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The Gift
 
by
Vladimir Nabokov
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The Gift

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,740 ratings  ·  85 reviews
For most of his life, Vladimir Nabokov was quite literally a man without a country. It's a small irony, then, that his career falls so neatly into national phases: Russian, German, French, and American, plus the protracted coda he spend in a Swiss luxury hotel during his final decade. The Gift, which he wrote between 1935 and 1937 in Berlin, is the grand summation of his s ...more
Paperback, 378 pages
Published May 11th 1970 by Capricorn Books (first published 1938)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Geoff
The Gift finds among its peers works such as In Search of Lost Time and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Dedalus' scenes in Ulysses (does the root of every novel since inexorably stretch back to Ulysses? I see it everywhere). It even feels like a sequel to Speak, Memory, though Nabokov is careful to dissociate himself from Godunov-Cherdyntsev. Yet the book is woven with Pushkin and Gogol and lepidoptera, musings on chess and time, the deceptive and imitative qualities of the natural w ...more
Darwin8u
A very Proust-inspired (memory, love, dreams, art) Nabokov. The last of his Russian novels, 'the Gift' is a complex and rich Künstlerroman and is one of those novels that makes me wish I spent more time in college studying Russian simply so I could catch the nuanced differences between the Chapters where Nabokov is mimicking Pushkin, Gogol, and other Russian novelists.

Nabokov always amazes me with his ability to provoke, entertain and awe his readers. There are some novelists where it is clear
...more
ΑνναΦ
Libro dalla struttura particolare, labirintica, dove ad ogni angolo c'è un mondo nuovo. Ora è la quieta triste vita di émigrée a Berlino, traboccante di echi biografici, ora saggio botanico naturalista e poi racconto di viaggio e poi ancora (siamo all'ostico IV capitolo) ecco un bel saggio storico letterario su un alquanto sconosciuto (ai più, io tra loro) scrittore e rivoluzionario russo della seconda metà dell'800, ironicamente fatto a pezzi dal Nabokov eccelso critico letterario, ma anche fig ...more
Olivia
This book is incredibly quotable, so this post is going to be pretty disastrous. I liked this book a lot, but of course it was difficult (it was, after all, Nabokov). I love his writing, though, and I love the way his brain works, and I love that in parts of this book he was anticipating so many other masterful things, like Lolita and other plots that appear randomly. I love that he loves his art so much, and that love comes through with the main character, and so many others. And I loved that t ...more
John
Jul 07, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who reads with their spine
Recommended to John by: maybe John Updike -- in print, that is
Nabokov looms as one of the navigational stars, glimmering against a novelist's horizon just when things seem darkest. THE GIFT makes my Goodreads list because it's the book I came to most recently, maybe 30 years after PALE FIRE & his other American novels rewired my makeup for good. This one is his European masterpiece, a transcendent reimagining of himself & his small family as they shuttled between apartments in central Europe, vagabond souls with a more-than-half-mad notion of keepi ...more
Eric
The last, longest, and greatest of Nabokov's Russian novels, a project that in some form occupied him for much of the 1930s, is frequently compared to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man but I think it's better, and more ambitious (a rival for Ulysses actually). Nabokov focuses not so much on Fyodor's childhood and youth (although they are powerfully present in the first chapter) as much as on his growth and expansion as a quickly maturing writer, and on his impassioned relation to Russian lit ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Give me your hand, dear reader, and let’s go into the forest together.’

This is the last book Vladimir Nabokov wrote in what he called his ‘untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue’. The story of Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, a young Russian émigré aristocrat in Berlin, told in this novel is both a personal journey and a reflection of Russia’s past. Nabokov provides a brief synopsis in his foreword:

‘The plot of Chapter One centers in Fyodor’s poems. Chapter Two is a
...more
Jeff Jackson
Includes: Hunting expeditions in Tibet; fake executions; nude sunbathing; mysterious disappearances; Siberian exiles; three-way suicide pacts; left-wing censorship; recurring ghosts; Russian emigre life in Berlin; an affecting love story; the secrets of fictional composition; and much, much more. One of Nabokov's greatest masterpieces.
Jonathan
My review after rereading the book:

This book is worthy to stand among its chief literary influences, to wit: Proust and Joyce. "Portrait of the Artist Remembering Things Past." Nabokov exploits the workings of memory to describe his childhood and the birth and development of the the protag's "gift." This gift is the mysterious element that drives one to become a writer, and very few to become writers of the highest caliber.

On first reading, I was so earnest on keeping the characters sorted that
...more
Hamish
The Gift is a bit different from other Nabokov novels. Its closest contemporary is the earlier Glory, and to a lesser extent his memoir Speak, Memory. Instead of the tricky, complex and maze-like plots that structure most of his works, this one is a slow burn. It takes its time and doesn't necessarily lead anywhere, but instead provides its pleasure in the beautiful density of the prose and the wonderful observations and sly jokes. Granted, those are aspects that make a large part of all of N's ...more
Scott Zaramba
I read this book in the middle of last summer. I loved it. When I finished, I set about reading the rest of Nabokov's Russian work. None of it equals this book - not even Despair, which comes close, or Invitation to a Beheading, which I've liked since I read it as a teenager.

My enjoyment surprised me. Nabokov receives criticism for preciosity. This is the only book of his that I've read which feels precious all the way through. The sentences trace long paths down the page. The perspective shifts
...more
Sps
Though less than 400 pages this seemed like a long book, or several books. Possibly because it moves from a book about a book of poems, to a memoir of Fyodor's father, to a biography-of-sorts of Chernyshevskii, with literary criticism and imagined conversations and many lines of poetry throughout. I couldn't quite find the thread, the plait, the tide, though many wavelets were mordant, bilingually punning, or finely wrought.

VN even puts a foretaste of Lolita in the mouth of one of his most poshl
...more
Yupa
Copincollo un luuungo commento che avevo scritto tempo addietro per un siti di libri e letteratura...

===============================

“Il vero scrittore dovrebbe infischiarsene di tutti i lettori, salvo uno: il lettore futuro”: questo viene detto ne Il dono di Nabokov, a pagina 421, quando soltanto un’altra cinquantina ci separano dalla conclusione. Una frase che è quasi un piccolo premio proprio per il lettore futuro, cioè, contemporaneo (Il dono è stato scritto negli anni ’30 e in seguito pubbli
...more
Adam Floridia
Just one sentence on only the 2nd page:

"With a practiced eye he searched it for something that would become a daily sore spot, a daily torture for his senses, but there seemed to be nothing of that sort in the offing, and the diffuse light of the gray spring day was not only above suspicion but even promised to mollify any trifle that in more brilliant weather would not fail to crop up; this could be anything: the color of a building, for instance, that immediately provoked an unpleasant taste
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I liked the first 100 pages or so, but then began to lose interest. I tried reading 10 pages or so at a time, interspersed with something else. Then I began putting off reading those 10 pages for longer and longer, until I finally realized - more than halfway through - that I simply didn't care about finishing.

This is semi-autobiographical, although Nabokov denies it. It is about a writer who has left Russia following the revolution and who settles in Berlin. He is involved in the ex-pat commun
...more
Lauren
One of the most difficult and challenging books I have ever read. Yet, extremely rewarding once you get past the long sentences and paragraphs filled with imagery. I only had a few weeks to read this book for a Russian lit. course which made it hard to completely enjoy and take in the novel. I would definitely like to re-read it for a second time at a slower pace.

There are quite a few paragraphs in this book with imagery and word choice so beautiful you can't help but over look some of the strug
...more
Howard Olsen
This is my favorite Nabokov book. It's a melancholy story about exiled Russian nobles living in Berlin after the Revolution. The narrator is an exile who is also a novelist. Most of the book slips effortlessly between his childhood memories in Russia, his creative reveries, and his life in dreary Berlin. His thoghts eventually become so jumbles that it becomes impossible to tell what is real and what is memory. There is some remarkable writing here. One chapter begins with the narrator's vivid d ...more
Manny

I don't think I know enough about Russian literature to properly get this book, but it did have some great moments. One in particular that I'm often reminded of whenever people on either side of the religion/skepticism debate start saying that things are "obvious". A character is in the middle of an atheist rant. "There's no God!" he exclaims. "It's as obvious as the fact that it's raining right now!" Then Nabokov's camera moves back, and you see that the person upstairs has in fact been waterin
...more
Keti
Was anyone else bothered with his treatment and representation of Chernyshevsky in the third chapter? I thought it was beyond pretentious. I mean, I get the point that he is making with Chernyshevsky being a terribly unenjoyable writer and whatnot, but devoting 100 pages to ridicule the dude is not interesting. I should also add that I DO NOT LIKE NABOKOV'S TREATMENT OF HIS CHARACTERS and his authorial style.
Elizabeth

