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The Gift

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  3,439 ratings  ·  217 reviews
The Gift is the last of the novels Nabokov wrote in his native Russian and the crowning achievement of that period in his literary career.  It is also his ode to Russian literature, evoking the works of Pushkin, Gogol, and others in the course of its narrative:  the story of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, an impoverished émigré poet living in Berlin, who dreams of the book he ...more
Paperback, 403 pages
Published 2017 by Penguin Books (first published 1938)
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Edward Hacking Lolita is always the perfect place to start with Nabokov. Funny, charming and the use of prose is one of the finest of the century. The work of a mast…moreLolita is always the perfect place to start with Nabokov. Funny, charming and the use of prose is one of the finest of the century. The work of a master, at the height of his powers.
Nabokov's The Gift is essentially for nerd's of Russian literature.


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Average rating 4.01  · 
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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 onto 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
Vit Babenco
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Gift is Vladimir Nabokov’s best novel written in Russian – voluminous, multifaceted, multilayered, multilevel, and linguistically splendid and most beautiful.
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 o
Steven Godin
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Of the many Nabokov novels I have read so far, The Gift might not rank as one of my favourites, but it's probably the most ambitious. For a start, it reads like two books in one, as the narrative is about, and in part, by Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, the young Russian émigré aristocrat living in Berlin who is at the centre of Nabokov's novel. In its ambiguities, its poetry, its typical Nabokov wordplay, and its originality, The Gift can be seen as a metaphor for Russian literature ...more
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: volodya, favorites
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
Dec 17, 2008 rated it liked it

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
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
The beginning and end of this book are great. The middle section went over my head—it is crammed full of insufficiently explained details about classical Russian authors, what they have written and their respective styles. One must be an expert on Russian literature to fully grasp that which is inferred. The writing here is elliptical, abstruse, as far from clear as one can get. The middle section is almost impossible to make sense of. This section is a book within a book. Thereafter follows a s ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
My goodness-gracious, this book is one hell of a monster.

It is the ultimate Russian nesting doll of and about art, memory, satire, and "Art". If I wasn't already a huge fan of Nabokov, I probably would have thrown this book across the room.

Nabokov wrote this novel as a tribute to his native language and is the last, and undeniably brilliant, of that period. It is a prime example of a supremely self-satisfied intellectual engorgement. Beautiful turns of phrase, rich and belligerent in its knowle
MJ Nicholls
Jan 08, 2021 marked it as dropped
Read the first part. Nabokov at his most intolerably arch, self-regarding, pore-clogging, and fustian.
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Katia N
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I want to keep everything as it were on the very brink of parody. You know those idiotic “biographies les romancees” where Byron is cooly slipped a dream extracted from one of his own poems? And there must be on the other hand an abyss of seriousness, and I must make my way along the narrow ridge between my own truth and a caricature of it. And most essentially there must be a single uninterrupted progression of thought. I must peel my apple in a single strip, without removing the knife”. So t ...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. ...more
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
Jeena Mary Chacko
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 keeping the f ...more
Daniel Chaikin

Nabokov in Berlin, 1930's

This is slow, but good stuff. As I work through Nabokov‘s novels, this was easily the weighty-est so far. There is a lot in here, like everything - poetry, Pushkin, Gogol, a complete biography of Chernyshevsky (!), literary commentary, critics, death, love, language, commentary on Nazi Germany - all here. It was also his last Russian language novel.

The novel is about a young Russian émigré author who just published his first book in Germany, a book of Russian poetry tha
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Victor Sonkin
I was reading this because I am planning to read Dolinin's book of comments, and I needed to refresh my memory. How many times have I read it already? At least two. I think this is my favorite among Nabokov's oeuvres, though of course the unpleasantness of the author (and, to a certain extent, of the protagonist, who, whatever Nabokov is trying to say in the American postscriptum, is very much Nabokov himself) is rather evident. ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, russia
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, Chernyshevsky's life and thinking about other things, I was more than once hauled up and made to pay att ...more
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
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit, re-read-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
Howard Olsen
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Anna Tatelman
Mar 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
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.
Nico Lee
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Lina Kelpšaitė
Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev writing alone in his room and finding new and exiting ways to get out of social obligations, while presumably someone around him is enjoying the infamous Berlin of the 20s is a forever mood.
Adarsh Chauhan
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vladimir Nabokov writes poetry in his prose and The Gift is as good as an example as any. His deep attachment to poetry is pretty evident and recurring in this one. This book is about an immigrated Russian author who moves to Berlin and dreams of writing a book that will set his place in this world. Right from the very beginning, the readers realise that the book they are reading is (to quite an extent) the very book our protagonist envisions as his literary offspring. With such a setting, the b ...more
Liina Bachmann
About two thirds in I thought I can quote Homer Simpson and say “It’s brilliant! But I don’t get it.” But when reading on, I became hesitant whether instead of brilliant, The Gift by Nabokov is actually very pretentious, show-offy and well, a bit dull. I must admit I had a pang of sadness when reading this because he is one of my most treasured authors but loving something because you have loved it before is a recipe for a worn marriage and then some. One shouldn't apply this principle to books. ...more
Scott Zaramba
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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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 frequ

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