Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Pnin” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.90  ·  Rating details ·  18,002 ratings  ·  1,369 reviews
One of the best-loved of Nabokov’s novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian émigré precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950's. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle aca ...more
Hardcover, 143 pages
Published April 6th 2004 by Everyman's Library (first published 1957)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Pnin, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,002 ratings  ·  1,369 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Pnin
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any serious student of literature & language.
“Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically.”
Pnin ~~ Vladimir Nabokov


I have never read anything like Pnin ~~ Nabokov uses language like no other writer I've read before. I am riveted by both this book and Nabokov”s writing.

The strength of "Pnin" is its title character, Russian emigrate and professor, Timofey Pnin.
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: volodya
If one wanted to undertake a neat little study of Nabokov’s fictional prowess, they should read Lolita and Pnin back to back. They were written concurrently, in little middle-American roadside motels (the ones that are chronicled so abundantly in Lolita) during Nabokov and Véra’s summer-long butterfly hunting tours. Pnin was Nabokov’s antidote and respite from Humbert’s grotesqueries, the opposite pole of character, and we should marvel at the achievement that while he was creating the most erud ...more
Sep 28, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The other half
Recommended to Fionnuala by: Half the reading world
The Revenge of Timofey Pnin

The traffic light was red. Timofey Pavlovich Pnin sat patiently at the steering wheel of his blue sedan directly behind a giant truck loaded with barrels of Budweiser, the inferior version of the Budvar he'd enjoyed in his Prague student days. On the passenger seat of the sedan, his paws resting on the open window, sat Gamlet, the stray dog Pnin had been feeding for the past few months, slowly encouraging the timid animal's trust. Gamlet had been unsure about the trip,
Steven Godin
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whilst a certain novel featuring a middle-aged man infatuating over his seduction of a 12-year-old girl was causing a storm in the literary world, along came the gentle breeze that was Pnin. Another remarkable character in a career littered with remarkable characters. After arriving in America in 1940, with wife Véra, and son Dmitri, as virtually broke refugees from Nazi-occupied France, Nabokov was able to find employment as a university teacher of Russian and comparative literature, first at i ...more
Violet wells
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faves
I recently read Doctor Zhivago which Nabokov hated. You could say these two books are the antithesis of each other. Zhivago strives to depict a poetic vision of real life on a huge canvas and find meaning therein; Pnin is self-pleasuring art for art’s sake on a tiny canvas. Nabokov isn’t remotely interested in “real life” or deep meaning or huge canvases. He passes over the Russian Revolution in a couple of sentences whereas a description of a room that will only feature once in the entire novel ...more
The evening lessons were always the most difficult. Drained of ambulating the willing grey cells throughout the carnage of day classes, the young readers, almost resignedly, filled the quiet room at the end of the corridor. A subdued tête-à-tête, almost at once, broke into a charlatan laughter and the very next moment, died in their bosoms as Professor Pnin entered the classroom.

Straightening the meagre crop on his head and adjusting (and re-adjusting) his tortoise-shell glasses, he cleared his
I would call this 1957 Nabokov novel a tragicomedy, leaning more to the comedy. Timofey Pnin is a likeable Russian emigre, a nice man, maybe too nice for his own good. Pnin is an assistant professor at fictional Wainsdell College, probably modeled after Cornell University where Nabokov taught. Even though Pnin has become an American citizen, he still struggles with the English language. He has difficultly being understood by his students and his colleagues. He makes his way through life in an ho ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
485. Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov
Pnin is Vladimir Nabokov's 13th novel and his fourth written in English; it was published in 1957. Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian émigré precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations
Mattia Ravasi
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Video review

The passage where Pnin reads that magazine cartoon must be the funniest in all American literature!

I had a professor, in fact he had no professor’s title, but we always addressed him that way. So, I had a professor who taught me maths. No, actually he was trying to teach me, he was doing his best to familiarize me with secrets of the queen of science. Alas ! I truly felt pity for him since I was stupendously immune to that knowledge. I was standing at the blackboard attempting to solve some mysterious to me equation and professor, waving his hand, would sigh then get out of my sight, please
Jul 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ritwik by: Seemita

Coming from the master word-smith, a critic and the dictator of the reading choices of legions of readers comes a book backed by a blurb which compares Nobokov to a standard stand-up comedian with a professional capacity of making the audience laugh hysterically. Sad to say, the humour in the books failed to appeal me and was eclipsed by the unfortunate tribulations that influenced the demure and naive professor Timofey Pnin's reputation amongst his associates and the staff of the University.
Later Nabokov, oddly sweet compared with the more tart early novels. Bad poetry is savaged only once.

