the international vladimir nabokov society

Kamera obskura
(Laughter in the Dark)

Kamera obskura, Nabokov's sixth novel, first serialised in Sovremennye Zapiski, 1932; reprinted, Ardis, 1978; English translation by W. Roy published as Camera Obscura, J. Long, 1936; translation by the author published as Laughter in the Dark, Bobbs-Merrill, 1938; revised edition, New Directions, 1960. (Camera Obscura, the first English translation of Kamera obskura, is extremely difficult to find. Laughter in the Dark, on the other hand, can be found in many public libraries and is available online from Amazon.com and from Barnes & Noble.)

"A certain man," said Rex, as he turned round the corner with Margot, "once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish - but there was no diamond inside. That's what I like about coincidence."

Laughter in the Dark is a worked-over English translation of Kamera obskura, with the names of the main characters altered but with theme and plot more or less intact. A rather stuffy Berlin art critic (Bruno Krechmar in the Russian version / Albert Albinus in the English translation) becomes infatuated with a teenaged gamine (Margot,) leaving his wife and child to set up house with her. Through Albinus, Margot again encounters her first lover, an inhumanly nasty artist (Robert Gorn / Axel Rex.) As a result, Albinus suffers a series of misfortunes at the caprice of Rex and the not unwilling Margot. The Berlin setting, German characters, and cruel world view set Laughter in the Dark somewhat apart from the bulk of Nabokov's oeuvre.

Scholarly Criticism of Kamera obskura/Laughter in the Dark:

Raguet-Bouvart, Christine. "Camera Obscura and Laughter in the Dark, or, The Confusion of Texts"
Seifrid, Thomas. "Nabokov's Poetics of Vision, or, What Anna Karenina is Doing in Kamera obskura" Sklyarenko, Alexey. "Pozhalovanie Gorna, ili koe-chto o poshchechinakh y Pushkina i Nabokova"
A Bibliography of Critical Works on Laughter in the Dark
Information on the film adaptation of Laughter in the Dark

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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