The lovable loser Aug 7, 2010
To be honest, I think I will have to read this again someday, because I was so busy chewing on Nabokov's beautiful prose that I sometimes lost track of the bigger picture in terms of plot.
In any case, the characterization of Pnin, a hapless Russian professor working in upstate New York, is both tender and amused, especially as Nabokov utilizes a somewhat snobbish narrator who has his own definite opinions about the protagonist. Poor Timofey Pnin is a character you root for even as he continually gets lost, is put down by his colleagues, and is used by his ex-wife.
But, as I mentioned at the beginning of the review, it was the thick, practically tangible prose that kept me glued to the page. Nabokov just manages to make the world seem so vivid and pulsing, even in the most banal of situations, that he could write about doing taxes and I'd probably be captivated. While Pnin isn't as complete or compelling a story as, say, "Lolita," it's a worthwhile portrait of a well-meaning bumbler, and a tragicomic look at how society tends to deal with the Pnin's of the world.