The eponymous Pnin, an ageing expatriate academic engaged in teaching Russian in small town America, is the hero of this oddly optimistic and even joyful novel. The wonder of putting trainers (Sneakers in certain jurisdictions) in the washing machine and listening to them running round or being taken as some kind of saint or angel as he sits broad smiling with a large Greek cross on his bare ches
Stephen P
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
If in these beginning pages Nabokov is laying out how to read this work I can only smile, which I have been doing unnoticed since I opened the covers, and conclude that beneath the voice of erudition lies the eye wink of humor, underlined by the cunning of acerbic wit. All of this, each line will contribute to the meaning of the narrative, while the narrative itself will be a major event.

I shouldn’t forget, even though I don’t know what it means at this point, but I am reading it aloud to mysel
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin


This isn't just the last nail in my Nabokov coffin, this is the ground thrown on the coffin. Finito sweet benito. I've now read all his ficiton (both those written in Russian and translated into English later and those written in English). It is kinda sad. But so too is Pnin. I'd call the novel melancholy, but it isn't quite sad or melancholy. There
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel


Admittedly, I found less hilarity in my second revisit due to some of his unusual lengthy sentences (an exemplary extracted one below - to add later) in which I couldn't help being hypnotized and lulled into drowsiness and soon my slumber overcame me, finding it as not being proud of such a syndrome. However, I focused on his other interesting points worth looking at and talking about to share with other Nabokov readers in this Goodreads community.

By means of his English wordplay from
Anthony Vacca
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor, poor Pnin - pronounced pu-neen, or, as one character hears the name, "like a cracked ping pong ball" - is the somber hero and namesake of Nabokov's fourth and bittersweet novel written in English, and was composed partly in conjunction with Lolita as a vacation for the Russian writer from the parasitic mind of that particular novel's narrator, everyone's favorite European pedophile, Humbert Humbert, or just H.H. for short. But back to Pnin and poor, poor Pnin. Told from the point of view o ...more
Jacob Overmark
Timofey Pnin … poor old fellow. You have been analysed to an extent you would otherwise only expect on a couch at the psychiatrist.
After all, you are only a slightly confused middle aged Russian male émigré trying to navigate in scholarly surroundings. You are not without ambition, you are capable in your own field, but you will never reach the halls of Ivy League.
You have taken with you the traditions and schools of thought from your homeland, but it is never enough to secure you the break-th
"‘I haf nofing,’ wailed Pnin between loud, damp sniffs, ‘I haf nofing left, nofing, nofing!’"

'I haf nofing... nofing, nofing, nofing to say' wailed TBV between loud, damp sniffs*. However, "The cat, as Pnin would say, cannot be hid in a bag", so it has to be said that TBV was totally beguiled by Professor Timofey Pnin's "Pninizing" and "his unique Pninian worth".

*It is to be noted that the sniffs are due to laughter, but the humour is simply a foil to the underlying sadness.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, oulipo-mo
The accumulation of consecutive rooms in his memory now resembled those displays of grouped elbow chairs on show, and beds, and lamps, and inglebooks which, ignoring all space-time distinctions, commingle in the soft light of a furniture store beyond which it snows, and the dusk deepens, and nobody really loves anybody.

Poor Professor Timofey Pnin! He just can't catch a break! I really enjoyed reading Pnin, as I enjoy reading just about everything by V. Nabokov, but I feel an inadequacy in re
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nabo-wabo
So a friend says to me, What are you reading? I says, Pnin. Then this guy says, and I quote, “poorly written.” So I says, you gotta be fuggin’ kidding me—we’re talking about fuggin’ Nabokov here. Guy says, “shitty book.” That’s when I knew for sure that being dropped on his head repeatedly during his childhood and adolescence had had an effect on my friend, Mickey. Whatareyougonnadoaboutit? He’s a good guy. Jersey kid. Maybe that explains it…

[DISCLAIMER: The above was in no way meant to offend t
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Now a secret must be imparted. Professor Pnin was on the wrong train. He was unaware of it, and so was the conductor, already threading his way through the train to Pnin’s coach. As a matter of fact, Pnin at the moment felt very well satisfied with himself.”
Pnin is a stranger in a strange land – a learnt misfit in search of his singular niche, Don Quixote trying to win over an especially malicious windmill.
“‘Yes,’ said Pnin with a sigh, ‘intrigue is horrible, horrible. But, on the other side, h
This was my first experience with Nabokov since Lolita, which I read in perhaps 2008 and didn’t particularly appreciate. I was surprised just how funny and readable it was. I picked it up in a charity shop for the description: a comic novel about a Russian professor on an American college campus. And while there are indeed shades of Lucky Jim – I certainly laughed out loud at Timofey Pnin’s verbal gaffes and slapstick falls – there’s more going on here. In this episodic narrative spanning 1950–4 ...more
Irony, mild pathos, fun, poetry and tragedy of life wonderfully united, through the intriguing invention of a narrator both sympathetic and unreliable.

