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Look at the Harlequins!

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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.


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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.

30 review for Look at the Harlequins!

  1. 5 out of 5

    William1.2

    Second reading. A mock-memoir by the fictional Russian novelist Vadim Vadimovich, whose life is not dissimilar to Nabokov's own. As a mere strip of a lad VV flees the Bolsheviks leaving — unlike VN — a dead Red in his wake. Like VN too he first lives in Berlin, then Paris, and finally comes to America where he teaches European classics while continuing to write novels, though now in English. The tales of the VV's marriages here are hilarious. The first to a woman named Iris, whom he meets throug Second reading. A mock-memoir by the fictional Russian novelist Vadim Vadimovich, whose life is not dissimilar to Nabokov's own. As a mere strip of a lad VV flees the Bolsheviks leaving — unlike VN — a dead Red in his wake. Like VN too he first lives in Berlin, then Paris, and finally comes to America where he teaches European classics while continuing to write novels, though now in English. The tales of the VV's marriages here are hilarious. The first to a woman named Iris, whom he meets through a Cambridge friend, the gay Ivor Black; this is a love match and it's depiction is very rich and satisfying in VN's usual crystalline manner. Iris and VV have a villa on the Cote d'Azur to which they escape every summer, and the depiction of that seaside wonderland is magnificent. VV's second marriage is to a prude by the name of Annette for whom sex is an act of degradation. This is the inauspicious note on which that marriage begins. It ends with her idiotic if not quixotic turn to Sovietism, which is like a knife to the heart of our dissident narrator. Quite funny. His third wife, Louise, is an international nymphomaniac, who humiliates daughter Bel, the surprise product of the chaste second marriage. The novel's a lot of fun, especially if you've read VN's other novels and can pick out the many parallels between his work and the fictional oeuvre of Vadim Vadimovich. For example, VV's Kingdom by the Sea is clearly — in both the way it affects the author's life and in its controversial content — a parallel universe version of Lolita . Look at the Harlequins was published three years before Nabokov's death in 1977 and it shows his narrative vigor undiminished by time. If you love VN's work, as I do, you must read it. It's rich and deeply satisfying. I thought its start a little bumpy, like lifting off from a short though pocked and pitted runway. But the reader is soon aloft and enjoying the slight positive-negative G forces — the frisson that great writing always provides.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.” ― Vladimir Nabokov, Look at the Harlequins! How ironic, that I write a five paragraph review of 'Look at the Harlequins!' and with a careless sideways swipe of my too smooth mouse lose it all. Now I have to climb out of a self-made despair and mentally turn “We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.” ― Vladimir Nabokov, Look at the Harlequins! How ironic, that I write a five paragraph review of 'Look at the Harlequins!' and with a careless sideways swipe of my too smooth mouse lose it all. Now I have to climb out of a self-made despair and mentally turn around and try and recreate the review I JUST wrote. There might be similarities to my real/original review, but any thing I say, any words I write will just be shadows and mouches volantes of my first try. Nabokov's false memoir is loose, brazen and genius all at the same time. It is a false 'Speak, Memory', a greedy parody and doppelgängers of his own past. Vladimir, through Vadim, shows us how impossible it is to stop, turn around and recreate, or recapture the past. Even setting the past down on paper is no good. It is all fleeting whispers and harlequins. Reading this novel, I was taken suddenly with the thought (almost certainly not original) that Nabokov's obsession with doubles, refractions, twins and doppelgängers comes from the split with him. There exists with Nabokov the Russian гений (Despair, the Gift, King, Queen, Knave) and the English genius (Lolita, Pale Fire, Ada). That ability to exist at such a high level in two different literary worlds is beyond simply amazing. Nabokov wasn't just dancing on a spinning chessboard. He was all the chessmen on both the black and the white side of the board.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    A very funny idea for the Master's last book. He was obviously sick to death of people asking him whether his novels were autobiographical. ("Tell me, I'm curious - have you ever raped any 12-year-old girls?") So here, he writes a novel about an author who on the surface is rather like Nabokov, and writes a bunch of books that are rather like Nabokov's books, except that in the fictitious novelist's case they really ARE autobiographical! Unfortunately, I feel the same way about Harlequins as I do A very funny idea for the Master's last book. He was obviously sick to death of people asking him whether his novels were autobiographical. ("Tell me, I'm curious - have you ever raped any 12-year-old girls?") So here, he writes a novel about an author who on the surface is rather like Nabokov, and writes a bunch of books that are rather like Nabokov's books, except that in the fictitious novelist's case they really ARE autobiographical! Unfortunately, I feel the same way about Harlequins as I do about the movie Churchill: The Hollywood Years. In CTHY, the theme of having British WW II heroes played by American actors is taken to its logical conclusion, and we have Lootenant Winston Churchill of the US Marine Corps, played by Christian Slater and romancing Neve Campbell as the young Princess Elizabeth. At first, you think you are in for a two hour laugh-fest: the basic joke is terrific, and it has patches of brilliance. "We will fight them on the beaches!" thunders Slater over the phone to a teary-eyed Campbell, as he's pinned down by Nazi fire. But it doesn't keep up the pace, and often ends up feeling forced or plain silly. I should reassure you that Harlequins is far more accomplished than CTHY, and if you have read a reasonable number of Nabokovs you will almost certainly like it. But you still end with the sad feeling that it could have been so much better.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Jackson

