Third Eye Film Society Forum Index
Author Message

<  The Third Eye Reading Room  ~  Pnin

Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:30 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan



By Vladimer Nabokov

Annotation

Readers meet one of Nabokov's funniest and most heartrending characters: Timofey Pnin, a professor of Russian at an American college, who lectures in a language he cannot master.

From the Publisher

"One of the best-loved of Nabokov's novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian emigre precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations of a deliberately unreliable narrator." Initially an almost grotesquely comic figure, Pnin gradually grows in stature by contrast with those who laugh at him. Whether taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has not mastered or throwing a faculty party during which he learns he is losing his job, the gently preposterous hero of this enchanting novel evokes the reader's deepest protective instinct.

Our moderator for this discussion is the ever pithy and learned Whiskeypriest.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:33 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
First topic of conversation: squirrels.
~Whiskey
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:34 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
unohoo wrote:
whiskeypriest wrote:
First topic of conversation: squirrels.


They're always looking for that proverbial nut.

~unohoo
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:37 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
bart wrote:
Pnin is hilarious. Nabakov's verbal wit and inventiveness are enough reason to keep reading. This is one of those "I had no idea what I was missing" moments for me, not having read the man previously. Every page I want to stop and adopt a quote for a web tagline somewhere.

~bart
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:39 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
Quote:
Squirrely Liza? Or squirrel, squirrel? The little guy on p. 58 reminds me so of dear Liza.
Quote:
...all the time politely pressing the contraption down while trying not to meet the unpleasant eye fixed upon him. Its thirst quenched, the squirrel departed without the least sign of gratitude.

Familiar behavior?


~Mitty
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:41 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
mitty wrote:
bart wrote:
Pnin is hilarious. Nabakov's verbal wit and inventiveness are enough reason to keep reading. This is one of those "I had no idea what I was missing" moments for me, not having read the man previously. Every page I want to stop and adopt a quote for a web tagline somewhere.


Too true. Laughing


~ Mitty
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:43 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
whiskeypriest wrote:
mitty wrote:
Squirrely Liza? Or squirrel, squirrel? The little guy on p. 58 reminds me so of dear Liza.
Quote:
...all the time politely pressing the contraption down while trying not to meet the unpleasant eye fixed upon him. Its thirst quenched, the squirrel departed without the least sign of gratitude.

Familiar behavior?
There are multiple squirrels. That one's my favorite too.


~ Whiskey
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:45 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
pedersencr wrote:
Wonderful Timofey is the ultimate soft touch!
Gotta love 'im.


~ Charles
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:46 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
It's about a foreign professor having a bit of puzzlement understanding his new surroundings.

Anyway that's what I remember from almost 50 years ago. A delightful book. And he's right about so many things. If it's a red light and there is no one in sight in either direction, it is just stupid to have to stand there and wait till it changes, for you to cross. I can't remember if he were driving or walking though.

~ Gary
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
Marj
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:48 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
When Pnin first came out, I suppose a lot was known about the Soviet Union's tactics, but Nabokov really brought out the terrible personal traumas and trials the emigres had endured at home. But he doesn't allow the tragedies to over whelm the book, The humor (as has been brought out) is marvelous, and the self-deprecation of Timofey makes (me at least) you want to gather him up and protect him from the slings and arrows.

~ Mitty
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Yahoo Messenger
pedersencr
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 5:57 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 921 Location: New Orleans
Houston, Houston. This is Pnin.
Testing, testing.
===
Phew! Avatar has landed. Very Happy
Thanks Marj

_________________
What we know is not what we think
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
whiskeypriest
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:01 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
Before getting on to squirrels. I want to raise an initial topic. Nabokov was notoriously cool to Don Quixote, finding the humor in Cervantes's epic cruel. In a sense, Pnin is the sntidote to Quixote. Nabokov is constantly undercutting the humor his creation invokes with a reminder of just what we are laughing act.

What I have in mind is perhaps my favorite scene in all of Nabokov. Pnin has returned from meeting his wife, and Joan Clements tries to distract him with a cartoon in a magazine, showing a man and a cat on a cartoon desert Island:


Quote:
"Impossible," said Pnin. "So small Island, moreover with palm, cannot exist in such big sea."

