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Transparent Things (1989)

Transparent Things (1989)
3.72 of 5 Votes: 3
0679725415 (ISBN13: 9780679725411)
vintage books
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Transparent Things (1989)
Transparent Things (1989)

About book: "Transparent things, through which the past shines!"[Edited, having now read this a second time] The complexity of this novella lies not in its plot or insightful narrative but in its structural core. I often felt like the story was water in my hands, difficult to grasp and quickly slipping between my fingers, and I attribute this to the difficulty of what Hugh Person, the main character, is attempting to do. Hugh Person is reflecting on (his) life through his four experiences in Switzerland, and the depth of these reflections is as limitless as what you would see when placing two mirrors in front of each other, all showcasing the same object through different refractions. Person is clung to his past; it haunts him in his sleep and his wake, and his journey through this novel is a journey to confront those transparencies. Through his reflections, Hugh Person is brought to see what he was only vaguely aware of before, and Nabokov paints each scene and recollection with such precision and beauty that I found myself easily lost and mesmerized in his words. The story is boundless and dynamic, mimicking the scattered and layered inner-workings of our minds and trains of thought. Many reviewers have commented that the work's genius lies in this mastery over prose and stylistic narration, but I disagree. His plot is intricate and serves as the boat in which Person uses to steer us through his thoughts, and the events are paramount because they are what prompt Person and the readers to question the unseen. Furthermore, Nabokov is not wasting 104 pages to tell a pretty (yet very bleak) story; he's creating a threaded, complex work in order to lure his readers into exposing it and taking apart its pieces. From what I've gathered, Person is exploring more than his past; he's seeking answers to the riddles that have plagued him throughout his life, but he is trapped by the web of his memories. The fragments of his life are what make up his core and carry him into his madness, love, delusion, and obsession to plunge back into their origins, yet despite Person's intentions, he can't help but get caught in desire to re-experience his past. It's what ultimately contributes to Nabokov's implication that our reality is entirely a creation within our minds, for everything has a past and place in the universe, yet we fail to experience them presently. By living through our narrow, haunted perceptions, we become prisons to our consciousness, able to see the path to transcendence but unable to reach it. This is a work I will definitely continue to reread, as such is engrained in its very nature. To those who have read it, read it again, and to those who have not, it will surely be worth your time. "Here's to the person I want. Hullo, person! Doesn't hear me."

"When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntary sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!"- N, TTLike almost every one of Nabokov's novels/novellas I've read so far, 'Transparent Things' has moments of absolute and immortal genius. I feel too there exists layers and ghosts in those pages that can only be exposed if I were to read TT three of four more times (I love Nabokov, but I'm not ready to prostrate myself that far). Anyway, Nabokov is savage in his sophisticated subtlety. Through Hugh's repeated trips to Switzerland, Nabokov guides the reader deeper and deeper (but never straight) into the distorted mind, madness and memory of Hugh Person. It is a novel that deals with the phantoms and as Nabokov himself called it, the "ooze of the past" and the "tangle of random destinies".I loved TT, but still didn't always like it. Nabokov's own opus keeps me from giving this more than four stars. But trust me each of those four stars are transparent and brilliant.
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A perfect novella. You can have your 1,000+ page encyclopedic mammoths of verbose density of such mind-warpage that you must compile dictionaries of new concepts and schematized flow charts of character interrelations (and I can have them too); but sometimes 105 pages of flawless, tautly interwoven pulses of prose is all that's required to send a lover of words into ecstasy. Transparent Things also happens to be a concise formulation and summation of the ineffable eternal crystalwork that is 'Nabokov's metaphysics', of which I've written copiously on this here Goodreads site (all gratis, for free, I haven't even asked for one green dollar!), so I won't repeat myself. By the way, did you know that the sum total of all material reality, with all its component parts, adds up to a big fat ZERO, and that we make fictions so that there is some positive net gain, some charge above the flatline, so that this grim furnace of dumb bodies we call the world isn't totally and inexorably pointless, voiceless, and doomed? Read this book in one sitting. That's all.
The only post-Pale Fire Nabokov I have read. Unmistakable signs of creative decline. All the Nabokovean tics are on parade: the misogynistic and egomaniacal protagonist, the disdain for Freud and the far left, the translated Russian and untranslated French, the implausible sexual episodes, the heavily foreshadowed murder, etc. But the novel has an air of zestless inconsequence, like the work of a trivial imitator such as Banville. Even the wordplay is mediocre: e.g. Hugh Person/You Person, and as far as "sly scrambles" go, Adam von Libnikov is a big step down from Vivian Darkbloom.
Wow. Lolita gets all of the press thanks to its scandalous subject matter (and it's an amazing novel), but Transparent Things deserves to come out of its shadow. So tightly constructed -- this is Nabokov's third-to-last novel (counting the one that came out posthumously), and he is at the height of every single one of his powers -- linguistically, structurally, philosophically... As soon as I finished I turned back to page 1 and re-read it.Almost finished with the mission to read all of his novels in chronological order. Then I suspect I'll do the same thing as I did with Transparent Things -- turn back to the beginning and start over. Well worth the investment.
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