Black Elephants's Reviews > The Eye

The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov
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Jul 10, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Read in August, 2007

** spoiler alert ** Well, I just couldn't help it. After the literary-altering Lolita, the world-rending Invitation to a Beheading, the mirror-has-two-faces The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and your-turn-check! King, Queen, Knave, I started and finished another Vladimir Nabokov book: The Eye.

Out of all of those books, I'm kind of meh about this one. It is Nabokov's fourth title and was originally published as a three-part novella in Playboy. I don't think Nabokov would mind my opinion because in his preface, he thanks his stars that his novels lack social significance and are mythproof. His beautiful language skills are still present in The Eye, but it was more wishy washy than any of his other titles.

And now that I think on it (damn you Nabokov!), that's probably how it's supposed to read. So here's the plot: There's this guy who commits suicide. Afterward, he goes looking about for meaning in his life and to see how people might have reacted to him in life or death. And he finds that it's not so great.

It's kind of funny actually. Smurov, the dead guy, narrates people's perceptions of him the way I'm sure many of us do in real lufe. Behold! That person at the computer! Even though she sits at it all day long, the observer notices how focused she is on her task. Coming up behind her, he looks on her words. Does she write of gossip? Does she write on life's inane events? No! She spends her time writing about great works of literature to an online community. Suddenly, the observer is envious to think that strangers know of her opinions while he knows nothing of her!

And etc.

That's kind of how Smurov rolls. The best is when he gets to look into someone's secret diary. Smurov is very excited to see what this guy thinks of his sensitive, quiet and poetic self. But Smurov finds out that the man thought he was........gay. And that he thought Smurov was interested in him. Later, Smurov attempts to reconcile this, and it's pretty true to life.

Whether all this is real or in Smurov's head is something Nabokov doesn't distinguish. I don't think he cares. But if it is real, then it sucks for Smurov. And if it's all in Smurov's head, then that stinks, too.
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