    Nabokov's last finished novel isn't a career summation so much as a madcap burlesque of his own work and reputation. The narrator here is a Bizarro world version of his creator, a nudist and drunkard who's been married "three or four times" and falls for a nymphette who happens to be his own daughter. You'll want to be familiar with VN's other works to fully appreciate many of the jokes and the metaphysical maneuvers, which somewhat limits the appeal of the story. But if an author hasn't earned Nabokov's last finished novel isn't a career summation so much as a madcap burlesque of his own work and reputation. The narrator here is a Bizarro world version of his creator, a nudist and drunkard who's been married "three or four times" and falls for a nymphette who happens to be his own daughter. You'll want to be familiar with VN's other works to fully appreciate many of the jokes and the metaphysical maneuvers, which somewhat limits the appeal of the story. But if an author hasn't earned the goodwill to try something like this with their last novel, then when? Brian Boyd sees this novel as an inversion of VN's memoir "Speak, Memory" and a valentine to his wife Vera. He's right, but there's a lot of other odd things hovering around the edges of the story, namely the way the narrator at times seems to be slipping into his own fictions in a way that recalls "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight," a novel alluded to numerous times throughout. There's also the deeply disturbing relationship between the narrator and his daughter, which Boyd reads much more innocently than I did. Like "Lolita," you have to untangle the daughter's psychology from the distorting lines of the narrator's prose. And like Van Veen in "Ada," the narrator's morality here is both troubling and complex. In this thoroughly mirrored funhouse, the reflections are rarely what they seem.

  5. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Vladimir was such a scream in his dotage! Honestly, everyone’s favourite arch stylist could fill the Apollo with this material. This is his final novel (barring the recently published index cards arrangement), and Vladimir goes laughing to his grave with a devilishly clever riff on his own life and works. From his early days as an extremely wealthy sophisticate, ripping his first love’s never-to-be-completed noir novel to pieces, to his time as a lecherous old professor lusting after his own dau Vladimir was such a scream in his dotage! Honestly, everyone’s favourite arch stylist could fill the Apollo with this material. This is his final novel (barring the recently published index cards arrangement), and Vladimir goes laughing to his grave with a devilishly clever riff on his own life and works. From his early days as an extremely wealthy sophisticate, ripping his first love’s never-to-be-completed noir novel to pieces, to his time as a lecherous old professor lusting after his own daughter, all the myths about the man are lampooned in his customarily exquisite prose. His succession of wives form the meat of the novel, especially the tender portrayal of his first wife (as expounded in his debut novel Mary). All aspects of the Nabokov canon are sent up, from the enfeebled English translators of his Russian works (Vladimir would end up translating a bulk of his work himself) to the nympholepsy for nymphettes that would tar him as literature’s Dirty Old Bastard. So yes: those glorious, unwinding sentences are in evidence, dripping with irony, wordplay and mean wit. See also the brilliant novella Transparent Things.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Boris

    Фикционализирана биография на Набоков. Най-забавната му книга. Пълна е с "котви" към по-ранните му произведения, които съм чел. Навярно има още много котви към романите, които все още не съм чел. Забавлява ме, замисли ме, разчувства ме, малко ме насълзи и с края си сякаш ми каза лека нощ. Набоков е един от малкото писатели, които умеят да направят дните ми по-живи. Това е поредната негова книга, която докато чета, ме кара да улавям определени моменти от заобикалящата ме действителност като форма Фикционализирана биография на Набоков. Най-забавната му книга. Пълна е с "котви" към по-ранните му произведения, които съм чел. Навярно има още много котви към романите, които все още не съм чел. Забавлява ме, замисли ме, разчувства ме, малко ме насълзи и с края си сякаш ми каза лека нощ. Набоков е един от малкото писатели, които умеят да направят дните ми по-живи. Това е поредната негова книга, която докато чета, ме кара да улавям определени моменти от заобикалящата ме действителност като форма на поезия, филм, пиеса, песен. Една goodreads приятелка (^_- ) казва "Nothing compares to Nabokov". Absolutely True. Не бих могъл да си помисля как ще живея някога след като знам, че съм изчел цялото му творчество.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    Nie jestem w stanie dużo powiedzieć na temat tej książki, jednak to chciałabym tutaj zawrzeć: • Nie jestem na razie odpowiednią osobą do oceniania tej książki - to ostatnia w jego dorobku, najbardziej autobiograficzna (chociaż bohater występuje pod troszkę zmienionym imieniem), więc dużo tutaj aluzji do życia Nabokova. Będę mogła w pełni zrozumieć i ocenić w odpowiedni sposób "Patrz na te arlekiny!" dopiero wtedy, gdy przestudiuję lepiej życie Nabokova i jego książki (czym mam w niedalekiej przys Nie jestem w stanie dużo powiedzieć na temat tej książki, jednak to chciałabym tutaj zawrzeć: • Nie jestem na razie odpowiednią osobą do oceniania tej książki - to ostatnia w jego dorobku, najbardziej autobiograficzna (chociaż bohater występuje pod troszkę zmienionym imieniem), więc dużo tutaj aluzji do życia Nabokova. Będę mogła w pełni zrozumieć i ocenić w odpowiedni sposób "Patrz na te arlekiny!" dopiero wtedy, gdy przestudiuję lepiej życie Nabokova i jego książki (czym mam w niedalekiej przyszłości się zająć). • Uwielbiam posłowia Leszka Engelkinga. Uwielbiam jego odbiór książek Nabokova. Naprawdę wiele wprowadza do życia czytelnika, który jest świeżo po przeczytaniu tak poplątanej historii. • Fajnie odgadywało i odnajdywało mi się różne aluzje do życia Nabokova i do jego książek, ale chcę to zrobić jeszcze raz w odpowiednim czasie i z większą wiedzą. Kolejny raz i na pewno nie ostatni: mój niekwestionowany Mistrz.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mahmood666

