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The Gift

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,649 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
For most of his life, Vladimir Nabokov was quite literally a man without a country. It's a small irony, then, that his career falls so neatly into national phases: Russian, German, French, and American, plus the protracted coda he spend in a Swiss luxury hotel during his final decade. The Gift, which he wrote between 1935 and 1937 in Berlin, is the grand summation of his s ...more
Paperback, 378 pages
Published May 11th 1970 by Capricorn Books (first published 1938)
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Fionnuala


Half way through this novel, we come on a scene where Russian writer Nikolay Chernyshevsky smudges his old boots with ink to hide the scuff marks, and freshens up his bootlaces at the same time by dipping them into the ink pot. Then he carelessly drops one of the ink-soaked laces on to a page he'd just written.

It’s difficult to imagine that scene in an age when we rarely see an ink bottle, never mind dip anything into it. The ink we use today is safely sealed in cartridges, and more often destin
...more
Manny
Dec 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I don't think I know enough about Russian literature to properly get this book, but it did have some great moments. One in particular that I'm often reminded of whenever people on either side of the religion/skepticism debate start saying that things are "obvious". A character is in the middle of an atheist rant. "There's no God!" he exclaims. "It's as obvious as the fact that it's raining right now!" Then Nabokov's camera moves back, and you see that the person upstairs has in fact been waterin
...more
Geoff
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, volodya
The Gift finds among its peers works such as In Search of Lost Time and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Dedalus' scenes in Ulysses (does the root of every novel since inexorably stretch back to Ulysses? I see it everywhere). It even feels like a sequel to Speak, Memory, though Nabokov is careful to dissociate himself from Godunov-Cherdyntsev. Yet the book is woven with Pushkin and Gogol and lepidoptera, musings on chess and time, the deceptive and imitative qualities of the natural w ...more
Darwin8u
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
“Have you ever happened, reader, to feel that subtle sorrow of parting with an unloved abode? The heart does not break, as it does in parting with dear objects. The humid gaze does not wander around holding back a tear, as if it wished to carry away in it a trembling reflection of the abandoned spot; but in the best corner of our hearts we feel pity for the things which we did not bring to life with our breath, which we hardly noticed and are now leaving forever. This already dead inventory will ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Gift is Vladimir Nabokov’s best novel written in Russian – multifaceted, multilayered, multilevel and linguistically splendid.
“Then, when I fell under the spell of butterflies, something unfolded in my soul and I relived all my father’s journeys, as if I myself had made them: in my dreams I saw the winding road, the caravan, the many-hued mountains, and envied my father madly, agonizingly, to the point of tears—hot and violent tears that would suddenly gush out of me at table as we discussed
...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
https://notesfromzembla.wordpress.com...
Please see website for the full review

Beauty plus pity-that is the closest we can get to a definition of art: Vladimir Nabokov
The Gift is Nabokov’s greatest and most important work-it is Nabokov’s most poetic novel, in which he develops the themes central to his work and philosophy; the ability of art to capture and recreate the miracle of consciousness, of parental, romantic and platonic love, of the wonders of childhood and the importance of individuali
...more
Gabriele
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, russa, owned
Questo libro è rimasto in attesa quasi due anni sul mio scaffale, nonostante Nabokov sia da sempre uno dei miei autori preferiti. È rimasto in attesa soprattutto perché da più parti mi veniva indicato come un librone di quelli difficili e che, senza un'adeguata conoscenza della letteratura russa, difficilmente avrei capito tutte le allusioni che l'autore vi aveva inserito. Allora io, in questi due anni, mi sono preparato attentamente, leggendo i miei Tolstoj, i miei Dostoevskij, i miei Gogol', h ...more
Jeff Jackson
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nabokov
Includes: Hunting expeditions in Tibet; fake executions; nude sunbathing; mysterious disappearances; Siberian exiles; three-way suicide pacts; left-wing censorship; recurring ghosts; Russian emigre life in Berlin; an affecting love story; the secrets of fictional composition; and much, much more. One of Nabokov's greatest masterpieces.
Eric
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal-bibles
The last, longest, and greatest of Nabokov's Russian novels, a project that in some form occupied him for much of the 1930s, is frequently compared to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man but I think it's better, and more ambitious (a rival for Ulysses actually). Nabokov focuses not so much on Fyodor's childhood and youth (although they are powerfully present in the first chapter) as much as on his growth and expansion as a quickly maturing writer, and on his impassioned relation to Russian lit ...more
John
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who reads with their spine
Recommended to John by: maybe John Updike -- in print, that is
Nabokov looms as one of the navigational stars, glimmering against a novelist's horizon just when things seem darkest. THE GIFT makes my Goodreads list because it's the book I came to most recently, maybe 30 years after PALE FIRE & his other American novels rewired my makeup for good. This one is his European masterpiece, a transcendent reimagining of himself & his small family as they shuttled between apartments in central Europe, vagabond souls with a more-than-half-mad notion of keepi ...more
Olivia
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is incredibly quotable, so this post is going to be pretty disastrous. I liked this book a lot, but of course it was difficult (it was, after all, Nabokov). I love his writing, though, and I love the way his brain works, and I love that in parts of this book he was anticipating so many other masterful things, like Lolita and other plots that appear randomly. I love that he loves his art so much, and that love comes through with the main character, and so many others. And I loved that t ...more
Mikimbizii
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reads
"......but suddenly the unpleasant feeling of lateness was replaced in Fydor's soul by a distinct and somehow outrageously joyful decision not to appear at all for the lesson - to get off at the next stop and return home to his half-read book, to his unworldly cares, to the blissful mist in which his real life floated, to the complex, happy, devout work which had occupied him for about a year already. He knew that today he would receive the payment for several lessons, knew that otherwise he wou ...more
ΑνναΦ
Libro dalla struttura particolare, labirintica, dove ad ogni angolo c'è un mondo nuovo. Ora è la quieta triste vita di émigrée a Berlino, traboccante di echi biografici, ora saggio botanico naturalista e poi racconto di viaggio e poi ancora (siamo all'ostico IV capitolo) ecco un bel saggio storico letterario su un alquanto sconosciuto (ai più, io tra loro) scrittore e rivoluzionario russo della seconda metà dell'800, ironicamente fatto a pezzi dal Nabokov eccelso critico letterario, ma anche fig ...more
Galina
Светът на "Дар" е толкова сложен, необичаен, фантастичен, мисля си дори - фантасмагоричен, че това със сигурност е роман, който има нужда от повече от един прочит. Не мога да преценя какво пропуснах от съдържанието, но не улових всички нюанси, не разгадах пластовете докрай, не успях да последвам полета на авторовото въображение и не се оказах готова за пълнотата и пълнокръвието на тази книга. Страниците плавно преливат от една в друга и точно, когато ми се струваше, че следя повествованието, че ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Give me your hand, dear reader, and let’s go into the forest together.’

This is the last book Vladimir Nabokov wrote in what he called his ‘untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue’. The story of Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, a young Russian émigré aristocrat in Berlin, told in this novel is both a personal journey and a reflection of Russia’s past. Nabokov provides a brief synopsis in his foreword:

‘The plot of Chapter One centers in Fyodor’s poems. Chapter Two is a
...more
Jonathan
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review after rereading the book:

This book is worthy to stand among its chief literary influences, to wit: Proust and Joyce. "Portrait of the Artist Remembering Things Past." Nabokov exploits the workings of memory to describe his childhood and the birth and development of the the protag's "gift." This gift is the mysterious element that drives one to become a writer, and very few to become writers of the highest caliber.

On first reading, I was so earnest on keeping the characters sorted that
...more
Sarah
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, audio
Tremendous. It requires attention and it lost me at times, as I was dodging puddles on the back streets, and Künstlerroman is not really my genre and I don't know nearly enough about Russian literature to fully appreciate what Nabokov is up to (and the best thing about that is that he clearly just doesn't care whether I get it or not) but wandering along and getting a bit lost in, especially, Chernyshevky's life and thinking about other things, I was more than once hauled up and made to pay atte ...more
Hamish
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read-lit, lit
The Gift is a bit different from other Nabokov novels. Its closest contemporary is the earlier Glory, and to a lesser extent his memoir Speak, Memory. Instead of the tricky, complex and maze-like plots that structure most of his works, this one is a slow burn. It takes its time and doesn't necessarily lead anywhere, but instead provides its pleasure in the beautiful density of the prose and the wonderful observations and sly jokes. Granted, those are aspects that make a large part of all of N's ...more
Scott Zaramba
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in the middle of last summer. I loved it. When I finished, I set about reading the rest of Nabokov's Russian work. None of it equals this book - not even Despair, which comes close, or Invitation to a Beheading, which I've liked since I read it as a teenager.

My enjoyment surprised me. Nabokov receives criticism for preciosity. This is the only book of his that I've read which feels precious all the way through. The sentences trace long paths down the page. The perspective shifts
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I liked the first 100 pages or so, but then began to lose interest. I tried reading 10 pages or so at a time, interspersed with something else. Then I began putting off reading those 10 pages for longer and longer, until I finally realized - more than halfway through - that I simply didn't care about finishing.