"Well, it exists here."

"Impossible isolation," said Pnin.

"Yes but -- really, you are not playing fair, Timofey. You know perfectly well you agree with Lore that the world of the mind is based on a compromise with logic."

"I have reservations," said Pnin. "First of all, logic herself--"

"All right, I'm afraid we are wandering away from our little joke. Now, you look at this picture. So this is the mariner, and this is the pussy, and this is a rather wistfull mermaid hanging around, and now look at the puffs right above the sailor and the pussy."

"Atomic bomb explosion," said Pnin sadly.

"No, not at all. It is something much funnier...." [! I love that line]


Pnin doesn't get the joke, but eventually he starts to sob.

Quote:
"Doesn't she want to come back?" asked Joan softly.

Pnin, his head on his arm, started to beat the table with his loosely clenched fist.

"I have nofing," wailed Pnin between loud damp sniffs. "I have nofing left, nofing!"
Pnin's struggles with the language, with American culture, are great fun, but Nabokov always brings us back to the inherent humanity of Pnin. There is a similar scene, with Victor Wind, Liza's son, who Pnin hosts. He brings him home, and while the child is downstairs, huirries upstairs. We here the comedy of his falling and tripping from below, and only later do we learn that what we had missed was the defenstration of the soccer ball Pnin had bought for the unatheletic Victor.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
whiskeypriest
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:24 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
Two more scenes, one a lengthy quote:

Quote:
What chatty Madame Shpoylanski mentioned had conjured up Mira's image with unusual force. This was disturbing. Only in the detachment of an incurable complaint, in the sanity of near death, could one cope with this for a moment. In order to exist rationally, Pnin had taught himself, during the last ten years, never to remember Mira Belochkin—not because, in itself, the evocation of a youthful love affair, banal and brief, threatened his peace of mind…but because, if one were quite sincere with oneself, no conscience, and hence no consciousness, could be expected to subsist in a world where such things as Mira’s death were possible. One had to forget—because one could not live with the thought that this graceful, fragile, tender young woman with those eyes, that smile, those gardens and snows in the background, had been brought in a cattle car to an extermination camp and killed by an injection of phenol into the heart.
Dr. Hagen, the gentlest soul alive, had an intersting reaction to Buchenwald. "Aber warum-but why...why had one to put that horrid camp so near!" to the cultural heart of Germany, Weimar. The unstated implication being that the inhumanity of it would be easier to tolerate if it were further away.

Pnin and Hagen share another moment, at the end of Timofey's party:

Quote:
"Yes," said Pnin with a sigh, intriguw is horrible, horrible. But on the oher side hard work will always prove its advantage. You and I will give next year some splendid courses which I have planned long ago. On Tyranny. On the Boot. On Nicholas the First. on all the precursor to modern atrocity. Hagen, when we speak of injustice, we forget the Armenian massacres, tortures which Tibet invented, colonists in Africa.... The history of man is the history of pain!"
SPOILER:

And then, of course, Hagen tells Pnin that he's about to be fired.

End spoiler.

_________________
I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man, which of us is possessed?
View user's profile Send private message
mitty
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:54 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1354 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
In that same reminiscent time frame, Timofey remembers seeing Mira some 15 or or so years later, and even though he does refer to the affair as banal and brief... he says...
Quote:
--but the pang of tenderness remained, akin to the vibrating outline of verses you know you know but cannot recall.
No small thing.
One of the reasons Timofey kept reliving her death was no one really knew how she'd died. Numerous methods are written of including the one you mention Whiskey, along with five or six equally or even more horrible.
Imagination can be far more gruesome than actual fact.
View user's profile Send private message
mitty
Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 11:55 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Aug 2004 Posts: 1354 Location: Way Down Yonder.......
As irritating as Laurence and Joan found him on occasion, they soon began to
Quote:
appreciate Pnin at his unique Pninian worth, and this despite the fact that he was more of a poltergeist than a lodger. He did somthing fatal to his new heater and gloomily said never mind, it would soon be spring now.
Pnin had a distinct aversion to putting anyone out of their way, or imposing in any fashion.
View user's profile Send private message

Display posts from previous:  

All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Page 1 of 5
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
Post new topic

Jump to:  

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum