By Vladimir Nabokov
Absolutely amazing. This book must rank up there with one of the master-works of twentieth century fiction. It is so intricate, deft, humourous, and almost without parallel as far as I can see. Completely different from Lolita and I can’t wait to read more Nabokov to experience more of this overwhelming intellect. Admittedly, the structure is metafiction which I don’t have a great affinity with but this time I really don’t care (unlike Muriel Spark’s the Comforters which was far too full of writerly artifice). The trick here is that along with the metafiction is a great story and a story that interests the reader and reveals itself – it’s not about craft or structure OVER ideas. This is packed full of stuff and as a reader all of it interests you. For once the hype around a famous author is quite justified. Why doesn’t Sting write a litany for his lute to draw attention to this novel? Oh – that’s right – it’s not as sensational as Lolita and won’t help him sell records.
By Andrzej Stasiuk
A very strange novel. I liked it but not as much as Stasiuk’s more recent ‘Fado’. There was a strong current of melancholy throughout and the setting itself in the mountains gave it a surreal almost fantastical edge. I am tempted to visit that part of Poland now – the South-East near the Ukrainian border. Not because I want to emulate any of the activities in the novel but because it seems it must still be quite wild there and not as touched by the West. This was his first novel – I think perhaps it shows in that his voice is not as authoritative as Fado. However I do have a very small sample size of novels I have read by him. There is another I purchased recently so will start that shortly. This is contemporary in some aspects, with the nature of the prose, but then there is a chaotic hopelessness that seems to underpin it all giving it some bite. I enjoyed but I think Stasiuk has written and will write better.
Some aspects of it reminded me of Cosmos by Gombrowicz.
Soundtrack: Loneliness – Ed Harcourt
By Bohumil Hrabal
An amazing imaginative novel. This is exactly what I like. The story is so many different things all at once and there are constant surprises and quirks that make this novel sublime. Everything I have read by Hrabal has been fantastic – did he write anything bad? Freed from commercial constraints it seems he wrote whatever he wanted to write. The only negative is that perhaps I could see the end coming however I am not sure how else he could have ended the novel.
Such a singular, powerful voice throughout and again a different voice from his other books. I started this from London to Paris on the Eurostar very early in the morning so the dream-like tone of the novel was even more pronounced. I enjoyed this very much.