Customer Reviews


13 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and prophetic
I first read this book as a student in the 1960's and was puzzled but liked it. It seemed, to quote Nabokov, a violin in a void. Suddenly in 1989 I realised it is a prophecy about the Fall of Communism, its symbolism very close to what actually happened: the State and its ideology - once wielding real power and terror- have withered to an absurd shell, its rewards and...
Published on Aug. 31 1999

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and Incoherent
I've read a lot of Nabokov and finished this one while riding on the Moscow Metro. This is not even close to his best work. It may have been the intention of Nabokov to keep the reader guessing about what was and wasn't real, but in the end it didn't really matter. I don't believe what the copy on the back cover says either. Cinnatus doesn't will his executioners out of...
Published on April 7 2003 by Scott Shorey


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and prophetic, Aug. 31 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
I first read this book as a student in the 1960's and was puzzled but liked it. It seemed, to quote Nabokov, a violin in a void. Suddenly in 1989 I realised it is a prophecy about the Fall of Communism, its symbolism very close to what actually happened: the State and its ideology - once wielding real power and terror- have withered to an absurd shell, its rewards and blandisments have someting of senile infantilism about them, only its power as a death-dealer is apparently undiminished. The victim, Cincinnatus, suddenly realises he has had enough, stands up and comes to his senses and the whole idiotic apparatus of oppression crumbles to dust. It could have been the story of Prague, Budapest, Warsaw or East Berlin in 1989. My favourite Nabakov, it is a beautiful, haunting and unforgettable piece of writing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and Incoherent, April 7 2003
By 
Scott Shorey (Moscow, Russia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
I've read a lot of Nabokov and finished this one while riding on the Moscow Metro. This is not even close to his best work. It may have been the intention of Nabokov to keep the reader guessing about what was and wasn't real, but in the end it didn't really matter. I don't believe what the copy on the back cover says either. Cinnatus doesn't will his executioners out of existance. His head has been removed and in the end it is his spirit moving to this other existance. Apparently when you write copy for book jackets you are not required to actually read the book you are writing about.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Magical, but ultimately unsatisfying, Oct. 1 2009
By 
J. Tobin Garrett (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
After reading Lolita, I wanted to try something else from Nabokov's extensive line of work. Reading the back blurbs of a couple, I decided to try this one, as it sounded very magical realist, which is something I enjoy a lot.

First, and I know this is not a criticism of Nabokov at all but it has to be said, the person at Vintage who wrote the back copy of this book is a dolt. A class-A moron. The back of the book gives away every single aspect of the story, down to the very ending. I know that this book is not a "thriller" where the twists and turns of the plot are integral to the enjoyment of the story, but dammit, there were some things that I'd rather not have known at the get-go. So, Vintage people, if you are reading this: fire that copy writer.

OK, so I enjoyed the book. I thought it was good, but not great. I am sure that there are much better Nabokov books out there. I felt some frustration at times with this book, especially during the first-person writings of Cincinnatis C, which I felt were rambling, esoteric to the point of boring, and incomplete. If what was happening to him was meant to be a greater metaphor for society (or as someone else suggested, the fall of communism) then I didn't get it.

Interesting things happen. Beautiful psychedelic images and happenings are described. But, as it turns out, this is not enough to sustain a book for me, not enough to carry me through 200 pages. I read the whole thing, but was left feeling like it could have been a lot better.