    به دلقکها نگاه کن ولادمیر ناباکوف شمیم هدایتی نشر نیلا ولادمیر ناباکوف از بزرگترین نویسندگان قرن بیستم دنیاست و جالب این است که این نویسنده بزرگ و توانا رمانهایش را چون نویسنده معروف و همعصر خودش (سامویل بکت)به دوزبان متفاوت (روسی و انگلیسی)مینوشت .ناباکوف به پیروی از استاد بزرگ ادبیات انگلیسی ،جیمز جویس، نواوریهای بسیاری در ادبیات زمانه خود به بار اورد و شاید به دلیل همین نواوریها در سبک و همچنین خلاف زمانه خویش بودن باشد که تا سالهای دهه شصت میلادی انچنان که باید جدی نگرفته شد . معروفترین رمان نا به دلقکها نگاه کن ولادمیر ناباکوف شمیم هدایتی نشر نیلا ولادمیر ناباکوف از بزرگترین نویسندگان قرن بیستم دنیاست و جالب این است که این نویسنده بزرگ و توانا رمانهایش را چون نویسنده معروف و همعصر خودش (سامویل بکت)به دوزبان متفاوت (روسی و انگلیسی)مینوشت .ناباکوف به پیروی از استاد بزرگ ادبیات انگلیسی ،جیمز جویس، نواوریهای بسیاری در ادبیات زمانه خود به بار اورد و شاید به دلیل همین نواوریها در سبک و همچنین خلاف زمانه خویش بودن باشد که تا سالهای دهه شصت میلادی انچنان که باید جدی نگرفته شد . معروفترین رمان ناباکوف لولیتا است ، اما ناباکوف اثاربسیار دیگری نیز نوشته است که بسیاری از خوانندگان و منتقدان ،انها را حتی از لولیتا نیز برتر میدانند و البته دلیل عدم اشنایی مخاطبین با این کتب را در فرم پیچیده این اثار می یابند . به دلقک ها نگاه کن واپسین اثر کامل منتشر شده در زمان حیات این استاد رمان نویسی و مصول سالهای اخر زندکی اوست که به تازگی به فارسی انتشار یافته است.ناباکوف در این اثر چون اثار دیگرش ،موضوعی بسیار عجیب و دور از ذهن را دستمایه اثرش ساخته است. وادیم وادیموویچ ،نویسنده بزرگی که به دوزبان روسی و انگلیسی داستان مینویسد، قهرمان این کتاب است که در این کتاب میکوشد بیوگرافی خود را روایت میکند .اما نکته جالب این است که رمانهایی که وادیم وادیمویچ ادعای نوشتنشان را در جای جای کتاب میکند و خلاصه داستانشان را روایت میکند،همانهاییست که ناباکوف انها را با همان ترتیب ولی نه دقیقا به همان صورت نوشته است .زندگی وادیم وادیمویچ در کل با زندگی ناباکوف یکسان است ولی در جزییات هیچ شباهتی میان این دو نفر نیست.و جالب اینکه وادیم در کتاب ،به کرات توسط دیگران با ناباکوف اشتباه گرفته میشود.کتاب در واقع زندگینامه ای قلابی از نویسنده ای قلابی است که توسط نویسنده اصلی(ناباکوف) ،البته در پشت صحنه و در سایه روایت میشود. به دلقگها نگاه کن ،چون اثار دیگر این نویسنده ،بسیار جذاب است اما نکته ای که به نظر عموم منتقدان سبب ضعف این کتاب شده است،قائم به ذات نبودن اثر است.خواننده این رمان باید زندگینامه ناباکوف را با جزییاتش ،به طور دقیق بداند و همچینین تقریبا تمامی اثار ناباکوف (بویژه رمانها)را خوانده باشد تا بتواند کتاب را به طور کامل درک کند ،در غیر این صورت کتاب، چیزی به جز دسته کلیدی با کلیدهای بسیار ،برای باز کردن یک دربسته نیست. ترجمه کتاب بسیار عالی است و شمیم هدایتی (که گویا از همکاری چند نفر دیگر چون حمید امجد،بهرنگ رجبی و ...)در ترجمه این کتاب بهره برده است،توانسته یکی از بهترین ترجمه های اثار ناباکوف به زبان فارسی را ،با نثری روان و در ضمن ناباکوفی! و همچنین همراه با پانویسهای سودمند به دست دهد و پیداست که تلاش بسیاری در ترجمه این اثر صورت گرفته است. این کتاب یکی از بهترین اثاریست که در چند ماه اخیر خوانده ام بخشی از کتاب : درواقع ،طبیعتا,مدام مشغول به هولناک ترین شیوه مشغول خیالپردازی بودم . بارونس فریاد میزد :دست از ماتم کرفتن بردار !به دلقک ها نگاه کن ! کدام دلقک ها ؟کجا؟ اه ،همه جا.دور وبرت .درختها دلقکند.کلمه ها دلقکند.موقعیت ها و حساب و کتابها هم.دو چیز را کنار هم بگذار -شوخی،تصویر ؛دلقک و سه گانه ای بدست بیار.زود باش !بازی کن!دنیا را بساز!واقعیت را بساز! ساختم به خدا ساختم. وقتی بارونس ان سه کلمه را فریاد میزد ،کلمات در مصراع سه هجایی ضربِ آغاز نَفَس گیری با یک آهنگ نوک زبانی ِتند بیرون میریختند ،انگار ((بِدَلقکا)) بود ،هم آوا با ((بیدَلقکا ))و با ملایمت ،با چاپلوسی ِ پیشواز رفتنِ آن ((نگاه کن ))که با نیروی اکنده از شادی فرا می رسید ،آن ((نگا))ی کاملا موکد با فورانِ ترغیبی هوشمندانه و به دنبالش نزول جاریِ هجاهای پولک وار.

