From Vladimir Nabokov, the writer who shocked and delighted the world with his novels Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada, or Ardor, comes a magnificent collection of stories. Written between the 1920s and the 1950s, these 68 tales — 14 of which have been translated into English for the first time - display all the shades of Nabokov’s imagination. They range from sprightly fables to bittersweet tales of loss, from claustrophobic exercises in horror to a connoisseur’s samplings of the table of human folly. Read as a whole, The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov offers an intoxicating draft of the master’s genius, his devious wit, and his ability to turn language into an instrument of ecstasy.
This edition includes the newly discovered story “Natasha.”
I love Nabokov, especially his short stories, but this production stinks. You can't tell when one story ends and another begins, and I kept on finding myself zoning out while I was listening. For me, a very bad sign with an audiobook. I would happily try this again with another narrator and another production company.
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In someways reading/listening to Nabokov's stories is like swimming in a turbulent river of all his great themes (doppelgängers, the creative process, loss, nostalgia for Russia, the individual, obsession, dreams/reality, etc).
While there were some stories that were masterpieces, the strength of this book really is the ability it gives the Nabokov enthusiast to easily see the development of a great writer from the early 20s to the late 50s.
One only needs to read 'Terra Incognita' to see the seeds of his novel 'Ada: or Ardor'. This collection is a must for those who adore Nabokov, but also an interesting introduction to Nabokov for those whose only exposure may be "Lolita'.
Here are the stories as they appear in this collection:
"Russian Spoken Here"
"A Matter of Chance"
"Details of a Sunset"
"A Letter That Never Reached Russia"
"The Return of Chorb"
"A Guide to Berlin"
"A Nursery Tale"
"An Affair of Honor"
"The Christmas Story"
"The Potato Elf"
"A Dashing Fellow"
"A Bad Day"
"The Visit to the Museum"
"A Busy Man"
"Lips to Lips"
"The Admiralty Spire"
"In Memory of L. I. Shigaev"
"A Russian Beauty"
"Breaking the News"
"A Slice of Life"
"Spring in Fialta"
"Cloud, Castle, Lake"
"The Assistant Producer"
"That in Aleppo Once…"
"A Forgotten Poet"
"Time and Ebb"
"Conversation Piece, 1945"
"Signs and Symbols"
"Scenes from the Life of a Double Monster"
"The Vane Sisters"
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I usually read nonfiction, but I also like some fiction. I read Lolita and loved it.
At first I did not like this for some of the reasons other reviewers stated: the narrator does not pause very much between stories; he just ends one story, announces the next title, and starts reading again. (But see my comments on the narrator below.)
But I stayed with it; and I'm very glad I did. There really is not so much time or reason to pause very long between stories. And soon it is not too difficult to notice when a story ends. Try to keep an open mind when reading this. Some of the stories are very short and often end abruptly. But once you get into it, you start to open your mind to the idea that many of the stories are just brilliant snippets of events, emotions, feeling, and deep and perceptive observations. They range from events which could have possibly happened to outright fantasy involving dragons and she-devils. But the characters are never conventional, and nothing in his stories is ever predictable.
This is some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read or heard. Nabakov has a deep and keen understanding of the human condition, and his mastery of the English language feels like great art. His observations of people, environment, place, and human fears, wishes, doubts, dreams, and fantasies are profound.
But I would not have enjoyed this as much, if at all, had not the narrator been up to the task of reading Nabakov. I discovered this narrator, Author Morey, from Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct (which I also highly recommend). Author Morey is one of the best narrators on Audible.
I highly recommend this download.
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Is there anything you would change about this book?
This book tries to be a complete collection of Nabokov's short fiction, and thus includes quite a few of his early stories that are beautifully written, but that otherwise are not very good - undramatic, with flat, uninteresting characters, and perfunctory plots. Until he got to America in 1939 and started writing in English (he was forty) his stories are not very good, and a few years later he stopped writing short stories.
Has The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov turned you off from other books in this genre?
No. It has simply left me with a diminished sense of his greatness as a writer.
Would you listen to another book narrated by Arthur Morey?
I don't know Russian, and so can't judge his pronunciation of words and names in that language, but I do know German. Since most of these stories are set in Berlin, where Nabokov lived when he was writing most of them, they have many words and names in German, and Arthur Morey mispronounces many of them. A better reader would have been one who knew both Russian and German, and could pronounce them correctly.
Could you see The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
No movies, please.
Any additional comments?