This is semi-autobiographical, although Nabokov denies it. It is about a writer who has left Russia following the revolution and who settles in Berlin. He is involved in the ex-pat commun
...more
Alana
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I hesitate to give anything by Nabokov such a low rating, but I found the Gift to be stuffy, pretentious, tedious, and at times downright dull. Admittedly, I am not well acquainted with 19th century Russian literature. Having an in depth knowledge and appreciation of the likes of Pushkin, Gogol, and Chernyshevsky is a prerequisite for enjoyment of the Gift. You will otherwise be lost with all the namedropping and style referencing. There are, of course, bits of Nabokov brilliance that shine thro ...more
Howard Olsen
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite Nabokov book. It's a melancholy story about exiled Russian nobles living in Berlin after the Revolution. The narrator is an exile who is also a novelist. Most of the book slips effortlessly between his childhood memories in Russia, his creative reveries, and his life in dreary Berlin. His thoghts eventually become so jumbles that it becomes impossible to tell what is real and what is memory. There is some remarkable writing here. One chapter begins with the narrator's vivid d ...more
Nico Lee
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably Nabakov's best, which is saying one heckuva lot, the sequence with the steppes revealing themselves from the bedroom wallpaper is breathtaking and every page contains a gem of vivid description.
Yupa
Nov 14, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Copincollo un luuungo commento che avevo scritto tempo addietro per un siti di libri e letteratura...

===============================

“Il vero scrittore dovrebbe infischiarsene di tutti i lettori, salvo uno: il lettore futuro”: questo viene detto ne Il dono di Nabokov, a pagina 421, quando soltanto un’altra cinquantina ci separano dalla conclusione. Una frase che è quasi un piccolo premio proprio per il lettore futuro, cioè, contemporaneo (Il dono è stato scritto negli anni ’30 e in seguito pubbli
...more
Vittorio Ducoli
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il manifesto dell'identità intellettuale di Nabokov (e molto altro)

Il dono segna la fine della prima fase della produzione letteraria di Nabokov, e la storia della sua pubblicazione è abbastanza contorta. Fu infatti scritto in russo nell'ultimo periodo della permanenza dell'autore a Berlino, tra il 1935 e il 1937, ed apparve a puntate negli anni successivi, su una rivista dell'emigrazione russa a Parigi, in una edizione non integrale. Solo nel 1952 vide la luce integralmente a New York, essendos
...more
Olha Khilobok
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Вместо тысячи книг по стилю. Чтоб не быть глупым как бетон, блондином во всем и требовать от стихов больше, чем ямщикнегонилашадейности.

❤❤❤
...more
Brent Legault
The most difficult, I'm sure, of Nabokov's Russian novels. Certainly the most Russian of them. And second only to Ada or Ardor A Family Chronicle in his, er, oeuvre for both page count and complexity. And while I'm getting catagorical and even possibly (pardon my neologism) elistical, let me add that it is, in my opinion, his sweetest novel (one sugary step above Pnin). And before you cock a brow, Mr. Spock, the answer is no, I don't feel the slightest bit corny in writing that because I am a ma ...more
Anna Tatelman
Mar 03, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As someone who is admittedly in love with Nabokov (or at least Lolita & Invitation to a Beheading), I really wanted to like this book. And maybe one day I will. But that day is not today. Today (and for the foreseeable future), this book just makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Repeatedly.
vi macdonald
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: postmodernism
Let's get one thing clear, The Gift is basically Vladimir Nabokov saying he is more well read than you. The Gift is essentially Nabokov's version of The Marriage Plot, the fact I managed to come through it thinking it was brilliant and not completely detestable (Jeffrey Eugenides, take notes) is really a testament to how amazing Nabokov is.
Bobiczdoh
Будто крем-брюле объелся.
Вроде и изыскано, и приятно, и ещё хочется, а ком у горла стоит, и блевать тянет.
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Nabokov in Three ...: Impressions 1 13 May 12, 2012 08:16AM  
  • The American Years
  • The Noise of Time: Selected Prose
  • Petersburg
  • The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness
  • The Dragon: Fifteen Stories
  • The Village of Stepanchikovo
  • Conquered City
  • The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
  • Maidenhair
  • Less Than One: Selected Essays
  • Novel with Cocaine
  • The Same Old Story
  • On the Eve
  • The Foundation Pit
  • Envy
  • Black Snow
  • Bronze Horseman
  • White Walls: Collected Stories
5152
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
More about Vladimir Nabokov...

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“Have you ever happened, reader, to feel that subtle sorrow of parting with an unloved abode? The heart does not break, as it does in parting with dear objects. The humid gaze does not wander around holding back a tear, as if it wished to carry away in it a trembling reflection of the abandoned spot; but in the best corner of our hearts we feel pity for the things which we did not bring to life with our breath, which we hardly noticed and are now leaving forever. This already dead iventory will not be resurrected in one's memory..” 20 likes
“Thus it transpired that even Berlin could be mysterious. Within the linden's bloom the streetlight winks. A dark and honeyed hush envelops us. Across the curb one's passing shadow slinks: across a stump a sable ripples thus. The night sky melts to peach beyond that gate. There water gleams, there Venice vaguely shows. Look at that street--it runs to China straight, and yonder star above the Volga glows! Oh, swear to me to put in dreams your trust, and to believe in fantasy alone, and never let your soul in prison rust, nor stretch your arm and say: a wall of stone.” 9 likes
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