  9. 5 out of 5

    nostalgebraist

    The two-star rating here is disingenuous: I enjoyed reading this a lot more than I enjoyed reading most of the two-star books on my shelf. Nonetheless, more than two stars wouldn't seem right. Here's why. Saul Maloff concludes his review of LATH! thus: But novels are not composed of beautiful sentences. Occasionally--perhaps especially when he has stunned us with his performance in sentence after sentence--we long for a huge, lumbering, sweating, grunting workhorse of a sentence that will plodding The two-star rating here is disingenuous: I enjoyed reading this a lot more than I enjoyed reading most of the two-star books on my shelf. Nonetheless, more than two stars wouldn't seem right. Here's why. Saul Maloff concludes his review of LATH! thus: But novels are not composed of beautiful sentences. Occasionally--perhaps especially when he has stunned us with his performance in sentence after sentence--we long for a huge, lumbering, sweating, grunting workhorse of a sentence that will ploddingly perfom the brute labor of bearing its terrible, necessary burden from here to there. But of course getting "there" is not the point of Vadim's [LATH!'s narrator's] novel; the point lies in the elaboration of fantastic, fugal designs, gorgeous patterns and textures, all with contemptuous grace and virtuosity. Such art is in the essence and by disdainful intention decadent, flung in the faces of the "facetious criticules in the Sunday papers" who charge him with "aristocratic obscurity." Nabokov is our great decadent, our reigning mandarin and eccentric, a supreme, determinedly minor artist whom major ones might well envy while criticules continue to carp and gnash the stubs of their teeth. Here's the Nabokov problem in a nutshell: how to square his "determinedly minor" nature with the apparently major ambition and, arguably, quality of much of his work. On one side there's Nabokov the nerd, the pedant, the crank -- the funny little man, "mandarin and eccentric," who insists on reminding us again and again of his funny little obsessions, his chess problems, his distaste for Freud and (bafflingly) Einstein, his vague mystical theories of time and space, his opinions about translation, etc. On the other side there's Nabokov the great novelist -- the guy who wrote Lolita, which might well be the prototypical Great Modern Novel. Nabokov the nerd says that morality does not concern him; Nabokov the great novelist writes the perfect (too perfect) subject matter for undergraduate essays on morality and irony (I don't mean that derisively). Nabokov the great novelist plucks the heartstrings with practically unequalled virtuosity; Nabokov the nerd, when confronted, denies any responsibility for his double's behavior and warms up that old, very old, very tedious lecture on how it's not the heart that is affected by great literature, and not the brain either, but the spine. . . . Both sides, "major" and "minor," are present (in various mixtures and dialectical arrangements) in all his work, though the minor side dominates in the interviews and essays, which confuses matters greatly. For me -- just speaking personally -- the appeal of the Nabokov brand lies not in either side, but precisely in the mottled mixture of the two, the music made by the interleaving of major and minor. The great novelist brings in all his heavy weaponry, but just as his glorious gun show is really getting started, the deafening sound of the shots vanishes and is replaced by the quiet, smug little voice of the nerd, telling you about his latest chess move, about a butterfly that pretends to be another butterfly, about bad translations of Eugene Onegin. Soaring passages run aground, caught in sudden unexpected eddies of arcana. This isn't a defect -- the fun is precisely in seeing someone so very good get away with so much mischief. The nerd conquers the literary world and puts up banners everywhere reminding people of his fiddly obsessions. The reader smiles, and wants to say: if you can't beat him, join him. One can certainly imagine less endearing world-conquerors. For me the height of this act is the very long and odd Ada, the simultaneous climax (given the novel in question the innuendo is not gratuitous) of the major and minor Nabokovs. It's undoubtedly major -- it aspires to be a parodic-romantic-horrific-lyrical capstone on the whole history of the novel -- and yet defiantly, absurdly, hilariously minor, treating at unprecedented length and with unprecedented indulgence the nerd's fixations. The revenge of the nerds! A lot of people, though, see Ada as the point where Nabokov finally went off the rails completely. Where I see a subtle and devious wreathing of the major and minor, they see the submission of the former to the cancerous growth of the latter. It's this disagreement that led me to LATH!, which by every account is a lesser ("minor"?) Nabokov novel, his last, the end of the road to nowhere he began treading with Ada. Given how much I'd previously enjoyed following Nabokov down that road, LATH! seemed at least worth a try. At this point, the problem with LATH! is easy to state: it's all minor. It's a pile of Nabokov fanboy trivia and ephemera, with no grand ambition (when it's only in the context of grand ambition that the trivia becomes fun). The book is a first-person account of the life of a novelist named Vadim, and the whole thing is a comedic riff on Nabokov's own life. Vadim's own books are mirror-universe versions of Nabokov's own (where N's first English novel is The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Vadim's is "See Under Real," which sounds from his description like a hybrid of RLSK and Pale Fire). Vadim's life is little but a series of injokes about Nabokov's books, and about the speculations that have been made about his life on the basis of his books. Like many Nabokov protagonists, Vadim is insane. Unlike most of his predecessors, he knows he's insane, and makes a point of delivering a long speech about his condition to any woman who might consider marrying him. The joke is that Vadim's condition -- an Oliver Sacksian quirk of visual imagination that leads him unable to imagine performing an about face -- is so trivial and uninteresting that these speeches are pointless. In terms of dramatic potential, we're a long way from Cincinnatus or Kinbote. (And in that difference we can glimpse the smirk of the nerd. "Who cares about dramatic potential? I write what I write, and either you feel it in your spine or you don't.") A few good jokes, a few good lines . . . but even the writing style is dimming here. Too much reliance, for instance, on unexpected reversals of conventional phrases. On page 85: "I consistently try to dwell as lightly as inhumanly possible . . . " Only three pages later: ". . . on that particular night on the fourth or fifth or fiftieth anniversary of my darling's death . . . " These little twists, trapdoors of prose, can induce a heady vertigo when used judiciously, when there is some sort of solid ground for them to undermine. Here, there's no reason to care. So what if Vadim is unreliable or inhuman or I don't know what? What is there here to be reliable about? The book's title first appears in the text in this wonderful passage, which I'm sure will remain in my memory when everything else about LATH! has faded: An extraordinary grand-aunt, Baroness Bredow, born Tolstoy, amply replaced closer blood. As a child of seven or eight, already harboring the secrets of a confirmed madman, I seemed even to her (who also was far from normal) unduly sulky and indolent; actually, of course, I kept daydreaming in a most outrageous fashion. "Stop moping!" she would cry: "Look at the harlequins!" "What harlequins? Where?" "Oh, everywhere. All around you. Trees are harlequins, words are harlequins. So are situations and sums. Put two things together -- jokes, images -- and you get a triple harlequin. Come on! Play! Invent the world! Invent reality!" I did. By Jove, I did. I invented my grand-aunt in honor of my first daydreams, and now, down the marble steps of memory's front porch, here she slowly comes, sideways sideways, the poor lame lady, touching each step edge with the rubber tip of her black cane. "Stop moping! Look at the harlequins!": a good mantra, and a reminder of the comfort that minorness can provide in a sometimes oppressively major world. But as for this novel? A reader interested in obeying the injunction should probably look elsewhere.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katia

    I think I liked this book more than a lot of people did in the end, because of the language. The lovely dripping arabesques of sentences. Words luxuriating in the not quite native hyperbolization of English precision. And maybe it was the late hour at which I read it, and the fact that no one was around, but I saw checkerboards (or more appropriately for Nabokov, chess boards) everywhere. Mirror images of his life. Black to his white. Playful associations and reversals. The book shed no light on I think I liked this book more than a lot of people did in the end, because of the language. The lovely dripping arabesques of sentences. Words luxuriating in the not quite native hyperbolization of English precision. And maybe it was the late hour at which I read it, and the fact that no one was around, but I saw checkerboards (or more appropriately for Nabokov, chess boards) everywhere. Mirror images of his life. Black to his white. Playful associations and reversals. The book shed no light on the writer except to those bothering to decipher the bizarre equations he concocted to link every fake detail to every real one. But it could really have been about train schedules. Because it was all about the language.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    This is really only meant for Nabokov completists and not readers like me who have only read Lolita before. Nabokov assumes the persona that ignorant critics and uninformed readers have crafted for him and then writes a bizarre memoir in that voice. So what we have here are the mental wanderings of an incestuous, pretentious, slightly insane, egocentric pedophile who writes terribly. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I were more familiar with Nabokov's early works and his personal history, b This is really only meant for Nabokov completists and not readers like me who have only read Lolita before. Nabokov assumes the persona that ignorant critics and uninformed readers have crafted for him and then writes a bizarre memoir in that voice. So what we have here are the mental wanderings of an incestuous, pretentious, slightly insane, egocentric pedophile who writes terribly. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I were more familiar with Nabokov's early works and his personal history, but without that background I found it rather tedious.

  12. 4 out of 5

    meelad

    خارقالعاده! اعجاب انگیز! نویسندهای به نام... ن. زندگینامهٔ غیر واقعی چیرهدستترین، خوشذوقترین، خودخواهترین و منحرفترین ادیب دوران. آشنایی با (تسلط بر؟) آثار دیگر نابوکوف و زندگینامهٔ او، و کمی زبان فرانسه و روسی موجب شادی بیشتر خواهد بود. ظاهراً هر میزان سواد و دانش برای عقب نیفتادن از استاد (پیشی گرفتن پیشکش) به شکل تحقیرآمیزی ناکافی است. خارق‌العاده! اعجاب انگیز! نویسنده‌ای به نام... ن.‏ زندگی‌نامهٔ غیر واقعی چیره‌دست‌ترین، خوش‌ذوق‌ترین، خودخواه‌ترین و منحرف‌ترین ادیب دوران.‏ آشنایی با (تسلط بر؟) آثار دیگر نابوکوف و زندگی‌نامهٔ او، و کمی زبان فرانسه و روسی موجب شادی بیشتر خواهد بود. ظاهراً هر میزان سواد و دانش برای عقب نیفتادن از استاد (پیشی گرفتن پیشکش) به شکل تحقیرآمیزی ناکافی است.‏