Brilliant, layered - the best for me is the contrast between the idyllic remembered childhood (a sensual memory like no other), and the historical sort-of novel within the novel, about Chernyshevsky. Of course it's Nabokov's way of confronting the Soviet Russia that had mysteriously replaced the land of his memory. Maybe the pinnacle of Nabokov.
Megan
The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov is the story of Fyodor, a Russian émigré living in Germany. A pretentious young man, he fancies himself a poet and moves within a literary circle populated with other pompous individuals like himself. Eventually he gives up on poetry and writes a boring biography about a Russian poet that he finds absolutely astounding. Then we are subjected to an incredibly long synopsis of said boring book. After that finally ends there’s a little more about Fyodor and then the boo ...more
Scott
A meandering tale of an immigrant Russian writer living in Germany. The realtively banal plot achieves salvation through a typically expansive and transcendent Nabokovian tutorial on the essence of writing. This doesn't measure up to Lolita, but the character and quality of description is every bit as present in this as his tour de force.
Rachel
A trying read, but an absolute must for those with a background in both 19th century Russian literature and basic, introductory knowledge in philosophy. Without these, you will likely be lost and miss the aesthetic correlations between Classicism, Philistine vulgarity, and great Russian literary canons. With them, you will be greatly rewarded.
Gela Tevzadze
In my humble opinion, one of the best books by Nabokov: exceptional style, enchanting poems and a biting satire on the revolutionary movement in the mid-19th century Russia.
aidan w-m
probably a masterpiece, though i confess to losing my patience with it often. in his russian language novels, nabokov's talent is most evident in certain set pieces.
kymdotcom
Nabakov certainly thought an awful lot of himself.
Katie Muffett
Feb 29, 2008 Katie Muffett rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who are scared off of Russian writing by Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy et al.
Considering the fact that Russian literature scares the crap out of me, I very tentatively followed my sister's recommendation of Nabokov after she read 'Lolita'. I am also fascinated by synesthesia, so 'The Gift' was a logical choice. So far, so beautiful. And only one miserable git longing after a bandy-legged female. Fyodor is cool and his longing is not of the Dostoevskian sort, which generally consists of a socially outcast dude with tall black hair, a dog at his feet (slowly succumbing to ...more
Katelynne
"He gets away with such saltations! A chapter on imagining a book, and then lo, the fourth chapter IS this book in its entirety, a biography of Chernyshevski I had not signed up to read - and then in the fifth chapter, among all the reviews, you realize that half of what was written as truth is actually an unacknowledged 'what if', so at least 30 pages were unnecessary. And more than once, a few pages of conversation revealed to be nothing but the narrator's own fancy! And who is the "I" who wax ...more
Colleen
Why is introspection and self-awareness so often a shameful thing? While many times we take pleasure in reading the diaries and confessions of others, the thought of someone offering up their diary for us to read makes us uncomfortable. It is as awkward to be caught watching a person watch themselves as it is to be caught watching oneself. Just as it is a strange feeling to come across someone staring admiringly at their own reflection, it is a strange feeling to come across a piece of writing a ...more
Brent Legault
The most difficult, I'm sure, of Nabokov's Russian novels. Certainly the most Russian of them. And second only to Ada or Ardor A Family Chronicle in his, er, oeuvre for both page count and complexity. And while I'm getting catagorical and even possibly (pardon my neologism) elistical, let me add that it is, in my opinion, his sweetest novel (one sugary step above Pnin). And before you cock a brow, Mr. Spock, the answer is no, I don't feel the slightest bit corny in writing that because I am a ma ...more
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Nabokov in Three ...: Impressions 1 9 May 12, 2012 08:16AM  
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • Petersburg
  • The Noise of Time: Selected Prose
  • The Foundation Pit
  • Novel with Cocaine
  • The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness
  • Envy
  • Vera (Mrs.Vladimir Nabokov)
  • Black Snow
  • The Golovlyov Family
  • Less Than One: Selected Essays
  • The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories
  • Happy Moscow
  • Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Other Stories
  • Forever Flowing
  • The Village of Stepanchikovo
  • The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)
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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
More about Vladimir Nabokov...
Lolita Pale Fire Pnin Invitation to a Beheading Speak, Memory

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“Have you ever happened, reader, to feel that subtle sorrow of parting with an unloved abode? The heart does not break, as it does in parting with dear objects. The humid gaze does not wander around holding back a tear, as if it wished to carry away in it a trembling reflection of the abandoned spot; but in the best corner of our hearts we feel pity for the things which we did not bring to life with our breath, which we hardly noticed and are now leaving forever. This already dead iventory will not be resurrected in one's memory..” 15 likes
“Thus it transpired that even Berlin could be mysterious. Within the linden's bloom the streetlight winks. A dark and honeyed hush envelops us. Across the curb one's passing shadow slinks: across a stump a sable ripples thus. The night sky melts to peach beyond that gate. There water gleams, there Venice vaguely shows. Look at that street--it runs to China straight, and yonder star above the Volga glows! Oh, swear to me to put in dreams your trust, and to believe in fantasy alone, and never let your soul in prison rust, nor stretch your arm and say: a wall of stone.” 8 likes
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