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The Tragedy of Mister Morn

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  295 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Morn, a masked king, rules over a realm to which he has restored order after a violent revolution. Secretly in love with Midia, the wife of a banished revolutionary, Morn finds himself facing renewed bloodshed and disaster when Midia's husband returns, provoking a duel and the return of chaos that Morn has fought so hard to prevent.

The first major work and the only play of
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Knopf (first published July 5th 2012)
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3.76  · 
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 ·  295 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Bae did it again. <3
Adam Floridia
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nabokov
I lied, Goodreads. I've been "currently-reading" this for about three weeks; actually, I started it yesterday and finished it in about three hours.

Having come off of a lackluster reading year in 2013, the opening line of the introduction alone was enough to make me tingle oh-so-slightly with excitement: "The Tragedy of Mister Morn was Vladimir Nabokov's first major work, and the laboratory in which he discovered and tested many of the themes he would subsequently develop in the next fifty-odd y
Nov 10, 2017 marked it as to-read
Just bought this for $6 at a discount bookstore. Am I the only one who has never heard of this particular Nabokov before?
Jennifer Richardson
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a newly republished/retranslated version of Nabokov's first play, written when he was only 24. The verse, characters, and content are very Shakespearean - there is a tone of both tragedy and comedy, playfulness and seriousness, dripping from every verse. I was able to tank through this play in a few hours. Having been embarrassingly baffled by many of Nabokov's metaphors, layers, and allusions in other works, I was pleasantly surprised to feel like I was "catching" most of his literary t ...more
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
Probably my favorite of N's plays, which came as a surprise given how early in his artistic development it was written. It's a shame that it's missing a significant chunk of the last act (which the book jacket fails to warn you about), but what's here is generally very good, sprinkled with greatness. Like The Waltz Invention, it's somewhat surrealistic. In the first act's party scene (by far my favorite), a character wanders through who is dreaming that he is in the play and keeps disappearing a ...more
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
I am a huge fan of Nabokov; I would consider him my favorite author. But this book just did not do it for me. I certainly enjoy his novels more than his short stories, and now I can firmly say that I'm not a huge fan of his only play. I believe that Nabokov books need time to develop, and this felt rushed from the beginning, both in story and character development. For such a short piece, I kind of couldn't wait to finish it. The language is typically beautiful and clever, but there's simply not ...more
Nathan Albright
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
Vladimir Nabokov was both a very expansive writer and one who had a few themes that he liked to tackle in his writing over and over again [1].  He is someone whose writing crosses over many genres, from poetry to short stories to novels to this, his only full-length play.  The title of the play gives one the genre.  This play, like many of Nabokov's writings, is a tragic one, and that makes sense given both the personal politics and larger politics of Nabokov's oeuvre as a whole as well as in th ...more
Amanda Minchella
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: play enthusiasts, anyone curious about early nabokov
i have an interesting relationship with nabokov, but i am so glad i picked up this play on a whim. it's tragic *duh* but beautifully so, delicate even. it's themes are apparent, though i felt never fully resolved, perhaps due to missing/lost excerpts towards the end of act v. nabokov's exploration of the idea(l)s of happiness, love/lust, and fantasy vs reality are at work simultaneously. i did find the fantasy bit not much my taste, but his struggle, and the character's struggles, with happiness ...more
David Haws
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I suspect that it may have been more than oversight, which caused Nabokov to neglect translating this play into English. Still I haven’t read many plays since finishing my first undergraduate degree, and the play’s failings may be more accurately ascribed to my own limited imagination. The work does contain occasional glimpses into what Nabokov’s prose would become, but not more than I might expect in comparable juvenilia.
Rachel Dows
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nabokov crafts a beautiful, if a bit immature, piece at an astonishingly young age. To have created the opening passage at just 24 years old is both remarkable and depressing - since I'm 25 and couldn't possible hold a candle to his genius.

Fascinating, fun, and truly momentous. Highly recommend.
Dianne Lo
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honestly this is so perfect...
The way and the structure Nabokov has to manipulate the story and your feelings as a reader are insane!
The passion, the drama and the tragedy... The romance!
This is my kind of book ...
I enjoyed it so much
Sean Rees
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
tis' a beauty
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The dialogue between Vladimir Nabokov's characters has always been one of my favorite things about his books, so his play was, not surprisingly, really enjoyable. Absolutely loved it.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Steve Mossberg
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Regardless of the missing text at the culmination of the plot, this is an interesting and idiosyncratic play in the tradition of late Shakespeare. The translation has plenty of beauty and bite, and the analysis in the forward is comprehensive and succinct.
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 added it
Shelves: spring-2013

Review by Rodney Welch

Vladimir Nabokov never hid the fact that he didn’t really have his chops as a writer for the stage. “By nature, I am no dramatist,” he wrote in his introduction to the screenplay for Lolita — a judgment he earned over the course of several labored attempts.

