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Bend Sinister

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  2,284 ratings  ·  145 reviews
The first novel Nabokov wrote while living in America and the most overtly political novel he ever wrote, Bend Sinister is a modern classic.While it is filled with veiled puns and characteristically delightful wordplay, it is, first and foremost, a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught in the tyranny of a police state. It is first and foremost a co ...more
Unknown Binding, 241 pages
Published January 1st 1973 by McGraw-Hill (first published 1947)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
It's interesting to compare Bend Sinister with 1984. (Nabokov didn't much like Orwell, and thought he was a hack). Orwell's take on totalitarianism, is, roughly, that it's evil. Nabokov's is more that it's terminally stupid. Even when the rulers of the State would actually prefer to get things right, they've fucked up their minds with nonsensical ideology to the point where they're no longer capable of coherent thought. I wonder whether Nabokov wasn't closer to the truth. In the end, the Soviet ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Beautiful, then grueling. The first half is stellar, the second half simultaneously disturbingly fascinating and immensely frustrating. Jogging the last lap of the book feels like running with a ferocious wind beating against you, largely due to the otherwise elegant prose getting a but clunky. Despite what is unarguably a beautiful stretch of text, I found myself wanting to slug it down like ice cold water at 4 am after a bender. I felt immense guilt in doing so, as I know from various quotes a ...more
Szplug
Yeah, I don't have any idea what to say here. So much beautiful writing that time and again I wanted to freeze the moment and savor against the lengthening shadows the sublime and playful wit that infuses this silky, slinky prose, the arch elegance drawn taut and set to run with the wind. The man had a gift, an effortless, supple skill with the pen that is a pleasure to behold; too pleasurable perhaps—for as another reviewer astutely points out, it is written so beautifully as to be distracting. ...more
Anthony Vacca
And here's Nabokov's stab at the dystopian novel. Not a fan of Orwell's portrayal of oppressive regimes (although this could be some eventual jealousy on Vlad's part since his book came out two years prior and was not instantly hailed a prophetic classic like 1984), Nabokov goes for broke showing these tinkertoy political powers as nothing more than bilious mixtures of pettiness, stupidity and brute nature. Nabokov swears (lies) in the amusingly/annoyingly arrogant forward of the 1961 edition th ...more
Rob
The more Nabokov I read, the more I feel that he wrote a set of three very good novels that make sense as novels -- Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada -- and that everything outside that central trilogy consists of more unformed, less intelligible versions of the same material he used in the trilogy, awaiting a context that would make sense of it.

If you read the trilogy first, then reading more Nabokov is a very strange experience. The trilogy flaunts its unreliable narrators and appears, transparently,
...more
AC
I have not finished yet -- and I don't know if I will then actually write a review when I do. After all, what can I say or add or... why should I comment... on works of art? Pieces of crap deserve comment. It's obligatory. Works on objective material -- books on history or sociology or entomology or prosody -- can be commented upon or corrected or endorsed...; but ...?-- well, that's just me, maybe.

Anyway -- this is a truly magnificent book. Don't be mislead by some of the less than enthusiastic
...more
L.M. Ironside
Let me get this out of the way first: I have a lot of respect for 1984. It's a good book. It's a great book, in fact. George Orwell was a master at his craft.

But Bend Sinister is so amazing, so delicious and so emotionally deep that as good as 1984 is, Bend Sinister still manages to feel like "1984 done right."

Nabokov uses the full force of his incredibly nuanced, unique command of language to paint a picture of a totalitarian regime. His images are beautiful and stunning, and the story at the
...more
aidan w-m
15% didactic nonsense, 85% sheer genius. i liked the first chapter enough to type it up & send it to a friend on skype. make of that what you will.
Inderjit Sanghera
On the face of it, Bend Sinister is an unusual novel. Nabokov, a self-proclaimed politically apathetic writer, writes a novel about the rise of newly formed dictatorship in a fictitious country. Yet, despite this, Bend Sinister is fundamentally not a political book, or even a book about politics per se, but is more a book about love, or in this case, paternal love, and just as the object of that paternal love dies and is removed from the novel, so the narrator himself, in a miracle of involution ...more
Darwin8u
My bookshelf is growing bigger every day with new fantastic fairytales of fascism, dynamic doggerels of dystopia. Of course there is Orwell's seminal 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. There are also (move aside high-school dystopias) Koestler's Darkness at Noon, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and almost all of Kafka's well-kooked, absurd oeuvre (The Trial, The Castle, etc). Keep looking, yes right there, you almost missed another fantastic novel by Nabokov - Invitation to a Beheading. I love them ...more
William Herschel
oh, Nabokov.

Your prose is extremely sexy. And I don't mean you're always describing Lolitas and Adas and the like, but the way you describe and isolate the little every-days and play them every-which-way and turn them inside-out and make them oh-so-clever. You have written the most sensual things I've ever had the pleasure of reading often without the shedding of a single garment.

