Book - 2004
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One of the best-loved of Nabokov's novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian émigré precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunder-standings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations of a deliberately unreliable narrator.

Initially an almost grotesquely comic figure, Pnin gradually grows in stature by contrast with those who laugh at him. Whether taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has not mastered or throwing a faculty party during which he learns he is losing his job, the gently preposterous hero of this enchanting novel evokes the reader's deepest protective instinct.

Serialized in The New Yorker and published in book form in 1957, Pnin brought Nabokov both his first National Book Award nomination and hitherto unprecedented popularity.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2004
Characteristics: xxix, 143 p. ; 22 cm
ISBN: 1400041988
1857152727 (UK)


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Dec 06, 2018

There is a regular recurrence of blazing insight and description, but the general tenour is one of anti-American deadpan humour. The main character bumbles along like a literary re-conception of Mr. Magoo; the narrator makes numerous intrusions and as if he (or it) were just a jeering holy ghost.

Mar 08, 2018

Nabokov is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors; his style demonstrates complete mastery of the English language in all his imagery, metaphors and wordplay. This is all on display here in “Pnin”, which seems to be as much a part of his prime as anything else he wrote. Story-wise, this is focused on the exploits and interactions of a charming old Russian immigrant named Pnin (who serves as basically an antithesis to the calculated, evil Humbert from his more widely known “Lolita”). He depicts the beauty and charm found in these simple stories with great effectiveness, and Pnin manages to be a likable, extremely well-written novel. Overall, would recommend to anyone with an interest in language, but it’s focus on aesthetics might make it seem lackluster for someone who reads books in search of deep meanings or morals; 4/5.
- @zlogan of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Dec 19, 2014

I tend to love Nabokov, but I couldn't get into this book. I found it less funny than 'The Eye', just more dry. I understand the draw of dry comedy, but I do not think this book really showed off Nabokov's ability for humor. All of the jokes at Pnin's expense quickly got old, as I stopped feeling bad for him and started just being annoyed. The book really felt like it was dragging on, despite not even being 150 pages. Go with Invitation to a Beheading or The Eye if you want shorter Nabokov work.


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