Professor Timofey Pnin, late of Tsarist Russia, is now precariously perched at the heart of an American campus. Battling with American life and ...Show synopsisProfessor Timofey Pnin, late of Tsarist Russia, is now precariously perched at the heart of an American campus. Battling with American life and language, Pnin must face great hazards in this new world: the ruination of his beautiful lumber-room-as-office; the removal of his teeth and the fitting of new ones; the search for a suitable boarding house; and the trials of taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has yet to master. Part of a major new beautiful hardback series of the works of Vladimir Nabokov, author of "Lolita" and "Pale Fire", in Penguin Classics.Hide synopsis
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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.
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