Posted on | October 23, 2011 | 9 Comments
Congratulate me, for I’ve finished my first Nabokov. Some four years back, I attempted to read the much acclaimed Lolita, but failed to finish it for it was way too disturbing. I must give it another try.
My second foray into Nabokov’s world was far more successful though. Not only did I race through the book, but I was absolutely floored by so many aspects of it, that I don’t even know where to start.
The story is quite simple. Albinus, a wealthy man, decides to give up his family for Margot, a precocious manipulative teenager who is an aspiring actress. Completely smitten by her, he moves in with her, in an apartment he sorted out for her, while she works towards her end-game: ensuring his riches are hers, or using him to progress her non-existent acting career. The opening lines pretty much sum up the book:
Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.
Albinus comes across as a really nice man, adultery and abandoning his family aside. He’s innocent, naive and just… wrapped around Margot’s little finger. The way his relationship with his wife just fizzles out is…lamentable, really. It’s not very often when one finds themselves sympathising with the adulterer, but in Laughter In The Dark, one is compelled to – it’s not like there is an alternative. He has no backbone, he has no say, and he’s like a little puppy – eager to please.
On the other hand, Margot comes across as a little devil. Accustomed to getting her own way at every turn, and ensuring that Albinus is willing to jump through hoops to please her, she milks the situation to the fullest. She really is despicable, and her child-like personality and selfishness is both, cringeworthy and horrific. With each page read, Margot just becomes more and more reprehensible.
The beauty though lies in Nabokov’s writing – despite being a Russian author*, the translation is easy to read, but so beautifully poignant. To tell such a tragic story, with a tinge of humour, and no pity or heartache is quite impressive.
A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish – but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.
I enjoyed this book tremendously, and despite the fact that the subject was slightly disturbing, I was completely enthralled. On finishing this, I’d like to read all of Nabokov’s works (in good time), specially when I read some other thoughts on the book, and they inform me that it’s not one of his best.
*In my world, Russian authors are near impossible to read, and completing a book by one of them feels like a great accomplishment.