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3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,397 Ratings  ·  217 Reviews
Alone in his room in a dirty Berlin pension, Ganin reminisces about Mary, his first love. He fantasizes that a fellow lodger’s wife, due to arrive the next day, is his long-lost sweetheart and plots how they will run away together, leaving everything else far behind …

United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly
Paperback, Great Loves, #15, 136 pages
Published August 2nd 2007 by Penguin Classics (first published 1926)
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Dec 25, 2015 Darwin8u rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
“He was powerless because he had no precise desire, and this tortured him because he was vainly seeking something to desire.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Mary


Amazing to think Nabokov was starting his journey here. While Nabokov's first novel purports to be about Mary, it is really about memory, nostalgia, that yearning for the past. It is also about anticipation: the exile's return, the lover's arrival, all the emotions of expectancy. Mary centers on émigré Lev Glebovich Ganin. He is trying to separate
Anthony Vacca
Aw, even Nabokov had to write a first novel. A first novel about first love and the passing of time and the power of memory. Nabokov writes about the languors and lashings of lost love and listless life at 27. A lesser, sometimes lyrical work. How adorable.

Here's a second (and German Dutch) opinion of the work:

Take that, my fellow Goodreaders!
Mar 29, 2015 Afshar rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
این کتاب رو بخاطر مترجمش عباس پژمان از کتابخونه برداشتم
ولی کاش از این غلطا نمی کردم
کتاب ناباکوف،اولاش قرار بود 4 ستاره بگیره و از اواسط کتاب سهامش شروع به سقوط کرد
تا همین ریویو که میخاستم بنویسم دو ستاره داشت
ولی همین که در نوشتن ریویو تعلل به سراغم اومد و نمیدانستم چی بنویسم
حرصم در اومد و یه ستاره دیگه ازش گرفتم
مثه این تیمسارها و نظامی ها، منم به ناباکوف میگم زود از جلو چشم گم شو تا همون یه ستاره رو هم ازت نگرفتم
تو این هاگیر و واگیر داره برام خاطره تعریف میکنه
I read this in 1999 and then again a few years ago. THIS is what first novels should aspire towards. Instead every MFA wants to Pynchon-it over the fence and we have reams of bad puns and pop culture references all alluding to some Grand Joke. Well, that wasn't funny, was it?

This is a tome about estrangement, when the ideas and habits of home are exiled, what's left?
Dale Jr.
Oct 02, 2012 Dale Jr. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memories and shadows. Images of the past that roll through the mind like smoke escaping the bellies of locomotives. A photo. A certain scent. Mary. Mary is coming.

Nabokov's first novel has cemented his place on my list of favorite writers. His writing is consistently and incredibly beautiful. In his preface to this printing, he discusses the process of translating "Mary" to English and the problems with the story he refused to fix in the process, retaining every bit of the original writing as po
Sep 17, 2010 Manny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nabokov's first novel is a thinly fictionalized account of his first serious love affair. He then presented it as straight autobiography in one of the chapters of Speak, Memory, and finally did another, heavily stylized, fictional version in Ada.

I wonder if he would have returned to this theme again if he had lived another few years? Also, if the woman in question read any of them? I'm trying to imagine how I'd have experienced it. Would I have been deeply touched? creeped out? taken great pain
MJ Nicholls
Vladimir’s debut, pictured here in resplendent pink, is the slight tale of arch git Ganin remembering his first love—the obeisant Mary with the Tartar nose. The novel suffers from lingering descriptions of almost every strange nuance to each individual scene, written before Nabokovian prose was truly Nabokovian. This problem dogs some of his earlier work, among them Invitation to a Beheading and The Luzhin Defense in its snoozier moments.

This general qualm aside (well, it’s quite a large qualm,
Nov 26, 2010 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[ contented sigh ]

Just to be clear, a few days ago when I said "99% of human civilization is bullshit," it should be understood that the whole of Nabokov's work falls into that rare 1% which makes life worth living.
Stephen M
There's nothing particularly wrong with Nobokov's debut, but it left me underwhelmed. Sure, there are some beautiful descriptions and a handful of enjoyable characters, but the whole time I wondered, what's the point?. Because essentially, this is a story about lost love and moving on; which it's possible that at the time this was written, it was not as much of an over-used cliché as it is now. I expected a lot more out of the genius that gave us Lolita.

