King, Queen, Knave
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King, Queen, Knave

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3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,037 ratings  ·  116 reviews
'Of all my novels this bright brute is the gayest', Nabokov wrote of King, Queen, Knave. Comic, sensual and cerebral, it dramatizes an Oedipal love triangle, a tragi-comedy of husband, wife and lover, through Dreyer the rich businessman, his ripe-lipped ad mercenary wife Martha, and their bespectacled nephew Franz. 'If a resolute Freudian manages to slip in' - Nabokov dart...more
Paperback, 275 pages
Published 2010 by Penguin Books (first published 1928)
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Black Elephants
Lately, I've asked people who they think are the best wordsmiths in the English language. While some people can answer that question in a heartbeat, others turn into a puddle of contemplation. My answers for the last year has been: Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and Vladimir Nabokov. In every work I've read by these writers, they continually astound me with their ability to string a shocking sentence together. Every work of theirs seems innovative and full of color; it's like taking a bite into a...more
Adam Floridia
What kind of car I drive, the girls I used to date, personal hygiene: these are all things for which I’ve never really had high standards. A book by Vladimir Nabokov, now that’s a different story. For a good portion of my reading, I was seriously considering giving this a mere two stars. It takes way too long for the plot to develop—because of this the pacing is off and parts are simply boring—and one can really see the artist behind the book. By that I mean that some of Nabokov’s brushstrokes a...more
Catachresis
This is my favourite book of all time, from the genius of the opening page (the clock hand's 'once a minute gesture' which 'will set the entire world in motion') to every page thereafter.

The fact is, no-one can touch Nab when it comes to metaphor, intellect, descriptive precision at large, and of course, he just happens to have the greatest sense of humour of anyone who ever lived to top it all off.

The opening sequence contains such a remarkable descriptive of the sensation and shapes of a train...more
umberto
From this novel, we would be simply disappointed if we hoped to read a tragedy since it’s subtly been written as “a sensual and surprising black comedy.” (back cover) It is amazing to read Nabokov’s novel seemingly entitled like a detective story or a kind of soap-opera murder on television. Rather he has his own ways in manipulating the three characters, that is, Dreyer, Martha and Franz into the duo’s sin in disguise. One of the reasons is that Franz’s “insane aunt” (p. 145) and himself both f...more
Bethany Lang
This one was disappointing in a few ways: first, the first quarter or so of the book was extremely engaging as we followed Franz on his adventure. There was more than one time that I thought to myself "this language is so beautiful I can hardly contain myself." I mean, there are few things better in life than Nabokov writing madness in some form, right? The disappointing part was that it really slowed down toward the middle and never really picked by up. By the end, things had really just petere...more
Emily
Upon opening Vladimir Nabokov's King, Queen, Knave (translated from the Russian by Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with the author), I was immediately struck by the degree to which certain passages reminded me of Proust. I consider Nabokov to be one of my favorite authors, and yet somehow this had never occurred to me. Maybe, I thought, the similarity is particularly pronounced in this novel, which I had never read before? But while this may be, I quickly realized that, previous to King, Queen,...more
Daniel
The following is the conversation I had with the chatty, gray-haired volunteer at my library's used-book store when I bought a hardcover copy of "King, Queen, Knave" for three dollars.
Me: I'd like to get this.
Her: Nabokov. Russian. An intellectual, huh?
Me: Oh, I guess he was.
Her: No, I meant you.
Me: I don't know about that.

Apparently, at least according to the bookstore volunteer at my library, anyone who reads Nabokov has to be an intellectual. I don't know if that's accurate. I also don't kno...more
Ellen
The deliberate flattening of the characters in King, Queen, Knave undermines the credibility of the book's love triangle as if the text was, reflexively, mocking its own form.

Martha, a brittle ice-queen who lives in an austere villa in Berlin, does not love her husband, Dreyer, and seems incapable of loving anyone. As the flat card-like character she is, however, Martha, the "queen" enjoys the power to manipulate others. Martha views Franz, her nephew through marriage, as a pawn, and reflects th...more
Mahesh Gopakumar
Definitely not one of Nabokov's best. I do not know if it's the clunkiness imparted to it by the translation but this one just doesn't make the grade for me. I am a huge Nabokophile having read almost all his works (except for Ada, which is on my bookshelf).
The plot just seems to drag on and on and on and the conclusion is highly unsatisfactory. Coupled with that are the addition of a couple of gimmicky characters and plot asides which add nothing either to the story, or as Nabokov would have ha...more
Steve Kettmann
The opening and setup of this early novel from Nabokov, his second (written in Russian, translated into English much later by his son), are so dazzling, from the memorable train-station first page to the relaxed but efficient laying out of all the book's major elements all in a few pages, that it feels almost churlish to complain that the second half of the book flags noticeably. That might in part be because each of the three main characters, the Berlin man with a thriving business and upbeat...more
Matthew
Mar 10, 2008 Matthew rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who appreciate literature
I borrowed a 1968 hardcover of this "bright brute" from a professor. He wrote his name on the flesh of the pages pressed together next to the spine. He told me that if you want to get a book returned to you, that's the way to do it. I wish he hadn't.

What a delight this book is. Often, I find Nabokov overwhelming and a bit overbearing - I enjoy his non-English work translated by people other than himself far superior to anything else with his name on it - but this book is a trove of pleasant and...more
Aprile
Il re - soddisfatto, tronfio, narciso, iperattivo, egocentrico al punto da non considerare neppure l’altrui personalità, borioso, sicuro di sé, diciamo ottuso, non sente nell’aria la crisi, né quella della moglie né i primi accenni di quella finanziaria, e comunque infantile -
La donna - eburnea, corvina, elegantissima, buona teatrante, ha imparato bene la parte di abbiente ma la classe non si compra: a volte il suo parlato perde il giusto accento, l’impostazione della voce per qualche secondo di...more
William Herschel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie
Vladimir Nabokov (if the universe were just, I would be writing "Nobel Prize-winner Vladimir Nabokov," but the universe is not just) wrote King, Queen, Knave in Russian in 1928, when he was an emigre living in Berlin. His son, Dmitri Nabokov (born after the novel was written) translated it from Russian to English in 1968, with Vladimir Nabokov making several changes to the story itself during the translation process. I read the English version, which is beautifully written.

The book is nominally...more
Chris Lopez-cepero
This is a fine book, but I found it a bit of a struggle to get through. This is the first Nabokov I've read, and I think I'll try another to better understand him.

Terrific characters, especially the dreadful Martha, and a fascinating narrative style...the thread of the story would pass from one character to another, without formal transition, as they came into contact or even shared a common thought. The effect was especially compelling as the novel climaxed at the end; it gave the proceedings a...more
Matthew
"Of all my novels this bright brute is the gayest." Nabokov opens his forward. I have always found his Russian novels to be brighter, gayer, and, yes, more brutish, than the more famous English ones. This is a favorite. It has no deeper meanings, nothing to say, practically nihilistic. But, man, is it fun. The relish Nabokov takes in crafting this story oozes out of every word. It's a very funny book, as well.

An eclair sits on a table, "alone, despised, unwanted."
Dave Russell
Maybe it's chauvinistic provincialism on my part, but I find Nabokov less interesting when his stories take place in foreign countries. I just didn't find this novel as enjoyable as his later American books. Maybe the humor doesn't travel well, but there were times when this book was a slog to get through.
Bill Mead
Another amazing Russian writer. This is one of his earlier stories. At times it is just brilliant, but you can definitely see him expanding as a writer here.
Daniel
Someone remarked to me of The Goldfinch, “I like it, but it doesn’t call to me.” That looks a little precious on the page, but it’s exactly how I felt about King, Queen, Knave: each time I picked it up, I noted things in the margins like “A+!” and “perfect.” The first few pages of Chapter 8, in which the Queen begins “teaching” the Knave, is as good as anything I’ve read all year. But I didn’t look as forward to picking it up after the first 100 pages as I have with other books.

As the title sug...more
Scott Middleton
I chose this book because 1.) I liked the title and 2.) I wanted to read Lolita, but felt anxious about being seen reading Lolita. While both are poor motivations, I thoroughly enjoyed my first Nabokov outing.

KQK tells the story of Franz, a young, impressionable German who moves to interwar Berlin to take a job at his uncle's department store. He quickly falls in love with his aunt (by marriage, but feel free to grossed out if you like) - a ravishing and strong-willed woman with little affectio...more
Roozbeh Estifaee
If I was to give Nabokov one single descriptive name, it would have been "The Lord of the Word". I don't think he was a master with words. He did not use them; he controlled them. Nabokov was beyond words. He was one of the few people who understood the difference in the meanings of the so-called "synonyms", and created prose in the way that has been least experienced ever. His writing, though often complicated, never pursues to be so. He is one unpretentious stylist; words do not tend to induce...more
Vladimir Rybalko
История о классическом любовном треугольнике. Каждая грань которого имеет яркую выраженную индивидуальность. Несмотря на заезженность темы, Набокову удалось весьма четко и не без доли новизны обрисовать гамму переживаний и ощущений всех участников трагедии. Курт Драер, который очень любит свою жену, но уже давно привык к её холодности и равнодушии к нему. Эта черта характера жены ничуть не мешает ему спокойно жить, и даже наслаждаться своей жизнью. Таким мы видим героя на протяжении практически...more
Cateline
Martha is such a dependable.......even solid name. And dependable she was. I have to laugh, many years later Nabokov wrote another book that contained an interesting line, "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.", Lolita. So he wrote "dependable" characters, of course they were not dependable in the altruistic ordinary sense. But you can depend on them for convoluted behavior at the very least.