I look forward to more Nabokov, as his grip on the english language (how the hell he learned it later in life and can still write better than most native speakers is a thing of genius) is incredible, his writing lyrical and exciting. I love his metaphors, his subtlety, his humour. I think it can be found better in other books, however.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Gnostical turpitude!, April 6 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
"Invitation to a Beheading" is a strange book. First of all, it sports a brilliant preface by the author, and truth be told, this preface is superior to the contents of the novel itself. In response to just a few pages, you feel compelled to buy the author's "Lectures on Literature", which are only a poor substitute for the real experience of listening to Nabokov in person. The author explains the intricacies of translation, done by his son, Dmitri, under the father's supervision, with particular emphasis put on the title. If you are lucky to know Russian, you will be able to appreciate the importance of the problem at hand, and in addition you will see how well this book is translated into English. At different points in his life Nabokov wrote in three different languages, and "Invitation to a Beheading" dates from 1934, in a period where the author still wrote in his beautiful and melodic mother tongue. This is an early book by this author, and ever since its publication it was compared to Franz Kafka's "The Castle", which annoyed Nabokov a little, which he ironically expresses in the aforementioned preface.
"Spiritual affinities have no place in my concept of literary criticism, but if I did have to choose a kindred soul, it would certainly be that great artist [Kafka - the Moose] rather than G. H. Orwell or other popular purveyors of illustrated ideas and publicistic fiction. Incidentally, I could never understand why every book of mine invariably sends reviewers scurrying in search of more or less celebrated names for the purpose of passionate comparison. During the last three decades they have hurled at me (to list but a few of these harmless missiles) Gogol, Tolstoyevski, Joyce, Voltaire, Sade, Stendhal, Balzac, Byron, Bierbohm, Proust, Kleist, Makar Marinski, Mary McCarthy, Meredith (!), Cervantes, Charlie Chaplin, Baroness Murasaki, Pushkin, Ruskin, and even Sebastian Knight. One author, however, has never been mentioned in this connection - the only author whom I must gratefully recognize as an influence upon me at the time of writing this book; namely, the melancholy, extravagant, wise, witty, magical, and altogether delightful Pierre Delalande, whom I invented."
Any type of plot summary will not give this book justice, for you must know that this book is not about the plot. In the case of Invitation to a Beheading, writing a blurb is much like writing a blurb with a summary of an Emily Dickinson poem. Well, once upon a time ago, in the paralell universe of the fantasy realm of Nabokov's imagination, Cincinnatus C. is captured, and found guilty of gnostic turpitude, a crime escaping definition. Cincinnatus has visions. He writes about them. His family visits him in the fortress, where he is locked. And he does not understand a thing of all this mess he found himself in. Yet he does not lose his wit, and tries to manage his fate as best he can. And it turns out that he can manage pretty much, considering. The book is Russian to the bone. Nowhere else are born authors with such a specific sense of humor and absurd. Mother Russia gave us many writers with unique, inimitable style. Nabokov is one of them, although a at the same time having been a prodigal son who never returned to his native land. Like Trevanian, he carried the kernel of culture within himself, he was the culture. Like any other escapist fantasy, Invitation to a beheading can be interpreted in many ways, and that has been done for the last 60 years, and then some, but submissing myself to the author's will, I will leave the story without any further comment. Suffice it to say that this novel is a difficult book, but if you happen to be so inclined, you will jump up, ruffling your hair, to paraphrase the author. I hope you will!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Of course Nabokov gets five stars..., Dec 24 2001
By 
C. D. Shirley (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
It's virtually impossible not to give Nabokov five stars...
Anyhow, Invitation to a Beheading is certainly a tricky book, but Nabokov's work always is. I don't see how it's harder than Lolita (in fact I think Lolita is harder to understand than this book), despite what people read as rampant symbolism.
Now, I'm not a Nabokov scholar, but I've read enough from him about writing to say that I doubt he spent huge amounts of time coming up with symbolic imagery for Invitation to a Beheading...that just wouldn't be his style. Instead, I'd bet that he wrote what he saw in his mind's eye and leaves it to the reader to apply meaning to what's shown...much as Cincinnatus is left to apply meaning to his existence without outside help.
What the theme of this book is isn't entirely clear, although of course the final scene in which Cincinnatus thinks his captors out of existence is a pretty obvious clue to it; I read it as a work about A) the arbitrary nature of assigned meaning and B) the individual's overarching authority over his own reality. It's also worthwhile to note that I read Cincinnatus as being insane and that most of what happens in the book as being delusional (including the end). I don't know if that was Nabokov's intent, but it seems to me that there's an underlying framework of a story that would make rational sense in what we consider the real world, masked by what Cincinnatus sees and experiences.
The insanity theory might be a stretch and I'd go so far as to say it's rather unimportant as it has little to no effect on the theme. The challenge of this book is to read past what's going on and move beyond trying to make rational sense out of a clearly irrational book and find the theme. The world of Nabokov's invention cannot be reconciled with what most of us consider the real world: it's a waste of time to try to reconcile the two, and to do so would be to miss the point.
