King, Queen, Knave

King, Queen, Knave

eBook - 1989 | 1st Vintage International ed.
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The novel is the story of Dreyer, a wealthy and boisterous proprietor of a men's clothing emporium store. Ruddy, self-satisfied, and thoroughly masculine, he is perfectly repugnant to his exquisite but cold middle-class wife Martha. Attracted to his money but repelled by his oblivious passion, she longs for their nephew instead, the myopic Franz. Newly arrived in Berlin, Franz soon repays his uncle's condescension in his aunt's bed.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1989.
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed.
ISBN: 9780307787644
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xi, 272 p.)
Additional Contributors: OverDrive


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Sep 15, 2016

This book is not only translated, but Nabokov also made changes to the novel when finalizing the translation decades after the original was written, so analyzing it as a chronological step forward from his first novel is somewhat compromised. It does seem clear though that Nabokov's prose style has taken a leap forward towards that famously clever Nabokovian wordplay. The prose is definitely the star of the show here, as the story - part love triangle, part Raskolnikov-ish inner torment of a character involved in murder, part allegory of Weimar Germany - is a bit underwhelming.

In fact, the best bit of the book, I'd claim, is the following sex scene, which I believe is the first time I've ever thought that of a novel:

"Now the room was empty. Objects lay, stood, sat, hung in the carefree postures man-made things adopt in man's absence. The mock crocodile lay on the floor. A blue-tinted cork, which had been recently removed from a small ink bottle when a fountain pen had to be refilled, hesitated for an instant, then rolled in a semi-circle to the edge of the oilcloth-covered table, hesitated again, and jumped off. With the help of the lashing rain the wind tried to open the window but failed. In the rickety wardrobe a blue black-spotted tie slithered off its twig like a snake. A paperback novelette on the chest-of-drawers left open at Chapter Five skipped several pages.

Suddenly the looking glass made a signal - a warning gleam. It reflected a bluish armpit and a lovely bare arm. The arm stretched - and fell back lifeless. Slowly, the bed returned to Berlin from Eden."

Okay, the "Eden" is a bit overmuch, I'd have ended that concluding sentence after "Berlin", that's enough, but still: that's hot.

May 18, 2015

"Of all my novels this bright brute is the gayest."-V.N.
It's also one of the weakest. I like most everything the great Russian stylist wrote, but this second novel of his, originally written in Russian and published in Berlin in 1928, is one of his weaker efforts. For the Nabokov devotee. "The play was King, Queen, Knave, and now they are making a film out of it."

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