And this, a novel of governing gone terribly wrong in the form of political dystopia wherein to achieve true human en
...more
Jenelle
Jul 25, 2010 Jenelle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenelle by: crazy uncle Richard, on my sister's wedding
what'll happen to love, interior life, and the butterflies in a dystopian world??
I'm always charmed by Nabokov's willingness to bore & lose his reader, and this one, his first American novel, is particularly full of tricks. partly they're there to suggest the confusion & bewilderment felt under an absurd totalitarian rule, but partly Nab's just playing. it's like writing in English is still so novel & thrilling for him! even thicker than normal with poetry, puns & reference, it's
...more
Adam
This read much like a pretentious version of a dystopia, like Orwell if he were trying to please a collegiate, indie rock crowd. But, then again, Nabokov is never afraid to shy away from writing something that would prove exactly how brilliant he was. And he was smart; his capacity for learning and using language is impressive to say the least. He's a brilliant writer, too. There's just this semi-bearable attitude of condescension that works sometimes and really frustrates at others. There are s ...more
Adam Floridia
As he points out in his introduction, Nabokov fills his book with so many obscure allusions, subtle themes/motifs, and playfully linguistic choices. Most of these must be lost on most readers (myself included!), which is, perhaps, what promoted him to write the explanatory introduction. It was interesting to read because it really gives the reader the sense that Nabokov is upset that his readers aren't brilliant enough to discern everything he has embedded in the novel. He really is a genius.

I l
...more
Spiros
Oct 02, 2014 Spiros rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Terry Gilliam & Elvis Costello fans
Never has a dystopian novel been so absurdly funny, or filled with pathos. Adam Krug is Timofey Pnin's much more accomplished cousin, and yet he shares many of Timofey's gaucheries. Nabokov allows you to see all the traps into which Krug, through his preoccupation with his wife's death and his exaggerated sense of his (and philosophy's) importance, blunders into. And then you get passages like this:

"They entered the building and Krug found himself in a curiously empty room. It was perfectly roun
...more
Kevin Tole

There is the book, the content of the book, the author and the author's power over the book and the reader interacting with it all. Or is it? Is that all?

Above all, with Nabokov as with Calvino

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino If on a Winter's Night a Traveler ,

there is the Author. There is the taste with Nabokov of the smugness of authorship, of author-ity, of the importance of the meta-fiction as opposed to the fiction, of the 'HEY - this is ME writing - and you reading my writing and you are in my power'. That Nabokov m
...more
Meriam Kharbat
Frenchman crying - June, 1940

One would think that after the horror of the war had ended, people would have an optimistic vision of the future, that artists would see la vie en rose. However, when you read the books published in the same year the song came out 1947, they all seem to share this horrible idea of what is to come. Bend Sinister isn't any different.

As Nabokov puts it: “People are made to live together, to do business with one another, to talk, to sing songs together, to meet in clubs and stores, and street corner
...more
K.A. Laity
I was actually reading Pale Fire when I decided to switch to Bend Sinister, mostly because I decided I would probably have to buy my own copy of Pale Fire because I was making too many notes and it would be easier to just put them in the book and that wouldn't be good to do with the library's copy.

I learn all my new words from Nabokov.

I had already written down tons of new words from Pale Fire, but I found myself writing quotes from Bend Sinister instead. I alluded in my Hamlet review to Ember's
...more
Libbie
Shockingly enough, Bend Sinister manages to rival Lolita for the position of my favorite Nabokov novel, and therefore my favorite novel by any author.

As in Lolita, the theme is the helpless and hopeless situation of the characters, and like Lolita, Bend Sinister is mostly darkness leavened with a helping of genuine humor. Throughout all, Nabokov's incredible narrative voice and creative wordplay shine through, as usual.

Bend Sinister is not one of his better-known works. Most people first think o
...more
Preston Fleming
BEND SINISTER stands at the outer limits of dystopian political fantasy.
Though Nabokov has denied that he intended the novel as social commentary, it is a richly nuanced portrayal of a cultured intellectual caught up in the madness of a tyrannical police state.
The story takes place in a fictional central European country, Padukgrad, endowed with both German and Slavic qualities. Its new dictator and ruling Party of the Common Man embrace an ideology that celebrates the mediocrity of an ignoran
...more
R.
Nabokov says more about fear and flight and doppelgangers and night in eighteen relatively short chapters than most YA Dystopian novels, in their dozens, achieve in their Christmas box-set trilogies that come complete with author interviews ("The idea of a darker world came to me in a dream") bonus material and collectible (collect 'em all!) action figures. Bonus, here, is that the son's fate is an eerie 3-2-1 TV pattern test of the uncouth youth-on-the loose deathhunt fantasies of, say, Hunger ...more
Bob
The exact edition I got is listed as items 4 and 5 on this page [http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Searc...] - it is a 1964 production by Time-Life Books who I guess had pretensions at the time to be arbiters of high culture before settling down to produce Homer Simpson's Carpenter's Encyclopedia.
The cover is of interest - an illustration faintly reminiscent of de Kooning by Louis Di Valentin who (according to the lack of info on the Web) is a rather forgotten American artist (b. 1908) and general
...more
Matt
A very literary book of the Orwellian genre. In fact, Nabokov thinks so too, as he refers to Orwell as a "mediocre english writer" in the introduction! Disregarding the complete absence of humility, Nabokov's ability is truly remarkable considering he was not writing in his first language...

