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A dying man cautiously unravels the mysteries of memory and creation. Vadim is a Russian emigre who, like Nabokov, is a novelist, poet and critic. There are threads linking the fictional hero with his creator as he reconstructs the images of his past from young love to his serious illness.read more
Nabokov's last novel is such an twisting, intriguing maze of a text, and one that benefits so strongly from having read his entire catalog of novels, that it is a fitting coda to a distinguished career.The conceit of the novel -- that it is the autobiography of an author whose works end up resembling, in increasingly disturbing ways, those of Vladimir Nabokov himself -- appears at first like it is the only thing that would drive the work, that without that gimmick the novel would have little substance. Yet the unspoken Nabokov's obvious presence is so limited that we allow ourselves, as readers, to be legitimately drawn into Vadim Vadimovich's world.VV's story is surprisingly compelling, tracing a lifetime of assorted writings and loves, and as the novel progresses, and more obvious gestures are made towards Nabokov's works, the mental challenge of separating the real from the fictional (or even just determining which is which) becomes part of the fun. The long sequence regarding VV's relationship with his daughter Bel, and her inspiration for his novel A Kingdom by the Sea is exceptionally inspired.By the end, even though the reader may need to look the text over a few times to figure out what is actually happening, the challenge of the text has been so well wrought-out that it feels less like undue frustration or a cheater's way out than it does the work of a master manipulating his readers in specific, calculated ways.The benefits of this novel increase exponentially if you've read lots of Nabokov before this, but even without that knowledge, this is a multilayered, metaphysical novel filled with erudition, humor, and narrative tricks to savor.read more
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