerent in its knowledge of the Russian Greats, it waves itself under the noses of anyone who might dare to understand it.
Look. I know my fair share of the greats of Russian Literature, but aside from my Dostoyevski, I'm like a babe in the woods against my Pushkin and Gogol. Coming up against The Gift makes me flail like a flensed man hung from a gibbet. Or like the remaining skin of a man. In Siberia. If I wasn't a dedicated fan of the writer and his gorgeous prose, the brilliant structure, the way he nested his prose within prose within prose and went ALL META on me in a way that made my head spin, I probably would have cut off his self-satisfied intellectual engorgement and thrown it out the window of a moving car.
I both loved and hated this book. I wanted to DNF it because I couldn't follow so much of it. I didn't know enough of any of the poets of the period, let alone a sufficient number of the greats, to know whether Nabokov was MAKING THEM UP OUT OF WHOLE CLOTH a-la Possession. I guess I could look it up, but frankly, I'm happy I'm done and I want to move on. :)
It's definitely going to be right up your alley if you A: love Russian literature, B: love to hear about writers crafting their magnum opuses, C: are tolerant of monstrous egotists. :)
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