Priglashenie na kazn'
(Invitation to a Beheading)

Priglashenie na kazn', Dom Knigi (Paris), 1938, reprinted, Ardis, 1979, English translation by Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with the author, published as Invitation to a Beheading, Putnam, 1959. (Invitation to a Beheading 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.)

"Leave your cuff alone," said Cincinnatus, "and try to concentrate."
Roman Vissarionovich jerkily changed the position of his body and clasped his restless fingers. In a plaintive voice he said, "It is exactly for that tone ..."
"That I am being executed," said Cincinnatus. "I know that. Go on!"

Invitation to a Beheading commences with the pronuncement of Cincinnatus' death sentence, and ends with the scene of his execution. His crime? "Gnostic turpitude." The action between these events is dream-like, vague, often absurd or surreal; Invitation may be described as an allegory, which may leave the reader with a frangible residue of Kafka.

"One author, however, has never been mentioned in this connection -- the only author whom I must gratefully recognize as an influence upon me at a time of writing this book; namely, the melancholy, extravagant, wise, witty, magical, and altogether delightful Pierre Delalande, whom I invented."
Nabokov, from his foreword

"In 'real life,' Mr. Nabokov is a well-known lepidopterist, and he has picked up one habit from his pets: he cannot fly in a straight line."
John Wain

Scholarly Works on Invitation to a Beheading

Barabtarlo, Gennady. "The Informing of the Soul (Invitation to a Beaheading)"
Dolinin, Alexander. "Pushkinian Subtexts in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading"

A Bibliography of Critical Works on Invitation to a Beheading

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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