Nabokov’s career as a playwright occurred mostly in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s when, having fled Russia with little more than the clothes on his back, he was doing everything he
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a play that sat unpublished in its own language for over seventy years and is only now, another fifteen years later, been published in English for the first time The Tragedy of Mister Morn holds up quite nicely. Nabokov would have been in his early twenties when he wrote this, in fact it would probably have been among his earliest works, and already we see his intriguing love of language shining through.

The masked king brings peace to his kingdom, and as Morn he walks unnoticed throughout it
Eric Hinkle
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2. Nabokov's verse play written when he was 24? Yes, please. I loved this. It's immensely detailed, but very readable, playful (pardon the pun), and one of the funnier works in his oeuvre. The characters are generally three-dimensional, all with very distinct personalities - and all very memorable, I should think. There are a lot of great, unusual metaphors in this play, and, as should be expected with Vlad, a lot of interplay between reality and fairy tale, and masks, masks, masks. He had w ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is hard to imagine this play is written when Nabokov was merely 24 years old. The language is intensely vivid and lyric, yet completely accessible, much credit to the translators in maintaining Nabokov's later English writing.

This is a five-part play of a political and philosophic drama. All the things -- loyalty, political alliance, love, romance, beauty -- had the first impression of endurance but quickly transmorphed into things quite different. Particularly unreliable are one's past memor
Brent Legault
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nabokoviana
I was prepared not to like Mr. Morn. It's a play, which is just zzzzzz, and juvenalia to boot. I've read his shorter plays and some of his poems from this period and they have made me yearn for more lively reading, like cereal boxes and Ikea intstructions.

But I have to say that this Shakespearean pastiche, this amateur effort, feels almost modern, and it lives on the page and makes merry in your mind. And for those few among you who have read all or most of his major and minor works, you will se
Thomas Burchfield
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Definitely more for Nabokovians (like me) than more general readers. One of VN's very first creations, from his early 20s, a year after his father was murdered in Berlin by Russian right-wingers (who were later given posts of honor by the Nazis). Shakespeare was one of VN's greatest loves and it shows, as it's written entirely in verse. Extravagant, poetic, and ambitious, if a little hard for me to stick with. JohnMorn
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Can you believe it? One of my favorite authors wrote a book about me...32 years before I was born! And I am in fact a character. Here's a quote "I am Mister Morn, that is all; an empty space, an unstressed syllable in a poem without rhyme." Hey, it's a tragedy!

If you like Nabokov and Shakespeare definitely worth reading.
Nov 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Wow, the prose is beautiful. I am disappointed that some of the lines were missing. But what can you do when the author is already dead? Amazing that it took so long for this play to become published. What a treat for us though! It was a fast paced plot, no time for inactivity. I like that it'll leave you mulling about it long after you've finished.
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
While it was interesting to see how Nabokov wrote way back when he started (many little details that came around again, especially in Pale Fire), I think his genius with words is somewhat lost in a play. When Nabokov is not limited to what the characters on the stage can say, when he can describe the scene in some compelling narrator's voice, that is when he is at his best.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A strange and wonderful work, pure pleasure for any fan of Nabokov's works. The playful and brilliant language is pure Nabokov, but the elevated tone of the play is unique and effective. The work is enjoyable in its own right, but will undoubtedly become a busy playground for scholars for years to come.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater, russian
As a big fan of Nabokov it's nice to see more works being translated and printed for an English audience (only 35 years after his death no less!) Definitely feels like a Nabokov work in tone, style and theme, but with a bit more roughness than his subsequent, mature works. Good stuff!
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fbc-15
Certainly a juvenile work compared to his lovely later novels, and it's almost impossible to imagine staged as-is-- but it was nonetheless wonderfully pleasant to sink into this vividly-painted little world, which is so very very Nabokov. It's a worthy addition to any fangirl collection.
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not sure this really works as a theatrical piece. It definitely lacks the verbal wit of his English language works. That said, as a huge fan of Pale Fire, it's exciting to see reflections of those themes in his earlier work. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I'm not sure if recommend it.
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Beautiful language, and really interestingly translated, but I'm not sure that the iambic pentameter shifted across into English very well, it meant that the language was at once either too florid or too sparse.
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Illuminating, funny, and beautifully disturbing--this is classic Nabokov even before he was a classic. Karshan's introduction is both comprehensive and concise, giving new life to Morn as an essential addition to Nabokov's oeuvre.
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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 a big interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequen
“We are duplicitous, we're blind- and it is hard to live, trusting only in life: earthly life is a murky translation from the divine original; the general thought is clear but the primordial music is missing in its words. . . What are passions? Mistakes in the translation. What is love? A rhyme lost in transmission to our discordant language. . . It's time for me to take up the original!” 6 likes
“In harmony there is nothing strange. And life is a vast harmony. I've understood this. But, you see- the moulded whimsy of a frieze on a portico keeps us from recognizing, sometimes, the symmetry of the whole. . .” 5 likes
More quotes…