Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov (5/5)

First published: 1930
Original title: Sogliadatai, Соглядатай
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with Vladimir Nabokov, 1965

Page count: 121

The back says: Nabokov's fourth novel, The Eye is as much a farcical detective story as it is a profoundly refractive tale about the vicissitudes of identities and appearances. [Spoilers, highlight to read]Nabokov's protagonist, Smurov, is a lovelorn, excruciatingly self-conscious Russian émigré living in prewar Berlin, who commits suicide after being humiliated by a jealous husband, only to suffer even greater indignities in the afterlife.

I say: This was a really clever story and I absolutely loved the ending. It is becoming apparent that I am unable to figure out how Nabokov’s stories are going to end other than it is in the way I least expect them to.

I love it and hope it continues.

If you haven’t highlighted the entire synopsis: don’t. It will take away a lot from the story and the way the protagonist deals with his attempted or successful suicide. That is the catapult of the story; he commits suicide and then becomes convinced that he has died and what comes next in the story are the last of his imagination. He then starts spying on Smurov, whom he is convinced is a spy or a double agent, among other things, and the brilliance lies in his perceptions of things. In the same way that we know the narrator in Lolita to be unrealiable/unrealistic, but also the only voice we have to go by, we have to cipher through the emotions and logic of the protagonist to try to solve the mystery of what has really happened to him and who Smurov truly is.

I love it.

This was Nabokov’s first novel with a first person narrator, and since I often find the narrator in his stories overly familiar with the reader, I really loved it. I don’t think there would be a better way to tell the story since the heart of it lies inside the protagonist’s head and how he perceives the people and world around him.

5/5 and I will re-read this in the future when I have forgotten the ending.

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