Tyrants destroyed and other stories

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McGraw-Hill, 1975 - Fiction - 238 pages

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Thirteen not-so-new stories from the audacious doyen of self-conscious artifice — twelve of them dated between 1924 and 1939 from Berlin, Paris, Mentone, and portraying the proud but slightly down at ... Read full review

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About the author (1975)

I am an American writer, born in Russia and educated in England, where I studied French literature, before spending fifteen years in Germany. I came to America in 1940 and decided to become an American citizen and made America my home." So writes Nabokov---novelist, dramatist, poet, essayist, English teacher (famous for his incredibly difficult exams), literary critic, translator, and lepidopterist. Nabokov is considered one of the most brilliant and fascinating writers of the twentieth century. His mixed identities have contributed to his reputation as one of the most unsettling and difficult writers of his time."The best writer of English prose at present holding American citizenship," was John Updike's description of Nabokov. Although he began his literary career as a poet, Nabokov is probably best known for his novels, most notoriously Lolita (1955)."He is a major force in the contemporary novel" wrote Anthony Burgess in The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction. Although some critics find his work so distinctive that they consider it to comprise its own species of novel, Nabokov's work is more usefully seen as a self-conscious extension and reinvention of a European novelistic tradition, from Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, through Proust and Joyce, with whom he shared a taste for elaborate wordplay and arcane allusion. Nabokov's works have tended to provoke the awe as well as the discomfort of numerous critics. Alfred Kazin, for instance, described himself as "floundering and traveling in the mind of that American genius" during his bout with Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969), Nabokov's most ambitious novel. "In that novel, as in almost all of his works," Kazin wrote, "Nabokov intentionally laced the narrative with obscure literary allusions and tri-lingual puns that pivot on an understanding of Russian, and to a lesser degree French, language and culture. Though helpful, even a broad knowledge of European literature would not make Nabokov's creations entirely clear for, as an artist, he enjoyed playing tricks on the reader." What has been called his "artistic duplicity" is perhaps explained by Nabokov's theory of narrative as being an intricate interplay between author and reader. " . . . [R]ead books for the sake of their form, their visions, their art," he advised in a series of lectures at Cornell; one reads "to share not the emotions of the people in the book but the emotions of its au-thor. . . ." The discomfort provoked by Nabokov's works was not due solely to his technique, however; Lolita, about a middle-aged man's passion for and seduction of 12-year-old Lolita ("the loveliest nymphet")---all in obsessive, hilarious detail---struggled into print after being rejected on both sides of the Atlantic. Shocking to many, Lolita, like James Joyce's Ulysses, is the author's masterpiece, a work that continues to generate contradictory interpretations and open-mouthed astonishment.

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