Reading first books have always been fun
Jan 27, 2011 Marcus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian, fiction
It's not like the Nabokov I know to write a Russian book, but despite its Berlin setting, this is a very Russian book. There's a Dostoyevsky-like dinner scene, mentions of revolutions and Cossacks, stealing money from drawers and of course plenty of drunkenness. It's strange to get so much of it from an author that despite his origins, feels so American. Still, amidst all the uncharacteristic Russianness, there is a definite hint of what was to come in later Nabokov novels.

There's some of the c
Aug 06, 2015 Tfitoby rated it liked it
Shelves: lit, translation
I've not read any Nabokov, and neither my wife nor I were willing to accept responsibility for bringing this book home at some point in the last five years, but it looked pretty and it's very slight (two of my favourite things to consider when under pressure to pick a new book before rushing off to catch a bus) and on top of that the premise sounded loaded with melancholia and miserabilia so I felt guaranteed a good time and to look cool whilst having said good time. And despite it being his fir ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
'Mary', Nabokov's first novel, was written before his genius and reached its lengthy fulfilment (roughly from The Luzhin Defence to Ada-some 39 years) and one can sense, before his works shed any literary influences they may have had and became original works of art, unlike anything seen before, from the moonlight dappled depictions of the Russian countryside reminiscent of Turgenev, to its sensitive portrayal of a pathetic and doomed love affair so like Chekhov or Bunin’s best short stories and ...more
Mar 29, 2011 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Other than the image no Mary existed, nor could exist"
Nabakov in just 130odd pages has put into words an idea some friends and I have been grappiling with for some time: when you're in love, you create a concept of the person, which could for all you know be far from the reality. This story plays on that completely, as Ganin, the protagonist who is likeable but flawed as a person, revels in the memories of his love. The fact he hasn't seen his Mary in a long time means nothing to him.

On top of
Apr 20, 2012 Capsguy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
I actually prefer this to some of the Nabokov I've already read. It doesn't have the pretentiousness and arrogance evident in many of his later books.

It was almost sweet in the innocence.
Chad Bearden
Dec 18, 2009 Chad Bearden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
With his very first novel, Nabokov seems to tease the reader with the notion that they're reading a Victorian romance. His language is beautifuly flowery and many flashbacks explore picturesque landscapes and the heartache of first love. But the present-day segments of the novel feature a misantrophic lead, a vapid and clueless love triangle, a sad-sack elder statesmen to whom noone listens, and a pair of obviously gay ballet dancers. Nabokov is very clear: he is no Victorian, but is indeed a po ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Matt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Nabokov's work, people studying author's first works
Shelves: from-the-library
Ugh, I really wish I hadn't started this book. I'm nearly halfway through it, and I haven't been able to keep focus through nearly all of it. It is well and smartly written from a technical standpoint, but not from a reader's. Nothing even remotely interesting happens, and, unlike Joyce's Ulysses, the thoughts put forward are neither insightful to the human mind nor even presented in an interesting manner.

Some of the issues I have with this book could be due to the translator, but since Nabokov
Nov 20, 2011 Hamish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
I remember hearing somewhere (or maybe my mind invented it) that Nabokov's first novel was a weak first step towards future greatness. Maybe going in with lowered expectations helped, but I ended up enjoying Mary a lot. You can tell it's his first book, in that stylistically the prose is similar to his other work, but it lacks that naturalness he normally has. Nabokov has always seemed to me like an author that never misses in his prose; his wording is always clever, clear and unforced. Here it' ...more
Vladimir Rybalko
Dec 31, 2012 Vladimir Rybalko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Грустный роман... Потерянные герои, потерянная страна, потерянная любовь. Серая и однообразная жизнь российских эмигрантов. Каждый из них по разному относится к своей родине. Но все они не могут её забыть, Россия предстает в разговорах снова и снова. Герои непрерывно вспоминают своё прошлое. Хотя никто из них так и не может построить своё настоящее. Повествование сплетается вокруг жизни о воспоминаний одного из эмигрантов.
Нескончаемая череда событий заставила главного героя отдалиться, забыть о
Jan 29, 2014 Pink rated it it was ok
Hhm, after the astounding beauty of Lolita, this was kind of disappointing. I guess being his first novel it was less refined, more an early exploration of his writing craft. Perhaps it suffered in translation from Russian too, unlike his later works that were written in English, or maybe it just wasn't for me. There were some nice passages and I liked the idea of reminiscing about love, rather than actually experiencing it, but for such a short book I was often bored and found my mind wandering ...more
Adam Floridia
Jun 29, 2010 Adam Floridia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nabokov
Nabokov's first novel is not outstanding, but worth a read. It is interesting to see the beginnings of his thematic obsession with the prison of human consciousness and how memory functions as a sort of key to unlocking one of the jail cells. The way in which the protagonist Romanticizes all of his past memories, especially the pertaining to his first romantic and sexual encounters, is quite realistic, something, I am sure, most people would be able to relate to. Finally, I like that the titular ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Rafa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Se ve que al joven Nabokov le gustaba León Tolstói. Pero aún así, tiene tanto talento...
This is my first Nabokov novel. I decided to read them in chronological order. Since I don't have anything to compare it to, my review is based on the assumption that the rest of his novels are better. I think for a debut novel this is great. I feel like there is a mild essence of Nabokov in this novel, but he hasn't at this point established his identity as a writer. And there is a bit of artificial romance and inexperience of the characters. But you can tell what he will retain as a writer
Ahmad Sharabiani
Mashenka, Vladimir Nabokov
عنوان: ماشنکا ؛ نویسنده: ولادیمیر ناباکوف؛ مترجم: خلیل رستم خانی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، نشر دیگر، 1387، در 151 ص،
Parisa Hashemy
Aug 13, 2013 Parisa Hashemy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was so damn boring and nothing special had happened in the story
I can't believe that nabakov wrote such a thing!!!!
کتابی بسیار ضعیف که پایان بندی ناباکفی ان نجاتش میدهد.بسیار سنتی منتال
Sep 19, 2015 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
Ganin felt that the murky twilight which was gradually seeping into the room was also slowly penetrating his body, transforming his blood into fog, and that he was powerless to stop the spell that was being cast on him by the twilight. He was powerless because he had no precise desire, and this tortured him because he was vainly seeking something to desire.

The past has a tendency to tinge the present, the hazy colours of memory sharing the space of our immediate reality and ultimately usurping i
John Pappas
May 15, 2013 John Pappas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suppose Nabokov scholars might herald the recent publication of the posthumous drafts and notes of the novel-to-be entitled The Original of Laura because of the insight it gives into Nabokov's writing process, but, to me, reading his first novel, Mary, is much more illuminating. Here, one can find some of Nabokov's ur-motifs, in nascent form, but there none-the-less: memory and longing, identity (and mistaken identity), the influence of the past on the present, compulsion and even a sort of tw ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book in which largely nothing happens, Nabokov has a lot to say. In fact, the novella has so little in terms of notable actionable events, that it could be adumbrated in less than a couple of sentences. But to do so would be missing the point. It is a Bildungsroman of the protagonist Ganin; although this does not become apparent until the very end of the story. With a misleading trajectory of introspection which for most of seems like he is moving backwards, living vicariously through his ...more
Liina Bachmann
Being Nabokov's first novel it does not reach the heights of his later masterpieces. His distinctive clever and funny style is not fully present in this book (yet). It is well written but the wordplay and imagery does not make you gasp you for air exactly.
But it has many of the themes that appear and reappear in his laters works. The idea of memories as unreliable sources, the bittersweetness of nostalgia and for lost times and places, the warmth of summer days filled with desire and lush (note
Runed Platypus
Jun 04, 2015 Runed Platypus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Прочитал сегодня свой первый роман Набокова. Сразу хочу отметить прекрасный язык произведения. Который обволакивает читателя густым туманом, он затягивает в глубокое синие море метафор, олицетворений, гипербол, сравнений.
Основу сюжета составляет путешествие по светлым воспоминаниям человека – ностальгия, из которой, как и главному герою, нам всем, порой, очень сложно вернуться в реальность.
Это история о молодости, любви и ностальгии Льва Ганина (автобиографический герой). Большинство сцен – это
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  • The Women Who Got Away
  • Something Childish But Very Natural
  • Bodily Secrets
  • The Eaten Heart: Unlikely Tales of Love
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • Magnetism
  • Of Mistresses, Tigresses and Other Conquests
  • A Russian Affair
  • Eros Unbound
  • A Mere Interlude
  • Cures for Love
  • Forbidden Fruit: From The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
  • Deviant Love
  • Doomed Love
  • The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog
  • Boris Godunov
  • First Love
Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made significant contributions to lepidoptery and had an interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequently cit
More about Vladimir Nabokov...

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“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.” 181 likes
“He was powerless because he had no precise desire, and this tortured him because he was vainly seeking something to desire. He could not even make himself stretch out his hand to switch on the light. The simple transition from intention to action seemed an unimaginable miracle.” 29 likes
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