Meraviglioso incontro di ironia, pathos sommesso, comicità, poesia e tragicità della vita.
Intrigante costruzione di un narratore partecipe e inaffidabile al tempo stesso.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I enjoyed a few marvelous descriptions of this hapless but affable professor, whose life is more tragedy than comedy. Poor Pnin. I didn't quite feel "in" on the joke. Was I supposed to find it entertaining?
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-english
Pnin may give the appearance of being a 'slight' work -- compared, at any rate, to Nabokov's alleged ( -- I say 'alleged', only because I have not yet read either Lolita or Pale Fire... I'm working up to them --) masterpieces. And so I see a lot of four and three stars. But in my (and it is not allegedly, but often demonstrated) uninformed opinion, this is a mistake -- this is a slight book, indeed! (The punctuation here is deliberate -- as I want to mislead you.) Written as he was finishing, or ...more
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a fun introduction to the crazy brain that is Nabokov. I'd previously noped out of LOLITA, so this was my first full book from him. I now "get" him & the way people talk about his work so much more. The main experience of reading this book is his use of/playing with the English language. As channeled through his Russian emigres, I found myself thinking about my native language in a new way. I also understand what people mean by Nabokov humor now- it's not a LOL kind of funny, but rather a " ...more
I bought this for $1 on impulse late yesterday afternoon. Read the first 11 pages last night before bed after finishing Updike's "Rabbit, Run." Resumed reading at 8:30 am this morning with a short break for breakfast, became engrossed in it, had a short break for lunch at noon and finished at 2 minutes before 1 pm. It's a very short novel, only 191 pages and a very quick read. I found it thoroughly charming, gently humorous, nostalgic and somewhat insightful into old Russian culture. There's an ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mother-rus
matters appear hysterical on goodreads these days. Ripples of concern often appear daunting to the literate, cushioned by their e-devices and their caffienated trips to dusty book stores; why, the first appearence of crossed words often sounds like the goddamn apocalypse. Well, it can anyway. I find people are taking all of this way too seriously.

I had a rough day at work. It is again hot as hell outside and I just wanted to come home and listen to chamber music and read Gaddis until my wife co
MJ Nicholls
I read Pnin in 2009 but reread the book today to decide whether my love merited buying an Everyman’s hardcover edition. Verdict? No. I’ll stick with Lolita in Everyman’s and, after a reread, possibly Pale Fire. Pnin is lighter, but by no means lexically less impressive, than Lolita and has more in common with the high-class comedies Pictures From an Institution or Lucky Jim than earlier, more cunning Nabokovs (the unreliable narrator twist isn’t as ingenious as Manny makes it sound). Updike’s Be ...more
Dec 16, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov 9 21 Dec 19, 2018 11:51AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add page numbers to ISBN: 9780380008193 2 12 Mar 07, 2017 11:14AM  
All About Books: Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov (Leslie & Jenny & Pink) 26 39 Dec 28, 2014 12:40AM  
Short & Sweet Treats: Pnin 62 59 Dec 22, 2013 04:56PM  
Brain Pain: Discussion - Week Two - Pnin - Chapter Five - Seven 11 41 Sep 23, 2013 06:54AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Crying of Lot 49
  • V.
  • những thứ trong suốt
  • Catholics
  • Birchwood
  • Vertigo
  • オーデュボンの祈り [Ōdubon no inori]
  • Time for a Tiger
  • Herzog
  • The Bathroom
  • If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
  • Carpenter's Gothic
  • Austerlitz
  • A Monarchy Transformed: Britain, 1603 - 1714
  • In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (In Search of Lost Time, #2)
  • The Sonnets
  • The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount
  • The Rings of Saturn
See similar books…
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 frequ

Related Articles

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett Joha...
19 likes · 0 comments
“Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically.” 523 likes
“He was afraid of touching his own wrist. He never attempted to sleep on his left side, even in those dismal hours of the night when the insomniac longs for a third side after trying the two he has.” 73 likes
More quotes…