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Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  7,614 Ratings  ·  567 Reviews
Published two weeks after his seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of Nabokov's greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist.  It tells a love story troubled by incest.  But more: it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue.   Ada, or Ardor ...more
ebook, 624 pages
Published February 16th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1969)
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Zacharias Foster Lolita and Ada are, for the most part, completely unrelated novels. There are a handful of references to Nabokov's earlier books sprinkled throughout…moreLolita and Ada are, for the most part, completely unrelated novels. There are a handful of references to Nabokov's earlier books sprinkled throughout the text, but these aren't at all essential to understanding and enjoying Ada. That said, if you aren't familiar with some of Nabokov's other work, Ada might prove a difficult point of entry. It's frequently recondite, maddeningly dense, and seasoned with "orgies of epithelial alliterations." It's a magnificent book, it really is, but it might not be a bad idea to start yourself off in shallower Nabokovian waters.(less)

Community Reviews

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Fionnuala
One of the objects that immediately comes to mind when I think back to my childhood is a red rowboat exactly like the one in my avatar. That’s no coincidence of course as the avatar started out as an attempt at a symbolic ‘self-portrait’ based on personal memories. If there is coincidence here, it lies in the fact that a red row-boat called Souvenance is a recurrent memory for the narrator of Ada, or Ardor, Van Veen. I counted at least four mentions of that red rowboat with its mobile inlay of r ...more
Karen
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karen by: Anthony Michael
Oh man, what can I say about this book? Just that I could probably reread Ada, and only Ada, for the rest of my life and still feel satisfied. For the most part, I read this book the way I usually read the first time around - that is, superficially, just trying to make general sense of what's going on and enjoying the sexy parts (of which there are many) - but on the few occasions that I sat down and made an effort to decipher the puns and allusions, things just started to click into place, and ...more
Aubrey
Remembrance, like Rembrandt, is dark but festive.
If Nabokov is anything, he's clever. Unfortunately for Nabokov, clever is as clever does is rarely good enough in my case, so that lack of fifth star is a team effort on both our parts. Fortunately for Nabakov, so are the remaining four stars, making this review a pleased one despite all my grumbling.

As stated in the summary, the book encompasses fairy tale, epic, thoughts on time, parody of novel, and erotica. The first and second were of mediu
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2013
“Maybe the only thing that hints at a sense of Time is rhythm; not the recurrent beats of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats, the gray gap between black beats: the Tender Interval.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle

description

Incest, a game the Whole Family Can Play, NOT by Milton's blind Bradley®.

Part I:

There's a whole swath of novels I purchased in my twenties but knowing the authors' genius never felt quite ready to read (ah, tomorrow). It took me years to crack open th
...more
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Maybe the only thing that hints at a sense of Time is rhythm; not the recurrent beats of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats, the gray gap between black beats: the Tender Interval.”

First off, I should say this is my least favourite Nabokov novel. It’s an insanely clever novel and probably needs to be read at least twice to be fully appreciated, which is another way of saying it’s hard work. The first three chapters are virtually unreadable. It felt like arriving at someone’s door who
...more
Nostalgebraist
I have trouble writing positive reviews. It's precisely when I love a book that I most strongly feel how little justice my words can do to the experience of reading it, which is how I end up writing reviews like this.

Nonetheless, Ada deserves a review. I'm not a very widely read person, and I rarely feel justified in saying that anything I've read is not read often enough. (How would I know? Maybe everyone else is just off reading other books that are even better.) But I really do believe that A
...more
Manny
Suppose things had worked out better for Humbert Humbert. Suppose he'd gone to jail for a while but hadn't had a heart attack there, and suppose Lolita hadn't died while still a teenager, giving birth to a stillborn child. Suppose instead that they'd both survived, had various sordid adventures, and then miraculously reconnected twenty years later, at which point they suddenly realised that they had some something beautiful and unique together. And suppose that Humbert actually wrote his memoirs ...more
Warwick
Ada or Ardor is Nabokov's biggest novel, and in many ways a summation of his linguistic dexterity as well as his literary themes, with all the pleasures and problems those things imply.

His writing is a constant astonishment. His admirers are sometimes surprised to remember that it's not to everyone's tastes. Nabokov's sentences are exact, yet often long and complicated; they are utterly stripped of cliché; they are very alert to such pleasures as assonance, alliteration, sesquipedalianism and cr
...more
Geoff
Apr 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stylistically and structurally, Ada is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Isn't that the joy of reading Nabokov anyway, the joy of watching a master at work? The seeming ease of his complicated prose, the assimilation of polyglot, portmonteau words, annagrammitic tricks, haute vocabulary, allusion, and labyrinthine sentences, is really a wonder. The first 200 or so pages of this book are absolutely hypnotizing. Ada is a parody of the modern novel, from Anna Karenina to Lolita, and its most obvious prece ...more
Aloysius
Most people give accolades to Nabokov for simply being Nabokov, and I have to admit, I'm always tempted to fall in with the flock rather than give my real opinion of his books. After all, if I don't like it, it must mean that I don't "get it," and if I don't "get it," it must somehow mean that I'm stupid, right?

