Otchaianie (Despair)

Otchayanie, Nabokov's sixth novel, first published serially in Sovremennye Zapiski, 1934; published in book form, Petropolis (Berlin), 1936; reprinted, Ardis, 1978; English translation by the author published as Despair, J. Long, 1937; revised edition, Putnam, 1966. (Despair can be found in many public libraries and is available online from Amazon.com and from Barnes & Noble. Also published as a Penguin Classic by Penguin UK.)

"How shall we begin this chapter? I offer several variations to choose from. Number one (readily adopted in novels where the narrative is conducted in the first person by the real or substitute author): ...."

An unscrupulous Russian-born businessman plots to murder his serendipitous twin in order to recoup losses from his failing Berlin chocolate business. Although the plot may be summarized in a sentence, the furious idiosyncrasy of the narrator's literary and mental meanderings ultimately shape the novel into a veritable howl of Despair.

Ziestsee
Ziestsee, near Berlin, the scene of the murder in Despair.

"Nabokov doesn't make mistakes except on purpose. This leads us to believe that not only the style but everything else is a mockery and a deception, or at least an effort to deceive ..."
J. Mitchell Morse

"Despair is, measured against the outstanding fiction of this century, a major novel - the first one Nabokov wrote - but it has been its poor fortune to be overshadowed by some four or five later Nabokov novels."
Andrew Field

Scholarly Criticism of Despair:

Dolinin, Alexander. "The Caning of Modernist Profaners: Parody in Despair"
A Bibliography of Critical Works on Despair
Information on the film adaptation of Despair

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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