  13. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Nabokov is obsessed with women's backs. for a more thorough review

  14. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Serbanescu

    Decizia de a citi romanele scrise de Vladimir Nabokov în ordinea în care au fost publicate s-a dovedit a fi una foarte inspirată pe măsură ce parcurgeam paginile din ''Privește-i pe arlechini!'', din cuprinsul cărora aș fi priceput prea puțin dacă nu i-aș fi cunoscut celelalte cărți. Cartea este o autobiografie ficționalizată ce dă masura geniului literar al acestui romancier insuficient apreciat și judecat pe nedrept.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Conoscevo Nabokov solo per Lolita finora, pur ripromettendomi di leggere altri suoi libri. Lolita è un capolavoro, non per la storia, in sé pure banale, quanto per la raffinatissima, elegante, smisuratamente ricca scrittura. Nel commento che ho scritto a Lolita ho riportato un’espressione di Nabokov, un suo pensiero, che si adatta perfettamente anche a questo romanzo. Dice Nabokov che scopo della letteratura è procurare voluttà estetica, cioè –dice- “il senso di essere in contatto, in qualche mo Conoscevo Nabokov solo per Lolita finora, pur ripromettendomi di leggere altri suoi libri. Lolita è un capolavoro, non per la storia, in sé pure banale, quanto per la raffinatissima, elegante, smisuratamente ricca scrittura. Nel commento che ho scritto a Lolita ho riportato un’espressione di Nabokov, un suo pensiero, che si adatta perfettamente anche a questo romanzo. Dice Nabokov che scopo della letteratura è procurare voluttà estetica, cioè –dice- “il senso di essere in contatto, in qualche modo, in qualche luogo, con altri stati dell’essere dove l’arte (curiosità, tenerezza, bontà, estasi) è la norma.” Ebbene, gli arlecchini citati nel titolo del romanzo che ho appena letto null’altro sono che quelli che lui definisce “gli altri stati dell’essere dove l’arte è la norma”. Gli arlecchini sono quell’universo parallelo - costruito attraverso l’utilizzo di immagini e similitudini incantevoli, un uso funambolico ma perfetto del lessico che denota una padronanza sintattica e grammaticale insuperabili- in cui le emozioni umane, descritte con tale magnificenza, si arricchiscono e traboccano. Il fatto è che in questo romanzo solo a sprazzi si possono godere le risate, le piroette e gli scherzi degli arlecchini. Di certo non nel finale, che non mi è piaciuto, le ultime pagine sono confuse e poco chiare, come del resto buona parte del libro, che racconta di uno scrittore, Vadim, che è e non è Nabokov, perché lo scrittore mescola finzione e realtà creando un personaggio che è una caricatura di sé stesso, un russo fuggito dalla patria durante il comunismo, rifugiato prima in Germania e poi in Inghilterra, incappato in più matrimoni sbagliati, trasferito in America ad insegnare all’università, inquieto, folle, con unico sollievo nel creare romanzi, che è per lui “ricreare all’infinito il mio fluido ego”. Un gioco di specchi, con alcuni ritocchi qua e là, che ha divertito lo scrittore, un Arlecchino che cambia i colori ai rombi che formano il suo abito. Non sempre, pur nella sua grandezza indiscutibile, il gioco riesce bene.Come scrive Alessandro Piperno nell’inserto di domenica scorsa del Corriere della Sera, siamo di fronte a “l’opera di un prestigiatore in pensione che rimescola le carte per l’ultima volta”.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dubi Kanengisser

    It always feels silly reviewing what is clearly a masterpiece, as if I could pass judgement or somehow augment the reading of a book in which every exquisite word was painstakingly selected (my cliche words, surely, would have been mocked by Vadim Vadimovich N.). A faux autobiography (replete, I should say, with Russian [which is, gratefully, always translated] and French [which isn't, though lucky for me my meager vocabulary was mostly sufficient]) of an author who bears a passing resemblance t It always feels silly reviewing what is clearly a masterpiece, as if I could pass judgement or somehow augment the reading of a book in which every exquisite word was painstakingly selected (my cliche words, surely, would have been mocked by Vadim Vadimovich N.). A faux autobiography (replete, I should say, with Russian [which is, gratefully, always translated] and French [which isn't, though lucky for me my meager vocabulary was mostly sufficient]) of an author who bears a passing resemblance to Nobokov himself, this book reminded me a lot of Joseph Heller's Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man (although, of course, if there was a case of inspiration here, it went from Nabokov to Heller and not the other way around): using the memoirs of a parody of the author to answer the critiques, questions, and sycophantic praise they have encountered throughout their lives. Reading Nabokov is a bit like reading poetry. At times I would stop trying to understand what he's saying, and just enjoy the lilt and rhythm of the words as they washed off the page, a constant torrent of whimsical, baffling, beautiful, clever and, why not, often mocking phrases. I came across this book by accident, but I am ever so glad I did.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    A fictional autobiography in which a novelist named Vadim Vadimovich looks back at his life, loves, and literary work. Perhaps the novel could be termed an “alternate biography,” insofar as there are lots of parodic allusions to Nabokov’s own biography and his novels. I read this novel after reading many of Nabokov’s other works, so the parodies here made one kind of sense to me. However, I think it is possible to enjoy this novel without having read Nabokov’s other novels: for instance, if a re A fictional autobiography in which a novelist named Vadim Vadimovich looks back at his life, loves, and literary work. Perhaps the novel could be termed an “alternate biography,” insofar as there are lots of parodic allusions to Nabokov’s own biography and his novels. I read this novel after reading many of Nabokov’s other works, so the parodies here made one kind of sense to me. However, I think it is possible to enjoy this novel without having read Nabokov’s other novels: for instance, if a reader reads this novel without having read the others, the result may be that the reader will decide to read Nabokov’s other works. Nabokov is one of the great writers of English prose in the 20th century, and here there are masterful sentences describing settings and events, psychological states and human relations. Moreover, the novel is another example of Nabokov’s complex literary puzzles: in addition to some textual experimentation, there are images and phrases that recur in interesting contexts to keep those who search for the “figure in the carpet” busy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adam Floridia

