Books

Laughter in the Dark

Vladimir Nabokov

'Berlin-west, a morning in May.'

An aspiring young Berlin actress turns the tables on her lustful middle-aged admirer, in Nabokov's deadpan, deliciously cruel story of hopeless infatuation and horribly inventive revenge.

Letters to Véra

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2014

No marriage of a major twentieth-century writer lasted longer than Vladimir Nabokov's. Véra Slonim shared his delight at the enchantment of life's trifles and literature's treasures, and he rated her as having the best and quickest sense of humour of any woman he had met. From their meeting in 1921, Vladimir's letters to his beloved Véra form a narrative arc that tells a forty-six year-long love story, and they are memorable in their entirety. Almost always playful, romantic, and pithy, the letters tell us much about the man and the writer; we see that Vladimir observed everything, from animals, faces, speech, and landscapes with genuine fascination.

Spring in Fialta

Vladimir Nabokov

'Spring in Fialta is cloudy and dull'. With his senses wide open, Victor wanders the streets. He meets Nina. Again. For fifteen years, their fleeting, chance encounters have made Nina a faint but constant presence in the margins of his life. As they happen upon one another once again, his mind wanders back into the past and relives each brief memory: their kiss in Russia, when she met his wife, when he met her husband, their affair in Paris. Each time she captivated him, each time she seemed to almost forget him, each time he noticed a lurking sense of apprehension that began to grow.

The Doorbell

Vladimir Nabokov

After multiple postings in various armies, Nikolay Galatov, an itinerant soldier, is living in Berlin. Every now and then he remembers Olga Kind, a woman he left behind in St. Petersburg seven years ago. He decides to go and find her.

Filled with teasing plot lines, misrepresentations and narrative traps, The Doorbell is an exploration of character, interaction and awkward suspense. Once again examining the themes of loss, separation and exile, Vladimir Nabokov weaves a tale of unexpected turnings and non-happenings, playing with the conventions of traditional, predictable fiction.

Collected Poems

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

Nabokov's masterly Collected Poems span the decades of his career, from 'Music', written in 1914, to the short, playful 'To Vera', composed in 1974. 'The University Poem', one of Nabokov's major poetic works, is here in English for the first time: an extraordinary autobiographical poem looking back at his time at Cambridge, with its dinners, girls and memories, it is suffused with rich description, wit and verbal dexterity. Included too are the surreally comic 'A Literary Dinner', the enchanting, 'Eve', the wryly humorous 'An Evening of Russian Poetry' and a meditation on the act of creation, 'Tolstoy', as well as verse written on America, lepidoptery, sport, love and Nabokov's Russian homeland.

The Original of Laura

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

The Original of Laura is Vladimir Nabokov's final, incredible unfinished novel in fragments. Dr Philip Wild, a man of brilliance, wit, fortune and tremendous bulk, is used to suffering humiliations at the hands of his wife, the younger, slender, and rudely promiscuous Flora. But in a novel, a 'maddening masterpiece' documenting her infidelities, written by one of her lovers and given to the doctor, she appears as My Laura. Dishonoured, Wild still finds pleasure in life, by indulging in self-annihilation, beginning with the removal of his toes.

Pale Fire

Vladimir Nabokov

A novel constructed around the last great poem of a fictional American poet, John Shade, and an account of his death. The poem appears in full and the narrative develops through the lengthy, and increasingly eccentric, notes by his posthumous editor.

Pnin

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

Professor Timofey Pnin, late of Tsarist Russia, is now precariously perched at the heart of an American campus. Battling with American life and language, Pnin must face great hazards in this new world: the ruination of his beautiful lumber-room-as-office; the removal of his teeth and the fitting of new ones; the search for a suitable boarding house; and the trials of taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has yet to master.

Wry, intelligent and moving, Pnin reveals the absurd and affecting story of one man in exile.

Plays

Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov's rapturous masterpiece of erotic obsession entered the common consciousness and inspired two films. It also inspired Nabokov himself to try his hand at screenwriting, and the result was this typically graceful and ingenious screenplay, which he wrote in 1960. Lolita: A Screenplay gleefully demolishes a host of stereotypes - sexual, moral and aesthetic. The notion that cinema and literature are two separate spheres is dismantled as Nabokov marries the structural and narrative felicities of great film and prose to create a work that will delight cineophiles and Nabokovians alike.

Nabokov's first major work and his only play, The Tragedy of Mister Morn is a moving study of the elusiveness of happiness, the power of imagination and the eternal battle between truth and fantasy. In this astonishingly precocious work, we see for the first time the major themes of this great writer: intense sexual desire and jealousy, precarious make-believe, glittering happiness and abject despair.

Part of a major new beautiful hardback series of the works of Vladimir Nabokov, author of Pnin and Pale Fire, in Penguin Classics.

The Tragedy of Mister Morn

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

Morn, a masked king, rules over a realm to which he has restored order after a violent revolution. Secretly in love with Midia, the wife of a banished revolutionary, Morn finds himself facing renewed bloodshed and disaster when Midia's husband returns, provoking a duel and the return of chaos that Morn has fought so hard to prevent.

The first major work of Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita and Pnin, The Tragedy of Mister Morn is translated and published in English here for the first time, and is a moving study of the elusiveness of happiness, the power of imagination and the eternal battle between truth and fantasy.

Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is one of the best-known novels of the 20th century: the controversial story of Humbert Humbert who falls in love with twelve year old Lolita, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.

'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.'

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor. In love with his landlady's twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he'll do anything to possess her. Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.

Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?

Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov

'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.'

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor. In love with his landlady's twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he'll do anything to possess her. Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.

Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?

Terra Incognita

Vladimir Nabokov

'The woods were gradually thinning. I was tormented by strange hallucinations.I gazed at the weird tree trunks, around some of which were coiled thick, flesh-coloured snakes; suddenly I thought I saw, between the trunks, as though through my fingers, the mirror of a half-open wardrobe...'

These three stories of menace, magic and melancholy display Vladimir Nabokov's astonishing range and inventiveness. Whether describing an escape across a surreal tropical landscape, a fateful meeting or an unexpected - and threatening - return, each tale shows his dazzling sleight of hand, intellectual playfulness and fantastical imagination.

This book includes Terra Incognita, Spring in Fialta and The Doorbell.

Strong Opinions

Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov begins his Strong Opinions 'I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.' In the interviews collected here - covering everything from his own burgeoning literary celebrity to Kubrick's Lolita to lepidoptery - he is never casual or off-guard. Instead he insisted on receiving questions in advance and always carefully composed his responses.

Keen to dismiss those who fail to understand his work and happy to butcher those sacred cows of the literary canon he dislikes, Nabokov is much too entertaining to be infuriating, and these interviews, letters and articles are as engaging, challenging and caustic as anything he ever wrote.

Nikolai Gogol

Vladimir Nabokov

Nikolai Gogol was one of the great geniuses of nineteenth century Russian literature, with a command of the irrational unmatched by any writer before or since. His strange tales, though often read as forceful demands for social change, were displays of the fantasies of the human spirit. In this ideal marriage of subject and critic, Nabokov analyses his endlessly inventive compatriot, focusing on the masterpieces Dead Souls, The Overcoat and The Government Inspector.

Misunderstood by his contemporaries, mishandled by theatre directors and ending his life mistreated by doctors - with medicinal leeches hanging from his exceptional nose - it took Nabokov to give Gogol, 'the oddest Russian in Russia', the critical biography he and his singular, brilliant work deserve.

Look at the Harlequins!

Vladimir Nabokov

'Look at the harlequins ... Play! Invent the world! Invent reality'. This is the childhood advice given by an aunt to Russian born writer Vadim Vadimovich, who emigrates to England, then Paris, then Germany and then the US, and, now dying, reconstructs his past. He remembers Iris his first wife, Annette his long-necked typist and Bel his daughter, as well as his own bizarre 'numerical nimbus syndrome'.

Transparent Things

Vladimir Nabokov

The darkly comic Transparent Things, one of Nabokov's final books, traces the bleak life of Hugh Person through murder, madness, prison and trips to Switzerland. One of these was the last journey his father ever took; on another, having been sent to ingratiate himself with a distinguished novelist, he met his future wife. Nabokov's brilliant short novel sinks into the transparent things of the world that surround this one Person, to the silent histories they carry.

Remarkable even in Nabokov's work for its depth and lyricism, Transparent Things is a small, experimental marvel of memories and dreams, both sentimental and malign.

The Enchanter

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

Nabokov described this novella, written in Paris in 1939 but only published twenty years later, as 'the first little throb of Lolita'. The plot is similar: a middle-aged man wedding an unattractive widow in order to indulge his paedophilic obsession with her daughter.

However, The Enchanter has an utterly different atmosphere, as time, place and even names remain a mystery. Nabokov transforms his protagonist's attempts to lull his twelve-year-old step-daughter into a state of 'enchantment' into a graceful, chilling fairytale.

Mary

Vladimir Nabokov

Lev Ganin is a young officer sharing a boarding house in Berlin with a host of Russian émigrés. Alone in his room, he dreams of his first love, Mary. Awash with memories of youth and idyllic scenes of pre-Revolution Russia, Ganin becomes convinced that Mary is in fact the wife of a fellow-boarder, due to arrive at this very house soon. He longs for her arrival, when he can whisk her away and leave everything behind ...

Glory

Vladimir Nabokov (and others)

'In general Glory is my happiest thing.' 'The fun of Glory is . . . to be sought in the echoing and linking of minor events, in back-and-forth switches, which produce an illusion of impetus; in an old daydream directly becoming the blessing of the ball hugged to one's chest, or in the casual vision of Martin's mother grieving beyond the time-frame of the novel in an abstraction of the future that the reader can only guess at, even after he has raced through the last seven chapters where a regular madness of structural twists and a masquerade of all characters culminate in a furious finale, although nothing much happens at the very end - just a bird perching on a wicket in the greyness of a wet day' - Vladimir Nabokov

Biography

Vladimir Nabokov was born in 1899 in St Petersburg. He wrote his first literary works in Russian, but rose to international prominence as a masterly prose stylist for the novels he composed in English, most famously, Lolita. Between 1923 and 1940 he published novels, short stories, plays, poems and translations in the Russian language and established himself as one of the most outstanding Russian émigré writers. He died in 1977.