Books like 1984 and Bend Sinister serve as stark reminders to anyone who takes their freedom for granted, or underestimates the willingness of the average citizen to jump on board whichever train of thought
...more
Zsmith89
Beautiful and tragic. Was less than 200 pages, but it felt so much longer because Nabokov's amazing use of the English language caused me to re-read almost every single page and see something I didn't see during the first read. Read slowly!
Perry Whitford
"I am not in the least interested in your government. What I resent is your attempt to make me interested in it. Leave me alone."
Professor Adam Krug.

His coup successful, the Ruler was now embarking on those monotonous round of political assassinations and repressions which always accompany such things. Amongst them he threatens to close the University unless they can assure him of their position. Chosen as courier is internationally renowned Professor of Philosophy, Adam Krug.
You see, Krug used
...more
bridget
A dark illustration of a philosopher and his boy living in a calmly terrifying "Padukgrad," controlled by a quietly dictatorial Paduk and his Elders. Paduk and the Elders and even Adam Krug's philosophy are not the central foci of the book, though. My emotions were stimulated not by the political violence nor the clever jabs at misguided literary criticism, but by the relationship between Krug and his small boy. I was nearly driven to tears in the final few chapters. And yet there is tautly-woun ...more
Rachel Kowal
Another Nabokov to report. This one dubbed his "most political book" by many, though Nabokov himself writes in the introduction, "I am not 'sincere,' I am not 'provocative,' I am not 'satirical,' I am neither a didacticism nor an allegorizer. Politics and economics, atomic bombs, primitive and abstract art forms [funny, given the cover on my edition], the entire Orient, symptoms of 'thaw' in Soviet Russia, the Future of Mankind, and so on, leave me extremely indifferent.' So what do we know?

It i
...more
Ellen
I finished half of Nabokov's "Bend Sinister" in approximately two days, after which I decided that even if the rest of the book was utter garbage, it would have been one of the better books I had read in a long while(fortunately, I did not have to make that sacrifice of 120-odd pages). While it is certainly an archaic notion, the timeless adage (I laughed, I cried, I absent-mindedly picked at a hangnail until it bled on the library book) applies to "Bend Sinister" to a great degree; Nabokov comm ...more
Joshua Cochran
Mein Gott!

I put off reading this novel when I went through my Nabokov phase. Not a great fan of Lolita, but Nabokov is so incredibly brilliant.

This is a MUST read if you like literature and the beauty of sentences leading into the beauty of ideas.

Several times, I had to put the book down and swoon. It made me consider breaking all my pens and shredding my paper. This is masterful writing.

It's funny, too. And terrible. Quite horrifying really. There is something quite grotesque that occurs at the
...more
Federica
Un mondo sinistro - Vladimir Nabokov Iniziamo col dire cheUn mondo sinistronon è un romanzo semplice. Non è un romanzo facile da leggere e da interpretare perchéNabokovusa volutamente uno stile confusionario(si passa dalla terza alla seconda alla prima persona) abbinato a un linguaggio che cambia in continuazione (tedesco; un idioma inventato; francese; italiano [in originale]) e contorsioni lessicali, per completare tutto con ampi brani di pseudo-filosofia, pseudo-critica letteraria e pseudo-sc ...more
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Goodreads Italia: Un mondo sinistro - Vladimir Nabokov 1 24 Oct 16, 2013 04:23AM  
Nabokov in Three ...: Impressions 1 5 Jul 25, 2012 09:26PM  
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness
  • Vera (Mrs.Vladimir Nabokov)
  • Black Snow
  • Memories of the Future
  • Kallocain
  • The Foundation Pit
  • The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader
  • Eugene Onegin, Vol. I (Text)
  • Moscow 2042
  • The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories
  • Happy Moscow
  • Unforgiving Years
  • The Duel and Other Stories
  • The Slynx
  • Diary of a Superfluous Man
  • Tremor of Intent
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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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“Theoretically there is no absolute proof that one's awakening in the morning (the finding oneself again in the saddle of one's personality) is not really a quite unprecedented event, a perfectly original birth.” 61 likes
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