    Vadim Vadimovich N., author/narrator, is an inverse of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov. Many of the traits that Vadim possesses are the very criticisms leveled (unjustly) at Nabokov by critics--aloofness, egotism, pedantry. Nabokov's deep love for his wife is also a clear foil for Vadim's various lusty pursuits. I can't imagine anyone other than a true Nabokov aficionado really enjoying this book. The parts I found truly entertaining were those for which I could recognize an antithesis in Nabokov Vadim Vadimovich N., author/narrator, is an inverse of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov. Many of the traits that Vadim possesses are the very criticisms leveled (unjustly) at Nabokov by critics--aloofness, egotism, pedantry. Nabokov's deep love for his wife is also a clear foil for Vadim's various lusty pursuits. I can't imagine anyone other than a true Nabokov aficionado really enjoying this book. The parts I found truly entertaining were those for which I could recognize an antithesis in Nabokov's life. Had I not just finished 1,300 pages of biography about the real author, I probably would find very little to enjoy in the fictitious autobiography of this pseudo-Nabokov.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mi Na

    گه گاه وقتی تا دیروقت کار میکنم و جاسوسانِ اندیشه دست از کار انتقالِ پیامها میکشند، یک واژه نادرست حینِ حرکت در ذهن به نحوی شبیه بیسکوییتی خشک به نظر می آید که طوطی ای با پای کُندِبزرگش نگه داشته. آن خیابان را با مجسمه ها و یاس هایش، جایی که من و آدا اولین دایره های مان را روی شن زارِ لکه لکه کشیدیم، هنرمندی ماندگار در ذهن مجسم کرده و بازآفریده بود. این تردیدِ وحشتناک که حتّا آردیس، شخصی ترین کتابم، که سرشار از واقعیت بود و اشباع شده از ذراتِ آفتابِ واقعی، میتوانست تقلیدی ناخواسته از هنرِ اسرارآم گه گاه وقتی تا دیروقت کار میکنم و جاسوسانِ اندیشه دست از کار انتقالِ پیامها میکشند، یک واژه نادرست حینِ حرکت در ذهن به نحوی شبیه بیسکوییتی خشک به نظر می آید که طوطی ای با پای کُندِبزرگش نگه داشته. آن خیابان را با مجسمه ها و یاس هایش، جایی که من و آدا اولین دایره های مان را روی شن زارِ لکه لکه کشیدیم، هنرمندی ماندگار در ذهن مجسم کرده و بازآفریده بود. این تردیدِ وحشتناک که حتّا آردیس، شخصی ترین کتابم، که سرشار از واقعیت بود و اشباع شده از ذراتِ آفتابِ واقعی، میتوانست تقلیدی ناخواسته از هنرِ اسرارآمیزِ کسی دیگر باشد، این تردید میتوانست بعداً پیش بیاید؛ درآن لحظه_ 6:18 بعدازظهر15ژوئن 1970 در تسین_ هیچ چیز نمیتوانست درخشش تند و نمناک خوشبختی ام را خدشه دار کند.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    Nabokov's last book ends on the line "mumbling, mumbling, dying." That's just too wonderful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    Now imagine that one night over drinks at David Lynch's house, Nabokov and Borges decided to write a novel together... Well, yes. That would be "Look at the Harlequins" (a title which probably does not--- but should ---reference Jacques Lacan's instruction to difficult analysands: Regardez le cheval!). Here we have Vadim Vadimovich N., an emigre Russian writer who is almost-but-not-quite Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, whose life is almost-but-not-quite Nabokov's, and whose novels are almost-but- Now imagine that one night over drinks at David Lynch's house, Nabokov and Borges decided to write a novel together... Well, yes. That would be "Look at the Harlequins" (a title which probably does not--- but should ---reference Jacques Lacan's instruction to difficult analysands: Regardez le cheval!). Here we have Vadim Vadimovich N., an emigre Russian writer who is almost-but-not-quite Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, whose life is almost-but-not-quite Nabokov's, and whose novels are almost-but-not-quite Nabokov's. (And of course the people who mix up the novels never get the titles quite right, so Vadim is never quite sure for whom he's being mistaken) And imagine that, slowly, inexorably, Vadim's life and dreams are turning into fragmented, overlapped, not-quite-just-right versions of scenes in Nabokov's works. "Look at the Harlequins" is a wickedly clever game--- identifying the characters and scenes and references from Vladimir's life and works that appear (and slowly supplant) Vadim's own. Some points are a delight--- Vadim's famous "A Kingdom By The Sea" is Vladimir's "Lolita"; Vladimir's "Ada, or Ardor" is Vadim's "Ardis". And some are well-done back-of-my-hand dismissals of critics--- when a much-younger-girl appears in Vadim's obsessions, it's not pubescent vapid suburban stepdaughter Lolita, but a real daughter, and one who's 17, tall, multi-lingual, Russian-cultured, and elegant. "Look at the Harlequins" was Nabokov's final completed novel, and it's a witty and tart valedictory. Very much a favourite, and very much worth reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I can understand the ratings all over the map, but in the end it is Nabokov writing, and it's wonderful language. Also very funny. An absurd riff throughout about warning his successive wives of his 'mental illness' of being unable to imagine reversing course on a journey, when he ought to be warning them of so much more. And the narrator/author pseudo Nabokov hates butterflies. But can't resist denoting locations in chess notation.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I didn't read this book during my big Nabokov phase several years ago, and I had really missed out--it's fantastic, easily as good as some of Nabokov's best (such as Pnin). I'm not quite sure how much I would've gotten out of it had I not read most of Nabokov's books already and been very familiar with his life (from the grad Nabokov class I took); the parallels and mirrorings between the narrator and Nabokov were delightful and sometimes somewhat obscure.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rafa

