2007: 100. King, Queen, Knave

“The huge black clock hand is still at rest but is on the point of making its once-a-minute gesture; that resilient jolt will set a whole world in motion.”

King, Queen, Knave, Vladimir Nabokov 

This was a decent book, but I’ll tell you if I had known it was going to be the 100th book I read this year I’d have picked something slightly momentous!  Still, I can’t believe how well I’ve done this year - last year I read my 100th book in late September (also not so momentous - Trooper to the Southern Cross).  And I’ve read largely real books, too - and some long ones. Les Miserables,  and Cultural Amnesia spring to mind. I don’t know if last year was a fluke, or my new government job has made all the difference, but this year I am ye olde reading machine.  I love it - I feel more like me when I’m being a book nerd!

Oh right, the Nabokov.  Ok, so I had only ever read Lolita before (though I did read a pretty dry and totally overly critically praised biography of his wife Vera), and compared to Lolita, this book was a huge disappointment. I thought that all Nabokov would be mind-blowingly well written - not so much.  But then, this is one of his early books, and was written in Russian first.  Then he and his son translated it into English, so maybe my hopes were too high.  Anyway, it tells the story of three people - Dreyer, the wealthy businessman, Martha, his cold snooty wife, and Franz, his poor nephew.  Franz moves to the city, Dreyer gives him a job, and Martha and Franz begin an affair.  That’s the whole story until - SPOILER - it ends badly for Martha.  

It reminds me of Madame Bovary told by Kafka.  Not that its surreal like Kafka, though I know he must have been an interest (the moving mannequins and Franz’s landlord seem right out of Kafka), but in the way its written.  Might be because of the translation, hard to tell, but I’d guess that young Vladimir knew Franz’s work.  Other than that, some passages were horribly over written with descriptions, others were pretty damn good.  I mean, its a not a terrible book - I’m sure I couldn’t have wrote it - but it is definitely the work of a young writer - I would say to just read Lolita, and skip this one, unless you have a real yen for Nabokov or adultery.

Recommended for:  Nabokovians; adulterers; people who work in sporting goods stores and want reassurance that they too can sleep with their aunts some day

Date/Place Completed: 7/9/07; D.C.

Categories: Commuting Book; Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017