Zaschita Luzhina (The Defense)

Zashchita Luzhina, Nabokov's third novel, Slovo, 1930; reprinted, Ardis, 1979; translation by the author and Michael Scammell published as The Defense, Putnam, 1964. (The Defense can be found in many public libraries and is available online from Amazon.com and from Barnes & Noble.)

"Listen," she exclaimed, continuing to be cross, "were you ever educated? Where did you go to school? Have you ever met people at all, talked to people?"

"I've voyaged a great deal," said Luzhin. "Here and there. Everywhere a little bit."

International chess grandmaster Luzhin, once a child prodigy, has become so engulfed by the game that it is his only influence, emotionally, intellectually, artistically. Gradually, the themes of chess so diffuse other aspects of his life that they threaten his well-being; his only possible defense against the Game of chess is the game of chess.

"Of all my Russian books, The Defense contains and diffuses the greatest "warmth" - which may seem odd seeing how supremely abstract chess is supposed to be."
Nabokov, from his foreword

"Each character is a distinct species in his cage in the zoo, displaced and in captivity."
Stuart Hampshire

"The four chapters devoted to little Luzhin are pure gold, a fascinating extraction of the thread of genius from the tangle of a lonely boy's existence."
John Updike

"Nabokov's theme? ... It is that the only alternative to perversity, with its magical and terrible privileges, is banality."
P.N. Furbank

Announcing VN: Virtual Nabokov. An experimental draft of Virtual Nabokov, an on-line course on Nabokov's works, is now available. The second module of the course is devoted to The Defense. Nabokov fans interested in a 'guided reading' of Nabokov's third novel are invited to try Virtual Nabokov.

Scholarly Criticism of The Defense:

Drescher, Alexander. "Musical Analogies in The Defense"
Khodasevich, Vladislav. "Luzhin's Defense"
Kinbote, Charles. "Zashchita Luzhina"
A Bibliography of Critical Works on The Defense

WORKS

MARY | KING, QUEEN, KNAVE | THE DEFENSE
GLORY | LAUGHTER IN THE DARK | DESPAIR
THE GIFT | INVITATION TO A BEHEADING | THE EYE
THE ENCHANTER | THE REAL LIFE OF SEBASTIAN KNIGHT
BEND SINISTER | LOLITA | PNIN | PALE FIRE
ADA | TRANSPARENT THINGS | LOOK AT THE HARLEQUINS!
THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA


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