What is the point, then? Well, partly to confuse us and make us question what we think of as reality and partly to tell us that reality is of our own invention. The real genius of Nabokov lies in his ability to achieve both these goals in one word, so to speak; by totally disorienting his audience, Nabokov in fact makes his point of the arbitrary nature of reality and perception.
Sounds heady, I bet, but don't let that turn you away from this book. Despite its oddity, it's very readable and with a bit of sensitivity it's a clear window into Nabokov's archetypal (the archetypes are of his own invention, of course) style and his complete genius.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, but not among Nabokov's highest works, May 21 2001
By 
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
Written serially for a Russian expatriate magazine in Berlin, Vladimir Nabokov's novel INVITATION TO A BEHEADING feels like a mere diversion, an imaginative exercise, but not a book that should be placed among Nabokov's finest works.
The story of a prisoner, Cincinnatus C., and his incarceration in a surreal, dreamlike world, INVITATION TO A BEHEADING bears so much resemblance to Franz Kafka's THE TRIAL that one doubts Nabokov's assertion that he had never ever heard of Kafka before embarking on this novel. Ironically, INVITATION feels just as unsuccessful as THE TRIAL because it also reads clumsily, although this may have to do with each novel's translation.
Nabokov also does not show his true talents on this work. Absent is the cleverness and acidic humor of his English novels. I'm inclined to believe that the translation by his son, Dmitri Nabokov, is not to blame for this, as Vladimir Nabokov was careful to check the accuracy of translations of his works.
Although the novel is incredibly slow for much of the book, it does recover at the end, with the vividly portrayed maelstrom of Cincinnatus' awakening.
Not the best novel of Nabokov's to begin with, in spite of its ubiquity in mall bookstores. Try LOLITA instead. PALE FIRE is perhaps his best work, but requires knowledge of his style's history before one tackles it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Very, very strange, March 5 2001
By 
MR G. Rodgers (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
Most peculiar - I hurtled through this book without ever sorting out what it really was about: a strange experience, in that it didn't bore me despite it being obscure. Is it an allegory of Soviet society? Is it an allegory of alienation of a particular person from the rest of society (gays?, or more likely, it being Nabokov, men with passions for girls - there is an ethereal girl in the book). Is it Nabokov doing a Kafka (although he may have been using some consciousness-enhancing substance while writing)? Or are we not really meant to know?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Invitation to a Beheading, June 7 2000
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
It's almost impossible to give Nabokov anything LESS than five stars. He has become such a giant in the world of literature, that one ceases to be able to compare his work to other authors, and instead begins to hold them up against Nabokov's other works.
To validate the statements of so many below, "Invitation to a Beheading" is probably not good intro-Nabokov. Some will find the familiarity of his other works more palatable. As well, it may be unwise to tackle this text without a general knowledge of Eastern European politics.
The text is somewhat muddled in places, and I had a hard time deciding whose fault this was...the author's or the editor's. Some sentences were malingering, unclear, and broke up the natural flow of Nabokov's text, which usually reads easily. In the end, I chose sloppy editing and read on.
This text is HIGHLY introspective and symbolic, and I found myself actually applying pen-and-paper to the symbols I encountered, trying to sort out what Nabokov was saying. So saying, this book ended up being more academic reading than pleasure reading, but has nevertheless taken up quick residence on my favorite bookshelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps not the best intro to Nabokov, May 5 2000
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
This is the first of Nabokov's books that I've read and was rather unimpressed by it. I understand that Nabokov has what might be described as a "cult" of followers, and perhaps some of his other novels are better for the first-time reader than "Invitation." I was put off by his strange plot twists and overt symbolism. I will not deny that Nabokov is a fine writer, and I've since read and enjoyed several of his short stories. But as an introduction to "Nab," this is perhaps not his best, and as far as dystopian novels go, I'd choose Orwell's "1984" over "Invitation" any day.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! Nabakov still the reigning champion of comedie noir!, Oct. 8 1999
By 
Steve (Moscow, Russia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Invitation to a Beheading (Paperback)
Definitely not for the reader that can only appreciate overt symbolism a la "Lolita". Nabakov offered to take me into his dark and unjust world and I was a very willing participant. Watch out, with his scintillating wordplay, he treats his audience with about as much sympathy as his characters! After cracking the spine of this one, I found it hard to get off my futon for anything but the occasional hummus break! If you like this, I recommend the other pieces of Nabakov's "Invitation" trilogy, "Invitation to a Swap Meet" and "Invitation to a Rib Cook-off"
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Invitation to a Beheading
Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov (Paperback - Sept. 19 1989)
CDN$ 18.00 CDN$ 13.00
In stock on August 5, 2014
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews