Book info

The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight (2007)

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (2007)
Rating
3.93 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0141185996 (ISBN13: 9780141185996)
languge
English
publisher
penguin books ltd
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The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight (2007)
The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight (2007)

About book: I've always had a problem with how I appear in other people’s photos - the image I see never matches the image I have of myself, the one I’ve retained from looking in the mirror every morning of my life. I’ve often wondered what the difference is, and figured, among other things, that it may be because the photo shows what the camera sees, someone vaguely looking in its direction, while the mirror offers a more 'concentrated me', the ‘real me’, the one with eyes that really see instead of merely looking.If I’ve been thinking about mirrors, it’s because this book prompts the reader to look beyond its obvious surface, and step into the mirror image beneath. That prompt didn’t reach me until the half-way line however; I struggled on the ‘surface' side of the story for quite some time, reading words without really seeing them. Then suddenly I could ‘see’. I’d found my way to the other side and the characters in the story began to slot into their places as if they were pieces moving on a chess board. And speaking of chess boards, isn’t the half-way line on a chess board like the surface of a mirror? The chess pieces in their starting positions are reflections, not as a camera would view them but as a mirror does, queen opposite queen, king opposite king.The starting positions of the characters in this book also offer mirror comparisons. There is the writer Sebastian Knight, author of several books, including an autobiography, the contents of which are revealed little by little. There is his step-brother, the would-be writer of a biography of Sebastian, and the narrator of the book we are reading. But this step-brother figure who mirrors Knight so closely is a mystery; we wonder if he really exists since Knight’s secretary announces at the beginning that he has never heard of him - there was no mention of him in Knight's autobiography - and the brothers seem to have known little of each other's lives. So is the unnamed narrator brother simply a mirror device to reveal ‘the real life of Sebastian Knight? Whatever his function, we, the readers, become involved in his long slow quest to fill the gaps in Sebastian’s history. The narrator announces early on that he has never written anything before and Nabokov cleverly gives him a hesitant style at the beginning and has him resort to the odd cliché, waxing sentimental, to take pen in hand, to face the inevitable, but he soon gets into his stride.Then there are the circumstances of Knight's mother's life which are revealed in the first chapter. She abandoned her husband and young son to lead a vagabond life in the company of various men friends. But almost exactly in the middle of the book, a pivotal thing happens: we hear the details of her story again but they refer to another character entirely. (view spoiler)[ Nina Toorovetz (I had never seen a skin so evenly pale, the narrator says when he meets her), the woman who destroys Knight (though he dies of a heart condition, we see that it is she who has struck the blow) is almost the mirror image of his mother. We hear part of this 'white queen’s' story from her former husband, a man who resembles Knight's father, and who has remarried, as Sebastian’s father had, and is seen caring for a small boy, a sort of mini-Sebastian. There is an ‘assassin’ figure in this section who is a lynch-pin for the entire book. His name may be Anatole Schartz (black), he plays chess and is linked to Nina but perhaps to Sebastian’s father and mother too, since Sebastian’s father was killed in a duel. And while we’re on the chess theme, let’s not forget Claire Bishop, Sebastian’s lover who gets discarded early in the game book. (hide spoiler)]

As part of my thoughts on this book I'd like to discuss the 'contract' between the fiction writer and the reader. Let's start by saying that neither of them believes that what passes between them is literal truth. We all talk of the 'truths' about life that a novel may disclose but nobody believes the story itself is 'true'.However, through some alchemy of the brain, the reader converts the written word into a version of the truth in that moment. The story lives. The hackneyed phrase: disbelief is suspended is used and the reader is immersed in the writer's world.A similar thing happens when we go to the theatre. We know that nothing up there is real yet the magical thing happens in our heads and makes it 'real' for us until the curtain comes down. Then we emerge blinking from the playwright's world, applaud her work and comment on it as observers rather than participants.But what if, during the play, an actor were to break the fourth wall and insist to the audience that what is happening on stage is the real world and that the audience itself is the 'made-up' part of what is happening in that theatre? By definition it 'breaks' the bond that ties them together in this conspiracy of illusion.Now I'm ready to talk about Nabokov's novel because this is all about breaking the fourth wall. The narrator 'V' is a tangential participant in the events of Sebastian Knight's life which form the storyline of the novel. V 'writes' this true account of SK's life that is necessary because a previous biography by the dastardly Mr Goodman was so flawed (in V's opinion).But, of course, V is not the writer; Nabokov created him. And it is Nabokov who is telling us that V is right and Mr Goodman is wrong. And Nabokov deliberately creates doubt in our minds as to whether V's account can be trusted. And it is this deliberate muddling of the narration that breaks the fourth wall and prevents the reader's total immersion in the story.While I was reading a voice in my head was always asking, 'Why is Nabokov - not V - doing this?' 'What is Nabokov's true intent here?' And the only thing that kept me reading was the thought that perhaps Nabokov would reveal something in the next passage that will jump-start the chemistry that opens up the part of my brain that would allow me to 'live' in the book.But I found that the 'truth' was always over the brow of the next hill. I toiled upward only to find that when I reached the crest the path fell away and then upward again. There was another incline of understanding – another hope of a view from the peak.It never happened.Is this a quality book because it made me think – made me write a thoughtful critique? The answer has to be 'yes' – as long as you're looking for something that exercises literary muscles but imparts little else in terms of satisfaction. By the end I felt the same as after reading Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald in which the narrative technique similarly obliterates the 'fourth wall'. The book may be cordon bleu but it's bloody difficult to digest.
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Mahmood666
مردی در ابتدای داستان ادعا میکند که میخواهد کتابی در جواب زندگینامه نویسی دروغگو که کتابی در مورد زندگی سباستین ،برادراز دست رفته اش نوشته،بنویسد.برادری که در طول زندگیش تنها دوبار رویتش کرده یکبار در هفت سالگی و دیگری در جوانی اما برای نوشتن زندگینامه برای برادر از دست رفته اش مسلما نیاز به دانشی همه جانبه از زندگی برادر وجود دارد و او هیچ نمیداند.پس سفری را در پیش میگیرد و با هر که سباستین را می شناخت دیدار میکند و هر جایی که برادرش رفته بود را میبیند.ولی هر چه که به افرادی که برادرش را میشناخته اند نزدیکتر میشود از فهم حقیقت زندگی برادرش دور تر میشود و گاه خود از فهم حقیقت طفره میرود. ناگهان داستان پیچش عجیبی به خود میبیند ،کشف میگردد که سباستین نویسنده ای نا موفق بوده که چهار کتاب در چهار برهه از زندگیش با نام مستعار نوشته و همیشه ارزوی این را داشته که زندگینامه خودش را بنویسد و کتاب ها ی نوشته شده اش رمانهایی هستند که برادر جستجو کر برای شناختن سباستین چاره ای به جزخواندنشان ندارد.ولادمیر ناباکف یکی از بزرگترین اعجوبه های رمان نویسی دنیا و فرمالیستی قهار است.،نویسنده شاعر و منتقدی مسلط به چهار زبان که به دو زبان روسی و انگلیسی با قدرتی یکسان رمان مینوشت.این رمان هم یکی از پیچیده ترین رمانهای این استاد رمان نویسی است.رمانی که از پیچیدگی ،گاه سینمای دیوید لینچ و پیچیده ترین اثرش inland impire را به یاد می اورد.سبک کتاب ملغمه ایست از سوریالیسم،ادبیات گاتیک و پلیسی ، و بسیاری دیگر.جالب اینکه هنوز هیچ منتقدی نتوانسته نام سبکی خاص را براین اثر از ناباکوف بگذارد.و در سالهای اخیر این کتاب را به عنوان اثری پست مدرنیستی در نظر گرفته اند.خواندن این رمان از شام شب واجب تر را به همه خصوصا علاقمندان به فرم و تکنیک های عجیب و غریب ادبی توصیه میکنم(لذت ادبی که من از خواندن این کتاب دچارش شدم با هیچ چیزی قابل مقایسه نیست) .همچنین کسانی که به دنبال داستانی غافلگیر کننده و غیر قابل حدس هستند از خواندن این کتاب دست خالی باز نخواهند گشت(به شرطی که چند روزی به مطالب کتاب فکر کنند تا پایان کتاب رابفهمند)نکته:این کتاب دو ترجمه دارد که خواندن ترجمه امید نیک فرجام ،هم به علت ترجمه بسیار خوب و هم به خاطر مقاله بسیار خوب پایان کتاب که بخشی از مشکلات بیشمار در فهم کتاب را بر طرف میکند، (پایان کتاب خود شروعی دوباره است برای خوانش مجدد ) به شدت توصیه میشود.
Emőke Czakó
'This will smart, my poor love. Our picnic is finished; the dark road is bumpy and the smallest child in the car is about to be sick. A cheap fool would tell you: you must be brave. But then, anything I might tell you in the way of support or consolation is sure to be milk-puddingy” you know what I mean. You always knew what I meant. Life with you was lovely” and when I say lovely, I mean doves and lilies, and velvet, and that soft pink "v" in the middle and the way your tongue curved up to the
Natalie
Nabokov has such a masterful command of the English language - which wasn't even his native tongue - that I stand in awe of his glorious turns of phrase, alliterations, puns, and other linguistic tricks. He puns in French, too, while I weep with envy.I personally thought Sebastian Knight was a much better book than Lolita, the Nabokov book that everyone's read. The nameless narrator, the half-brother of the eponymous character, spends the entirety of the novel attempting to piece together the life of his deceased brother, a famous writer - the two loves of his life, the circumstances surrounding the writing and publication of each of his books, his clueless and shady biographer, and his sad death. I was reminded more than once of several of Roberto Bolano's novels, since Bolano tends to concentrate on writers and their work in his own fiction, and his prose is as equally purple as Nabokov's. Thanks to Margaret for adding this one to a stack of books she loaned me, thinking I would like them. So far, she's not been wrong.
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