Let's start off by admitting that Nabokov's books are hard to "get" and that even those with great intelligence don't derive everything offered or intended by these novels. So if I write
...more
Summer
Oct 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Oh man, sometimes goodreads really weirds me out, like just now when I read all of these really well-written slams or relative-slams of this book. This book to me is so beautiful and lush and rich. I pick it up all the time and read favorite pages or phrases over again; it makes me feel full. It's romantic and strange. The tedium of parts of it just reminds me of the tedium of real-life. I fucking love the shit out of this book, y'all.
Anthony Vacca
Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle is not my favorite Nabokov, but, yes, a Nabokov is a Nabokov, so naturally it is preternaturally well-written, is fluent in more languages than you, is better read than you, dresses better, eats better, exercises more, dates all the guys or girls you’re too nervous to talk to, never has to worry about money, is always healthier than you, can hold its liquor better than you can, all in all, is better than you—and knows it too.

Apparently Nabokov was working on two
...more
Mnemosyne
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
«Ada é o livro pelo qual eu gostaria de ser lembrado depois da minha morte.»
[Vladimir Nabokov]

Por mim será lembrado como um dos livros mais difíceis que já li. Perdi-me no labirinto de referências literárias, históricas e geográficas, camufladas por jogos de palavras, anagramas (por exemplo, as Notas são de Vivian Darkbloom - que é dos poucos que consegui decifrar), nomes inventados para pessoas reais e um sem fim de frases de que não apreendi o sentido. Ah, e o capítulo quatro sobre o Tempo e o
...more
J.G. Keely
I came to a strange realization while reading this book: that practically every instance I can think of where an author used an unreliable narrator, it's always the same character: he's an intelligent, introspective guy with a slight cynical mean streak, a man with a fairly high opinion of himself (which is constantly reaffirmed by the world around him)--he succeeds without trying too hard, usually in a number of fields, though the success never lasts (because where would the plot go if it did?) ...more
Jeff Jackson
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nabokov
I.
"Nabokov is an unsettling writer as well as a funny one because he is deep where he looks shallow, moving when he seems flippant." - Michael Wood, The Magician's Doubts

II.
I've read most of Nabokov's novels and purposefully saved Ada for the end of my initial run. I'm glad I did because I needed the goodwill I'd built up to get through the first 30+ pages which are the most difficult and unappealing of his career. They're fastidiously baroque, smugly preening, and difficult to follow. Almost
...more
Simona
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O poveste scandaloasă despre oameni inteligenţi.
Van Veen şi Ada Veen, doi fraţi după tată crescuti de familii diferite, doi copii cu o inteligenţă absolut uluitoare, se îndrăgostesc unul de celălat, iar romanul urmăreşte zbuciumata lor iubire interzisă pe un interval de aproape un secol, până ce aceştia vor trece la cele veşnice.
În cele aproape 600 de pagini descoperim un veritabil poem în proză despre iubire fără limite sociale sau morale, despre căutare, regăsire şi geniu.
În mod suprinzător,
...more
Chrissie
Before reading:
Do I dare try this? It looks hard to understand. Disturbing subject too.

********************
On finishing:
The book is amazing. There is absolutely no question about that! Did I love all of it? No. Sometimes I was completely lost, and that just isn’t fun. I didn't understand some lines, but that is due to my own lack of knowledge, not any fault of the book. Take note - the first four chapters are pretty much incomprehensible. Don't quit too soon. No other parts are this difficult.
...more
Pantelis
Jul 05, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The inspiration for John Crowley's beloved "Little, Big" and Pulp's "Disco 2000"...
MJ Nicholls
May 29, 2016 marked it as sampled  ·  review of another edition
“This interminable book is written in dense, erudite, alliterative, punsome, pore-clogging prose; and every character, without exception, sounds like late Henry James.” — Martin Amis
Ana  Vlădescu
I don't even know how to classify this book. Is it science-fiction? It has elements of that genre, yes. Is it fantasy? Sure, it might be, at a very subtle level. Is it magical realism? Damn it, it has traits of that one too. What is it? What? I don't know. But I feel like I've been baptized into Nabokov's style with it. It's my first book of his and I honestly can't wait to get each of his other ones and drown in them.