Along with a great many of my favorite writers, including John Updike and Jeffrey Eugenides, I am a lover of Nabokov's work, especially his later novels, written in English -The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Pnin, Lolita, Pale Fire - and perhaps best of all his superb autobiography, Speak Memory. This makes it hard to understand why his collected stories stood on my shelf practically unread for many years, until I bought the Audible version and started listening to them, while consulting the print version from time to time. But now I know why I didn't read them: it's because I don't like most of them. First off, the collection is complete, or nearly so, and arranged chronologically, so that his early efforts - from his mid-twenties on - are encountered first. These were of course written in Russian, and though they have been carefully translated by Nabokov himself in some instances, and by his son Dmitri in others, they lose some of the stylistic brilliance they probably had in the original. A stylist plays delightfully with words, and such wordplay is often untranslatable, as puns and other verbal effects are lost when translated into a different language with different homonyms, etc.
Secondly, they were written in a depressed period of Nabokov's life, when he was a poor refugee living in a Berlin that was itself struggling to regain its prosperity after the loss of WW I, and was preparing for Hitler's takeover. A dispossessed, homesick stateless person, he saw the sorry state of Berlin, and the sorrier state of the Russian emigres, in whose circle he moved, and recorded them accurately, at least in some of his stories. Joyce's Dubliners takes a similar view of sad existences, but Joyce was steeped in the history of his unhappy land, while Nabokov was merely a visitor. He sees many kinds of failure and discouragement in his fellow Russians, but is rarely compassionate. Rather, in the tradition, perhaps, of Gogol, a writer Nabokov greatly admired, he satirizes them. But satire works best when its targets are the well-fed and complacent. These characters of Nabokov's are more down-and-out than he himself was, and his ridicule of them is unkind and unnecessary. Even when his protagonist is not Russian, as in "The Potato Elf," he can't resist making fun of deformity - always a weakness in his fiction (Laughter In The Dark, for instance, recounts the sexual humiliation of a blind man).
This leads us to my final and greatest criticism.: Nabokov is cruel. Strikingly, his son in an introduction goes out of his way to argue that his father was inveterately compassionate, and never cruel. This I think must be in anticipation of the kind of criticism I am making, for Nabokov may have been kind as a person, but his imagination was invariably cruel. Time after time these stories create a character in order to steer him or her to some sort of failure or comeuppance, sometimes with a shrug of the shoulders - "what did you expect?" - sometimes with a surprise ending like those in de Maupassant and O. Henry - The Potato Elf ends with a heart attack that is merciful compared to the shock of further discoveries that awaited the midget had he lived.
There are brilliant passages of descriptive writing, in these stories, as one would expect of someone who at this time in his life was principally a lyric poet, but fiction depends on plot and character, not on lovely description. Eventually, after he came to America and started writing in English (his first English novel was Sebastian Knight in 1940) his stories take on more of the manner of his American novels, which are better than the Russian ones, if only because Nabokov continued to grow and get better as a writer of fiction. Also he became happier, and more secure. A late story, "The Vane Sisters" is a puzzle-story with a hidden meaning that the reader will probably miss unless he works over it like the Sunday crossword, but has a consoling message when solved. Nabokov eventually discovered how to create and mock unreliable narrators who embody his own flaws of cruelty, superiority, and detachment. He started satirizing himself, in other words, and this was a more fitting object of satire than the sad sacks who inhabit his earlier fiction. But then he gave up writing short stories, except as memoir pieces that he gathered together as Speak, Memory, which may come to seem, even more than Lolita or Pale Fire, his masterpiece. One of these pieces, a portrait of his French governess back in Russia, is probably the best story in this entire collection, though it is not properly speaking a story at all, and is even better when read as a chapter of his autobiography.
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There are about forty stories filled with sounds, colors, wit, and enchantment in this audiobook. I love Nabokov's style of writing and had already read all his stories. Now I enjoy them in audible form and Arthur Morey's narration. It suffices to listen one story and the whole day will turn up brighter. This stories bring beauty and charm in everyday life.
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Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
It's hard to find particular titles in the numbered sections which can be whole stories or parts. The narrator has a pleasant voice. I'm happy to see all of these Nabokov stories in an audible form.
Would you recommend The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov to your friends? Why or why not?
I'm not sure. I'm taking a class where we need to find particular titles. It's a hassle.
What does Arthur Morey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I'd rate him as good.
Was The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov worth the listening time?
Not yet. I may be forced to buy the book. Not every story in this unabridged work is interesting to me, although some are wonderful.