A basic triangle. I'd say love triangle, but in all reality love had not a thing t...more
Carrie
През цялото време Набоков държи читателя на тръни с детайлното си описание, с бавно развиващия се сюжет. Метафорите, въобще стила беше чудесен; много специфичен откъм изразни средства. Мисля, че рядко съм срещала толкова изчерпателен, оголващ, разкриващ писател. Детайлите не пречат на лесното усвояване на идеята, (както при Балзак...) точно обратнато: разобличават героите до най-отдалечените и скрити кътчета на душата им. Вместо да залага на много информация, да протаква историята дълго и да ни...more
Heather
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Sammis
King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov is one of his earliest novels, written and published originally in Russian in 1928 as Korol', dama, vale and translated and heavily edited in 1968. I read the English translation.

The novel follows Franz Bubendorf's travels to Berlin to work in his "Uncle's" department store. The uncle, Kurt Dreyer, is actually his mother's cousin. He meets his family on the train into Berlin. Martha (his "aunt") and he are instantly smitten and they quickly start up an affa...more
Kate
If I could give this 3.5 stars, I would. I settled on my "3.5" rating because the story and its effect on me was not on par with the other novels I have previously rated at 4 stars. The writing, however, was brilliant and highly enjoyable. This was a fun book to read, although the ending slightly fell apart and could have been better. Some reviewers have described the characters as flat, and I disagree. They came alive for me, even if they were a tad stereotypical.

Nabokov can use literary device...more
Pete
King, Queen, Knave is an early work by Nabokov, translated from Russian. Not the genius of Pale Fire or Lolita as a novel, or nearly as complex, but the sublime description and metaphor is all there.

Nabokov uses a unique approach to point of view in this one: he constantly jumps perspectives between the three main characters-- Dreyer, Martha, and Franz-- within the same scene, and even within the same paragraph. The POV technique works here. It never confuses me, and it adds to the in-scene tens...more
Rick
I'm definitely not an objective judge concerning Nabokov--the man was an absolute genius and a hero of sorts for me--but I'll give a short review anyway. I think this would be a really good book for someone who isn't familiar with Nabokov, or at least predisposed to like his oeuvre. It's about as straight-forward as Nabokov gets, and it's extremely funny, perhaps the funniest book I've read from him (I've read almost all of his work now). He builds up the tension in a way that evokes Lolita or D...more
Ih8booksmischa
I really enjoyed this book of N's, as it paints a portrait of two quite distasteful lovers, the female of which is married to a naive older man, that being the younger mans uncle. I have only read this book one but would dearly love to read it again, because I found it quite funny to read about to characters I kind of found a bit repulsive, yet was compelled to follow their story as it unfolds into its ridiculousness. I enjoyed disliking them, and I feel that this is one of Nabokov's best, most...more
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Nabokov in Three ...: Initial Impressions 3 13 Oct 08, 2011 12:09AM  
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • The Village of Stepanchikovo
  • Eugene Onegin, Vol. I (Text)
  • Vera (Mrs.Vladimir Nabokov)
  • Zone: A Prison Camp Guard's Story
  • Novel with Cocaine
  • The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
  • Diaboliad and Other Stories
  • Theatre
  • Zoo or Letters Not About Love
  • Petersburg
  • Envy
  • The Foundation Pit
  • First Love and Other Stories (World's Classics)
  • Memories of the Future
  • The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)
  • A School for Fools
  • The Noise of Time: Selected Prose
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Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков

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 cited as his most important novel, and is at any rate his most widely known one, exhibiting the love of intrica...more
More about Vladimir Nabokov...
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“Who grins in official circumstances?” 0 likes
“Golden haze, puffy bedquilt. Another awakening, but perhaps not yet the final one. This occurs not infrequently: You come to, and see yourself, say, sitting in an elegant second-class compartment with a couple of elegant strangers; actually, though, this is a false awakening, being merely the next layer of your dream, as if you were rising up from stratum to stratum but never reaching the surface, never emerging into reality. Your spellbound thought, however, mistakes every new layer of the dream for the door of reality. You believe in it, and holding your breath leave the railway station you have been brought to in immemorial fantasies and cross the station square. You discern next to nothing, for the night is blurred by rain, your spectacles are foggy, and you want as quickly as possible to reach the ghostly hotel across the square so as to wash your face, change your shirt cuffs and then go wandering along dazzling streets. Something happens, however—an absurd mishap—and what seemed reality abruptly loses the tingle and tang of reality. Your consciousness was deceived: you are still fast asleep. Incoherent slumber dulls your mind. Then comes a new moment of specious awareness: this golden haze and your room in the hotel, whose name is “The Montevideo.” A shopkeeper you knew at home, a nostalgic Berliner, had jotted it down on a slip of paper for you. Yet who knows? Is this reality, the final reality, or just a new deceptive dream?” 0 likes
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