One of the best-loved of Nabokov’s novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Serialized in The New Yorker and published in book form in 1957, Pnin brought Nabokov both his first National Book Award nomination and hitherto unprecedented popularity.
“Fun and satire are just the beginning of the rewards of this novel. Generous, bewildered Pnin, that most kindly and impractical of men, wins our affection and respect.” —Chicago Tribune
Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian émigré precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunder-standings, 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.
Nabokov fans will be disappointed by narrator Stefan Rudnicki's stiff, staid performance in this audio version of the author's 13th novel. Told in a series of vignettes, the story follows Russian immigrant and professor Timofey Pavlovich Pnin as he boards the wrong train on his way to deliver a lecture, loses his luggage, struggles with the English language, hunts for living quarters, deals with his ex-wife, and throws a faculty party. Rudnicki's narration is clear and steady, but fails to capture the playfulness of Nabokov's prose and the humor of the text. Instead, Rudnicki's tone is variously stiff, needlessly booming, or monotone. He does, however, provide a wide range of voices for the cast of characters. His rendition of the title character which sounds like a hybrid of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat and Soviet comedian Yakov Smirnoff is dynamic and entertaining. Listeners will be left wishing Rudnicki had infused more of his narration with those qualities.