    Me plantea dudas.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nima

    فقط کودنها و احمقها تصور میکنند که بهیادآورنده از تکهای از گذشتهاش چون خسته کننده یا کمارزش است صرف نظر میکند. فقط کودن‌ها و احمق‌ها تصور می‌کنند که به‌یادآورنده از تکه‌ای از گذشته‌اش چون خسته کننده یا کم‌ارزش است صرف نظر می‌کند.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Annalisa

    If there was a zero star rating, I'd award it to this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    ‘But how could I know if in my torpor and panic that this was the simple solution, that the brook and the boughs and the beauty of the Beyond all began with the initial of Being?’ p. 21 ‘When a girl starts to speak like a novelette, all you need is a little patience.’ p. 35 ‘’Please don’t mind me: I love the sound of Russian.’ That was an insult, like telling an author his book was unreadable but beautifully printed.’ p. 74 ‘Iris said she would be back in a minute; her brother suggested we ‘repair ‘But how could I know if in my torpor and panic that this was the simple solution, that the brook and the boughs and the beauty of the Beyond all began with the initial of Being?’ p. 21 ‘When a girl starts to speak like a novelette, all you need is a little patience.’ p. 35 ‘’Please don’t mind me: I love the sound of Russian.’ That was an insult, like telling an author his book was unreadable but beautifully printed.’ p. 74 ‘Iris said she would be back in a minute; her brother suggested we ‘repair for a leak.’ I declined - not because I did not need it - I did - but because I knew by experience that a talkative neighbor and the sight of his immediate stream would inevitably afflict me with urinary impotence.’ p. 86 ‘Her dresses now wear their own selves, her books leaf through their own pages. We suffocate in the tightening circle of those monsters that are misplaced and misshapen because she is not there to tend them. And even the bravest among us cannot meet the gaze of her mirror.’ p. 91 ‘The summer I spent there is a mere smudge of color on the dull glass of my mind;’ pp 93-4 ‘And it is a particularly bad sign when a hatless person sobs as he walks, being moved not by lines he might have composed himself but by something he hideously mistakes for his own and presently flinches, yet is too much of a coward to make amends:’ p. 111 ‘The last time I saw her, in 1959, she was not quite seventeen; and between eleven and a half and seventeen and a half she has changed very slightly in the medium of memory, where blood does not course through immobile time as fast as it does in the perceptual present.’ p. 207 ‘The moment I woke up - or at least the moment I saw that getting up was the only way to fool early morning insomnia - I started wondering what new project Louise would invent that day with which to harass my girl.’ p. 233 ‘Beastly gravity humiliated me at once: my legs telescoped under me.’ p. 305 ‘I emitted a below of joy, and Reality entertaining entered.’ p. 306

  28. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    “Should I ignore the coincidence and its implications? Should I, on the contrary, repattern my entire life? Should I abandon my art, choose another line of achievement, take up chess seriously, or become, say, a lepidopterist, or spend a dozen years as an obscure scholar making a Russian translation of Paradise Lost that would cause hacks to shy and asses to kick? But only the writing of fiction, the endless re-creation of my fluid self could keep me more or less sane.” A confusing but mostly enj “Should I ignore the coincidence and its implications? Should I, on the contrary, repattern my entire life? Should I abandon my art, choose another line of achievement, take up chess seriously, or become, say, a lepidopterist, or spend a dozen years as an obscure scholar making a Russian translation of Paradise Lost that would cause hacks to shy and asses to kick? But only the writing of fiction, the endless re-creation of my fluid self could keep me more or less sane.” A confusing but mostly enjoyable fictional scramble of Nabokov’s life, filtered through the prism of his doppelganger, Vadim. If anything, I keep returning to Nabokov again and again as a needed jolt that refreshes my imagination for prose. He is always good for that, even in these lesser and forgettable novels.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Toma Paula

    “We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.”

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Ноуп

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