At certain points, especially in the beginning and in the fourth part of it,
...more
Ailsa
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: long
A bit rich for my blood.
Walk away with the feeling Nabokov is a genius and I am peasant who barely skates the surface of the English language.
Will reread in 20 years when I am more erudite and sophisticated.
This reading guide was invaluable to understanding the 98% of the tri-lingual puns and obscure literary references that went completely over my head. (Does anyone actually read Chateaubriand?)
Totally inspired now to read Mansfield Park again purely for the incest.
Asif
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To write a review of Ada is almost impossible except to say that it is the book in which Nabokov, the greatest prose stylist in English, uses his mastery of the language and his great knowledge of European literary history to his greatest extent and evidently enjoys himself! The whole book is choc-a-bloc with word-play, literary puzzles, allusions to other works, hidden quotations, alliteration, streams of consciousness, history, science fiction, dollops of French, helpings of Russian, laces of ...more
Alexander
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful, but not without foible. First, the great: structurally, Ada sits with Ulysses atop the literary summit. Lexically, Ada finds peer only in Gravity's Rainbow and Darconville's Cat, novels where assiduity and lyrical exuberance burst with palpable crimson ambition, where the imaginative faculty is affirmed in every sentence. Nabokov is in full-flex (less Michelangelo's David and more Ronnie Coleman) here, his prose drenched in sensuous lucidity and aristocratic aplomb, and at his best w ...more
Jamie
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for one sentence, a sentence that’s followed me around, unattached, uprooted, for years:

“And yet I adore him. I think he’s quite crazy, and with no place or occupation in life, and far from happy, and philosophically irresponsible— and there is absolutely nobody like him.”

Leave it to Nabokov to make that sentence a promise on which the entire book follows through. The acrobatics that man can do with words would stand anyone on their head. Words, in other words, worth every awkw
...more
Tuck
perhaps the ultimate desert island book, one that can be read over and over, tweaking out the genealogies, luxuriating in the steamy, fumbling sex of pre-teens, trying to keep up with the uncles and dads via flashbacks, saddened by sickness, mind fevers, hitler, and the just-bad-luck of bojo soviet canada. does this not make sense? well welcome welcome. and for my next trick, WALKING ON MY HANDS!

it's as if david foster wallace somehow was really born in st petersberg and fled in 1919 and after p
...more
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adam Floridia
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nabokov
When planning to review certain books, I find myself subject to the common complaint of so many in freshman comp: I don’t know how to start. And here we are. Despite having “notes” in my head and pages marked (laud or laugh at me for the effort, but yeah I actually consciously semi-plan my GR review as I’m reading. Neeeerd.), it’s tough to sum up my thoughts on a 600 page book, especially when my opinion changed so much in the course of reading. See:

Reading Progress:
06/13
page 535 89.0% "meh"
06
...more
Madeline
May 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, but especially people familiar with Nabokovian prose
Thoughts upon completion-- This was a very interesting book for me. To elaborate on the narration observation I mentioned earlier, it seems that Nabokov has a penchant for narrating his novels in a sort of...second-degree sort of way? Or perhaps you could say it's very direct. I have a hard time assigning an exact term to what's happening, so here are some examples of what I mean. In Lolita, for example, which I'm sure many of you have read, the actual story is a confession written by Humbert Hu ...more
Sarah Rouan
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Her long straight hair that seemed of a uniform bluish-black in the shade now revealed, in the gem-like sun, strains of deep auburn alternating with dark amber in lanky strands which clothed her hollowed cheek or were gracefully cleft by her raised ivory shoulder. The texture, gloss and odor of those brown silks had once inflamed his senses at the very beginning of that fateful summer, and continued to act upon him, strongly and poignantly, long after his young excitement had found in her other ...more
Michael
Jan 21, 2013 marked it as auf-pause  ·  review of another edition
Ein Splitter:

… Wer wissen will, was ein erotischer Roman ist, hier kann er’s lernen, der hohe (Buch-)Preis verblaßt neben dem hohen Anspruch dieser Literatur voller Intelligenz und Indolenz, Labsal und Lamento, Pornographie und Poesie, Obszönität und Optimismus, Inzest und Innigkeit, Hybris und Heiterkeit, Delikatesse und Degoutanz. Man weiß nach der Lektüre nicht recht, soll man das Buch fortwerfen vor lauter Wut über diesen Bildungsdünkel oder soll man es an die Brust drücken vor Entzücken und
...more
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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
...more
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“And yet I adore him. I think he's quite crazy, and with no place or occupation in life, and far from happy, and philosophically irresponsible – and there is absolutely nobody like him.” 115 likes
“Was she really beautiful? Was she at least what they call attractive? She was exasperation, she was torture.” 69 likes
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