Pale Wire (Popscene)

Friday, May 20, 2005



I wrapped up Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark tonight. It's a tight little novel that captures well the combination of tragedy and comedy at which he and so many of his countrymen have excelled. And, unlike a certain blockbuster film I saw yesterday, it managed to compell throughout, despite our noble narrator spoiling the surprise with his opening sentence.
Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man named Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.

Like Joseph Heller, Nabokov is a great writer with only one famous book. That's a shame because both cranked out a number of minor masterpieces (Heller's Good as Gold might serve as a fine companion to LitD) and a couple other big boys.

LitD was originally published in Russian as Kamera Obscura in 1932. Nabokov, a man of many letters and languages, translated into English himself six years later.